Brexit has both 'positive and negative' impact on China

By Zhang Lulu
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail, July 21, 2016
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The UK's decision to leave the European Union will have both a positive and negative influence on its ties with China, said experts of China-EU relations on Wednesday.

British people voted last month to leave the European bloc, a decision that surprised many parts of the world, including China.

Duncan Freeman, a senior research fellow at the Brussels Academy for China and European Studies, said on Wednesday that the Brexit will have both "positives and negatives" on the ever-deepening relationship among the UK, the EU and China.

"For the Chinese government, a united EU with the UK is better than a divided EU without the UK, from both a geopolitical point of view and in the sense of negotiating the investment agreement and free trade agreement with the EU. Negotiating with one entity is better than negotiating with a number of entities," he said. "But on the other hand, it can be easier for China to negotiate a separate agreement with the UK."

China has been in talks with the EU about an investment agreement since 2013, but the agreement has yet to materialize.

Regarding the UK, however, it will be much more difficult to negotiate with China separately than negotiating with China as part of the EU, because the EU has much stronger a position than the UK does on its own, Freeman added.

Wang Chong, deputy secretary-general of the Charhar Institute, a Beijing-based think tank, believes that China prefers dealing with individual countries instead of Europe as a whole, citing the examples of China's closer ties with Germany, France and its emerging friendship with eastern European countries. "The Brexit is not too bad for China," Wang said, adding that he believes Chinese-European relations, with or without UK, will sail smoothly.

The two believe that the UK's decision is a result of the domestic situation, especially the economic doldrums in the country and across Europe.

Duncan Freeman said that the Brexit issue is not really about the EU, but more about many British people having become or having remained economically disadvantaged throughout the past two or three decades. "The underlying issue is about economy and people who are not benefiting from globalization," he said, adding that these people's wages have not seen raises in the past twenty years and the governments have not paid attention to their needs.

Wang Chong agrees with that, adding that it's similar to what's happening in the United States where people who vote for the Republican Presidential nominee Donald Trump are those who "may have jobs but are not well-paid."

Wang said that the EU, currently made up of 28 countries, is facing a dilemma now, namely, whether to keep expanding to take in more countries or to downsize itself to a compact bloc of fewer member states. He and Freeman believed that with the very recent coup attempt in Turkey, the odds of the country joining the EU are "less than zero."

Freeman added that most of the political elites in the EU want to keep the EU together, but it also depends on where the UK heads after the referendum, as it will be a demonstration for other member states. The real question is about whether the EU will grow more and more united or carry out reform to give more flexibility to its member states, he said.

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