Li Keqiang has become the latest world leader to oppose Scottish independence, with the Chinese premier using his first trip to London to back a “strong, prosperous and united United Kingdom.”
Mr Li made the comments at a press conference intended by Downing Street to show a new warmth between him and British Prime Minister David Cameron.
The Chinese premier told reporters: “We welcome a strong, prosperous and united United Kingdom. I believe that the United Kingdom can stay at the forefront of leading the world’s growth and development and continue to play an important and even bigger role.”
Mr Li is the fourth major international figure in the last few days to question Scottish independence. Barack Obama, the US president said last week he wanted to see a “strong, robust and united” UK.
Pope Francis cautioned that the independence of nations achieved through secession was a “dismemberment” while Hillary Clinton, the former US secretary of state, said a “yes” vote in September’s referendum would be “a loss for both sides”.
Mr Li’s comments suggested a desire to smooth ruffled British feathers after the Chinese ambassador to the UK claimed before the premier’s visit that the UK now lagged behind France and Germany in importance to Beijing.
The Chinese premier will today [WEDS] complete his three-day visit to the British capital. He met Queen Elizabeth on Monday morning and conducted several hours of discussions with British ministers before meeting the Camerons in Downing Street.
British officials were keen to stress the personal warmth between the two leaders, a far cry from the freeze in relations that occurred after Mr Cameron met exiled Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama in 2012. During his visit, Mr Li was presented with gifts of an original script from the Downton Abbey television series and a collection of Charles Dickens screen adaptations.
But the main aim of the trip for both sides was to promote trade and investment.
Deals and memorandums of understanding worth around ￡14bn were signed on Tuesday, including a long-term liquefied natural gas supply contract between BP and CNOOC, the state-owned Chinese energy company, and a global cooperation agreement between CNOOC and Royal Dutch Shell.
Further agreements were signed opening the way for Chinese investment into both civil nuclear power and high speed rail.
Beijing is interested in helping design and build major infrastructure projects such as this and Britain is keen to attract Chinese money. But while Chinese ministers signed new agreements with both the UK energy and transport departments, significant hurdles remain to any deals being completed, such as British regulators approving the designs for a Chinese-built power station.
There are other impediments to the business relationship between the two countries. Mr Cameron raised with his Chinese counterpart the issue of GSK, the British pharmaceutical company at the centre of bribery allegations in China.
Mr Cameron launched a staunch defence of the company during his visit to Beijing last year. But the Serious Fraud Office has since opened its own criminal investigation and Downing Street on Tuesday adopted a nuanced stance: “GSK is a strong British company. What’s important here is that the rule of law and due process is followed,” a spokesman said.
Downing Street also said Mr Cameron had raised the issue of China’s record on human rights, but that issue apparently failed to puncture a mood of bonhomie between the two men.
Responding to comments by Nick Clegg, the deputy prime minister, about “large-scale and systematic human rights abuses” by China, Mr Li was diplomatic. “I don’t expect there will be uniform opinions about such issues in this country,” the premier said.
教皇方济各(Pope Francis)告诫称，通过分裂来实现国家独立是一种“肢解”，而美国前国务卿希拉里?克林顿(Hillary Clinton)表示，9月份的苏格兰独立公投若得到支持独立的结果，将是“双方的损失”。
英国官员热衷于强调两国领导人在个人层面的融洽关系，这与卡梅伦2012年会晤西藏流亡精神领袖达赖喇嘛(Dalai Lama)后英中关系的冻结形成鲜明对比。李克强在访英期间收到的礼物包括电视连续剧《唐顿庄园》(Downton Abbey)的原始剧本，以及全套改编自查尔斯?狄更斯(Charles Dickens)的影片。
周二，两国签署了价值约140亿英镑的协议和谅解备忘录，包括英国石油(BP)和中国国有能源企业——中海油(CNOOC)之间的液化天然气长期供应合同，以及中海油与荷兰皇家壳牌(Royal Dutch Shell)之间的全球合作协议。