Chinese vice premier in trade-focused London talks
Chinese Vice Premier Li Keqiang arrives in London on Monday to meet Prime Minister David Cameron on the second day of a visit to Britain aimed at bolstering economic ties between the two countries.
The government is rolling out the red carpet for Li, who is widely tipped to become Chinese premier next year, as Britain scrambles to catch up with European rivals Germany and France in landing trade deals with China.
Li, accompanied by a 150-strong business and political delegation, was also to hold talks with finance minister George Osborne and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg on Monday and will make a speech at a banquet on Tuesday.
Having already visited Spain and Germany on his three-country European visit, Li started his trip to Britain on Sunday in Scotland where he sealed a modest renewable energy deal between Scottish and Chinese companies.
In Scotland, he said Britain and China had grown closer together in recent years.
Closer cooperation between London and Beijing would not only benefit the two countries and peoples, "but also contribute to world peace, stability and prosperity", Li was quoted as saying, according to the official Xinhua news agency.
The visit follows Cameron's trip to China in November, when he too was accompanied by a team of ministers and business leaders.
Cameron was the first Western leader to visit China since the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to jailed Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo.
While he did not publicly confront Chinese leaders over human rights, Cameron used a speech to university students to call for "greater political opening" as the Chinese economy surges forward.
Clegg has insisted that "no subject will be off limits" during the talks with Li in the four-day British visit.
In trade terms, Cameron's visit to Beijing produced deals for British companies worth around one billion pounds (1.5 billion dollars, 1.2 billion euros).
In contrast, a few days earlier a visit to France by Chinese President Hu Jintao yielded 20 billion dollars of aviation and energy contracts between Chinese and French companies.
In an article in the Financial Times on Monday, Li said the world should not fear a rapidly growing China.
"China's development benefits other countries," he wrote. "We welcome the entry into our market of competitive good and services from around the world, and will provide a fair and even more transparent environment for foreign investors."
Cameron has said Li's visit would "build on the momentum" from his trip to Beijing, adding that "stronger relations with China offered a real opportunity for Britain in terms of trade, jobs, and economic growth".
Li's trips to Germany and Spain have focused on business.
In Berlin, he said China and Germany, the world's top two exporters, should deepen their economic cooperation both in traditional areas such as machinery and cars but also in low-carbon technologies and energy efficient industry.
While in Madrid, Li said Beijing was willing to buy around six billion euros worth of Spanish debt, daily El Pais quoted government sources as saying.
After eurozone members Greece and Ireland were forced to seek bailouts worth tens of billions of euros last year, Spain, together with Portugal, have been seen as next in line in the 17-country currency union to need help.
© 2011 AFP