Following Xi Jinping’s visit to China British people are more likely to say Chinese investment in infrastructure is a good thing – and to expect China to become our number one trading partner
Despite kicking off to negative headlines, by the end of the last week Number 10 had won some good press out of China’s state visit. What begun as the hailing of a ‘golden era’ in Chinese relations was quickly marred by job losses in the north, blamed on cheap Chinese steel imports, and criticism of president Xi Jinping’s human rights record, however after a series of business deals were signed – including a one-third Chinese stake in Hinkley Point C – and a new agreement on cyber espionage reached, George Osborne and David Cameron looked pleased with the visit.
New YouGov research reveals that in one sense the visit was a success: public opinion has become more favourable to the government’s vision for Chinese trade.
Compared to when YouGov asked on the day of Xi Jinpings’s arrival, 8% more British people now say Chinese companies investing in the building of infrastructure, including railways and power stations, is a good thing. Those in favour (38%) now slightly outnumber those against Chinese infrastructure investment (35%), which is a modest reversal in opinion compared to the beginning of the visit (when 30% thought it was a good idea, and 36% thought it was a bad idea).
UKIP voters in particular have come round to the idea – on October 20 those saying it was a bad idea outnumbered those who agreed with it (42% to 25% respectively) however this has now reversed to 34%-39% respectively.
British people still view Europe as our current top trading partner (40%) compared to China (26%) and they already tended to think that China would overtake Europe as our closest trading partner in 20 years, although this was by a small margin (China led Europe by 7%) before the Chinese state visit. Now fully 39% expect China to be our number one trading partner in 20 years, while only 20% expect it still to be Europe.
The Chinese president finished his trip to Britain with a pint in David Cameron's local, near his countryside residence of Chequers, but while China and Britain cosy up there's no sign of tensions easing between China and the US – only yesterday Chinese officials condemned a US ship's passage near disputed islands in the South China Sea as "illegal" and a threat to their country's sovereignty. Critics have been wary that Britain's new emphasis on China could come at the expense of it's special relationship with the US.