British Prime Minister, David Cameron, did his best to woo the Chinese President, Xi Jinping, last week on his state visit to the United Kingdom. The Chinese President was treated to pints of ale, fish and chips, and a tour of Manchester City’s football academy, all part of Cameron’s efforts to display a deeper relationship with China, in what he calls a “golden era” in British-Chinese relations.
Apparently the President is a Manchester United fan, and United were keen on hosting him but it was City’s state of the art academy facility that was the chosen venue to host Jinping, where he watched the famous dramatic added time winner that clinched the Premier league title for City in 2012, alongside the scorer Sergio Aguero. It is perhaps fitting that it was Manchester City that hosted the President. The nouveau riche club have bought their success in recent years, and are now looking to be taken seriously by the big clubs who have dominated the game over the last 60-70 years.
Similarly, the Chinese now want to take their place among the old powers of the world, currently arguing for the inclusion of the Yuan in the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) reserve currency basket. They are also flexing their new found wealth militarily, invoking territorial claims that have drawn ire from their neighbours in the South China Sea and caused the world’s only superpower, the United States, to take notice. Tensions are high in the region, as the old powers don’t like their dominance challenged.
Despite growing concerns about the economic slowdown in China, David Cameron and his government obviously see China playing a central role in the global economy long term and they want the UK to get a piece of the action. As for the public display of affection, the inauguration of the relatively unknown ex-Manchester City Chinese player, Sun Jihai, in the National Football Museum’s Hall of Fame among real football legends, is a truer reflection of the shallow nature of geopolitics.
The staged four day visit reminds me of the Father Ted Episode where Father Ted tries to persuade the local Craggy Island Chinese community that he is not a racist; “the Chinese, a great bunch of lads”. He fails miserably to convey any real knowledge of Chinese culture, but the free drink goes down great. To China, hurrah, to Craggy Island, hurrah, more drink!