Brown’s been in China only a few hours and already I can’t take any more. Unable to match Blair’s slick statesman act, he gabbles on like an over-promoted finance minister – regurgitating the same type of statistic-riddled declarations he gave as Chancellor.
His “response” to China is to lay out his own central targets, committing to treble trade to £30bn, we’re told. Come again? Brown has 20 business leaders with him on the trip. One should take him aside and quietly explain that Britain is a free economy – so its trading preferences are outside his control. He is a mere spectator in what is a mutually-beneficial relationship between the British people and Chinese people – trading through the businesses they form and use. Brown’s only role in UK-China trade is to tax it – and if he wants more trade, he should tax it less. But his hands are tied, because of the EU which fears Chinese imports (one appalling example is how it even slaps tariffs on Chinese low-energy lightbulbs it also wants to make compulsory).
Much as though the Communist argot may inspire him, Britain has no vacancy for a Dear Leader. When he says London-quoted Chinese companies will double, he has no more say over this than over who wins the Premiership. The most effective thing his government can do to promote China-UK relations is to get out of the way.