David Cameron’s visit to China is rather different to some of his recent trips. Firstly, as Douglas Murray outlined yesterday, he’s not making as big a noise about human rights as he did when he was in Sri Lanka recently (and in Sri Lanka, it wasn’t just noise: it was the body language, with an awkward handshake summing up how he felt about Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa). Secondly, he’s not going to bother getting all Love, Actually about the country he represents. When he was in St Petersburg, the Prime Minister got rather overexcited about a comment from a Putin official about Britain being a ‘small island no-one listens to’. His wife Samantha now jokes that the Prime Minister in Richard Curtis’ film is also called David and that her David fancies imitating the fictional one. He had another opportunity today, with the publication of this leading article in the pro-government Global Times, which dismisses the UK using similar language:
‘The Cameron administration should acknowledge that the UK is not a big power in the eyes of the Chinese. It is just an old European country apt for travel and study. This has gradually become the habitual thought of the Chinese people.’
But the Prime Minister’s official spokesman this morning shot down any hopes of another ‘we are very proud of everything we do as a small island’ speech. He simply said:
‘I think I would point you to the outcome of the Prime Minister’s meetings with the most senior leaders about the importance of the relationship between the two countries that was expressed through those and after those meetings.’
Certainly Cameron himself is very keen to talk about the terms of that relationship. He has described the talks as ‘warm and successful’. He is very keen to repeat Premier Li’s description of the ‘indispensable relationship’ between the two countries. This small island doesn’t want to get left behind in the global race, after all.