Today marks the 40th anniversary of ambassadorial relations between Britain and China. In that period, and particularly over the last 10 years, the relationship has grown exponentially. From a base of virtually zero, China has become Britain’s ninth largest market for Britain’s goods worth £7 billion in 2011 and is third for imports. Over 100,000 Chinese students study in the UK while increasing numbers are now going the other way. Last year, 600,000 Brits visited China while 150,000 Chinese came to the UK. As China has grown to become the world’s second largest economy so too has its relationship with Britain.
But what of the next 40 years? In 2052, how will we look back on the period that has passed? What will come to define our relationship with China?
The one certainty in the period ahead is that while China’s relative economic power will increase, Britain’s will fall. In recent weeks, Brazil has replaced the UK as the world’s sixth largest economy. Over time, countries like India, Russia and possibly even Indonesia will grow larger the UK. China, meanwhile, will overtake the US at some point in the next two decades.