Last year, during a visit to the United Kingdom, Chinese president Xi Jinping called on Britain to remain in the European Union. “China hopes to see a prosperous Europe and a united EU, and hopes Britain, as an important member of the EU, can play an even more positive and constructive role in promoting the deepening development of China-EU ties,” said China’s foreign ministry, paraphrasing Xi’s remarks.
Xi’s remarks about Brexit were a big break from Chinese foreign policy. This policy calls for a lack of interference in the internal affairs of foreign countries. Behind Xi’s opinion against UK leaving is China’s difficult trade situation with the European Union. The European Union is currently China’s largest trade partner. In 2015, it sent 350 billion euros imports into the trading block. But some members of the European Commission want close trade restrictions on China. The European Commission voted in last May to deny China as a “market economy” status, what mean that would make it more difficult to place tariffs on Chinese goods. The European Commission also tried in 2014 to increase tariffs on China’s super cheap state-supported steel, and UK has been blocking these measures.
After UK took the decision to leave the European Commission, the EU’s restrictions on China could get a lot tougher. One of the most important newspaper in China wrote before UK leaves the EU’s threat: “The EU is the biggest trading partner of China, while the UK is the one with the highest degree of free trade in the block and it has backed China’s market economy status. London is an important hub of the internationalization of the yuan. A Brexit will undoubtedly cast a shadow on the trade relationship between China and the EU”. The influence of the UK decision on China should be to liberalize its economy to avoid the EU market will move away from the Chinese market, which may be hit too hard, even for the Chinese giant.