British Prime Minister David Cameron's visit to China has drawn wide public attention owing to his extra-large entourage of business executives, as well as his statement made prior to the visit that Britain will "act as China's strongest advocate in the West."
Sino-UK relations have seen ups and downs over the past few years. On the one hand, economic and trade ties have strengthened. Merchandise trade totaled $63.1 billion in 2012 and reached $56.13 billion between January and October this year, making Britain one of China's major trade partners among EU economies. Last year also witnessed £2 billion ($3.3 billion) worth of Chinese investment flowing into Britain, growing a staggering 95 percent compared to a year earlier. On the other hand, however, their political and diplomatic relations became somewhat strained, posing a considerable barrier to furthering business ties. The unfortunate situation arose from Cameron's meeting with the Dalai Lama in May last year, an act that impaired China's core interests.
Every country keeps core interests that must be respected by others, especially when it comes to sovereignty, territorial integrity and national security. Britain, for instance, has for decades flatly denied the separation of Northern Ireland from its territories in an effort to defend national unity, despite raging protests and violent armed rebellion by local Irish citizens that lasted for 30 years. In the case of China, the Dalai Lama has tried in vain to split the country by seeking "Tibetan independence," earning him a reputation as an exiled separatist bent on harming one of China's core interests. China, like all other countries, seeks to ensure national security by opposing separatist movements. Hence, a foreign leader's choice to meet with him is rightfully viewed as hurting the sentiment of the nation and interfering with its internal affairs.
With Cameron's latest visit coming to a fruitful finish, relations between China and Britain seem to be back on track again, which is expected to be mutually beneficial for both nations and their peoples. However, the core interest of other nations must always be taken into consideration and fully respected, for that will help create a more amicable and cooperative environment for all countries in the world.