by Staff Writers
London (AFP) Jan 22, 2009
Britain said Thursday that building its relationship with China was now a "major priority", adding that it could help the rest of the world tackle the fallout from the credit crunch.
In the first government document to spell out a new strategy for dealing with Beijing, Britain said Chinese policies were "enormously significant" for London's approach to issues including the economy.
But Britain warned it would be "candid" with Beijing on human rights and Prime Minister Gordon Brown urged China to make progress on the issue and on developing the rule of law as it goes through huge social change.
Britain said China's increasing power -- it is now the third-biggest economy in the world -- made it a "vital" partner in restoring world economic stability as countries try to drag themselves out of the global financial downturn.
Foreign Secretary David Miliband launched the document Thursday in Manchester, northwest England, just over a week before Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao is due to visit Britain.
Brown said in the foreword: "The emergence of China as a global economic and political force is one of the most significant developments of our time.
"We must work together if we are to deal with the major challenges we face.
"I am convinced that Britain, Europe and the rest of the world can benefit from China's rise -- provided we get our response right.
"Co-operation with China is vital to reduce poverty, to resolve conflict, and to develop an effective framework to address climate change. To achieve all of this we need China and China needs the rest of the world."
The document said Britain would be "candid and honest" if it disagreed with China on issues like human rights but pledged the relationship would be based on "co-operation, not confrontation".
Wen's visit to Europe next week will take in Switzerland, Germany, Spain and Britain, as well as the European Union headquarters in Brussels.
Miliband told BBC radio that, while China had a fast-growing economy, "they don't want to repeat the mistakes that we made in the 20th century when we built up our economy".
He added: "I think we can work very closely with them on (the) climate change