British Prime Minister David Cameron began a two-day visit to China on Tuesday, bringing the largest-ever trade delegation from Britain and committing to double bilateral trade to $ 105 billion by 2015.
His trade target received a boost during the first day of his visit, with Rolls-Royce signing a record $1.2-billion deal to sell jet engines to China Eastern Airlines — one of the biggest ever deals signed by a British firm here.
Beyond the trade focus, Mr. Cameron's visit has highlighted the dilemma many Western countries eager to trade with China have faced, amid persisting political differences.
Within hours of arriving in Beijing, the British Prime Minister came under pressure from rights groups and the media in Britain to press China on human rights issues, after two Beijing-based lawyers, bound for London, were detained.
One of the lawyers was Mo Shaoping, who represented Nobel Laureate and jailed political activist Liu Xiaobo, who was sentenced last December to 11 years in prison for subverting State power. The lawyers, who were due to attend a conference in London, were reportedly detained to prevent them from possibly attending the Nobel Peace Prize award ceremony in Oslo on December 10. Mr. Liu's wife, Liu Xia, and a number of lawyers have been placed under effective house arrest in recent weeks to prevent them from attending the ceremony.
China has called on Western countries to boycott the ceremony. Vice Foreign Minister Cui Tiankai hit out at the award last week, describing it as politicised and an interference in China's internal affairs. He said countries that supported the ceremony would face “consequences”.
Mr. Cameron is the first head of a state from a major Western nation to visit China following the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize. Mr. Cameron said on Tuesday he would discuss human rights issues in his talks with the Chinese leadership, but without “hectoring” or “lecturing” China.
“We do have a shared interest in expanding our exports and our trade with each other, but we do also have a very high-level dialogue with China on a number of issues including human rights,” he said.