China looks at UK elections, says 'Meh' and moves on

By Erik Crouch, May 7, 2015

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Do you have Miliband madness? The Cameron crazies? Are you Clegg in the head? If British politics are your thing, then good luck finding comradery in China: the nation has looked at the UK's elections and responded with a yawn heard 'round the world.

If it's any consolation, China's lack of concern for today's political happenings in Britain are a two-way street: China was essentially a non-issue in the major British political campaigns, only slightly coming to the fore when a UKIP candidate referred to a Chinese woman as a "chinky bird." Even that incident was barely big enough to register on the news cycle, which is so rife with racist UKIP comments that it might as well pick one a bit juicier than that.

"But I don't care about the superficial politics!" you exclaim. "How about the policies?" Sorry to disappoint, but that's a snooze-fest as well. 

"No matter who wins Thursday's fiercely contested general election in Britain," writes the South China Morning Post, "Sino-British relations will remain stable and shift only at the margins, if at all."

SCMP quotes Ding Chun, the director of the Centre for European Studies at Fudan University on the election - and if anyone would have enthusiasm for British elections, you'd think it would be the head of European Studies at one of the country's premier universities.

"The foreign policies [of the major parties], including those dealing with China, will be more or less the same," Ding says. "There is not much for the Chinese government to worry about."

Riveting stuff.

On Weibo, there is already a much more dynamic conversation about the USA's 2016 elections than today's in the UK. This is likely due to the fact that 1) Instead of Britain's reasonably short 6 weeks of campaigning, the US runs an absolutely insane 2+ year slog and 2) Many American candidates, who don't have to work in government if they lose, are willing to say completely crazy shit in those campaigns.

Also - and British readers should gird their loins for the following statement - average Chinese citizens simply aren't that interested in the UK. During Li Keqiang's trip to Britain in 2013, the Global Times infamously referred to the nation as "an old European country apt for travel and study" but not good for much else.

Even that statement was at least intentionally rude: Global Times and Co. were a bit angsty over the fact that top UK leadership had met with the Dalai Lama. 

But over the past year, Britain and China's relations have been so remarkably stable (something that could have changed had Britain taken a firm stand on democracy in Hong Kong, but that's another story) that each country has simply dropped from the other's headlines.

If China really wants to make a splash in Britain, it had better stop only traveling and studying in the nation. Instead, Chinese citizens should move there en masse: we hear that's a good way to get a bit of publicity.

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