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Thursday, June 23, 2016, 16:53

China 'respects the choice of the British people'

By Agencies

China 'respects the choice of the British people'
British Prime Minister David Cameron (right) shakes hands with Chinese President Xi Jinping during a commercial contract exchange at the UK-China Business Summit in Mansion House, central London, on Oct 21, 2015, on the second day of Xi's state visit. (AFP PHOTO / LEON NEAL)

BEIJING - China is paying attention to Britain's referendum on membership of the European Union and while it respects the people's choice, Beijing hopes to see a strong and stable EU, the Chinese government said on Thursday as Britons headed to the polls.

"We are paying attention to Britain's referendum on its relationship with the EU. We respect the choice of the British people," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told a daily news briefing.

"We have also consistently supported the European integration process and would like to see a unified, strong and stable EU play an important role in international affairs," she added.

"China pays great attention to its relations with Britain and is willing to continue having mutually beneficial cooperation in all areas," Hua said.

If Britain votes to leave the European Union then the country will loose its influence globally, China's influential tabloid Global Times reported Thursday, warning the country was playing a risky political game that should not be imitated.

Relations between Britain and China have been warming over the past few years and economic links have multiplied in tandem in what both countries refer to as a "golden age" in ties.

The Global Times, a widely-read tabloid published by People's Daily, said the EU vote and 2014 Scottish independence referendum had made Britain appear one of the largest sources of uncertainty in Europe.

"The UK looks like it has been led astray, and this concerns Europe and the world," it said in joint editorials in its Chinese and English-language editions.

"Staying in the EU has clear and critical interests for the UK, such as market guarantees and stable employment. Leaving will politically cost the UK chances to exert its influence," the article reads.

"If the UK votes to leave, it will become an Atlantic orphan and lose its special relationship with the EU. In this circumstance, its special relationship with the US will become more notable, but it may mean less to the US," it reads.

Calling the referendum a "somewhat strategically extreme plan", the Global Times noted that Britain had managed to generally remain stable.

"While the UK is playing a risky game, it shouldn't be imitated," it added.

"If the UK votes to stay in the EU, the country will have just been through a political masquerade. If not, then the country will have acted like a show-off tightrope walker who unfortunately fell with no safety belt fastened."

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