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Tuesday, October 6, 1998 Published at 09:17 GMT 10:17 UK


Business: The Economy

Blair praises China's economic determination

British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Chinese Premier Zhu Rongji

British Prime Minister Tony Blair has praised China's response to the global economic crisis.

He said keeping its currency, the yuan, stable against the US dollar had helped to underpin stability in the region.

Mr Blair stressed during a meeting with his Chinese counterpart Zhu Rongji: "The maintenance of the Chinese currency has not been an easy path to follow."


[ image: Tony Blair has said the visit heralds a new chapter in relations with China]
Tony Blair has said the visit heralds a new chapter in relations with China
His comments picked up on a theme of an article published in Tuesday's official People's Daily newspaper at the start of his five-day visit to China and Hong Kong.

In it he said: "China has followed responsible and coherent economic policies, particularly regarding its determination not to devalue the yuan.

"The importance this has played in underwriting stability in the region cannot be underestimated."

He said China would play an increasingly important role in tackling global financial problems, and would need to share the responsibilities of international leadership.


[ image: Michael Heseltine is set to head the new China-UK trade forum]
Michael Heseltine is set to head the new China-UK trade forum
He added: "The need for co-operation has never been greater."

While the two leaders talked, 21 top British business leaders from companies such as British Airways, British Aerospace and British Petroleum held a business summit in adjacent rooms in the Great Hall of the People, which faces on to Tiananmen Square.

Lucrative deals worth hundreds of millions of dollars in the aerospace, telecoms, water and pharmaceuticals sectors are expected to come out of the visits and a signing ceremony is scheduled for Wednesday morning.

Selling Cool Britannia

The setting up of a UK-China Forum - headed by Michael Heseltine - to tackle trading issues and wider economic questions is also on the cards.

London is putting a further spin on the visit with a heavy promotion of Blair's "Cool Britannia" in China.

An exhibition of high-tech urban architecture is underway across the square from the Great Hall while an ultra-modern theatre production entitled the Hansel Gretel Machine is underway in the Central Academy of Drama.

There is a British astronomy exhibition at the Jesuit Observatory in Beijing and an exhibition of dresses by London designer Helen Storey in Shanghai.

For its part, Beijing has released a Chinese version of Blair's book "New Britain" to enable the Chinese to better understand the nation it once castigated as a colonial power bent on keeping control of Hong Kong.

Both Mr Blair and the Chinese prime minister praised improved relations following the acrimonious run-up to the handover of Hong Kong last year and public wrangles over China's human rights record.

However Mr Blair stressed trade concerns will "not necessarily" be allowed to overshadow human rights issues.

"Trade is very important between China and Britain but not necessarily more important than human rights."



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