One of the biggest events in Sino-British relations this year will be the retirement of Liu Xiaoming as China’s ambassador to the UK and Zheng Zeguang’s appointment as his successor.
Liu Xiaoming has served as China’s ambassador to the UK for the past 10 years, which is significantly longer than the usual term of four-year term for Chinese diplomats. Liu Xiaoming’s legacy is not free of controversies. On the one hand, commentators have praised his career for strengthening Sino-British relations to new levels back in 2015, and standing up to Britain as an outspoken advocate against Western misconceptions about China when Sino-British relations became strained. On the other hand, commentators have accused Liu Xiaoming of being too aggressive in his advocacy.
But with a new face comes a new strategy. Zheng Zeguang, a former Cardiff University law student and China’s current vice foreign minister, was originally destined to become China’s ambassador to the US. On the surface, being posted instead to the UK may therefore have appeared like a downgrade for him. However, this appointment can also be interpreted as a sign of China’s increased focus on building a new and different relationship with Britain in the face of China’s stalemate with the US, and the double impact of Brexit and COVID-19 on the British economy. Chinese commentators have referred to Britain as “strategically important” in the US-China trade war and have described the reason behind Zheng Zeguang’s deployment as “sending your top asset to the frontlines”.
It is too early to tell how Sino-British relations will develop with Zheng Zeguang in charge. But with change comes uncertainty in the long-term implications for stakeholders, migrants, and businesses alike, which will all need to adapt.
In 2020, we saw how changing Sino-British relations created opportunities such as the Hong Kong British National (Overseas) (BN(O)) Visa (which we reviewed in the following link: https://www.gherson.com/blog/hong-kong-british-national-overseas-visa-route) as well as challenges such as the National Security and Investment Bill 2020 (see our blog at: https://www.gherson.com/blog/national-security-and-investment-bill-2020).
In times of uncertainty, it is important to obtain legal advice to guide your plans and help you seize opportunities whenever they may present themselves. Gherson has a wealth of experience in all aspects of UK immigration law. If you have any specific questions or queries in respect of your particular circumstances, please do not hesitate to contact us.
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