BEIJING (Reuters) - Beijing will keep paying attention to developing ties with Britain and hopes Brexit can be “appropriately resolved”, China’s Foreign Ministry said on Friday, after a snap vote that dealt a devastating blow to British Prime Minister Theresa May.
Thursday’s election result wipes out May’s parliamentary majority and throws Britain into political turmoil as it prepares to start talks to exit the European Union this month.
Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said China had “noted” the outcome of the election, but she would not comment directly, saying it was an internal affair.
“But what I want to stress is that China will, as before, pay attention to the development of Sino-British ties,” she told a daily news briefing.
“We are willing to work with Britain to promote even greater developments in relations.
“As for the Brexit issue, we hope that Britain can appropriately resolve the relevant issue via negotiations with the EU side,” Hua added, without elaborating.
China is high on Britain’s list of countries with which to sign a free trade deal once it leaves the EU.
Prior to Britain’s vote to exit the EU last year, China had not directly stated an opinion, viewing the subject as an internal matter and saying only that it wanted to see a strong and stable Europe.
Diplomatic sources, however, said that was coded support for the defeated “remain” camp, as the bloc, China’s largest trading partner, will lose around a sixth of its economic output.
While China and Britain have a history of disputes over human rights and the future of Hong Kong, a former British colony that returned to Chinese rule in 1997, the export-reliant Asian giant values Britain as a strong advocate for free trade within the EU.
Ties have warmed in the past few years and economic links have multiplied in what both countries call a “golden age”, though Britain upset China last year by putting on hold a nuclear project that it later approved.
Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Clarence Fernandez