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British Prime Minister Arrives in China to Forge Post-Brexit Trade Ties


British Prime Minister Theresa May, left, and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang attend a signing ceremony at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, Wednesday, Jan. 31, 2018.

British Prime Minister Theresa May arrived in China Wednesday on a visit aimed at boosting economic ties with the Asian giant ahead of her country's exit from the European Union next year.

May began her three-day trip in the central industrial city of Wuhan, before heading to Beijing for talks with Premier Li Keqiang. She is accompanied by a large delegation of 50 British business leaders eager to expand their business in the world's second largest economy.

The prime minister will meet with President Xi Jinping in Beijing on Thursday, before wrapping up her visit Friday in the financial hub of Shanghai.

The British leader says she is eager to use her trip to lay the groundwork for a so-called "golden era" between London and Beijing, a term which first surfaced in 2015 ahead of a state visit to Britain by President Xi. The Chinese leader is hoping Britain will endorse his flagship Belt and Road Initiative, a multi-billion dollar project aimed at reviving the ancient Silk Road trade routes between Asia and Europe.

But Prime Minister May has been cautious in the past about embracing Chinese investment. She angered Beijing in 2016 when she temporarily delayed approval of Chinese-funded nuclear power plant in southwest England.

She has also expressed caution over the Belt and Road Initiative, saying that while the project holds promise, it is important the project meets "international standards."

In addition to trade, May is expected to discuss the escalating political tensions in Britain's former colony, Hong Kong, which it ruled for more than 150 years before giving it back to China in 1997.

Chris Patten, the last British governor of Hong Kong, wrote May this week warning that the semi-autonomous territory is facing "increasing threats to the basic freedoms, human rights and autonomy" that China agreed to observe under the handover agreement.

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