Brexit - what happens next and what does China think?

Brexit - what happens next and what does China think?

Brexit: what does China think? 英国公投脱欧:中国怎么看?

Two weeks ago 52% of the British public eligible to vote chose to leave the EU. Many voted that way because they were disgruntled with the system of government and the privilege of the few. Shock tremors reverberated round the world. Money markets fell. Racist feeling went rabid for a while and friends of mine in Europe asked me 'what have you (as in corporate Britain) done?' The pound has lost value and the future is unclear - not just for us a nation but for nations and millions of citizens who live and work here and trade with us. 

It is purported that, when asked in 1972 by US President Richard Nixon what he thought the impact of the French Revolution would be , Zhou Enlai said "it is too early to say." Whether he was really speaking of the 1789 revolution or the risings in 1968 is perhaps irrelevant. 

Chinese Finance Minister, Lou Jiwei, said on 26 June, "the Brexit decision will cast a shadow over the global economy. The repercussions and fallout will emerge in the next 5-10 years." He is generous to say that he thinks we will know so soon. It is my belief that only generations to come will feel the full ramifications of this exit.

What we can be sure of is this; it is not just Britain that needs to make key and strategic decisions in the immediate aftermath of this major decision. In this time of global insecurity, increased threat of terrorism, rise of nationalist feelings and geo-political fear, being 'in the Club' provides a framework for dialogue, consultation, strategic cooperation and a degree of certainty knowing who you can reach out to and rely on in times of crisis.

The Brexit result was interesting enough. But it's amazing how much becomes history in the space of two weeks! The two main protagonists of the LEAVE campaign, Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage both abandoned ship and left it all behind. David Cameron resigned, Theresa May has now moved into No. 10 and we have a new leadership, but as yet, no clear direction or a plan for what happens next. Breaking news today is that Boris is back in the new cabinet as Foreign Secretary and he certainly has his work cut out to build bridges and a framework for new partnerships and to clarify to the outside world that we are as outward-looking as before and embrace diversity.

As the world watches our response to the vote, the political fall-out and shenanigans, they will need to have reassurance that our elected leaders are men and women of integrity who are not 'in it' for self-aggrandisement or even just for leveraging selfish national gain. No, I hope that our nation is seen to be GREAT because of our values of integrity, honesty, common decency and humanity in a world that is increasingly intolerant, unstable and facing a future that is opaque. GREATness will involve inclusiveness, cooperation, co-opetition, patience, resilience, innovation, resourcefulness, help - and love!


The findings of the Chilcot Inquiry - just published last Wednesday, the political chaos and the outbreaks of racism since the referendum,  show that greater scrutiny, transparency, honesty and fair-play are needed if we are to restore faith in us as a people and a nation around the world. 

And, frankly, in these uncertain times, we need friends. No one knows this better than China. Since 1979 and the start of its opening up and reform - but over the last decade in particular - China has recognised the importance of strategic and economic alliances for securing resources, to boost trade, to build geo-political clout and to boost 'soft power.' The Shanghai Five, Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank, the China-Africa Forum, to name but a few, declare China's understanding that friends and allies matter. And that is why the Chinese people - (whilst many are excited about the immediate allure of cheaper luxury shopping, travel, private education and property investment due to a weaker pound) - are curious that the British public should have opted out of a Club, of which it was a key - albeit a somewhat disgruntled - player, to go it alone.

Chopsticks Club, the network I co-founded in 1993, knows full well the value of cooperation, trust, friendship and unity in a vision shared by a huge number of individuals and organisations. For us it is long-term commitment to a deep and close relationship between China and the U.K. Increasingly our network sees the value of belonging to a community that is outward- looking, embracing and creating lopportunities beyond borders.

China hates chaos, what it calls "luan" 乱. Strategic national policy - from its roots in ancient to current, modern times, has focussed on the importance of harmony of everything under heaven. There is great surprise in China, therefore, that we should have opted for such radical change; a damaging side to democracy they say, when the people are asked to make a decision of such importance.

Our world order is changing. We will soon have a new President in the US. The Middle East is suffering under continued and bloody conflict. China's economy is still growing but is vulnerable to the levers of globalisation like any other large economy.


In October 2015 President Xi Jinping and David Cameron hailed the 'Golden Era' of bi-lateral relations and the US$78 billion of commercial deals struck were testament to positive times.

China and Britain have a long history. People from both our countries have displayed great tenacity for creating opportunities, rising to challenges and being brave proponents of change. Now is the time to recognise that relationships between people are  the big opportunity in this post-Brexit scenario; relationships built on trust and friendship between ordinary human beings that can withstand political and social change. 

And this is why organisations like ours, Chopsticks Club, can make a difference. Because of personal passion, our big dream for decades has been to build solid relations with China for the benefit of both our countries and our peoples. 

Perhaps new enlightened thinking is to consider that being GREAT is in a joined-up context - not in isolation - but walking alongside and with others. And maybe right now what BREXIT offers - with a new female Prime minister, Theresa May in post from today - is a chance to change the story and the rhetoric - to promote a world that operates in a fairer way that supports the rights and responsibilities of every man and woman to find economic freedoms, life and common good.

What the Chinese government makes of our 'leave' decision will have an impact on our short-medium term future - just as our decision to leave will impact theirs.

We are pleased to be able to discuss this hot topic with an expert panel at our event tomorrow, 14 July; 'Brexit - what does China think?' 英国公投脱欧:中国怎么看


Author: H-J Colston