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May arrives in China eyeing post-Brexit trade links

[BEIJING] British Prime Minister Theresa May arrived in China on Wednesday as she seeks to bolster her country's global trade links ahead of its departure from the European Union.

Mrs May began her visit in the central industrial city of Wuhan and will be in China until Friday in what the Chinese foreign ministry has touted as a "historic visit".

Later on Wednesday, Mrs May will head to Beijing, where she will meet Premier Li Keqiang.

She will hold talks with President Xi Jinping on Thursday and wraps up her visit Friday in the eastern business hub of Shanghai.

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Her trip comes as the House of Lords, the upper chamber of the British parliament, is scrutinising a key piece of Brexit legislation and ministers sought to downplay a leaked government report offering only economic downsides to leaving the EU in March 2019.

Mrs May travelled with her husband, Philip May, along with a delegation of 50 businesses and organisations, which her office said was "the largest" Britain has ever taken overseas.

Mrs May will also take the opportunity to discuss a wide range of other issues, including climate change and North Korea.

China also has high expectations that London will endorse its Belt and Road initiative, a massive infrastructure project aimed at reviving ancient Silk Road trade routes and creating greater market access for Chinese companies.

The British government, however, has been less sanguine about the project, with Mrs May's spokesman saying that while the idea holds promise, it is "vital that BRI projects meet international standards".

Before her trip, the former British governor of Hong Kong, Chris Patten, urged Mrs May to address concerns about the political situation in the semi-autonomous territory, which London handed back to Beijing in 1997.

AFP

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