British Prime Minister David Cameron will visit Beijing next week at the head of the largest official British delegation to travel to the country, China’s Foreign Ministry said Tuesday.
Cameron will meet with leading officials including President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao during his two-day stay in the Chinese capital, ministry spokesman Hong Lei said.
He will be accompanied by his finance, energy, education and commerce ministers during the Nov. 9-10 visit, Hong said.
“This has important meaning to the development of China and Britain’s long-term relations,” Hong said.
Cameron’s office declined to comment on the trip, saying information might be made available later in the week.
The visit would be Cameron’s first to China since taking office in May and comes after his government last month outlined the sharpest cuts to public spending in Britain since World War II — an austerity plan aimed at clearing record debts that swelled during the global financial crisis.
Strengthening business ties will likely top Cameron’s agenda. China last year was Britain’s third-largest source of imports and ninth-largest export market.
Chinese-British relations have been relatively smooth in recent months, in contrast to Beijing’s testy relations with other major countries such as Japan and the United States.
Their ties have improved since last December, when China ignored personal appeals from then-Prime Minister Gordon Brown not to execute a 53-year-old British man, Akmal Shaikh, for drug smuggling.
Shaikh’s family said he was mentally unstable and was lured to China by men playing on his dream to record a pop song for world peace.
Brown said he was “appalled” by the execution — China’s first of a European citizen in nearly 60 years — prompting a warning from Beijing that such comments threatened to damage ties.
Before that, the two sides had clashed over who was to blame for the failure to reach a binding agreement on carbon emissions cuts at December’s U.N.-sponsored Copenhagen climate talks.
Besides trade, other issues Cameron may discuss include Iran. Britain has pushed for stronger moves to punish Iran for its disputed nuclear program.
China’s dependence on Iranian oil for its rapidly industrializing economy makes it crucial to the success of U.N. sanctions aimed at forcing Iran to negotiate over its nuclear program.
Iran insists its nuclear program is entirely peaceful. The U.S. and some other countries think Iran is seeking the ability to build nuclear weapons.
Hong on Tuesday repeated China’s support for a resolution of the nuclear issue through dialogue.