Chinese paper warns British EU exit will diminish its influence

Diplomatic sources say China has given coded support for the “remain” camp by calling for a strong, united Europe

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If Britain votes to leave the European Union then the country will lose its influence globally, an influential Chinese newspaper said on Thursday, warning the country was playing a risky political game that should not be imitated.

Relations between Britain and China have been warming over the past few years and economic links have multiplied in tandem in what both countries refer to as a “golden age” in ties.

The Chinese government has not directly stated its opinion on Thursday’s referendum, seeing the vote as an internal matter.

But diplomatic sources say China has given coded support for the “remain” camp by calling for a strong, united Europe - something President Xi Jinping told British Prime Minister David Cameron in October, and Foreign Minister Wang Yi repeated last month.

The Global Times, a widely-read tabloid published by the ruling Communist Party’s official People’s Daily, said the EU vote and 2014 Scottish independence referendum had made Britain appear one of the largest sources of uncertainty in Europe.

“The UK looks like it has been led astray, and this concerns Europe and the world,” it said in joint editorials in its Chinese and English-language editions.

“Staying in the EU has clear and critical interests for the UK, such as market guarantees and stable employment. Leaving will politically cost the UK chances to exert its influence,” the newspaper added.

“If the UK votes to leave, it will become an Atlantic orphan and lose its special relationship with the EU. In this circumstance, its special relationship with the U.S. will become more notable, but it may mean less to the U.S.,” it added.

Calling the referendum a “somewhat strategically extreme plan”, the Global Times noted that Britain had managed to generally remain stable.

“While the UK is playing a risky game, it shouldn’t be imitated,” it added.

“If the UK votes to stay in the EU, the country will have just been through a political masquerade. If not, then the country will have acted like a show-off tightrope walker who unfortunately fell with no safety belt fastened.”