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Relations Thawed, It Seems We Cannot Do Enough to Impress China

21/10/2015 17:16 BST | Updated 21/10/2016 10:12 BST

It was during a football game on a muggy and typically smoggy evening in Beijing during the late summer of 2013 that I was offered the 'exclusive' chance to film the Chancellor's visit to a Chinese nuclear power plant. I wasn't the only British correspondent based in Beijing being tapped up to give much-needed publicity to a visit from a UK govt minister. Back then, trade ties between Downing Street and Beijing had been effectively cut for almost a year and a half, after David Cameron had met the Dalai Lama. A symbolic short chat with the spiritual leader of Tibet during his trip to London had plunged Britain into the diplomatic deep freeze. While ministerial visits were suspended, exasperated British embassy officials in Beijing began the slow process of rebuilding relations. At one frosty meeting a British diplomat asked his counterpart what China hoped to gain from this great sulk. After all, the UK was turning to Japanese and Thai diplomats for a read out of the latest information on Beijing's policies. The Chinese foreign ministry apparatchik tuned and snarled "We don't need to impress you". On another occasion, a couple of years previously, a British minister has been shouted at during what was meant to be a diplomatic visit for having the audacity to raise the issue of human rights.

Now, relations thawed, it seems we cannot do enough to impress China, perhaps fearful of being frozen out again. The sight of a communist party leader being wheeled down the Mall in a gilded carriage shows just how far the UK has gone to repair the damage of recent years. It shows the lengths Downing Street will go to in order to make political amends. Back in China this will also garnish President Xi's nationalist strong-man image, the footage of the bows and handshakes will be presented as showing just how the UK has been 'house trained' and tamed. The red carpet will look very red indeed on Chinese state TV.

So the nuclear deal, the highlight and headline generator of the publicity around the Chancellor's 2013 visit, has been reheated. The Chinese are building up to eight nuclear plants a year, 110 will be in operation by 2030 according to the latest claims by the Chinese government. Building one more is not a big deal. The bigger picture, and what's far more important to Xi and the all-powerful Party, is that the British are now showing suitable respect to the world's second largest economy. After all, every Chinese schoolchild is taught about the "100 years of humiliation" by colonial powers. China's policy making takes every opportunity to ensure it will never gain be humiliated. It's a key motivation at the heart of ensuring the Communist Party's survival.

It's worth remembering that no one-party state has held power for more than 70 years in human history. The Chinese communist party knows that only by projecting its economic control can it keep the people on side; with the promise of growth and prosperity, instead of political freedoms. The Chinese flag has five stars, four for the workers, soldiers, intellectuals and farmers but the largest star represents The Party. President Xi's visit will be seen through the filter of state media as indeed the start of a new 'golden era' when the power of power station deals can conquer old enemies.

Angus Walker was a correspondent for ITV news for 13 years and was China Correspondent between 2010 - 2013