When Chinese President Xi Jinping paid a state visit to London last October, George Osborne, the powerful and ambitious U.K. Chancellor of the Exchequer waxed lyrical about a dawning "golden era" in bilateral ties and declared the U.K. to be "China's best partner in the West." Now Osborne and the rest of his country are discovering that "partnership" with China comes with a hefty price tag.
More than any other European Union member, Britain has wooed Beijing assiduously in the hope of being rewarded with trade deals and inward investment. Osborne's determined pursuit of that goal has infuriated officials at the Foreign Office, who have warned that kowtowing to China in the hope of economic gains is unlikely to earn many big favors and will only diminish whatever influence London still wields in Beijing. Those warnings have gone unheeded.