Chinese Premier Li congratulates new British PM Starmer

Beijing — Chinese Premier Li Qiang on Sunday congratulated new British Prime Minister Keir Starmer on his election, state media reported, the first senior leader in Beijing to do so publicly.

China is “willing to work with the new U.K. government to consolidate mutual political trust and expand mutually beneficial cooperation,” Li told Starmer, according to state news agency Xinhua.

Their call came after days of silence from top officials in Beijing, with the Chinese foreign ministry saying only that it noted the results of the U.K. election. 

By comparison, Chinese leader Xi Jinping congratulated Iran’s incoming President Masoud Pezeshkian just hours after his election Saturday.

China was Britain’s fifth-largest trading partner as of 2023, according to the U.K. Department for Business and Trade.

But diplomatic relations between the two countries have been icy in recent years, with Beijing and London sparring over tightening communist control in former British colony Hong Kong.

The two sides have also traded accusations of espionage, with Beijing saying last month that MI6 had recruited Chinese state employees to spy for the U.K.

Xinhua reported Sunday that Li told Starmer that the “strengthening of bilateral coordination and cooperation was in the interests of both sides.”

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