In Brief

China applauds ‘Auntie’ Theresa May for sidestepping human rights issue

PM won over Chinese media on first state visit - but at what price?

While Theresa May may be persona non grata among members of her own party, she appears to have won dubious praise in China.

This week the Prime Minister used her first state visit to the Asian superpower to sell “Global Britain”, the Government’s economic strategy to position the UK for growth post-Brexit.

Although “there are scant details about the headline announcement of £9bn of trade deals signed during the trip, the mood music for May’s visit pointed to a Chinese state seeking to rally support around her”, says Reuters.

Chinese regional newspaper Hubei Daily calls May’s political style “pragmatic and strong and deft at decision-making”. “She’s Britain’s Iron Lady”, the newspaper adds, invoking the ghost of Margaret Thatcher.

May was hounded by UK reporters during the three-day trip, who demanded to know whether she would step down. But she was embraced by the Chinese media, who have dubbed her “Auntie May”. A reporter from the Chinese broadcaster CCTV told the PM: “You're one of the members of the family.”

May also received “the dubious honour” of garnering lavish praise from the Chinese regime for “sidestepping” human rights issues, The Times reports.

Chinese state-backed newspaper the Global Times says a “pragmatic” May focused on the goal at hand, rather than risking a falling-out with her hosts: “For the Prime Minister, the losses outweigh the gains if she appeases the British media at the cost of the visit’s friendly atmosphere.”

But was May’s trip a success?

“Little of major substance has been achieved,” says Politico’s Tom McTague. “Even 7,000 miles from home, she still doesn’t know where she’s going.”

But ever the optimist, May will perhaps find a silver lining within The Economist’s withering assessment of her political future. 

“The case for getting rid of the Prime Minister is compelling,” says the newspaper. “But consider more closely what would follow, and there is a stronger, though depressing, argument that if Britain tried to replace its failing leader it would be even worse off.”

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