Mr Osborne and London mayor Boris Johnson recently visited Beijing, with Mr Osborne declaring that there is “no limit to the amount of business we can do together”. Visa restrictions for some Chinese visitors have been lifted and a Chinese nuclear firm has been given the green light to play a role in building a new British nuclear power plant.

Mr Osborne said he wanted to “change British attitudes towards China”, which he said should be recognised as a “deep and ancient civilisation” that was “at the forefront of hi-tech engineering” instead of being seen as a “sweatshop”.

The visit follows what some observers describe as an unofficial downgrading of relations by China as punishment for Prime Minister David Cameron’s meeting with the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama last year.

Britain is anxious to draw a line under that episode. While in China, Mr Osborne said Mr Cameron had no plans to meet the Dalai Lama again, while Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said Britain should be “grown-up” about its differences with China on human rights issues.

Yet, there are other questions about what courting China could mean for the UK.

Foreign companies often complain of being discriminated against in the Chinese market – is there any guarantee of access for British firms?

Meanwhile, the anti-corruption organisation Transparency International says Chinese companies – including state-owned firms – are the least transparent among those in BRICS countries.

Does this raise concerns about how the Chinese owners of investments in Britain will behave?

Joining VoR’s Tom Spender are:

Liam Byrne, Labour MP for Birmingham Hodge Hill, shadow minister for Higher Education and author of the recently published book Turning to Face the East; how Britain can Prosper in the Asian Century  

Isabel Hilton, journalist and founder of the bilingual website ChinaDialogue, which focuses on environmental and climate issues

Dr Hong Bo, senior lecturer in Financial Economics at SOAS, University of London

Keith Bennett, deputy chair of the 48 Group, which campaigns for positive UK-China relations



"Every now and then British politicians who lead somewhat sheltered lives are let out and discover something that everyone else knew about and in this case, it's the existence of China, which seems to have come bit of a surprise to the Chancellor."

"There doesn't seem to be much that we produce that China wants to buy."

"It's explicitly embarrassing and I think the Chinese do not respect a country that doesn't appear to respect itself."

"We don't share a religion, a border, or many cultural links, so the big challenge is, how do we fashion a new inter-dependence, because that is going to determine growth rates over the next 50-60 years."

"We know about the soft infrastructure that goes into making up a social safety net, we know an awful lot about invention, and we are one of the world's favourite places to invest. So we need to figure out what China needs."

"I think Britain is welcome in China, on a personal not just financial level. It's progress."

"China didn't welcome British products before but now for example the service sector is growing and the UK is very good at providing the services, the education, the finances and consultancy which the Chinese are very happy to see."