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November 10, 2010 (KATAKAMI / BBC) — David Cameron is expected to promote the benefits of democracy in a keynote speech to Chinese students in Beijing.
He is expected to say that political freedom and the rule of law provide the best path to stability and prosperity.
He will acknowledge British society is “not perfect” and insist that he is not trying to place the UK in a position of “moral superiority” over China.
The prime minister is on a two-day trade mission but has been urged to address China’s record on human rights.
He has said he will not “lecture and hector” China over political freedoms and human rights. His aides have said the speech is intended in a spirit of frank dialogue, rather than criticism.
But he will say better governance is promoted by institutions such as Prime Minister’s Questions in the House of Commons and an official opposition, by forcing leaders to listen to criticism and adapt their policies in response.
The existence of a judiciary able to strike down unlawful official actions “make our government better and our country stronger”, he will say.
And those who hold different views from the government are able to take part in public debate through a free media.
“We believe that the better informed the British public is about the issues affecting our society… the easier it is, ultimately, for the British government to come to sensible decisions and to develop robust policies that command the confidence of our people, ” he will say.
Mr Cameron is expected to acknowledge that leading a country of 1.3 billion people raises difficulties of a different order from those of a nation of 60 million.
Speaking to students at Beida University he will add: “I make these observations not because I believe that we have some moral superiority.
“Our own society is not perfect. There is still injustice which we must work hard to tackle. We are far from immune from poverty and the ills that afflict every nation on earth.”
But he will say: “In arguing for a strong relationship between our countries, I want a relationship in which we can be open with each other, in which we can have a constructive dialogue of give and take in a spirit of tolerance and mutual respect.
“The rise in economic freedom in China in recent years has been hugely beneficial to China and to the world.
“I hope that in time this will lead to a greater political opening… because I am convinced that the best guarantor of prosperity and stability is for economic and political progress to go in step together.”
On Tuesday, Mr Cameron raised the issue of human rights during talks with the Chinese Prime Minister, Wen Jiabao, but did not refer directly to jailed dissident and winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, Liu Xiabo.
But BBC political editor Nick Robinson said Mr Cameron was expected to talk specifically about this later in the visit, which aims to promote trade.
The Chinese artist Ai Weiwei, who says he was recently put under house arrest by the Chinese authorities, said Mr Cameron must make a public statement about China’s human rights record.
He suggested that by avoiding the matter, the prime minister he was putting trade ahead of human rights
Mr Cameron, who is joined by four cabinet ministers and 43 business leaders, called the trip a “vitally important trade mission”.
Engine maker Rolls-Royce has won a $1.2bn (£750m) contract – the biggest of the visit so far – which is to supply a Chinese airline with Trent 700 engines for 16 Airbus A330 aircraft, along with long-term servicing.
On Wednesday, Mr Cameron will visit the Great Wall of China and meet President Hu Jintao before flying on to the G20 summit in South Korea.
Nick Robinson BBC political editor :
It is a reminder of how limited is the power of our government to even express deep concern let alone do anything about China’s continued policy of repression and opposition to democracy”