Chinese President Xi Jinping gestures to British Prime Minister Theresa May ahead of a meeting at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing, China, February 1, 2018. Photo: Reuters/ Wu Hong

On respite this week from political travails at home, British Prime Minister Theresa May has been talking up China-UK trade ties in meetings with her counterpart in Beijing.

Following talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping on Thursday, May celebrated that Britain “will be free to strike our own trade deals” after leaving the EU. May was reported as saying by the BBC that 9 billion pounds in business deals will be signed over her three-day trip.

During the talks between the two leaders, May stressed the importance of the relationship as well as China’s clout in world affairs.

China and the UK “are both significant players on the world stage of outward-looking countries,” May was quoted by The Guardian as saying in a thinly veiled criticism of Trump’s “America First” slogan.

“I welcome the investment that has been made in the United Kingdom but also the growing trade links that we have between our two countries.”

The British leader’s state visit comes as trouble brews for her at home, including a back and forth within her own party about whether or not to replace her. Last year May’s party lost its majority in an embarrassing snap election, and she has since been plagued by doubts in her leadership ability amid difficult Brexit negotiations.

In China, May has found refuge, with one interviewer encouraging her that the Chinese public has embraced her as a family member, dubbing her “Auntie May.”

“A lot of Chinese people would affectionately call you, in Chinese, ‘Auntie May’,” the interviewer was quoted as saying. “That’s really a kind of a call for Chinese – you’re one of the members of the family. Do you like that?”

“I’m honored by that,” May said. “Thank you.”

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