As China is scrutinized over cyber threats and its human rights record, the U.K. and Beijing signed a security pact agreeing to not engage in cyber espionage against each other’s commercial secrets.
“I’m clear that the UK is China’s best partner in the west,” Xi said, during a press conference at the UK’s Downing Street.
UK Prime Minister David Cameron called the pact the first step toward a wider agreement in which both countries would agree to not condone or conduct spying operations to steal each other’s intellectual property or private corporate information.
The deal reflects a similar measure agreed last month between the U.S. and China. However, the U.S. monitoring group Crowd Strike said it was “almost immediately” violated.
The UK’s Government Communications Headquarters has traced “disturbing levels” of cyber attacks against the UK to China.
Another concern over Chinese-UK relations is China’s stance on human rights, which Xi also spoke about.
“Coming to the human rights issue, China attaches great importance to human rights” Xi said. “We have found a path suited to China’s conditions. There is always room for improvement in the world. China is ready to increase co-operation with the UK and other countries over human rights.”
China’s human rights record has been condemned by activists worldwide. The country’s detention and treatment of political rivals has received particular attention.
Chinese artist Ai Weiwei, who has previously been detained by the Chinese government, said Cameron is being too accommodating on the human rights issue.
“I think the British prime minister has had a record of putting human rights aside which is a very bad strategy and also is very bad aesthetics, because this certainly doesn’t represent the British people,” said Ai during an interview with Sky Television.