China and France signed $22.8 billion of deals yesterday, with Beijing snapping up nuclear technology, uranium and more than 100 Airbus jets.
In return for China’s largesse, Nicholas Sarkozy, the French president, made no mention of Liu Xiaobo, the Chinese Nobel Peace prize laureate who is languishing in a jail in Northern China.
As we saw yesterday, with the revelation that meeting the Dalai Lama can hurt your country’s exports to China by 12.5% for two years, the price of doing business with China is political acquiescence. Funnily enough, this current mega-deal comes almost exactly two years after Mr Sarkozy met His Holiness. Evidently the lock-down period is now over.
Next week, David Cameron, the UK prime minister, arrives in Beijing with one of, if not the, biggest trade delegations since Lord Macartney was rebuffed by the Qianlong emperor in 1793. There is every indication that, mirroring 1793, the Chinese still have no overwhelming interest in British goods and services.
So when it comes to Mr Liu, Mr Cameron will have to keep mum if he hopes to sign any deals at all.