China says Brexit is a sign of a ‘losing mindset’

Britain’s exit reflects the general decline of Europe, Global Times says

Britain's decision to leave the European Union showed its people are of a "losing mindset", Chinese state media commented, and the influential Global Times said Britain's exit reflects the general decline of Europe.

“The slight victory is likely to have opened a Pandora’s box in Europe, pushing the continent into chaos,” the newspaper said.

It comes at a time when Irish officials are trying to work out what the implications of Brexit are for Sino-Irish relations, generally close until Ireland backed a US motion highlighting China's human rights record at a vote at the UN Human Rights Council. This prompted anger in China and delayed a long-flagged deal to allow Irish beef into China.

However, Brexit could prompt some bridge rebuilding between Beijing and Dublin.


The Global Times comes from the same publishers as the Communist Party mouthpiece, the People's Daily, but it does not necessarily reflect the view of the leadership.

As there is no press freedom in China and journalistic output is tightly controlled, it's fair to say the opinions expressed in the Global Times are not a million miles from those felt in the central government, even if sometimes its view is more extreme.

On Friday, the Global Times said that a referendum like the Brexit vote was a poor example of democracy for the Chinese audience watching events closely, and it reiterated its support for now-outgoing British prime minister David Cameron's "golden age" of ties with China.

China is unlikely to welcome the economic impact of Brexit because it means it is left with a close relationship to a European pariah, something that China never wants. It likes having the EU as a counterbalance to the US, even if Washington is its most admired potential partner.

"Britons are already showing a losing mind-set. They may become citizens of a nation that prefers to shut itself from the outside world," the Global Times wrote.

The newspaper went on to say how there was no direct political impact on Russia and China, a statement that resonates on a day when president Vladimir Putin is visiting China.

“The Leave advocates had been calculating whether their pensions were guaranteed or migrants were encroaching on their neighbourhood. Bigger topics such as the country’s aspirations or its global strategy were overlooked,” it said.

"East Asia has witnessed decades of high-speed growth and prosperity. Europe stays where it was, becoming the world's centre of museums and tourist destinations. Unfortunately, Europe is also close to the chaotic Middle East. Waves of refugees flood into Europe, coinciding with increasing terrorist attacks," the editorial ran. Among Chinese citizens, the reaction has been largely one of bewilderment. The European Union is generally seen as something that countries strive to get into, rather than out of.

“I though Brexit was a joke, I never thought it could come true,” wrote one online commentator, Xiong, while Momo said: “I think more Chinese people were watching Brexit than actual British people voting.”

Others such as JQ said they disagreed with the decision, but admired the system that arrived at it: “At least they have a right to vote for their own decision.”

One student named Sissi said: “I am screwed. My advising professor asked me to rewrite my dissertation. My topic was how the pound sterling is more stable and sustainable than the euro. A whole year’s of work and research has been beaten by reality.”

In some ways, the Global Times reading is remarkably perceptive.

"Britain has been a special member of the EU. It has not joined the Eurozone, nor adopted the Schengen agreement. France and Germany have been resentful of Britain's half-hearted presence in the EU. In a sense, Britain's exit may be a relief for both sides," it said.

“However, such relief is in effect a major setback for European integration. Such setbacks don’t happen in good times. Britain’s exit reflects the general decline of Europe,” the newspaper wrote.

Clifford Coonan

Clifford Coonan

Clifford Coonan, an Irish Times contributor, spent 15 years reporting from Beijing