Premier says China wants 'united and stable' EU

BEIJING: China's premier called Monday for joint efforts to restore global economic confidence following the shock of Britain's vote to leave the European Union.

Last week's referendum "has had obvious impact on international financial markets. We are seeing increasing uncertainties in the world economy," said Li Keqiang, speaking at the World Economic Forum in the eastern city of Tianjin.

The unusually direct comments by China's top economic official, who rarely comments on the affairs of other governments, reflected the scale of the potential impact from economic turmoil in the 28-nation European Union, his country's top trading partner. Any extended uncertainty that depresses European demand for Chinese goods could have repercussions for industries that employ millions of workers.

"Under such circumstances, we need to jointly handle challenges, strengthen confidence and create a stable international environment," the premier told an audience of Chinese and foreign businesspeople.

Li said Beijing wants to see a "united and stable" European Union and a "stable and prosperous" United Kingdom — a possible reference to concern the vote might inspire separatist sentiment in other EU nations or portions of Britain.

Chinese leaders had taken the unusual step of publicly urging Britons to stay in the EU ahead of the vote.

During a visit by President Xi Jinping to London in October, the Chinese foreign ministry issued a statement that called Britain "an important member of the EU" and expressed hope it would play a role in promoting Chinese-EU ties.