Boris Johnson's appearance in Beijing in August 2008 to accept the Olympic flag from China was not an unqualified success.
London's performance in the ceremony was criticised in the Chinese press as confusing and causal, while Johnson, then London mayor, drew fire from a member of the country's emerging blogosphere for his informal dress and for taking the flag with only one hand.
"This is very disrespectful to the Olympic flag," the blogger wrote.
Twelve years later, he is Prime Minister and now faces a far greater test of his diplomatic and political skills against the Chinese state.
Eyeing China's crackdown on Hong Kong protesters , seeking to define the UK's place in the world post-Brexit, and shaken by the pandemic, the UK is hardening its stance on China – and the communist superpower is responding in kind.
Expectations that the UK will reduce Chinese company Huawei's role in the UK's 5G network have been met with veiled threats that Chinese companies might pull out of building UK nuclear power plants and other infrastructure – ratcheting up tensions with potentially profound political and economic consequences.
Chinese direct investment in the UK reached almost £50bn between 2000 and 2018, while in 2018 the UK sold £22.6bn worth of goods to China, and bought £44.7bn of Chinese goods.
"There is very serious decay going on in relations between the West and China," says George Magnus, the economist and author. "The interesting aspect is how much the British government's response as changed." As well as the expected U-turn on Huawei, the Government also wants to strengthen UK companies' protection from foreign takeovers, and cut Britain's reliance on imports .
It was less than five years ago that David Cameron and Chinese president Xi Jinping popped into the Plough in Cadsden, Bucks, to toast a "golden era" of friendship between the two nations over pints of IPA and fish and chips.
The visit took place just two days after the Chinese nuclear power giant China General Nuclear and France's EDF agreed to build the Hinkley Point C nuclear power plant in Somerset, as part of about £40bn in business deals signed between the UK and China.
Hinkley Point C is now taking shape next to the Bristol Channel, but plans for a second plant with EDF, Sizewell C, and CGN's own plant, Bradwell B in Essex, as well as other infrastructure investment now appear to be at risk if the UK ousts Huawei .
Plenty argue that would be no bad thing. China's involvement in the UK's nuclear power plants has long been controversial due to security concerns, while some experts also argue that large nuclear power plants have had their day as a source of energy.
"The energy landscape has changed," argues Paul Dorfman, of the UCL Energy Institute, given that offshore wind power and other renewable technologies are getting much cheaper and more effective . Still, ministers appear keen on nuclear as a low-carbon, constant source of power, and they are consulting on a new funding model to build large nuclear power stations.
Others argue that the China is unlikely to follow through with the threat, in any case. "It was one of the core elements of the so-called golden era," says Dr Yu Jie, senior research fellow on China at Chatham House.
"If China pulled out, that would be embarrassing for Xi, so I really don't think the Chinese government would like to do that." The UK is also seen as a stepping stone for China to sell its nuclear technology around the world – although Dorfman raises doubts about the size of that market .
There are other ways in which China could respond. It has recently restricted imports of beef and barley from Australia, and discouraged Chinese students from studying there. Australia had called for an inquiry into the origins of coronavirus .
Britain is looking for new trade deals as it leaves the EU. "I think the most obvious thing they could do would be to refuse to even talk about a free-trade agreement," says Peter Holmes, of the University of Sussex and member of the UK Trade Policy Observatory, an independent group which trains negotiatiors and analyses trade proposals. Though, he notes, such an agreement is of limited value to both sides in any case.
Britain's departure from the EU changes the dynamic in other ways, he adds. "The Chinese saw Britain as a conduit for good relations with the EU.
"Now you have a situation where Britain's value as a diplomatic partner is practically zero – but it is a potential source of annoyance over Hong Kong."
As Johnson seeks to reshape Britain's place in the world outside of the EU, he will have to consider the risks of annoying the superpower.
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