>> Theresa May's quest for post Brexit trade partners touched down in China on Wednesday, the first leg of a crucial three day trip.
Leaving the EU is about to plunge Britain into its most significant economic upheaval since World War II. And China, the world's second biggest economy, could be a lifeline. Reuters' Will James is traveling with the prime minister.>> May told reporters on the plane out here that she is ultimately seeking a free trade deal with China.
I think that's a long way off and in between, May signaled that she wants to see liberalization of China's markets, opening up of access for British firms.>> Britain wants to cash in on China's growing middle class and booming services center once Brexit kicks in.>> Britain is open for business and Britain will remain open for business.
>> And the beleaguered prime minister is also under pressure to take a success story home, where her leadership is under fierce scrutiny, even from within her own party. That forced her to reiterate on the flight to China that she will not be stepping down. But securing a trade success story may well be inextricably linked to the state of diplomatic relations, which have chilled since May's decision to delay approval for the Chinese-funded Hinkley nuclear power plant in late 2016.
>> Diplomatic relations between Britain and China have switched between hot and cold over the years. At the moment, they're perceived to be in a slightly colder phase, although both Prime Minister May and Premier Li Keqiang have talked about the golden era, which is a buzzword that was created under David Cameron.
>> And May won't be returning empty handed. She's announced that around $13 billion US worth of deals will be signed during her trip.>> And that China has also agreed to lift the ban on British beef exports within the next six months. But China currently only accounts for a small proportion of British exports, 3.1% in 2016, compared with 43% for the European Union.
And formal talks to establish the hoped-for free trade deal can't begin until after the UK leaves the EU, next year.