China on Friday said it "respects the choice of the British people" and called for calm in the wake of an unprecedented rejection of European Union membership by U.K. voters.
"We respect the choice of the British people and we highly regard our relationship with the U.K.," Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told a regular news briefing in Beijing. "We would like to continue our cooperation with the U.K."
The ruling Chinese Communist Party has repeatedly warned against the infiltration of "Western" notions of democracy and the rule of law, but appears to have taken the shock result, which prompted widespread falls on global financial markets, in its stride.
Hua merely said Beijing would need time to fully evaluate the impact of Britain's referendum result, which showed nearly 52 percent of voters in favor of leaving, compared with 48 percent who voted to remain.
"The decision of leaving the EU has an impact on everything, and we believe all related parties must calm down and evaluate the situation," spokeswoman Hua Chunying said.
News of the planned resignation of Prime Minister David Cameron before his party's conference in October was shared hundreds of millions of times on social media platform Sina Weibo, to mixed reactions.
"So, he just says he's resigning, and then he resigns, just like that?" user @qianfeiwen wrote in a comment on the story. "How capricious these leaders are. Is that the power of democracy?"
Others seemed aghast that the future of a nation could be placed in the hands of a popular vote.
"The wisdom to make the correct judgment should never be placed in the hands of a minority of people," wrote user @yidianyuanwodeguxiang15794. "This is a country's destiny at stake!"
"The fact that this went to a referendum was a dereliction of Cameron's duty and showed his impotence," the user wrote.
Others seemed to agree. "He came, he defecated, and then he left without even wiping himself," wrote @beichenggege, while another user responded "Why should he help to clean up someone else's mess?"
Meanwhile, @songsongshigexiaoairen wrote: "He respects the choice of voters, but no way is he going to play with them anymore," adding a weeping emoticon.
"Wow, that escalated," commented user @pailiulian, while @Cishengzhangjianrenshukuang opined "The Brits have gone mad."
Others took a more philosophical view.
@biluoquanyuan quoted a Chinese saying: "In great affairs of state, that which is divided must come together, and that which is together must come apart."
"It will always rain, and girls will always marry," @Belladarling commented, in a saying that is similar in Chinese to Que sera, sera.
Golden era in bilateral ties
Friday's Brexit vote came after President Xi Jinping said Beijing hoped to see Britain in Europe.
Bilateral ties were strengthened by Xi's state visit to London, during which billions of dollars' worth of deals were signed with U.K. companies.
London and Beijing have ushered in what they called a "golden era" in bilateral ties, with trade between them reaching U.S. $78.54 billion in 2015, with a U.S. $40 billion surplus on the Chinese side.
But the prospect of a “leave” vote hadn't made much impact in China ahead of Thursday's plebiscite, the Global Times newspaper, which has close ties to party mouthpiece the People's Daily, said in an opinion article ahead of the vote.
"Ordinary Chinese people either do not fully understand the significance of Britain quitting the EU, or don't care to understand it," the paper said.
"They figure that Brexit has nothing to do with them [showing that] the influence of Britain and the EU, on China is declining."
It cited a Chinese online poll of 1,300 participants, of whom 72 percent supported the “leave” campaign.
"This can be explained as a reaction over their dissatisfaction toward Brussels for the latter's protectionist measures against Beijing and its denial of granting China market economy status," the paper said.
Ties unaffected by vote
Economics professor Hu Xingdou of the Beijing University of Science and Technology said Brexit would not likely affect bilateral ties between China and the U.K.
"China has two main points of contact in the EU," Hu said. "One is with Brussels, and the other is with the U.K. bilaterally."
But he added: "It's getting harder and harder for China to sell its products to the whole EU single market, so China has usually done it via the U.K. Now, that's looking less and less of an option."
Kui-Wai Li, economics professor at Hong Kong's City University, said the U.K. vote was unlikely to affect incoming investment in the longer term, however.
"It's a seismic shock in the short term, with the pound plunging and shares falling, but has settled the question now, and made it clearer," Li said.
"I don't foresee any major political changes, and trade-wise, it's a lot of hassle to trade with the EU, so maybe investors will go to the U.K. instead," he said.
Reported by Wong Lok-to for RFA's Cantonese Service, and by the Mandarin Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.