Distinguished Ambassadors and your lovely wives,
Ladies and Gentlemen:
It is a real delight for me and my wife Hu Pinghua to have friends both old and new gathered here at the Chinese Embassy. I know you all share my gratification that we gather to celebrate 45 years of Ambassadorial diplomatic relations between China and Britain.
How time flies! Five years ago, we came together to celebrate the 40 years of diplomatic ties. We had a group photo taken in commemoration of that ruby anniversary.
Today, we have come together again to mark the 45th anniversary. This is the sapphire anniversary according to Western traditions.
Sapphire is a symbol of wisdom and sincerity. Wisdom and sincerity have been a hallmark of the spirit of the past 45 years:
· Over the past 45 years, China and Britain have demonstrated the political wisdom of our two nations. With this political wisdom, we resolved the question of Hong Kong and freed our bilateral ties from historical burdens.
· Over the past 45 years, China and Britain have shown their sincerity for win-win cooperation. With this sincerity, we have been able to upgrade our comprehensive partnership:
First, to a comprehensive strategic partnership
Then to a global comprehensive strategic partnership for the 21st century.
And now we are building the "Golden Era" of our bilateral ties.
· Over the past 45 years China-UK relations took many historic steps and developed by leaps and bounds.
If you ask me how I would describe today's China-UK relations, I have four words: high, deep, hot and broad.
First, "high" is for the high strategic definition of the China-UK relationship:
· Chinese President Xi Jinping paid a successful State Visit to the UK in 2015.
· During that visit, our two countries made a joint commitment to upgrade our bilateral ties to a global comprehensive strategic partnership for the 21st century. We are committed to building a "Golden Era" of China-UK relations.
· Last September, Prime Minister May met with President Xi for the first time during the G20 Hangzhou Summit.
· The two leaders reaffirmed the "Golden Era" of China-UK relations.
· And this shared commitment to the "Golden Era" charts the way and maps out a blueprint for China-UK relations.
Second, "deep" is for the deep win-win cooperation between China and Britain.
China and the UK have always dared to take the lead. Together, we have made numerous "firsts":
· Britain is the first among major Western countries to join the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank.
· Britain is the first to issue RMB sovereign bonds.
· London has become the largest RMB offshore market outside China.
· In turn, China has also chosen London to issue its first RMB sovereign bonds and central bank bills outside China.
· In terms of investments, China has invested a total of over 17 billion US dollars in the UK. That is more than China's investment in any other European countries.
· China's CGN participated in UK's Hinkley Point C nuclear project. This is a flagship project in this "Golden Era".
· China's Nanjing Automotive and Geely Group bought British auto companies. They achieved a perfect combination between British design and Chinese manufacturing.
Third, "hot" is the best word to describe the friendly exchanges between China and Britain:
· Our two countries have co-hosted the China-UK Regional Leaders Summit and established the Regional Cooperation Joint Working Group.
· The number of twin cities has increased to 60.
· In 2016, Chinese and British nationals made 1.5 million visits to each other's country. That is 50% more than five years ago.
· Greatly facilitating such level of mutual visits is the increase of passenger flights between China and Britain to 100 per week.
· On land, the first freight train of China Railway Express arrived in London. It is not only an eye-catching event, but a new highlight of China-UK cooperation in the 'Belt and Road' initiative.
· Student and educational exchanges have always been a centerpiece of China-UK relations. Britain outnumbers any country in Europe in terms of Chinese students, Confucius Institutions and Confucius Classrooms.
· Our two countries have co-hosted the Year of Culture Exchange in 2015 and a series of commemoration events in 2016 to mark the 400th anniversary of the passing of Tang Xianzu and William Shakespeare.
· All these events are evidence that the people-to-people and cultural exchanges have taken deep root in our peoples' hearts and minds.
Fourth, China and the UK have cooperated on "broad" global issues:
· Both China and Britain are permanent members of the UN Security Council.
· We have maintained sound cooperation within the framework of the UN and G20.
· We have had close coordination over global governance, climate change, free trade and other major international issues.
· We have made joint statements on Syria and Afghanistan.
· And we have been engaged in global exchanges and cooperation on health issues, counter-terrorism and peacekeeping.
What I have just described is the "high, deep, hot and broad" relationship. That is a testament to what we have built through 45 years of hard work and proactive efforts together.
We have been able to reach this high level of achievement for numerous reasons:
· We have been able to do so because of the vision and wisdom of the Chinese and British leadership,
· because of the extensive support from the wider Chinese and British society,
· and because of the commitment and efforts made by generations of Chinese and British diplomats.
All of you present today are witnesses and contributors to China-UK relations:
· Sir Edward Youde, who is no longer with us, not only witnessed the founding of the People's Republic, but also the establishment of China-UK diplomatic ties at the charge d'affaires level.
· Lady Youde, you have shown exceptional commitment to China-UK friendship for so many years. For well over six decades you have contributed an immense amount to increasing the friendship and understanding between Chinese and British people.
· Sir Anthony, you took part in the negotiation on Hong Kong and worked for the building of China-UK comprehensive partnership.
· Sir Christopher, you witnessed the British office of the charge d'affaires in Beijing became British Embassy. You also worked hard for the establishment of the comprehensive strategic partnership between our two countries.
· Sir William, you were involved in drafting the Joint Declaration on the Question of Hong Kong and actively supported China-UK cooperation on Olympic games.
· Consul General Tina Redshaw and Consul General Caroline Wilson, you have made active contribution to promoting regional exchanges and cooperation between our countries.
There is an old Chinese saying:
"When you drink from the well, don't forget the well-diggers".
You are all well-diggers who have shown a long and deep commitment to building strong relations between China and the UK.
Please accept my highest respect and most sincere thanks. I am truly happy that your commitment to advance China-UK relations has remained unchanged.
In different ways you are still contributing to the friendship between Chinese and British people. Going forward I hope you will visit China more often. Your valuable experience is most appreciated. I do hope you will continue to share your ideas and advice on how to build better relations between our two countries.
While we are proud of what we have achieved in the past, it is more important to place our focus on the future. Now is time for us to, as the Chinese saying goes: "March on despite any winds and rains."
At present, the China-UK relationship is at a new historical high point. This means we should strive to set ever higher goals:
· We can deliver such aims if we seize the opportunity to deepen cooperation.
· We need to build even stronger ties.
· And make China-UK relations a fine example of relationships between China and Western countries.
Here are four points I want to share with you:
First, we need to seize the historical opportunity and work for closer high-level exchanges.
· British Prime Minister is going to visit China later this year for the annual China-UK Prime Ministers' Meeting.
· China and the UK will co-host a series of high-level dialogues, including strategic dialogue, economic and financial dialogue, and people-to-people dialogue.
· There will be an important royal visit to China in mid-year.
· And our two countries should make these high-level visits a success in order to enhance our political mutual trust and drive our all-round cooperation.
Second, we should match our respective strengths and needs and engage each other in win-win cooperation:
· China and the UK should continue to dovetail our respective development strategies and leverage our respective strengths.
· We should tap into our potential and continue to deepen our cooperation in business, trade, infrastructure, finance and creative industries.
· At the same time we should actively explore opportunities in emerging industries such as health care, urbanization, new energy and many other key fields of opportunity.
· And we should also focus on ways to boost China-UK cooperation in the 'Belt and Road' initiative.
Third, we should grasp the overall international trends and expand our strategic consensus:
· In the world today, the trend of protectionism and anti-globalization is on the rise. There are growing uncertainties and instabilities.
· As big countries of global influence, China and Britain should bear in mind the progress of mankind.
· We should take the lead in the joint international response to various challenges.
· And we must uphold world peace and stability, and promote development and prosperity.
Fourth, we should keep to the right direction of China-UK relations and have sensitive bilateral issues under control:
· China and the UK differ in social systems. We are in different development stages. We have different cultural traditions.
· But, our consensus and cooperation outweigh our differences.
· We should embrace mutual respect.
· We should regard each other as equals.
· We should accommodate each other's core interests and major concerns.
· As for our differences, we should engage each other in constructive dialogues and handle them properly.
· And it is our duty to ensure the continued momentum of our bilateral relations.
Now, let me conclude with Robert Burns' very famous poem of Auld Lang Syne:
"Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And auld lang syne! …
We'll take a cup o' kindness yet,
For auld lang syne!"
May I propose a toast:
· To 45 years of China-UK Ambassadorial relations
· To the "Golden Era" of China-UK partnership
· To the enduring friendship between our people
· And to the health of everyone gathered here tonight