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Speech by H.E. Ambassador Liu Xiaoming at the Chinese New Year Dinner by the Cities of London and Westminster Conservative Association: Cherish New Expectations and Forge a New Future
The Golden Phoenix, London, 1 March 2018
2018/03/02

Secretary Sajid Javid,

Minister Mark Field,

Lord Bates,

Chairman Tony Ip,

Ladies and Gentlemen:

Happy Chinese New Year!

It is a real pleasure to join you to celebrate the Chinese New Year.

This is the fourth time I attend the Chinese New Year Dinner held by the Cities of London and Westminster Conservative Association. It is also my 17th Chinese New Year party this year.

For 20 days, people across Britain soaked up the festive atmosphere.

  • From England to Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, from No.10 Downing Street to the Palace of Westminster, and from Trafalgar Square to London Palladium, Chinese New Year parties brought joy to every corner of this country.
  • Her Majesty The Queen and Prime Minister May sent Chinese New Year greetings to the Chinese people and the ethnic Chinese community here in Britain.
  • This traditional Chinese festival has become part of the life of the British people and enriched the cultural diversity in the UK.
  • It also embodies the ever closer friendship between the people of our two countries.
  • And it is a platform for the mutual learning between the Eastern and Western civilizations.

Here tonight, our celebration is taking place at the centre of this country because

  • Westminster is the political centre of Britain,
  • City of London is its economic and financial centre,
  • and Chinatown is the centre of cross cultural fusion.

I am pleased to see that in all these three aspects, China-UK relations have made great progress.

Politically, China-UK relations have been upgraded to a higher level.

Four weeks ago, Prime Minister May paid a successful visit to China. During the visit, the leaders of our two countries reaffirmed their commitment to building China-UK "Golden Era", and making our bilateral relationship more strategic, practical, global and inclusive.

This will be the guide for the China-UK "Golden Era" as we move forward.

In the economic, trade and financial field, China-UK cooperation has grown by leaps and bounds.

  • Trade and mutual investment grew steadily in 2017. Secretary Fox told me that British export to China increased by nearly 35%. This figure is bigger than Chinese statistics. Although we may have different ways of calculating our trade, our conclusions are the same, that is, China is one of the fastest growing export markets for the UK.
  • During Prime Minister May's visit to China, £10 billion worth of business contracts were signed. This is expected to create over 2,600 jobs in Britain.
  • Standard Chartered received a lead underwriting license for Panda bonds.
  • The Agricultural Bank of China and Shanghai Pudong Development Bank got the official go-ahead to set up branches in Britain.
  • Our two countries also deepened our cooperation on the Belt and Road Initiative. The UK appointed a special envoy to the Initiative, set up the Expert Board, and pledged £25 billion in support of Belt and Road projects in Asia.

In the area of culture, our exchanges have created new dimensions.

Social and women's issues were added to the agenda of the fifth China-UK High-Level People-to-People Dialogue. There were quite a number of highlights in education, culture, science, technology and youth exchanges.

Britain has been a popular destination for Chinese students seeking overseas education. As we speak, 170 thousand Chinese students are studying here in this country.

The Chinese culture also showed great appeal to the British people. Across the UK, there are 29 Confucius Institutes and 148 Confucius Classrooms, with a total of over 160 thousand registered students. In addition, Chinese language courses are offered in about 600 primary and secondary schools here in this country.

At the end of last year, China and the UK signed the China-UK Joint Strategy for Science, Technology and Innovation Cooperation. This is the very first such document between China and other countries in the field of science and technology.

During her recent visit to China, Prime Minister May launched the "English is GREAT" Campaign. This is expected to drive up Chinese enthusiasm for the British culture. Moreover, the Prime Minister herself is affectionately known as "Auntie May" in the Chinese social media.

Ladies and gentlemen,

The Chinese New Year is a time to take stock of the fruits of the past year. It is also a time to cherish hopes for the new year.

Looking ahead as the new year begins, I am confident that China and the UK will continue to make progress in our respective development. And I have a great deal to expect for the China-UK "Golden Era".

Here are my three expectations for China-UK relations.

First, I expect greater strategic trust between our two countries.

The UK has been a pioneer among major Western countries in developing relations with China.

The UK is now led by the Conservative Party. Yet, as I said before, the Conservative Party has never been conservative in seeking closer ties with China. It was when the Conservatives were in government that Britain and China established diplomatic relationship, upgraded the relationship to the ambassadorial level and opened the China-UK "Golden Era".

President Xi cited Shakespeare when meeting with Prime Minister May, "What's past is prologue." Indeed, we are proud of what we have achieved in the past. Yet we need to shoulder the responsibility for what we want to accomplish in the future.

In my view, it is important that we

  • enhance strategic communications,
  • respect and accommodate each other's core interests and major concerns,
  • respect each other's social systems and development models,
  • and enhance the sharing of best governance practices.

Together, we can make China-UK relations an exemplar of major country relations, that is, a relationship that features mutual respect, equality and mutual trust.

Second, I expect more open and inclusive cooperation between our two countries.

China will celebrate the 40th anniversary of reform and opening up this year. It is China's firm resolve to implement the opening-up strategy.

The UK has long been a standard bearer of openness and cooperation. Your vision of a "global Britain" is a renewed commitment to this value.

I hope our two countries will continue to uphold the principles of inclusiveness and mutual learning. On the Belt and Road Initiative, China and the UK can enhance cooperation and take the lead in facilitating connectivity between countries in policy, infrastructure, trade and financing. These efforts will enable us to leverage our comparative strengths and achieve common development.

I also hope our two countries will carry out cooperation in a wide range of areas including education, culture, science, health, youth and sub-national exchanges. Such exchanges bring people together, build closer bond and enable a deeper appreciation of and mutual support for the Chinese Dream and the British Dream.

Third, I expect China and the UK to join hands to make more contribution to the world.

As permanent members of the UN Security Council and important members of G20, China and the UK shoulder important responsibilities in this complex and changing world.

Our two countries should adopt a global vision and assume our duties as major members of the international community.

  • We should enhance coordination on promoting economic globalization, opposing protectionism, improving global governance and tackling climate change.
  • And we should step up communications on international and regional hotspots such as the Korean Peninsula nuclear issue, the Iran nuclear issue and the situation in Syria.

I hope our two countries will join hands to build a new type of international relations. With our joint efforts, we can take other global partners along in building a community with a shared future for mankind. This is a grand endeavour. It will ultimately deliver more benefits to the people of our two countries and the world.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Tomorrow will be the Lantern Festival. This is the day for families to gather to watch lantern displays and welcome the spring.

A traditional Chinese couplet best describes the scene of this festival:

"A beautiful song brings back spring surging like the sea;

Lanterns light up a thousand homes making night bright as day."

Let us light up the lantern of wisdom and embrace a hopeful new year for China-UK "Golden Era"!

In conclusion, I wish you and your family a happy and prosperous Year of the Dog!

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