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Speech by H.E. Ambassador Liu Xiaoming at the Chinese for Labour Gala Chinese New Year Banquet 2019: Put People First and Deliver Benefits to the People
Phoenix Palace Restaurant, London, 27 February 2019
2019/02/28

Mr. Jeremy Corbyn,

Mr. Sonny Leong,

Members of the Shadow Cabinet,

Ladies and Gentlemen:

Good evening!

It is a real delight to join you at the Chinese for Labour Gala Chinese New Year Banquet to celebrate the Year of the Pig.

This is the 26th Chinese New Year celebration that I have attended this year. Over the past weeks, I was glad to see the Chinese New Year becoming a festival of both the Chinese and British people. This is a vivid demonstration of the ever-stronger popular support for China-UK friendship.

I watched the video message sent by Mr. Corbyn early this month, wishing Chinese people a happy Chinese New Year. The message has been warmly received by the Chinese communities in the UK and across the world.

This year marks the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China. It is also the 65th anniversary of the establishment of China-UK diplomatic relationship at the level of chargé d'affaire.

In the past 70 years, it was when the Labour Party was in office that China and the UK achieved three major leaps in our relations:

  • The first leap was the diplomatic recognition of the People's Republic of China three months after its founding. The UK was the first major Western country to do so;
  • The second leap was Hong Kong's return to China. This enabled our two countries to shed the burden of history and move on;
  • The third leap was the establishment of China-UK comprehensive strategic partnership, which was the very first between China and an EU member state.

I wish to take this opportunity to express my appreciation and thanks to the Labour Party for your contribution to the development of China-UK relations.

In the new era of ever-deepening globalization, how should a government or a political party set its goal?

President Xi Jinping said, "The people's aspiration for a better life is our goal." The Labour manifesto clearly states that the Party is "for the many, not for the few".

In China-UK relations, putting the people first and working for the many is not only the goal but also the foundation.

How to deliver more benefits to our people? My answer is this: We must stay "committed to doing three important things".

First, China and the UK should stay committed to open cooperation, so as to deliver the benefit of cooperation to the people of both countries.

Chinese companies have invested more in the UK in the past five years than they did in the previous 30 years. Now the accumulated investment from China totals more than $20 billion. According to UK statistics, British export to China reached $27.47 billion in 2018, increasing by 30.1% year on year, much higher than the UK's GDP growth.

As China deepens reform, opens wider to the world and shifts to high-quality development, China will create more opportunities for other countries in the world, including the UK.

There will be two such opportunities this year which we hope the UK will seize, namely, the Second Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation and the Second China International Import Expo. We invite the UK to share in the opportunities of the Belt and Road Initiative and to introduce more products and services to the Chinese market.

It is our hope that the UK will remain open and inclusive, resist disruptions and continue to foster a fair, transparent and non-discriminatory business environment for Huawei and other Chinese companies in the UK.

Second, China and the UK should stay committed to exchanges and mutual learning, so as to gain more popular support for China-UK friendship.

Friendship between the people is the most valuable resource for China-UK relations. As we speak, there are more than 190,000 Chinese students studying in the UK, and over 10,000 British students in China; more than 600 British primary and secondary schools have included the Chinese language in their curriculum; and more than 1.5 million mutual visits are made every year.

These are facilitated by greater ease of travel. Last year alone, eight new direct flights were launched between the cities of our two countries, increasing the total number to 168 flights per week. This means on average there is one flight for every hour.

China and the UK are different in social system, history, culture and development stage, but both are time-honoured civilisations. As Mr. Corbyn said in his New Year message, it is important that we offer "the hand of friendship" and be "kind to each other".

To be specific, we should follow the principles of mutual respect and equality, and view each other's development as opportunities, rather than challenges, still less threats.

Moreover, we should enhance exchanges and cooperation between our parties, legislatures, media, youth and women. This will enhance mutual understanding, deepen friendship and cement public support for our bilateral relations.

Third, China and the UK should stay committed to peaceful development and work together to build a community with a shared future for mankind.

Today's world is a place where the interests and future of all countries are deeply intertwined. Peace and development remain the theme of our times.

Both China and the UK are defenders of world peace, supporters of the multilateral system and participants in economic globalisation. In the new era, it is all the more important that we

  • stand firm against protectionism, unilateralism, the "Cold-War mentality" and "gunboat diplomacy";
  • uphold the rule-based international trade system;
  • take the lead in building an open world economy;
  • and work together to build a community with a shared future for mankind.

There is a great deal our two countries can do to deliver more benefits to the people of the world.

Ladies and Gentlemen:

China attaches great importance to strengthening relations between the political parties of our two countries.

Last year, Mr. Cai Qi, member of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee and Party Secretary of Beijing, paid a successful visit to the UK. During the visit, he had a very good meeting with Mr. Corbyn. I would like to repeat the invitation for Mr. Corbyn and Labour Party delegations to visit China whenever it is convenient to both sides. We also hope the Labour Party will take an active part in the 11th China-UK Leadership Forum to be held in the UK this year.

I would also like to take this opportunity to express my appreciation to Chinese for Labour, which will celebrate the 20th anniversary this year. In the past 20 years, you have worked vigorously to encourage members of the Chinese community to get involved in politics. You have also made great efforts to enhance China-UK dialogue and exchanges.

Tonight's banquet is my last Chinese New Year celebration this year. In China, we have a saying, "It is never too late to have a delicious supper." I wish to thank the Labour Party for bringing the Chinese New Year celebrations for the Year of the Pig to a successful conclusion.

In the new year, we stand ready to work with the Labour Party to make new and greater contribution to the steady development of China-UK relations and to deliver more benefits to the people of our two countries.

In conclusion, I wish everybody a happy, healthy and prosperous Year of the Pig!

Thank you!

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