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Keynote Speech by H.E. Ambassador Liu Xiaoming at the City Week 2018: Harvest More "Golden Fruits" for China and UK through Open and Inclusive Cooperation on Belt and Road Initiative
Guildhall, London, 23 April 2018




Business and Financial Leaders,

Ladies and Gentlemen:

It is a real delight to be back at this annual gathering of the City Week.

This year, the City Week Forum focuses on “the Belt and Road Initiative as a vehicle for developing the China-UK relationship”. I think that in this fifth year of BRI, this topic is well chosen and very timely.

Today, I would like to share with you how I see this Initiative as a vehicle for developing our very important bilateral relationship.

Five years ago, President Xi proposed the Belt and Road Initiative. Five years on, this initiative has delivered fruitful results.

  • Over 80 countries and international organizations have signed cooperation agreements with China.
  • Over 100 countries and international organizations have voiced their support for this Initiative and become active partners.
  • This Initiative has been written into important resolutions of the UN General Assembly and the Security Council.

Another highlight is the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation held in Beijing last May. At the Forum, participants from more than 130 countries and over 70 international organizations gathered to share their ideas on the Belt and Road development. A total of over 270 cooperation agreements were signed.

You may wonder:

  • Why has this Initiative shown such strength and grown so much in such a short time?
  • Why is it getting such extensive support and broad participation from across the world?
  • What has made it so popular?

I believe there are four main reasons.

First, this is a road to peace and development.

This Initiative is not only a strategic choice of China based on its own development. It is also China’s concrete action to advance globalization and deliver benefits to the people of the whole world.

In this Initiative, China has no geopolitical calculations. China is not building an exclusive bloc. And China is not strong-arming anybody to do deals on our terms.

The principles for Belt and Road cooperation are extensive consultation, joint contribution and shared benefits among all partners. And the goal is peaceful development for all.

  • I want to emphasize that the BRI is a public good that China offers to the world.
  • It is a fast train to prosperity that is ready to take everybody along.
  • It is a testament to China’s continued efforts to promote world peace and uphold the international order.

Second, the BRI is a road to greater openness in China.

Two weeks ago, in his keynote speech to the Annual Conference 2018 of the Boao Forum for Asia, President Xi made a solemn statement. He said, “China’s door of opening-up will not be closed and will only open even wider!”

China in the new era will remain committed to its fundamental national policy of opening up. We will pursue development with our doors wide open. And the Belt and Road Initiative is the important measure to achieve just that. BRI has opening-up in its genes.

Going forward, China will

  • significantly broaden market access,
  • create a more attractive investment environment,
  • strengthen protection of intellectual property rights,
  • and take the initiative to expand imports.

As of today, China has signed 16 free trade agreements (FTA) with 24 countries and regions. This year, we hope to secure progress in the negotiations on ten FTAs and launch feasibility studies on another ten.

Third, the BRI is a road to win-win cooperation.

This Initiative was launched by China, but the opportunities it has to offer and the outcomes it has produced are going to benefit the whole world.

  • BRI follows market rules and universally-accepted practice.
  • It is dedicated to integrated development of all countries.
  • And it will facilitate globalisation in a more inclusive and universally beneficial way.

These are the important reasons why BRI has been so popular with the partners along the routes.

Here are some win-win results that are already harvested:

  • From 2014 to 2017, there had been a trade and investment boom along the Belt and Road. Trade between China and countries along the routes exceeded $4 trillion. And Chinese investment in these countries topped $60 billion.
  • Chinese companies have helped build 75 economic and trade cooperation zones along the routes. Nearly 3,500 companies have moved in. They have brought in a total investment of over $27 billion, paid $2.2 billion in tax and fees to host countries, and created 210 thousand jobs locally.
  • Loans from China Development Bank and the Export-Import Bank of China have exceeded 110 billion US dollars.
  • And China Export & Credit Insurance Corporation has underwritten over 320 billion US dollars worth of export and investment projects along the routes.

In the days to come, China will continue to deepen cooperation with countries and regions along the routes to make BRI work in the interest of the local people.

Fourth, the BRI is a road to closer exchanges between civilizations.

What makes this Initiative great is not only the opportunities for economic cooperation but also the facilitation of exchanges and understanding between cultures and civilizations.

The BRI carries on the ancient Silk Road spirit. It embodies the Oriental wisdom of inclusiveness and “harmony without uniformity”.

This Initiative calls for cultural and people-to-people cooperation on multiple levels and in a wide range of areas. It encourages exchanges and cooperation in education, science and technology, culture, health, tourism and sports.

As of the end of 2017, there were 734 pairs of sister cities between China and 53 countries along the routes. Moreover, mutual visa exemption or visa-on-arrival arrangements were agreed between China and 20 countries along the Belt and Road.

When the Chinese people and people of countries along the routes come together to work on the Belt and Road, the exchanges between them and their mutual understanding will deepen. This is conducive to the building of an inclusive society and a community with a shared future for mankind.

Ladies and gentlemen,

President Xi’s state visit to the UK in October 2015 ushered in the China-UK “Golden Era”. During the visit, the leaders of our two countries agreed to expand cooperation on the Belt and Road Initiative.

In recent years, as the China-UK “Golden Era” continues to make progress, people here in Britain have come to understand the Belt and Road Initiative better. The “Golden Era” and the BRI cooperation have become mutually reinforcing.

On the one hand, the “Golden Era” has laid a solid foundation for deepening BRI cooperation.

The ninth China-UK Economic and Financial Dialogue held at the end of last year produced 72 cooperation agreements on macro-economic policies and BRI development.

  • Our two governments agreed to deepen BRI exchanges and dialogue.
  • We will complement each other with our comparative strengths.
  • And we will work together to explore third markets along the routes.

During Prime Minister May’s successful visit to China earlier this year, the leaders of our two countries reaffirmed their commitment to advancing the China-UK “Golden Era” and deepening BRI cooperation.

On the other hand, the Belt and Road cooperation has enriched the China-UK “Golden Era”.

In 2017, the freight train of China Railway Express made its maiden round trip between China’s Yiwu and London. This opened a new, on-land option for the movement of goods between China and Britain. It also marked the extension of the “Belt and Road” to the western end of Europe.

More Chinese companies have been drawn to Britain via the Belt and Road.

  • As of the end of last year, non-financial direct investment from China totaled $19.14 billion.
  • Over 500 Chinese companies had set up businesses in the UK.
  • In 2017, bilateral trade reached nearly $80 billion, with British export to China up by nearly 20%.
  • In the first two months of this year, British export to China maintained the strong momentum, increasing by 28.8% year-on-year, making China one of Britain’s fastest growing export markets.

In the coming 15 years, China will open up its market further. We plan to import $24 trillion of goods from the rest of the world and open up a two-trillion-dollar market to foreign investors.

What is worth a special mention here is the first International Import Expo to be held in Shanghai this coming November. This is not just any trade fair. It represents China’s solid step to advance Belt and Road development and open up its market further. This will be a wonderful opportunity for British businesses to introduce British goods and services to China and build your brand names in the Chinese and world market.

Looking forward, there is a promising prospect for China-UK cooperation on the Belt and Road Initiative. I hope both sides will seize the opportunities and take our cooperation to a new stage.

To this end, I would like to share with you three suggestions for China-UK cooperation on BRI.

First, we should make financial services a new “growth point”.

This calls for a pioneering spirit, which the UK has plenty.

The UK has been a world leader in carrying out financial cooperation with China under the Belt and Road Initiative.

  • It is the first major Western country to apply to join the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB).
  • It is the second country only after China to contribute to an AIIB special fund.
  • It is one of the first countries to approve and sign the Guiding Principles on Financing the Development of the Belt and Road.
  • It is the first country to appoint a BRI special envoy and set up an Expert Board.
  • It has pledged £25 billion in support of BRI projects in Asia.

The British financial sector has also made much headway. Take for example Standard Chartered.

  • It is the first to sign an MOU with the China Development Bank, pledging 10 billion RMB yuan to facilitate Belt and Road projects.
  • It is expected to provide at least $20 billion in financing support for BRI projects by the end of 2020.

Belt and Road development creates a huge demand for not only investment and financing but also services, such as agent banking relationships, syndicated loans, settlement and clearing.

Therefore China is encouraging the establishment of financial services platforms in the countries along the routes.

China-UK cooperation in the financial sector could bring out British expertise in financing, public-private-partnership, insurance and green finance. This will provide Belt and Road development with better financial services.

Second, we should establish a “firm anchor” for BRI cooperation with win-win projects.

Recent years have seen vigorous progress and plenty of “early harvests”.

  • The Hinkley Point C nuclear power plant has entered into construction phase, and Hualong One technology has moved to the second stage of the generic design assessment.
  • The Royal Albert Dock project broke ground last June, with an investment of £1.7 billion from the ABP.
  • And the first sub-national cooperation project, the China-UK Innovation Industrial Park in Qingdao, has been launched.

All these successful projects bear witness to the complementarity and huge potential of China-UK cooperation on the Belt and Road. As long as we work together in a mutually beneficial way, we can live up to the name of “natural partners”, we can build more projects and we can produce more outcomes.

Third, we should oppose protectionism and stay true to BRI’s “basic principles” of openness and inclusiveness.

Being open and inclusive gives BRI its spirit. This is the reason for the strength and vitality of this Initiative regardless the differences between regions, civilizations or development stages. It is in sharp contrast to the protectionist rhetoric of “zero-sum game” or “you win I lose”.

Here I want to emphasize that protectionism never solves any problem. There is no winner in a trade war.

China firmly opposes a trade war, but China is not afraid of a trade war. When China took counter-measures against the US protectionist measures, we were safeguarding not only our own legitimate rights and interests but also the interests of the world. In doing so, we are defending the rules-based international trade regime.

The UK has always been a free trading nation and firm defender of the multi-lateral trading system. Under the current circumstances, it is all the more important that China and the UK stay true to open and inclusive principles advocated by BRI and voice our clear opposition to protectionism. By enhancing our cooperation under the Belt and Road Initiative, we can make new contribution to building an open world economy.

Ladies and gentlemen,

There is an ancient Chinese poem that I would like to share with you:

By the shipwreck a thousand boats sail ahead,

The forest turns green beyond the old trunk dead.

Three weeks ago, a large part of Britain was under heavy snow. Easter was celebrated in Christmas weather. Now, spring has come. It is the season of warmer sunshine. It is the time for everything to come back to life and grow.

As heavy snow can not hold back spring, the chill winds of protectionism can not reverse the trend of the times.

I sincerely hope that China and the UK will go along with the trend of the times, and seize the historic opportunity of the Belt and Road Initiative.

I hope our two countries could engage in open and win-win cooperation, and courageously embrace reform and innovation.

If we stand up together, we can brave the chill winds of protectionism, and we will usher in a more beautiful spring for the China-UK “Golden Era”, and harvest more abundant “golden fruits”!

In conclusion, I wish the City Week a great success!

Thank you!

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