Director General Menna Rawlings,
Mr. Gou Zhengli,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is a real delight to have you all with us at the event of “A Bite of China” on the eve of the Chinese New Year, or Spring Festival as it is more commonly known in China.
This is the second year that “A Bite of China” has come to London. It allows us to “taste” the festive atmosphere of New Spring and celebrate the Year of the Rat.
On behalf of the Chinese Embassy in the UK, I would like to thank Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park and the chefs from Chengdu for their thoughtful preparation and the passion they have put into this fascinating feast, which is a definite highlight of the Happy Chinese New Year events.
The theme of the Happy Chinese New Year events comes down to three “H’s”, namely, hope, home and harmony. These three words have, for thousands of years, encapsulated the best wishes of the Chinese people for the new year and their sincere greetings to the world.
I hope tonight’s feast not only pleases the palates but also, with its delicious fusion of Eastern and Western food, offers tastes of hope, home and harmony.
First, there is taste of hope in exchanges and mutual learning.
As we Chinese often say, “Delicious soup is made by combining different ingredients.” The Sichuan cuisine served today is a best example. There are three most commonly used seasonings:
Sichuan pepper is native to China;
Black pepper was brought to China from south India about 1,500 years ago via the Silk Road;
And chili pepper originated in Mexico, and reached China about 400 years ago via the maritime Silk Road.
Historical exchanges between people of different continents have enabled these three seasonings, born in three different places, to find their way into the same pot and create the unique flavor of Sichuan cuisine.
Food is just one of the wonderful fruits of exchanges and mutual learning between civilisations. As President Xi Jinping said, “exchange and mutual learning enrich civilisations.” Learning from other civilisations with an inclusive spirit could create a better future for human civilisations and bring more hope to mankind.
Second, there is taste of home in win-win cooperation.
The happiest part of the Chinese New Year comes when family members get together, like what we are doing tonight.
In the ever-deeper economic globalization, win-win cooperation has turned the world into a global village that is our common home. Countries belong to an inter-dependent community with a shared future.
Against this backdrop, China-UK cooperation in various areas has expanded and delivered win-win results.
In the first 11 months of 2019, China-UK trade in goods exceeded $78.3 billion, increasing by 6.9% year-on-year. The trade volume for the whole year is expected to reach a new high.
Nearly 200,000 Chinese students are studying in the UK and continue to be the largest overseas student community here in this country.
In 2019, mutual visits between China and the UK topped two million. China has become an important source of UK’s inbound tourists.
China will continue to open its market wider and the UK is about to complete Brexit. This will unleash enormous potential of China-UK cooperation. We should seize the opportunities, deepen collaboration and join hands to build an open world economy and make greater contribution to the “big global family”.
Third, there is taste of harmony in our pursuit for common ground despite differences.
Cultural diversity is a basic feature of the world. It is also an important source for the progress of mankind. There are more than 200 countries and regions in the world. They are different not only in history, cultural heritage and social system, but also in basic national condition, economic development stage and growth model. From these differences, cultural diversity arises.
Ancient Chinese wisdom tells us, “All living creatures grow together without harming each other; all roads run parallel without interfering with one another. A true gentleman respects diversity while seeking harmony.”
Here in the UK, people also value mutual respect and inclusiveness.
The lessons of history tell us that we should respect each other, be inclusive and seek common ground despite differences. By doing this, we will not only live in harmony but also enhance exchanges and bring out the best of each other.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Tonight we gather to say goodbye to the Year of the Pig and to usher in the Year of the Rat. The year 2020 is an important year for both China and the UK. Our two countries will build on past achievements and pursue new success.
It is my hope that in the new year, we will join hands, strive forward, pursue our dreams, and take China-UK relationship to a new level. Together, let’s make new, greater contribution to building a community with a shared future for mankind!
Now may I invite you to join me in a toast:
To peace and development in the world,
To the mutually-beneficial cooperation between China and the UK,
To a happy and prosperous Year of the Rat for everyone present tonight,