My Lords and MPs,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
This is the tenth APPCG Chinese New Year Reception that I have attended. It is a real delight to join friends old and new to celebrate the Chinese New Year.
In three days, the Year of the Rat will begin. As the first of the 12 zodiac animals, rat symbolises cleverness, agility and tenacity. With these auspicious promises, I am sure the year 2020 will be a year of relentless efforts, fruitful outcomes and great prosperity.
Let me take this opportunity to wish all the friends present tonight a happy and prosperous Year of the Rat!
The year 2019 is an extraordinary year for both China and the UK, and for China-UK relations.
We celebrated the 70th anniversary of the founding of New China.
The UK made important breakthroughs in Brexit.
China and the UK celebrated the 65th anniversary of China-UK diplomatic relationship at the chargé d’affaires level.
In the past year, China-UK relations have maintained four “momentums”.
First, our two countries maintained the momentum of high-level exchanges.
Leaders of our two countries exchanged frequent correspondence.
Her Majesty The Queen and Prime Minister Boris Johnson sent messages and letters of congratulations to President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang respectively on the 70th anniversary of the founding of New China. Prime Minister Johnson also sent a message of congratulations to my Embassy when we were celebrating the 70th anniversary of the founding of New China.
After the general election was held and the new cabinet took office, Premier Li Keqiang sent a message of congratulations to Prime Minister Johnson; and Wang Yi, State Councilor and Minister of Foreign Affairs, sent a message of congratulations to Secretary Dominic Raab.
Moreover, in April 2019, Philip Hammond, then Chancellor of the Exchequer, attended the second Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation as the special representative of the Prime Minister. Sir Mark Sedwill, Cabinet Secretary and National Security Adviser, led a delegation of permanent under-secretaries from more than ten departments of the UK Government to visit China.
Vice Premier Hu Chunhua visited the UK and hosted the tenth China-UK Economic and Financial Dialogue. Chen Zhu, Vice-Chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress, and Gao Yunlong, Vice-Chairman of the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, visited the UK respectively.
The legislatures of our two countries also maintained sound exchanges and cooperation.
Second, our two countries maintained the momentum of expanding business cooperation.
Despite the slowdown of world economic growth, business cooperation between China and the UK grew steadily.
In 2019, China-UK trade in goods totaled $86.272 billion, increasing by 7.3% year-on-year, and setting a new record.
Britain was set to resume beef exports to China.
Thirty British companies attended the second China International Import Expo.
The tenth China-UK Economic and Financial Dialogue produced 69 outcomes. In particular, the Shanghai-London Stock Connect was launched, the first-ever link between the Chinese and a foreign capital markets.
China and the UK signed an agreement on cooperation in third markets, which injected new vitality into China-UK cooperation on the Belt and Road Initiative.
Shanghai Pudong Development Bank, Agricultural Bank of China and China CITIC Bank opened branches in the UK; ICBC issued pound-denominated bonds, the first-ever by a Chinese bank.
London became the world’s second largest offshore clearing centre and the largest offshore trading centre of the Chinese currency, RMB, achieving a total clearing volume of 40 trillion RMB yuan.
The 15th World Chinese Entrepreneurs Convention was successfully held in London, during which seven cooperation agreements were signed between the businesses of our two countries.
Third, China and the UK maintained the momentum of close cultural and people-to-people exchanges.
About 200,000 Chinese students are studying in Britain; Across the UK, 30 Confucius Institutes and 163 Confucius Classrooms have enrolled more than 190,000 students; British Government programme Generation UK has enabled more than 10,000 British students to study in China.
China-UK regional exchanges and cooperation have been expanding, becoming a new highlight in China-UK cooperation. There are now 68 pairs of sister provinces and cities between our two countries.
Every week, 168 flights operate between China and the UK, facilitating personnel exchanges of close to two million per year. China has become an important source of overseas tourists visiting the UK.
The Chinese New Year celebration at Trafalgar Square, which will be held on 26 January this year, attracts more than 700,000 people from all over the world every year.
Fourth, China and the UK maintained the momentum of increasing collaboration on international affairs.
In a world of uncertainties, China and the UK have stepped up coordination and communication in the UN, the G20 and the WTO and other international organisations. Our two countries have reached consensus on opposing protectionism and unilateralism. We have also maintained communication and coordination on addressing global challenges such as climate change and hotspot issues such as the Iran nuclear issue.
Ladies and Gentlemen:
The year 2020 bears great significance for both China and the UK and for China-UK relations. In this year, we will build on past achievements and pursue new success.
China will achieve the first centenary goal, namely, to complete the building of a moderately prosperous society in all aspects and eliminate absolute poverty.
The UK will complete Brexit, and embark on a new journey of building a “global Britain”.
The year 2020 will also mark the fifth anniversary of the China-UK “Golden Era”. China-UK relations will stand at a new starting point and face new opportunities.
Looking ahead into the new year, it is my hope that our two countries will work together to open a new chapter of China-UK relationship and take this relationship to a new stage.
First, our two countries should inject new vitality into our relations in the new era.
China will be an important strategic partner of the UK after Brexit. Our two countries will have more consensus than differences, and our relations will be defined by cooperation rather than competition.
China and the UK should adopt a strategic vision and comprehensive perspective when we look at and advance our relations. This means we should see each other as partners rather than rivals, and regard each other’s development as opportunities rather than threats. We must respect and accommodate each other’s core interests and major concerns, and address differences in a constructive manner. This will keep the “Golden Era” of China-UK relationship on the right track.
Second, China and the UK should seize new opportunities to achieve new leaps in our cooperation.
Our two countries should bring our comparative strengths together and deepen cooperation in the areas of trade, investment, infrastructure building, financial services, hi-tech and innovation. We could also carry out deeper and more concrete cooperation on the Belt and Road Initiative.
From 17 to 19 February, the fifth China-UK Regional Leaders’ Summit will be held in Birmingham. This will be a good opportunity for our two countries to match the UK’s plans, such as Midlands Engine and Northern Powerhouse, with China’s strategies for regional development. If we could do this, we will achieve new outcomes in China-UK regional cooperation.
China welcomes investment from British businesses. At the same time, we hope that the UK will foster an open, fair and non-discriminatory business environment for Chinese companies including Huawei, so as to achieve win-win results.
Third, China and the UK should join hands to address new challenges and make new contribution to the peace and development of mankind.
The world is undergoing profound changes unseen in a century. China and the UK, as major global players, should shoulder our historical responsibilities. We must hold high the banner of multilateralism and open economy, stand firm against unilateralism and protectionism, and join hands to take the lead in economic globalisation and trade liberalisation.
Later this year, China will host COP15 to the Convention on Biological Diversity and the UK will host COP26 to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. The two conferences will be good opportunities for closer China-UK cooperation on addressing global challenges, in particular, in the areas of climate change, environmental protection and wildlife protection.
We could also work together to promote exchanges and mutual learning between the Eastern and Western civilisations, improve the global governance system, and build a community with a shared future for mankind.