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Keynote Speech by H.E. Ambassador Liu Xiaoming at the Telegraph Business of Sport 2017: Deepen China-UK Sport Cooperation for A Better World
The BT Centre, London, 9 May 2017
2017/05/09

Chairman Jim White,

Ladies and Gentlemen:

It is a great pleasure to join you at the Telegraph's third Business of Sport Conference.

This is a premium annual event that aims to steer the UK sports industry to growth, innovation and collaboration. I am sure it is well positioned to unite sports, business, media and cultural leaders under one roof for a unique forum of learning, networking and cooperation.

Jim asked me to talk about the development of sports in China and the cooperation opportunities for China and Britain in the field of sports. This is a big topic as well as an important one.

Let me take this opportunity to share with you some of my thoughts.

With the world's largest population, China is a big sports nation. We attach high importance to sports and the development of the sports industry.

The sports excellence and level of participation is a significant indicator of social progress and human achievements. It is a reflection of a nation's overall strength and cultural advancement.

  • Sports improves health.
  • Sports builds characters.
  • Sports embodies the human spirit of ever striving to overcome difficulties, to reach for the limit, to be faster, higher and stronger.

For well over 60 years since the founding of New China, in particular during the nearly 4 decades of reform and opening-up, China has traveled an extraordinary journey in the development of sports. Remarkable achievements have been made in the following five aspects.

First, nationwide sports and fitness fervour has reached a "new high".

Before the founding of New China, the Chinese were labeled as the "sick man of the East". The average life expectancy was only 35 years. Today, the standards of living and public health in China have been tremendously improved. The average life expectancy has reached 76 years, much higher than the average in developing countries. The label of the "sick men of the East" has long gone. There is a nationwide enthusiasm for sports and fitness exercise.

According to statistics, there are about 60 most popular sports and fitness exercises in China. More than a third of China's population take part in sports and exercise frequently. Again, that is way higher than the average in developing nations. There are more than 1.7 million sports venues nationwide. More than half of all cities and counties have sports centres. In the past decade, the area of sports ground per person has doubled.

Second, China's achievements in competitive sports have set "new records".

The past decades have recorded progress by leaps and bounds. The journey began in 1952 when New China sent its first ever delegation to the Olympic Games. Only one swimmer managed to take part in the 100 metre backstroke event. Fast-forward to 1984, China achieved a historical breakthrough in its Olympic gold medal count, that is, from zero to 15. In 2008, China hosted the Olympic Games in Beijing. It was a dream come true. Here in London in 2012, Chinese sportsmen and women achieved the best results of all the overseas events where they have ever competed. In Rio last year, Chinese athletes excelled in events where they have traditionally maintained a competitive edge. Then came Sochi and a major breakthrough for China once again – the first gold medal in a key winter event. From 2010 to 2015, Chinese athletes won a total of 596 world champions and set 57 new world records. That was an important contribution to world sports.

Third, the reforms of China's sports administration have taken "new steps".

For nearly four decades since reform and opening-up policies were adopted, China's sports administration has undergone profound reforms. Today, competition is introduced into the administration of sports, as we promote professional and commercial sports and build a modern sports governance.

Take football for example.  We have taken more than 50 reform initiatives.  We encourage diversified sources of investment in football. We hope that the capital market will help the football clubs grow.

Going forward, China will continue to reform the administrative system of both multi-sport and single-sport events. This will aim at opening up the sports sector to the market and non-public sectors.

Fourth, China sports industry has become a "new economic highlight".

The past few years have witnessed a continuous expansion in China's sports industry. Sports-related consumption has notably increased.

The total output of China's sports and related industries increased from 165 billion US dollars in 2013 to 202.5 billion in 2014 and 255 billion in 2015. This translates into a much higher annual increment of 0.7% of GDP than in previous years.

Moreover, there is an increasing integration between sports industry and other sectors such as culture, tourism, public health, elderly care and IT. This has created a "multiplying effect" in the sports industry and led to a "growth surge".

Fifth, China's sports collaboration with the world has entered into a "new era".

The "Ping Pong Diplomacy" of the 1970s has been a much told story. It shows how sports played a significant role in China's diplomacy, especially the rapprochement between China and the United States.

Today, sports have continued to draw China and the world closer. China has hosted a number of major sports events, including the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, the 2010 Asian Games in Guangzhou and the 2014 Youth Olympic Games in Nanjing. These events have brought the world to the doorsteps of China and built the platform for exchanges between China and the world.

In 2022, China is going to host the Winter Olympics in Beijing. By then, Beijing will become the first city in the world to have hosted both the Summer and Winter Olympic Games.

All these have demonstrated China's commitment to world sports. They have also facilitated China's exchanges and cooperation with the world.

There is no doubt China is a big sports nation. But we are fully aware that despite our progress, China is not yet a strong sports nation. There are still problems and challenges in the form of uneven development and inadequate administrative capability.

But these problems and challenges are more like the "growing pain". In the long run, China's sports sector has a broad prospect and a huge market potential to offer.

That's why many would compare China's sports sector to a "gold mine". I think such a comparison could not be more accurate for mainly three reasons. I call them "Three Bonuses".

First, China has huge "population bonus".  Statistics show that 380 million people in China participate in sports regularly.  Of these people, 130 million engage in general outdoor exercises and 60 million in outdoor sports. This huge number is important in two ways. It means a solid foundation for sports. And it signfies a huge market.

Second, China has reliable "economic bonus." For years the Chinese economy has maintained steady growth. The sports sector is fast emerging as a new growth point. This green, "sunrise industry" is characterized by its ability to drive affiliated sectors, its low energy consumption and its high added values. By 2020, the total output of China's sports industry will have exceeded 450 billion US dollars. The sports service industry will account for 30% of the added values. Consumption on sports will account for over 2.5% of the per capita disposable income.

Third, China has significant "reform bonus". The development of sports is already part of China's national strategy. In 2014, the Chinese government set the target for sports to grow into an industry of 750-billion-US-dollar by 2025. In the foreseeable future, the commercialization and industrialization of sports in China will take a quicker pace.  In turn, this will make the supply side of the sports industrial chain more accessible.  This will also gradually make the sports sector more consumption-driven.

All these indicate a growing demand for domestic and foreign investment.

Ladies and Gentlemen:

When we talk about sports and the sports industry, we can never forget Britain.

Britain is the birthplace of modern sports and sports industry. It has hosted three modern Olympic Games and boasts a long-standing tradition, rich experience and unmatched advantages.

The British government attaches importance to sports. This is clearly manifested in its "moving more, living more" initiative of 2014 and its "Sporting Future - A New Strategy for an Active Nation" of 2015.

In addition to the tradition and strategy, the British athletes have made impressive achievements. Their performance in Rio was outstanding.

Britain is also not short of world renowned events, from The Premier League and the Wimbledon Championship to the Rugby World Cup, the Open Championship and the Tour of Britain. The Premier League, among others, is one of the most influential and successful professional leagues.

It is fair to say that sports are indispensable for the British people. Sports have become a pillar industry for the British economy.

In recent years, China-UK sports cooperation has produced fruitful results and gained a strong momentum. More opportunities for even greater cooperation lie ahead. It is time to seize the opportunities and achieve new success in China-UK sports cooperation.

What are the opportunities? I believe there are four major opportunities.

First and foremost, the opportunity provided by the "Golden Era" of China-UK relations. This "Golden Era" was unveiled with President Xi Jinping's successful state visit to the UK in 2015. During his visit, President Xi visited the Manchester City Football Academy.  His visit is a strong endorsement of closer China-UK exchanges and cooperation in football and other sports. This is in the interest of improving the fitness of our two peoples and strengthening the friendship between our two nations. Our shared commitment to the "Golden Era" maps out the future of China-UK bilateral ties. This shared commitment charts the course for our cooperation in sports and in all the other fields of cultural and people-to-people exchanges.

Second, the opportunity of deepening China-UK cooperation in cultural and people-to-people exchanges. Within the framework of China-UK High Level People to People Exchanges Mechanism, China and the UK have maintained strategic communication and worked jointly to provide top-level design for sports cooperation. Five years on since the Mechanism was launched, China and the UK have had tangible cooperation in a wide range of areas of education, science and technology, culture, health, media and sports. Such cooperation has vigorously promoted the friendship and mutual understanding between the Chinese and British people. Mrs. Karen Bradley, Secretary for Culture, Media and Sports, went to China last December for the fourth meeting of the Mechanism. That meeting led to a series of important agreements on how to strengthen bilateral sports cooperation.

The fifth round of meeting will be held in the UK at the end of this year. Both China and the UK should make good use of this platform to expand sports cooperation both in width and depth. We should enhance in particular the sports exchanges between our young people. This will inject fresh dynamics into China-UK friendship.

Third, the opportunity of matching Chinese and British strengths in sports. The sports industry in China is booming, attracting an ever-growing number of the population. There is an urgent need for advanced expertise and techniques in sports management. The UK is experienced in running sports facilities, sports health services, sports medicine and other related undertakings. These are the areas where China and the UK can match up our needs and engage in closer cooperation. The business sectors could also step up cooperation in the field of competitive sports.  They can work with one another and explore ways to integrate sports with media, culture, science and technology for win-win results.

Fourth, the opportunity provided by the Winter Olympics and other major sporting events. China and Britain had effective cooperation in the run-up to and during the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games and the 2012 London Olympic Games. The upcoming Winter Olympics in Beijing will again be a great opportunity for China-UK cooperation. Our two countries have already signed an MOU in this regard. We should continue to strengthen our commitment to closer exchanges and deepen our cooperation in order to produce new outcomes.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Pierre de Coubertin, the founding father of the Modern Olympics, said this:

"For each individual, sport is a possible source for inner improvement". "A better world could be brought about only by better individuals."

It is my sincere hope that leaders of sports, business, media and culture from both China and Britain will seize the valuable opportunities before you.

I hope you will join hands to advance sports exchanges and cooperation.

This will enable continuous inner improvement of our people and make our world a better place.

In conclusion, I wish this year's Business of Sport Conference a complete success!

Thank you.

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