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Ambassador Liu Xiaoming's Interview with the China Daily ahead of the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation
2017/05/12

 

On 12 May 2017, China Daily published an interview with Ambassador Liu Xiaoming in its newspaper and on its website. The interview covered China-UK relations, Brexit, and China-UK cooperation on the Belt and Road. The full text is as follows:

China Daily: There seems to be a sense that western European countries are slower to understand what role they may play in President Xi's Belt and Road Initiative. Are you sensing this in your conversations with British officials?

Ambassador Liu: The Belt and Road is an initiative of strategic importance proposed by President Xi Jinping in 2013. It has since received wide attention and extensive response from the European countries including Britain as well as the rest of the world. It is not only to relive the historical and cultural heritage of the past. It is more about now and a forward-looking blueprint for common development and future cooperation.

The Belt and Road Initiative has been a recurring topic in my discussion with my friends here in Britain. Last month I attended the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor Roundtable in London. I was deeply impressed by the enormous interest and strong support that many British friends have for the Belt and Road Initiative in general and the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor in particular.

Early this year, the arrival in London of the first cargo train of the China Railway Express gave rise to heated discussion here in the UK. In fact, from the British government to the public, from the businesses to think tanks, from academia to media, the UK has shown great enthusiasm for participating in the Belt and Road Initiative.

Everyone knows that the UK was the first major western country to apply to join the AIIB. In fact, the same enthusiasm for AIIB and the Belt and Road can be found in other European countries such as Germany and France.

Of all the non-Asian founding members of the AIIB, Germany is the biggest contributor. In the case of France, the country signed with China in July 2015 a declaration on jointly exploring third country markets. This shows the two countries' commitment to cooperation with China on infrastructure, environment, energy, etc, in third country markets. It also shows their shared interest in closer Belt and Road cooperation.

In April last year, the first freight train from China arrived in Lyons, which marked the opening of a new business and trade channel to connect China with France and Europe.

As the old Chinese saying goes, "Theories on books will not be productive until put into practice". The Belt and Road Initiative has such broad content and far-reaching impact that to fully appreciate and explore it will need a gradual process as well as concrete actions by all partners together. The upcoming Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation in Beijing will serve as a platform to bring China and its partners together for building consensus, making mid-to-long term plans and mapping out a new blueprint for the Belt and Road cooperation.

China Daily: Britain was the first major Western Power to join as a full member of the AIIB, and Chancellor Philip Hammond is due to attend the Belt and Road Forum. How do you see his participation?

Ambassador Liu: The UK was the first major western country to apply to join the AIIB and the second contributor after China to inject capital into the AIIB special fund. These moves speak to Britain's entrepreneurship of daring to take the lead and Britain's farsightedness and truly global vision. They also reflect the vigorous momentum of the win-win cooperation between China and Britain.

This year marks the 45th anniversary of China-UK ambassadorial diplomatic relations. Over the past 45 years, China and the UK have maintained a steady and healthy relationship. The practical cooperation between China and Britain is well ahead of that between China and other Western countries.

I believe that with the concerted efforts of China and the UK, our cooperation on the Belt and Road will go a long way and deliver more benefits to the people of our two nations.

In a few days time, Chancellor Hammond will head to China for the Belt and Road Forum on behalf of Prime Minister May. Representatives of many prestigious British companies, institutions and think tanks will also take part in the forum.

While this shows how much importance Britain attaches to the forum, it also provides a valuable opportunity for China-UK cooperation on the Belt and Road. At present, China and Britain are working together to advance projects in the field of nuclear power, high speed railway, infrastructure, etc. The forum will facilitate stronger synergy between our respective development strategies, which will help unleash the untapped potential in bilateral investment, trade and finance and give rise to tangible outcomes of China-UK cooperation on the Belt and Road.

From the global perspective, this forum brings together around 1,500 representatives from countries in Asia, Europe, North America, Latin America and Africa. So it is truly an international gathering. I believe that the UK's participation will be a positive gesture to show an image of the "Global Britain". The UK will also contribute to the forum by exploring together with other partners the new cooperation opportunities in infrastructure, energy and resources, industrial cooperation, trade and investment, etc.

China Daily: Given that the UK, unlike other countries, does not lie directly on the proposed route for the Initiative, do you see British companies taken more of an investment or construction role in the plan?

Ambassador Liu: First of all, I can not agree with you when you said that the UK did not lie directly on the proposed route for the Initiative. Some of my British friends said this: When they are told by people from the European Continent that the Belt and Road ends on the Continent, they disagree for Britain makes the very west end of the Belt and Road. I would agree with them.

Not long ago, the China Railway Express made a return trip between Yiwu and London. This is the very first time that China-UK trade is completely connected by land transportation. It also means that the China Railway Express has completed its "last mile" and has extended the Belt and Road to the very western point. This is a landmark event.

Britain's role is not limited to its geographical location, namely at the western end of the Belt and Road. Britain, with its global influence, is a key partner in the building of the Belt and Road. Its unmatched advantages and strengths will give it an important role to play.

For example, the UK has an advanced and international financial sector and mature professional services industries in law and consulting. These are what countries along the Belt and Road routes need for setting up financial service platforms and improving legal systems.

The UK also has prestigious think tanks and education institutions and world-class R&D and innovation capabilities. These are all intellectual resources to support the Belt and Road projects.

Moreover, the UK has long-standing historical and cultural links and close business ties with countries along the Belt and Road routes. Within the Belt and Road framework, China and Britain can jointly explore the market of a third country and produce win-win outcomes to make "one plus one greater than two".

China is positive and open to any cooperation project, be it investment or construction. We look forward to the active participation of British companies. Specific ideas and suggestions from the British side are also welcomed.

China Daily: British Prime Minister Theresa May is famous for her cautious approach, and this was evident when she asked for more time to consider Hinkley Point, an investment that had already been approved by David Cameron and his chancellor George Osborne. Have you detected any shift in UK government attitudes towards China and Chinese investment since last June?

Ambassador Liu: This year marks the 45th anniversary of ambassadorial diplomatic relations between China and Britain. The trajectory of China-UK relations over the past four and a half decades shows that a positive and stable bilateral relationship serves the interests of both countries. Developing positive and stable relations is a strategic choice of the two sides, not short term expediency or something easily swayed by a single issue or incident.

Last year, Britain voted to leave the European Union and the government went through a reshuffle. But developing positive ties with China remains the consensus of all British political parties.

Last September, Prime Minister May and Chinese President Xi Jinping had a successful meeting in Hangzhou during the G20 Summit. The two leaders reaffirmed the shared commitment to the "Golden Era" of our bilateral relations. Prime Minister May said on many occasions that she attaches importance to growing ties with China and that she remains committed to stronger China-UK relations and welcome Chinese investment in the UK. I have the honour to have met Prime Minister May on several occasions. Her commitment to developing close and friendly ties with China leaves me with deep impression.

Also in September last year, China, Britain and France signed the package agreement on the Hinkley Point project. This is a flagship project of China-UK practical cooperation, and a "golden fruit" of the "Golden Era" of China-UK relations. It marks the UK government's continued efforts to pursue a positive and open relationship with China.

Over the past year, Chinese companies' enthusiasm for investing in UK has been unabated. In 2016, China's direct investment in Britain exceeded 3.8 billion US dollars. Non-financial investment stock stood at about 18 billion US dollars, which far outnumbered Chinese investment in any other country in Europe.

Last December, China and the UK held the eighth Economic and Financial Dialogue where the two sides reached 63 cooperation outcomes in bilateral trade, investment, financial innovation, etc. Since the beginning of this year, Chinese-invested projects in the UK have been springing up in a number of sectors such as finance, energy, innovation, services, housing, etc.

Next month, there will be a general election in the UK. Whatever the result will be, I believe that China-UK relationship in the "Golden Era" will continue to deepen. In a world of uncertainties, the sound bilateral relationship between our two countries will always be a certainty.

China Daily: Britain is leaving the EU and would like to immediately strike a bilateral trade deal with China. The EU attempts to reach a trade deal with China seem bogged down. Is this something that would weigh in the UK's favour, especially since it has long urged that China's Market Economy Status be recognised as per its accession to the WTO back in 1990? Some EU countries seem particularly opposed to granting China MES. Why do you think that is?

Ambassador Liu: In the past 15 years since China joined the WTO, China has earnestly fulfilled its obligations. China sincerely hopes that cooperation with the EU will produce win-win results and the EU side will honour its commitment under Article 15 of the Protocol on China's Accession to the WTO.

Britain has always been a champion and advocate for free trade. We appreciate the position that the UK takes on this issue and hope that the UK will continue to influence the EU with regard to implementing Article 15.

After the Brexit Referendum, Britain is committed to building a truly "Global Britain" and a new global trade network. We are open to negotiating with the UK on a trade agreement. We stand ready to strengthen our dialogue with Britain to further tap into the potentials of the bilateral trade, to improve the trade and investment environment in our respective countries, to expand bilateral business cooperation around the world and to support our companies' access to each other's market for fair competition.

I would like to highlight the importance to stand against protectionism and improve and uphold fair, open and rule-based multilateral trading regime with WTO at its centre. I emphasise this because this helps boost international trade and world growth and is actually in the interests of all. Greater facilitation of trade and investment between China and the UK will be a positive factor in upholding the open multilateral trading regime and will serve the interests of China, Britain, the EU and the rest of the world.

China Daily: As it seems likely that Theresa May will be re-elected Prime Minister of the UK in June, and she is due to visit Beijing later in the year, do you expect anything to come out of that visit, and will it raise relations to a higher level?

Ambassador Liu: British Prime Minister will pay a visit to China this year for a new round of China-UK Annual Prime Ministers' Meeting. This will be the first China visit by a British Prime Minister in four years. So this visit will be highly significant for the two countries to make plans and provide guidance for China-UK relations going forward.

We hope that the two sides will, through these high-level exchanges, deepen political mutual trust, build on strategic consensus, advance practical cooperation, and achieve more "golden fruits" in the "Golden Era". This is for the good of the Chinese and British people. This is also in the interest of world peace and prosperity.

China Daily: Overall, how do you see the status of relations between the UK and China? Could they be improved?

Ambassador Liu: At present, China-UK relationship is entering a new phase of overall development. But there is always room for improvement. In this new phase, we have high expectations of a better China-UK relationship in mainly three aspects.

First, we want to strengthen the global and strategic significance of our bilateral ties. China and Britain are both permanent members of the UN Security Council and the world's major economies. Sound relationship and cooperation between our two countries serve peace and prosperity of the world. We need to deepen our coordination and cooperation on major international and hot-spot issues so as to respond to global challenges with joint efforts. We need to shape the future of China-UK relations with grand thinking and open-mindedness in order to deliver benefits to the people of our two countries and beyond.

Second, we want China-UK cooperation to be more open and win-win. The UK has always been ahead of other western countries in being open to cooperation with China. But there is still potential to be tapped in our bilateral cooperation. Against the rising protectionism around the world, China and the UK should all the more join hands and advance the open and win-win globalization. I hope that we will work together, particularly in exploring the new opportunities of the Belt and Road cooperation, to create more highlights of tangible cooperation that will benefit the people of our two countries.

Third, we want China-UK relationship to be more stable and inclusive. China and the UK differ in history, culture and social system. It is only natural that we don't see eye to eye with each other on every issue. But we can engage each other in closer dialogue to handle our differences appropriately, to build trust and remove misgivings, and to seek common grounds. China and the UK should do more to strengthen communication and exchanges and increase mutual understanding. This will help cement the public support in both countries for the "Golden Era" and sustain the growth of our bilateral ties in the long run.

※       ※       ※

On May 11, 2017, Ambassador Liu Xiaoming gave an exclusive interview to the China Daily ahead of the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation. China Daily published the complete transcript of the interview on May 12, along with an article entitled UK's Belt and Road Stance hailed.

Read the article on the following website:

http://europe.chinadaily.com.cn/world/2017-05/12/content_29310183.htm

 

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