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Home > Topics > 40 Years of China-UK Full Diplomatic Relations
Speech by Ambassador Liu Xiaoming at the 40th Anniversary of China-UK Full Diplomatic Relations Reception

(Chinese Embassy in the UK, 13 March 2012)

Secretary Mitchell,

My lords, MPs,


Distinguished guests,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

A very warm welcome to the Chinese Embassy.

This is a historic gathering to mark the 40th anniversary of full diplomatic relations between China and the UK.

Forty years ago today, China-UK relations were raised from Charge d'Affaires to Ambassadorial level. This decision reflected the trends of the times and the wishes of our peoples.

Since then, our relations have normalised. Our exchanges and cooperation have entered a new era.

As we look back, we see in sharp focus how eventful these forty years have been.

These past 40 years of Sino-UK relations are full of symbolic milestones:

· On 19th December 1984, China and the UK signed the Joint Declaration over Hong Kong.

· On 1st July 1997, China and the UK achieved a smooth handover of Hong Kong.

· On 10th May 2004, China and the UK announced a comprehensive strategic partnership.

Each of these events is a landmark in China-UK relations.

Our political relations can be described as a 'tremendous transformation'.

Secretary Mitchell (Second on the right), Madam Hu Pinghua(Left)

With trade and investment there has been 'extraordinary economics':

· In 1972 our bilateral trade was merely 300 million US dollars.

· It reached 58.7 billion US dollars last year. That was a rise of almost 200 times.

· Two-way investment was zero in the early days of our diplomatic relations.

· Two way investment now has passed 20 billion US dollars.

Turning to culture and education, both our countries are being drawn ever closer together:

· Over 200,000 Chinese people visited the UK last year.

· This number is one thousand times of that in 1972.

· In 1972 there were only about 100 Chinese students in the UK. Last year 120,000 Chinese nationals were studying in the UK. It is a rise of 1,200 times.

Over the four decades, our two countries have set up four main mechanisms for high level dialogue:

· Annual summits of premiers.

· Economic and Financial Dialogue.

· Strategic Dialogue.

· And high level people-to-people dialogue.

In addition, we have dozens of other mechanisms for bilateral dialogue and consultation:

· At local level, there are now 47 pairs of sister provinces and cities between our countries.

· In the past 7 years, we have opened 19 Confucius Institutes and 60 Confucius Classrooms across the UK.

These figures bear evidence of the robust growth of China-UK relations.

But the past 40 years of China-UK relations are not just about trade, investment and cultural exchanges. There are many touching stories of human interest:

· The late Sir Edward Heath was an old friend of the Chinese people.

· China-UK relations were raised to ambassadorial level during his tenure as British Prime Minister.

· He made huge efforts to promote China-UK relations after leaving office.

· Sir Edward made 26 visits to China in 27 years.

· His dedication to China-UK friendship won him the title 'The People's friendship envoy'.

That is the experience of a former British Prime Minister. But the stories of ordinary people stand out too:

· The story of 18 year old British student Isaac Lewis is an excellent example.

· Isaac had lived in China's Sichuan province for five months. After learning of the massive earthquake in Sichuan, he traveled 240 miles on foot from North Wales to the Chinese embassy in London.

· On his way, he raised 2,500 pounds and donated all the funds to the children in Sichuan.

· Isaac is now a 22-year-old university student. He is also with us this evening.

Stories like what I told you speak loudly about the close people-to-people exchanges between us. Close ties between the people are a core part of overall bilateral relations.

The British student Isaac Lewis (Second on the right, in grey shirt)

To add to our sense of celebration, I'm honoured to share with you part of the congratulatory messages from Premier Wen Jiabao and Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi to Prime Minister Cameron and Foreign Secretary Hague respectively.

Premier Wen said in his message that "over the past 40 years, the world has gone through profound changes. China-UK relations have withstood tests and enjoyed continuous growth. Our comprehensive strategic partnership is becoming more mature, with cooperation being enriched and broadened in all areas."

Foreign Minister Yang's message reads: "China-UK relations have maintained a strong momentum of growth for the past 40 years. To further enrich and deepen China-UK relations not only serves the fundamental interests of our two countries and peoples, but is also conducive to world peace and prosperity"

We can all share pride about what we achieved in the past 40 years. More importantly, we have every reason to be confident about the future of our relations in the next 40 years.

You may know that Confucius said:

'At the age of forty, one no longer has doubts and misgivings.'

I have no doubts that the 40-year-old China-UK relations will grow even stronger.

It is true that our two countries come from different histories and cultures.

We differ in social systems and values.

So there will be differences in our relations.

Yet, we have both come to realise that only dialogue based on equality and mutual respect will bridge the differences. Only win-win cooperation will advance our common interests.

With these principles in mind, China and the UK will overcome difficulties and take our relations forward.

We have every reason to be confident because both sides have never been so keen about cooperation.

Over the past two years and more, as the Chinese Ambassador, I have visited many places in the UK. I have engaged widely with British people of all sectors.

I have travelled a lot in England, Scotland and Wales. I have been in many great cities and towns from Birmingham to Nottingham, from Newcastle-upon-Tyne to Stratford-upon-Avon.

Where ever I go I have been deeply impressed by the British enthusiasm about growing China-UK relations.

So I have a great belief that this popular support will give a strong boost to our relations.

We have every reason to be confident because of the huge potential for our cooperation in all fields.

Our economies are highly complementary. We are both engaged in restructuring our economies. This has created enormous opportunities for bilateral trade and investment.

Our commitment to expanding people-to-people links will also boost our cooperation in education, culture, science and technology.

We have every reason to be confident because of our shared responsibilities in global affairs.

In today's world, our common mission is to promote peace, development and cooperation. We must work together to tackle global challenges – such as terrorism, climate change, and depletion of energy and resources.

Only with closer dialogues and coordination, can we advance our shared interests and contribute to a peaceful and prosperous world.

As Shakespeare said:

'What you do still betters what is done.'

I have every confidence that as long as we work together, we will build on past achievements to create a better future for China-UK relations.

In conclusion, I wish to propose a toast:

· To 40 years of China-UK full diplomatic relations,

· To ever greater success of our relations in the next 40 years,

· To the lasting friendship between our two peoples.


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