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Home > Ambassador Liu > Remarks > 2010
Speech by H.E. Ambassador Liu Xiaoming at the China Forum of the Labour Party Conference
(27 September 2010, Radisson Hotel, Manchester)

Lord Prescott,

Mr Liam Byrne,

Mr Mark Hendrick,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is my great pleasure to welcome friends both old and new to the “China Forum”. This is the first “China Forum”I have hosted during a Labour Party Conference.

I wish to take this opportunity to congratulate you on the election of your new leader. I have offered my warm congratulations to Mr Ed Miliband.

Since I came to London as the Chinese Ambassador at the end of February, I have been telling friends that China-UK relations have come a long way during the 13 years of the Labour government.

Firstly, our relations have become more substantive. In 2004, the two governments defined the bilateral relationship as comprehensive strategic partnership instead of rivalry. And cooperation has since expanded across a wider range of areas.

Politically, the two sides have enjoyed regular high-level exchanges, through the annual Prime Ministers’ visit, the Strategic Dialogue and the Economic and Financial Dialogue. All these have been and will be continued under the coalition government.

In economics and trade, we have seen a surge in trade, from 5.8 billion US dollars in 1997 to 45.6 billion in 2008, up nearly 7 times, with the trend expected to continue this year.

On the educational front, over 100 thousand Chinese students are studying here in the UK, and 3,000 British students are studying back in China.

Culturally, we have seen exchange of performances by almost every famous Chinese and British art group. This has been spotlighted by a number of British symphony orchestras and ballet troupes performing during the Shanghai World Expo. And the BBC radio programme based on Jane Austin’s novels has proved to be popular in China. In 2009, a record high of 544 thousand Chinese visited Britain, which included 125 thousand tourists from Mainland China.

Secondly, our two countries have learnt to see each other in a more rational light. China has long stopped drawing ideological line when it views Britain. Now the most common views held in China about Britain are that it is an advanced economy with the world’s leading financial sector; it is an excellent education provider, a source of splendid culture, creative ideas and is a major international influence. These are of course secondary to the fact that it is the country that has the Premier League.

The UK is also developing a new understanding of China. Tony Blair mentions China many times in his new book A Journey, observing that China is no longer “a mystery”. Instead, it is “opening up at an extraordinary rate” and he believed that Britain should approach China “with confidence, not fear”. I trust what he thinks of China is fairly representative of the views of the Labour Party and the British public.

Thirdly, our relations are now blessed with a more enabling political environment. The smooth hand-over of Hong Kong in 1997 removed an obstacle in our relations. And in 2008, Britain readjusted its century-old position on Tibet, by recognising it as part of China. These have cleared the way for sound China-UK relations. On the issue of human rights, the two sides have also chosen dialogue over confrontation to enhance mutual understanding and defuse differences.

The progress we have made in the past decade would not have been possible without the vision and efforts of the Labour Party. We highly commend the solid foundation the Labour Party has laid for long-term growth in our relations. I am confident that your Party will continue to contribute to this relationship whether you are in government or in opposition.

The theme of this forum is “Why China and Britain need a stronger partnership?” I think our stronger partnership will meet the following three needs:

Firstly, we both need development. And this is a serious challenge for both of us, as our economies grow. Although being the second largest economy, China is still a developing country: with a per capita GDP of merely 3,700 US dollars, ranking us behind 100 other countries. I addressed these issues in a recent article for the Times. China urgently needs to restructure its economy and upgrade its economic growth pattern.

The UK has put the recession behind it, but it still needs to achieve sustainable growth. China and the UK need to work closely in the post-crisis era, as our cooperation holds the greatest promise, given our strong economic complementarity. A post-industrial UK’s strengths lie in advanced manufacturing such as aeroplane and automobile, high-end service industries such as financial and consulting services, and the new high-tech industries, of energy conservation, environmental protection and low-carbon technologies. China, on the other hand, is in the process of industrialisation with a large labour force, a strong manufacturing sector and a vast consumer market.

Secondly, as two permanent members of the UN Security Council and major countries of influence we need to shoulder common responsibilities in international affairs. In the current complex international situation, we must continue to be alert to the threats that still endanger world peace. And we should work together to prevent regional conflicts and advance multilateralism. In this way we can effectively respond to climate change and safeguard free trade, whilst pressing ahead with the reform of the international financial system and upholding nuclear non-proliferation.

Thirdly, we need to draw upon each other’s strength. Just as sunlight has seven colours, our world is full of diversity. As two countries, each with a time-honoured history and splendid culture, we need to learn from each other and progress together.

As the famous playwright George Bernard Shaw said, “If you have an apple and I have an apple and we exchange these apples, then you and I will still each have one apple. But if you have an idea and I have an idea and we exchange these ideas, then each of us will have two ideas.” The success of the Beijing Olympics two years ago has largely changed the way many Britons view China, as they saw an open and confident country. The ongoing Shanghai World Expo is now offering another chance to boost our mutual understanding and interaction. And I am sure that the 2012 London Olympics will widen the Chinese people’s view about this country.

56 years ago, Earl Attlee, the then Labour Party leader, led a delegation to China in the hope of bringing back “friendship and peace”. Today, a strong China-UK partnership not only means friendship and peace for our peoples, but also development and prosperity.

Let us continue to strengthen the comprehensive strategic partnership and build a better future of common prosperity.

Thank you.

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