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Speech by H.E. Ambassador Liu Xiaoming at the CBBC Webinar: Join Hands to Turn Crisis into Opportunities for a Brighter Future
Chinese Embassy in the UK, 5 May 2020

On 5 May, Ambassador Liu Xiaoming attended a webinar hosted by China-Britain Business Council (CBBC) and delivered a keynote speech entitled Join Hands to Turn Crisis into Opportunities for a Brighter Future. This was followed by Q&A with online participants.

The webinar was presided over by Sir Sherard Cowper-Coles, Chairman of CBBC. Around 500 people attended the event, including Lord Grimstone, Minister for Investment at the Department for International Trade and the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy, Lord Sassoon, President of CBBC, Fang Wenjian, Chairman of China Chamber of Commerce in the UK (CCCUK), David Sayer, Vice Chair at KPMG, officials from HM Treasury, Department for International Trade, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, and the governments of Wales, Nottingham, Bristol, and Bath, representatives from business sectors, such as BP, AstraZeneca, KPMG, HSBC, CBBC, CCCUK, The 48 Group Club, and Scottish Chamber of Commerce, from academic sectors, such as British Library, The Law Society of England and Wales, University of Oxford, UCL, University of Nottingham, Cardiff University, and University of Glasgow, and diplomats from the British Embassy in China.

The webinar was broadcast live on Ambassador Liu's Twitter and CGTN Facebook, and covered live in part and reported on prime-time news programme of Sky News. It was also reported by Bloomberg News, Daily Express, Evening Standard, CCTV, Xinhua News Agency and China Daily. The full text of the speech is as follows:


Sir Sherard,

Members of the China Britain Business Council, the 48 Group Club and the China Chamber of Commerce in the UK:

Ladies and Gentlemen:

Good morning!

It is a real delight to join you at CBBC webinar. Thanks to modern technology, we are able to exchange views on line on some very important issues to both our countries in this difficult time.

The spread of Covid-19 around the world poses a grave challenge to human society. It seriously threatens the safety and health of the people, strikes a heavy blow to global production and demand, and severely undermines the economy and our societies.

This public health crisis is a major test to all countries of the world. It is living proof that the world is undergoing profound changes unseen in a century and that, in this world, we all belong to a community with a shared future.

In face of this crisis, how is China responding?

  • China is the first country in the world to report the epidemic to the WHO,
  • the first to identify the pathogen of the virus,
  • the first to share the full genetic sequence of the virus with the WHO and other countries,
  • the first to adopt comprehensive and effective measures of prevention and control,
  • the first to achieve preliminary but important success in containing the virus,
  • and the first to start to bring economic activities back to normal across the country.

In this battle against the virus, China has followed three principles:

First, saving lives. The people are the focus of all our efforts.

President Xi Jinping has reiterated that we should always regard the safety and health of the people as the top priority.

Acting responsibly in record time after the outbreak, the Chinese Government established an all-dimensional and multi-layered network of prevention and control that involves everyone, from the Central Government down to grass root communities.

  • The measures we have taken are the most comprehensive, strict and thorough the world has ever seen.
  • The principles of early diagnosis, early report, early quarantine and early treatment have been followed.
  • Covid-19 patients were admitted into designated hospitals that offer best experts, sufficient resources, and timely and tailored treatment.

Facts prove that these measures were timely, decisive and effective. The whole nation was under overall planning and fully mobilized to meet the crisis head on and bring the virus under control.

The second principle is helping each other.

China has acted responsibly not only for the safety and health of the Chinese people but also with global public health in mind.

From the very beginning of the outbreak, China has been sharing what we know with the international community, from reporting the epidemic and providing full genetic sequence of the virus, to sharing experience of prevention, control and treatment.

China has also sent 19 medical teams to 17 countries, and donated much-needed medical supplies, such as masks, protective gowns, testing kits and ventilators, to more than 150 countries and international organisations, including the UK.

This public health crisis proves that helping each other is the only way to a final victory over the virus.

The third principle is standing in solidarity.

According to IMF estimation, the world economy will contract by 3% in 2020. The slide will be much worse than that caused by the international financial crisis in 2008. In face of the grave situation, only solidarity can tide us over and prevent the economic slowdown from evolving into a depression.

At the Extraordinary G20 Leaders' Summit two months ago, President Xi Jinping said, "At such a moment, it is imperative for the international community to strengthen confidence, act with unity and work together in a collective response."

He also said that "we need to enhance international macro-economic policy coordination" and "take collective actions – cutting tariffs, removing barriers, and facilitating the unfettered flow of trade", so as to "restore confidence for global economic recovery".

China and the UK are partners in the battle against Covid-19.

In a matter of one month, President Xi Jinping and Prime Minister Boris Johnson had two telephone conversations, during which they reached important agreement on China-UK joint response to the virus and the overall China-UK relations.

There have been frequent telephone conversations

  • Between Vice Premier Hu Chunhua and Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak;
  • Between Director of the Office of the Central Commission for Foreign Affairs Yang Jiechi and Cabinet Secretary and National Security Adviser Sir Mark Sedwill;
  • Between State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi and Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab;
  • And between Health Minister Ma Xiaowei and Health Secretary Matt Hancock.

I myself have close communication with UK government secretaries, ministers and senior officials.

China and the UK have engaged in close coordination and cooperation in fighting against the epidemic. We have provided each other medical supplies, shared information and experience, and conducted joint R&D of vaccine and medicines.

China and the UK are both strong advocates of multilateralism. We both support the important role of the WHO in the global response to the virus, stand for stronger cooperation under the framework of the G20, and work to improve global public health governance.

Both China and the UK are important participants, facilitators and beneficiaries of economic globalisation and trade liberalisation. In this difficult time, it is all the more important that our two countries uphold open and win-win cooperation, support free trade, safeguard multilateralism and ensure that the global industrial and supply chains are open, stable and safe.

While the international community is focusing on the fight against Covid-19, some US politicians are busy with spreading rumours and slanders. They turned a blind eye to China's enormous efforts, sacrifice and contribution, and politicize public health issue by sticking the virus label on a specific region and stigmatizing China.

Regrettably, a few politicians in the UK have been addicted to the Cold-War mindset. They compare China to the former Soviet Union, urge a "review" of China-UK relationship and even call for a new Cold War.

Such talks are a "political virus". If go unchecked, they will poison China-UK joint effort and even international solidarity just as it is needed most in the battle we are fighting. They will also undermine China-UK political mutual trust and cooperation across the board.

We must stay on high alert and say no to these remarks. We should make it clear to the trumpeters of such fallacy that China is not the former Soviet Union, that the Cold War has ended for good, and that peace and development are the theme of our times and the common goal of China and the United Kingdom.

The Chinese and British business communities have always played an important role in developing China-UK friendly cooperation and promoting prosperity and stability in the world.

The outbreak of Covid-19 has caused temporary slide in China-UK trade. Some companies may encounter difficulties in payment collection and logistics. On the brighter side, the positive factors of China-UK relations remain unchanged:

  • The economies of our two countries are still highly complementary;
  • The foundation for economic, trade and investment collaboration is still solid.
  • Our businesses are still confident in China-UK cooperation.

The Chinese word for "crisis" is a combination of two meanings, namely, crisis and opportunities. In face of a crisis, we always focus on finding opportunities in the crisis and turning the crisis into opportunities.

In this time of difficulties, how do we turn the crisis into opportunities and speed up development? I have the following three suggestions:

First, as China's economy takes the lead to recover, there will be opportunities up for grabs.

China has Covid-19 under control and continues to consolidate the initial success. Its economy is showing a steady momentum of recovery.

  • As of the end of April, 99.1% of the large-scale enterprises have been reopened, and 95.1% of staff and workers are back to work.
  • Manufacturing PMI was above the threshold in both March and April, reaching 50.8% in April.
  • According to a survey conducted by China's Ministry of Commerce covering more than 8,200 key foreign companies, 76.6% have powered-on over 70% of their production capacity by April 28th.

The battle against Covid-19 has also created opportunities for China's economic transformation and upgrading. It has given rise to "stay-at-home economy", "cloud office", digital economy, artificial intelligence and health care. The potential for further growth in these areas will be huge.

China has become a major global supplier of medical products. This represents China's contribution to the global response to Covid-19 pandemic, and helps strengthen the industrial and supply chains for these products in the future.

China will continue to be the "factory" and the "market" of the world. And China will remain an important powerhouse for world economic growth.

It is my hope that British businesses will seize the opportunities in China's economy and take the lead in global economic recovery once the pandemic is over.

Second, as China pursues open world economy, there will be opportunities up for grabs.

China's enormous success in the past 40 plus years is attributed to reform and opening up. Going forward, deeper reform and further opening up will continue to enable China to achieve even greater success.

China will continue deepening reform and opening its market wider to the world. This will not be held back by Covid-19.

The Chinese Government is implementing fully the policy of pre-establishment national treatment plus a negative list. It is also working on shortening the negative list, and promoting the building of pilot free trade zones and free trade ports.

The 127th China Import and Export Fair will take place online in June, and the third China International Import Expo will be held in November. Both events will create valuable opportunities for the mutually-beneficial cooperation between China and the rest of the world. We look forward to seeing you all at these important events.

Moreover, China and the UK are engaging in discussions on the arrangements for a free trade agreement.

China is the third largest export market for goods from the UK. The UK is the third largest trading partner of China in the EU. It is also the largest destination for Chinese investment in Europe.

I believe that in building an open world economy, China and the UK will find new impetus for their trade and economic cooperation in the future. Our two countries could also identify important opportunities for revitalizing the world economy.

Last but not least, the opportunities in building a "Silk Road of Public Health" will be up for grabs.

The on-going battle against Covid-19 tells us that we must make long-term plans for global public health if we want to be well prepared for and gain the advantage in any future outbreaks. This means we should improve governance, and in doing this, we must enhance the leading role of the UN and the WHO. We must come together as a community

The Belt and Road Initiative offers an important route to building a community of public health.

With its goal of promoting economic growth along the route, and safeguarding regional and global peace and stability, BRI can help partners build stronger and more efficient public health. Building a "Silk Road of Public Health" could contribute to improving global public health governance.

In turn, this could open up more space for high-quality cooperation on the Belt and Road Initiative. In response to Covid-19 outbreak, China Railway Express opened a green channel for medical supplies and daily necessities to reach Europe in time and hassle-free.

Amid shrinking global trade, China Railway Express will facilitate the movement of goods across borders between China and Europe to alleviate the impact of the epidemic on the industrial and supply chains.

I am confident that China and the UK could benefit from tapping the potential of the BRI. The UK's experience, knowledge and creative ideas will complement with China's capital, technology and commercialization capability. Together we can go for win-win results.

Ladies and Gentlemen:

Covid-19 is a major test which will bring major changes. In face of this test, countries of the world must respond to a series of questions:

  • Do we embrace economic globalisation or reject it?
  • Do we stay open or hide behind closed doors?
  • Do we work together or fight each other?
  • Do we go for multilateralism or resort to unilateralism?

I am sure China and the UK have the same answers to these questions.

I am confident that as long as we stand firm, come to each other's aid, turn crisis into opportunities and deepen cooperation, we will claim final victory over the virus, and create a better and brighter future!

Thank you!

Now I would like to take your questions.

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