Ambassador Liu talking with British MPs (Deputy Speaker Evans(left), Secretary-General Bradshaw(centre))
It was the drizzling morning of April 24, and there was still a little bit of coldness in the air. Just after 8:00 am, there was already a long queue outside the Houses of Parliament. Many of them were here to attend the breakfast meeting of the Conservative Party China Group. Deputy Speaker Evans arrived early at the main gate to greet the keynote speaker of today's breakfast meeting – Liu Xiaoming, China's Ambassador to the UK.
At about 8:20, in the company of Deputy Speaker Evans, Ambassador Liu Xiaoming entered Churchill Room of the House of Commons. Secretary-General of the Conservative Party China Group Jeremy Bradshaw first gave a brief welcome message. He said that earthshaking changes have taken place in China in recent years, and China has turned from an impoverished country into a world economic power. Every move of China attracts the world's attention. More and more people are beginning to pay attention to China. They wish to understand China and this is just the original intention of the Conservative Party China Group. Two years ago when Ambassador Liu just took his office, China Group had the honour to host a welcome breakfast meeting for him. Today, all the attendants wish to hear Ambassador Liu's comments on the development of UK-China relations and, of course, his opinion on the deepening of UK-China cooperation in the future.
Co-chairman Richard Graham of the Conservative Party China Group gave a detailed introduction to Ambassador Liu's curriculum vitae to the guests present and recalled his experience in opening the British Chamber of Commerce in Shanghai in the 1990s. He signed with emotion that all groundbreaking measures will face challenges and difficulties, but in China, nothing is impossible.
Ambassador Liu delivering a speech
Then, Ambassador Liu delivered a speech. He said that two years ago when he participated in the breakfast meeting hosted by the Conservative Party China Group, there were less than 10 guests present. Today, more than 60 friends from political, business and media circles are present, and this is suffice to show the positive progress made in China-UK relations in the past two years. Ambassador Liu said that the UK was among the first Western countries to recognise the People's Republic of China under the premiership of Sir Winston Churchill. In 1972, Edward Health, another Conservative Prime Minister visited China and the diplomatic relations at ambassadorial level was established between the two countries. Over the past decades, the Conservative Party has made important contributions to the development of China-UK relations. Today when I come to make this speech at the invitation of the Conservative Party China Group once again two years later, the greatest change I find is that the Conservative Party has regained the power. I wish that you may continue to play a positive role for the development of China-UK relations.
Ambassador Liu said that this year marks 40 years of full diplomatic relations between China and the UK. Looking back there have been many challenges in our relations during those 40 years, and China-UK relations have become more and more mature and stable. The two countries have established the premiers' annual summit mechanism and the three pillars (the economic and financial dialogue, the strategic dialogue and the high-level people-to-people dialogue). We have developed ever closer coordination and consultation in international affairs. Contacts between our peoples have never been more frequent, and the friendship between our peoples has been increasingly deepened. Standing on a new starting point, the China-UK relations are facing new development opportunities. All these have created favorable conditions for the two countries to further strengthen economic and trade cooperation.
Ambassador Liu pointed out that China and the UK have complementary economic structures and China-UK cooperation has great potential. The two countries have set the goal of raising bilateral trade to 100 billion US dollars by 2015, and he believed that the two countries are on track to reach that target. In recent years, the UK has been a leader of EU members in terms of investing in China. More importantly, Chinese investment in the UK is growing more rapidly. A pattern of two-way investment is taking shape. In the future, China and the UK need to seize opportunities in five major aspects: strengthen cooperation in trade, in technology and in research and development; expand cooperation in two-way investment; deepen financial cooperation; strengthen SME cooperation and press ahead with the cooperation in cultural and creative industries.
When the speech was over, Ambassador answered the questions raised by the audience.
Lord Bates said that he had just visited China not long ago. He found that China had made tremendous efforts in promoting sports cooperation with countries in the world. But the outside world knows little about them. China should speak in a louder voice to make the outside world fully appreciate its achievements and contributions.
Ambassador Liu said that, upon taking office, he has been to many places, delivered nearly 200 speeches, been interviewed by BBC and a number of other media and written articles for many newspapers such as the Times, Daily Telegraph and the Guardian, hoping that the people from all circles in the UK may have a comprehensive and fair understanding of China. However, the British media are still reluctant to publish positive articles on China's development. Some China-related reports are not objective and comprehensive enough and are significantly different from the personal feelings of the British people that have been to China. He hoped that the British media may discard the prejudices and introduce a real China to the British public.
A guest mentioned although UK-China trade has enjoyed growth in recent years, the bilateral trade volume is still outrun by that between China and Germany, and the UK's total export to China is even less than its export to Ireland. What on earth has gone wrong?
Ambassador Liu said the trade balance between China and the UK requires joint efforts of both countries. The UK Government should completely abandon the "cold war" mentality, effectively ease the restrictions on hi-tech exports to China, and strengthen the cooperation with China in complementary fields. China also clearly understands British enterprises' concerns over intellectual property right protection. We are striving to strengthen the work in this respect and solve their concerns by constantly improving relevant laws and regulations and concentrating on institutional improvement.
Another guest said China is speeding up its financial development. Hong Kong is already an international financial centre. Why does China want to build a new one?
Ambassador Liu joked since the UK has a population of 62 million and one financial centre: London, with a population 20 times as many as that of the UK, China may well set up 20 financial centres. The audience burst into laughter at these words. Ambassador Liu then said that we are trying to build Shanghai into a new financial centre and this accords with the overall requirement of China's economic development. Shanghai's development will not affect Hong Kong's position as an international financial centre. The two cities will supplement and complement each other. The Central Government will continue to support Hong Kong's position as an international financial centre.
Ambassador Liu taking questions (Deputy Speaker Evans (left))
Finally, as the moderator of the breakfast meeting, Deputy Speaker Evans expressed his heartfelt thanks towards Ambassador Liu. He said since the Conservative Party regained power two years ago, new developments have been constantly made in UK-China relations. A large delegation headed by Prime Minister David Cameron visited China soon after he took his office, and this has highlighted the importance to the relations with China attached by the coalition government. Several weeks ago, two top Chinese leaders successively visited the UK which has added new contents to the high-level exchanges between the two countries. The exchanges between the UK and China now enjoy unprecedented height, frequency and breadth. He hoped that the UK and China may continue to maintain the momentum in exchanges and facilitate the relations between the two countries to make greater progress.
Ambassador Liu's brilliant speech and witty replies won wide praise among the guests present. When the meeting was over, many guests came to continue to exchange ideas with Ambassador Liu. Although the weather in April was still a little cold, the warm atmosphere in the room seemed to have driven the chilliness away, and Ambassador Liu's positive remarks on the new opportunities in the mutual beneficial cooperation between China and the UK have brought encouragement and hope to the people.
Group photo between Ambassador and some members of the Conservative Party China Group