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Keynote Speech by H.E Ambassador Liu Xiaoming at China Britain Dinner Celebrating the 45th Anniversary of Ambassadorial Diplomatic Relations between China and the UK: Cherish the Golden Era and Build A Better Future
Mansion House, 11 May 2017

Lord Mayor Andrew Parmley,

Baroness Lucy Neville-Rolfe,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Dear Friends:

I am very happy to join so many friends at the Mansion House to celebrate 45 years of Ambassadorial diplomatic relations between China and Britain.

2017 is a special year.

For China and the UK, this year marks the 45th anniversary of Ambassadorial relations.

For Britain, it is a year of the snap election and the beginning of Brexit negotiations.

When I was in China earlier this year for annual consultations, many of my friends and colleagues asked me: Will London continue to be the global financial centre after Brexit? Or will it be replaced by New York or Frankfurt?

My answer was simple:

The financial centre in New York is a Street. The financial centre in Frankfurt is a District. But here in London, you've got the City.

Moreover, the City has the longest history, the most extensive global influence and the most internationalized operation. Its role as the financial centre of the world can never be replaced.

The City is not built in a day. Its world-renowned name is not given but earned.

During President Xi Jinping's state visit to the UK in 2015, he said this:

"The City lies at the very heart of London. Here one can feel the pulse of Britain's modern financial industry and its vibrant economy. This 'Square Mile' manages four trillion US dollars of assets and contributes 3% of GDP."

Every time I came to the City, I could feel deeply its history, its vigor and its vitality. In my eyes, the City is both Britain's window opening to the world and an epitome of the ever deepening China-UK cooperation over extraordinary 45 years.

Here tonight, at the heart of the City, let me use four letters C-I-T-Y to summarize the 45-year journey of China-UK relations.

First, C is for creativity.

The past 45 years have witnessed how China and Britain have worked together creatively to build relations. Together we have set an example for relations between big countries.  We have demonstrated great courage.  We have moved with the trend of the history and taken initiatives in times of change.  Our creativity has led to many positive outcomes.

In 1984, China and Britain signed the Joint Declaration on the Question of Hong Kong, thus resolving creatively the Hong Kong question leftover from the history with the application of "one country two systems".

Such creative spirit is also demonstrated in how China and Britain kept our bilateral relations abreast with the times and in line with our shared need for stronger ties.

We worked creatively to upgrade China-UK relations from comprehensive partnership to comprehensive strategic partnership, and then to global comprehensive strategic partnership for the 21st century. And now we have ushered in the "Golden Era" in China-UK relations.

Our creativity is also seen in our courage to be the first.

In this respect, the UK, compared to other major western countries, has the most far-sighted vision and admirable courage to be the first.

  • Politically, the UK is the first to recognize the New China.
  • Economically, the UK is the first to do business with China and the first to welcome Chinese nuclear investors.
  • Financially, the UK is the first to apply to join the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and the first to issue RMB sovereign bonds.
  • Culturally, the UK is the first to establish Confucius Institute for Business and Confucius Institute for Traditional Chinese Medicine.

On the part of China, we have made a number of "firsts", too.

  • Politically, China established comprehensive strategic partnership with Britain, the first such partnership with an EU member.
  • Economically, China chose London to issue its first overseas RMB sovereign bond and its central bank bill.
  • Chinese investment in UK also ranks the first, ahead of investments in other European countries.

All these "firsts" speak to the fact that China-UK relationship is leading China's relations with the West.

The second letter, I, stands for intensity.

China-UK practical cooperation has seen 45 years of intense development. It is win-win in nature and it is based on common interests.

  • 45 years ago, China-UK trade was only 300 million US dollars. 45 years later, our bilateral trade in goods stands at 74.34 billion US dollars.
  • 45 years ago, investment between China and Britain was zero. 45 years later, mutual investment is booming. As of the end of 2016, the stock of China's investment in UK has reached 17.84 billion US dollars.
  • The past 45 years have also witnessed the growing intensity in China-UK financial cooperation. London is now the largest offshore RMB centre. The UK has made remarkable steps in signing with China the bilateral currency swap agreement, in obtaining RQFII quota, and in approving licenses for Chinese banks.

The third letter, T, stands for tolerance.

China and the UK differ in cultural heritage and social system. It is particularly important that we embrace the spirit of tolerance and inclusiveness.

  • We need to respect each other and treat each other as equals.
  • We should accommodate each other's core interests and major concerns.
  • And we should handle our differences properly.

It is equally important that we are committed to pluralism and ready to learn from each other.

  • We should respect and draw strength from each other.
  • We should constantly promote cultural and people-to-people exchanges.

We have achieved remarkable success in this area.

  • We co-hosted China-UK Year of Culture Exchange in 2015.
  • We jointly commemorated the 400th anniversary of the passing of Tang Xianzu and William Shakespeare in 2016.
  • We have also created many more highlights in TV, films, media, publication, sports, etc.

These positive outcomes would not have been possible without seeking common grounds and handling differences properly.

Our experience over the past 45 years shows that as long as China and Britain respect and trust each other, we will make steady progress and build a more mature relationship.

The fourth letter, Y, stands for youth.

Compared with 45 years ago when there were only 16 Chinese students in Britain, today, the number has grown to over 160,000. That is an increase by more than 10,000 times. The UK has the largest number of Chinese students and Confucius Institutes and Confucius Classrooms in Europe. This year, Britain will hold "Spirit of Youth" events in China.

Young people are the future of our two nations. They are also the future of China-UK relations. Youth exchanges between our two countries will not only enrich our cultural and people-to-people exchanges. They will grow the seeds for better relations in the long run.

As we look back at the past 45 years of China-UK relations, one thing is clear:

  • We would never have achieved so much without the wisdom and efforts of people from all walks of life.
  • China-UK relationship would have never come such a long way without the active contribution of everyone present today.

Therefore, to all of you who care for and support China-UK relations, I would like to say "thank you" from the bottom of my heart. I shall count on your continued devotion and support in building an even stronger China-UK relationship.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

In just three days time, the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation will be held in Beijing. President Xi Jinping will attend the opening ceremony and deliver a keynote speech. This international gathering will bring together 29 heads of state or government, the secretary-general of the UN, the President of the World Bank, the Managing Director of the IMF, as well as 1,500 representatives from more than 130 countries.

This Forum focuses on "Cooperation for Common Prosperity". It is aimed at pooling the wisdom and strength of all participants to plan for the Belt and Road building and to make a blueprint for win-win cooperation.

Chancellor Hammond will attend the Forum as a personal envoy of Prime Minister May. The Belt and Road has now become a new platform for win-win cooperation between China and Britain. It is expected to produce new "golden fruits" in the "Golden Era" of China-UK ties.

Financial integration is one of the five key elements of the Belt and Road Initiative. The City of London, with its history and unique strength in financial integration, green finance, training of financial professionals and so on, will definitely have a big role to play.

In fact, I can feel strong enthusiasm for the Belt and Road here in Britain. It is both my hope and belief that the City will seize the opportunity of China-UK Belt and Road cooperation and leverage your financial and intellectual resources to support the Belt and Road building. This will also create a new momentum for sustained development and prosperity of the City itself.

Ladies and Gentlemen:

As we enjoy the best time of the spring in Britain, let me quote an old Chinese folk song:

"Cherish not your golden gown,

Cherish rather the golden times".

Let us come together to cherish this "Golden Era" of China-UK relations.

Let us seize the golden opportunities, and work for another and more splendid 45 years for our bilateral relations.

May I now propose a toast

To 45 years of China-UK Ambassadorial relations.

To the next splendid 45 years.

To the enduring friendship between Chinese and British peoples.


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