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Speech by H.E. Ambassador Liu Xiaoming at the Conservative Friends of the Chinese Chinese New Year Celebration: Friends of China-UK Cooperation
Bright Courtyard Club, 12 February 2020

Secretary Sharma,

Sir Geoffrey,

Mrs. Mackintosh-Stewart,

My Lords and MPs,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Dear Friends:

Good evening!

It is a real delight to celebrate the Chinese New Year with the Conservative Friends of the Chinese. On this 18th day of the Lunar new year, I want to send you my belated and best wishes. I wish all of you present tonight a healthy, happy and prosperous Year of the Rat!

In 2019, we celebrated the 65th anniversary of China-UK diplomatic relationship at the chargé d'affaires level. China-UK relations maintained the momentum of growth. I would like to borrow the acronym of the Conservative Friends of the Chinese, CFOC, to update you on the relations between our two countries in the past year.

The first letter C stands for communication at the top level.

  • Her Majesty The Queen and Prime Minister Boris Johnson sent message and letter of congratulations to President Xi Jinping respectively on the 70th anniversary of the founding of New China.
  • Premier Li Keqiang sent a message of congratulations to Prime Minister Johnson after the general election returned him to Number 10 Downing Street.
  • Mr. Philip Hammond, then Chancellor of the Exchequer, attended the second Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation as the special representative of the Prime Minister.
  • Vice Premier Hu Chunhua visited the UK and hosted the tenth China-UK Economic and Financial Dialogue.
  • The political parties and legislatures of our two countries also maintained sound exchanges.

The second letter F stands for fruitful outcomes in business cooperation.

  • In 2019, China-UK trade in goods totaled $86.3 billion, increasing by 7.3% year-on-year, and setting a new record.
  • Britain was set to resume beef exports to China.
  • Thirty British companies attended the second China International Import Expo.
  • The tenth China-UK Economic and Financial Dialogue produced 69 outcomes. In particular, the Shanghai-London Stock Connect was launched. This is the first-ever link between the Chinese and a foreign capital markets.
  • China and the UK signed an agreement on cooperation in third markets. This has injected new vitality into China-UK cooperation on the Belt and Road Initiative.
  • London became the world's second largest offshore clearing centre and the largest offshore trading centre of the Chinese currency, RMB. The total clearing volume in 2019 was 43 trillion RMB yuan.
  • The 15th World Chinese Entrepreneurs Convention was successfully held in London, attracting companies from both China and the UK. The convention produced fruitful business outcomes.

The third letter O stands for outstanding achievements in cultural and people-to-people exchanges.

  • About 200,000 Chinese students are studying in Britain, and more than 10,000 British students are studying in China.
  • Across the UK, 30 Confucius Institutes and 163 Confucius Classrooms have enrolled more than 190,000 students.
  • The Chinese language is taught in more than 600 British schools. It has become the third most popular foreign language in A-level exams.
  • Every week, 168 flights operate between China and the UK, facilitating personnel exchanges of nearly two million per year. China has become an important source of overseas tourists visiting the UK.

The fourth letter C stands for coordination on international affairs.

China and the UK have stepped up communication and coordination in the UN, the G20, the WTO and other international organisations. Our two countries have reached consensus on opposing protectionism and unilateralism and supporting free trade and multilateralism. We have also maintained communication and coordination on addressing global challenges such as climate change and hotspot issues such as the Iran nuclear issue.

Ladies and Gentlemen:

At the launch of CFOC in 2013, Boris Johnson, then the Mayor of London, said, the future of the Conservative Party lies in developing business, political and cultural relations with China!

In 2020, China will achieve its first centenary goal, namely, to complete the building of a moderately prosperous society in all aspects and to eliminate absolute poverty. A post-Brexit UK will embark on a new journey of building a "global Britain". This year also marks the fifth anniversary of the China-UK "Golden Era". China-UK relations face new opportunities.

The Conservative Friends of the Chinese have unique strengths in promoting China-UK relations. It is my hope that you will seize the opportunities and play an active part in bringing this relationship to a new stage. I hope you will not only act as friends of the Chinese, but also as friends of China-UK relations.

First, I hope you will be friends for enhancing political mutual trust between China and the UK.

China and the UK should see each other as strategic partners rather than rivals, still less threats. Our two countries should keep to the right direction of the "Golden Era".

As political, business and cultural leaders in the UK, members of CFOC have a deep understanding on the strategic importance of China-UK relations. It is my hope that you will play an active role in encouraging the Conservative Party and the British political sector to view and develop China-UK relations from strategic and comprehensive perspectives. This means we should respect and accommodate each other's core interests and major concerns, and address differences in an appropriate manner. This will inject positive energy to the political mutual trust between our two countries.

Second, I hope you will be friends for facilitating China-UK business cooperation.

China will deepen reform and open up further. Britain has set out to complete Brexit. These are creating huge opportunities for our two countries to enhance business cooperation, in particular, on the Belt and Road Initiative. We could work together to make the pie of our common interests bigger.

CFOC has a good understanding of the respective and complementary strengths of China and the UK. You also have extensive links with the business community and different regions in the UK. You are best positioned to serve as a bridge between Chinese and British businesses and institutions, and help them dovetail their needs. I hope you will encourage the UK side to continue fostering a fair, transparent and non-discriminatory environment for Chinese businesses, including Huawei, so as to enable our two countries to achieve win-win results.

Third, I hope you will be friends for deepening cultural and people-to-people exchanges between China and the UK.

Both China and the UK have time-honoured and splendid civilisation. At the same time, our two countries differ in history, culture, social system and development stage. We need to respect each other, engage in sincere dialogue and seek common ground despite differences.

As a grass root political group in the UK, CFOC has links across borders. It is my hope that you will leverage your unique strength and serve as a bridge of communication and understanding between Chinese and British people. There is a great deal you can do to promote objective understanding of China in this country, deepen exchanges and friendship between our peoples, and enhance exchanges and mutual learning between the East and the West. With these efforts, you can help cement the public support for China-UK relations.

Ladies and Gentlemen:

As we celebrate the Chinese New Year here in the UK, our hearts are with the people back home fighting the Covid-19.

Since the outbreak, the Chinese Government has taken the most comprehensive and strict measures of epidemic prevention and control. President Xi Jinping has made important instructions on many occasions and called the meeting of the top leadership three times to map out plans for the battle against the epidemic. Now the whole nation has been mobilized to fight the virus.

WHO has spoken highly of China's prevention and control measures and expressed full confidence in the capability of China to beat the virus.

We are also deeply encouraged by the support from people of all walks of life and the Chinese community here in the UK. Last week, Her Majesty The Queen conveyed sincere sympathy to President Xi Jinping and the Chinese people, saying she would "pray for the speedy control and victory over the virus." Prime Minister Boris Johnson also sent a message to Premier Li Keqiang to register the British government's support and readiness to assist. I am very thankful to Secretary Sharma and Sir Geoffrey for the sympathy and support you just expressed in your remarks.

I am confident that, under the strong leadership of the Communist Party of China, and with the solidarity of the Chinese people and the broad support from the international community, including the UK, we will win the battle against the Covid-19.

Ladies and Gentlemen:

A Chinese adage goes, "If ten thousand people aim their bows at the same goal, it is impossible to miss the target."

At the new historical starting point for China-UK relations, let's join hands and aim at the same goal. I am sure we will take China-UK relations to the next level and contribute more "golden fruits" to the China-UK "Golden Era"!

Thank you!

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