Welcome President Xi
The Queen will welcome President Xi Jingping to the UK this week.
It is surrounded by a fanfare of a new and exciting relationship which the founders of the 48 Group anticipated from their original work from 1951 onwards. Premier Zhou Enlai and three Cambridge Professors worked on how to reopen China’s trade with the West.
Cambridge is for ever a part of the story of the return of China.
Together they identified my father as the man with the vision and strength to resist the environment of hostility, boycott and sanctions on China that accompanied the unfolding Cold War. Joseph Needham illuminated the global contributions to Science and Civilisation that China had made over tens of centuries, and that China was, and, would again be a leading economy of the world.
During many years London Export Corporation, the Icebreakers and the 48 Group led the work to open trade, remove barriers and enable the future and this week’s opportunities to be released.
As China has now returned and become the world’s second largest economy and biggest trading nation of the world, so their economy , their investment plans, their currency and their plans for Eurasia are of fundamental importance to every part of the British nations future plans.
Do we need to be hung up about security for nuclear plants. When we sold nuclear plants to China we did not experience China doubting our intentions. Our security forces are quite capable of managing this, but more importantly we need to accept the world is changing and moving with China is as much a British priority as moving with the emerging global power of the USA in the 1930’s.
We have an opportunity to use China’s needs to our advantage. Instead of seeing dubious motives behind China’s moves, we should recognise that it is their needs that provide the UK with opportunity.
China has decided to make nuclear plants key to its alternative fuels. It has more nuclear plants than any other nation. They have decided, sensibly, that they must keep their technology at the cutting edge. To do that they need to compete globally. We give them the first real chance to do that in a developed nation. We will get significant first move advantage. And their nuclear technology is based upon plants built by GEC, the Americans and the French. We have a great opportunity to use China to develop our alternative fuels.
60pc of the world’s network of High-Speed trains are in China, powered by Siemens technology. These trains are going to run from Beijing to St Pancras. It is our decision if they run from London to the North. I think it is odd to leave the Midlands and the North off the Eurasian train network. That is a British decision. But if we decide to go ahead, and it seems we are, then we should exploit China’s needs, again, to ensure their trains are at the cutting edge of global technology by giving them the UK as their first developed nation market. We can cut a good deal.
China has $3 trillion of forex reserves which they want to invest behind national priorities for better returns. They have seen British infrastructure and major real estate development as such an opportunity. We ought to welcome their interest and cut good deals.
China has been planning their UK relationship for many years. I know they asked me many times about aspects since 1987. That is why they welcomed the Heseltine Mission of 1995. We have a chance to cut good deals and, at the same time, help China work with the global community to ensure peace and development.
They may not always do what we want. We know China is different, with a different history and culture and system. But that in itself is not a barrier. We should embrace the opportunities, whilst guarding our interests and our history and traditions. It is doable.
We do not have to make a choice between the USA and China, although some would wish to present it like that.
The UK wins in a prospering and expanding world, which is thoughtful about the environment.
It is in the British interest to work with China to ensure that we participate in all areas of China’s new agendas and help the positive and peaceful trends, and work to manage tensions and difficulties. We should use our many decades of global diplomacy to help ease the rise of a new nation who benefits from peace and calm as much as we do.
Our national leaders understand the opportunities of China and the need for caution and carefully managed development together.
The UK has over 300 years of managed development without a civil war. We innovated the Industrial Revolution and the Welfare state. So much of our development experience is of interest to China and what they learn from us that is converted to advances beyond us, is of great interest and value to us.
I would not go so far as to describe this as a golden era but it has the promises of a very good period in Sino-British relations as trade and investment grow fast. We need to immerse ourselves in the Eurasian Silk Roads to get the full benefit of China, and we need to support developing structures that spread development and peace.
There will be many challenges ahead, difficult decisions and gainsayers. But using our historical skills and our keen sense of history we can nationally adopt the pioneering spirit of the Icebreakers and help forge a new world in the 21st century for the 22ndcentury.
We should keep our close relationship with the USA and use that to help their relationship with China improve and prosper.
We can be the diplomatic innovators.