Dear 48 Group Friends

Icebreaking is the order of the day – the 48 group’s core 1951 visions realised by China and the UK


Our organisation has for over 65 years advocated a friendly and positive relationship with China to find the benefits of cooperation between our advantages and our needs. We believed that China would “return” and that the benefits could be bilateral and multi lateral.

We are called the Icebreakers for our work.

The UK is now full of Icebreakers and the leading one is the Chancellor, George Osborne, backed by the insightful Prime Minister.

They are grabbing the moment to help the UK recover through a strategic partnership with China.

It is very satisfying to the 48 Group to see this realisation of our visions worked for over 65 years. Our founders in Cambridge and London would be delighted by the way events are developing.

The future of Sino-British relations and trade and investment are in good hands for now.

Let’s hope they build in a constructive way and that concerns and challenges are seen as that and not as evidence that the road taken is a wrong one.

Nuclear plants built by China, France or the USA or Japan are challenging but safety and innovation are constant in today’s fast changing world. The concerns are not so much about China but about our own structures for vigilance and they include security.

We need nuclear plants to move away from fossil fuels. China is a good partner coming with proven capability of 18 plants and with funds to help the investment.

Icebreaking Max is happening now and the 48 Group celebrates this visit of President Xi as a huge step forward.

Let us hope that the USA finds its way to these outcomes and works with China to produce a high speed train network that includes a tunnel under the Baring Straits and links over 90pc of the entire global land mass. That is the 22nd century dream – a world linked by land and sea.

Below is an article by another great Icebreaker Sir Gerry Grimstone who explains his work done quietly but so importantly over the last three years. This follows his Icebreaking work in the Insurance Joint Venture of Standard Life in China.

Enjoy the read


Interview: China-UK “Golden Year” built on consistent warmth of bilateral relationship

by Xinhua writers Wu Xintao, Deng Qian

LONDON, Oct.19 (Xinhua) — With the rapidly evolving China-Britain economic relationship, doing business with China by Britain will soon be no different than doing business by the country with Germany or France, a well-known British businessman has said.

In an interview with Xinhua, Gerry Grimstone, chairman of Standard Life plc, a Britain-based insurance group, highlighted the achievements of China’s growth and fruitful relationship between China and Britain. He said the golden year of the two countries’ relationship is built on the basis of the past major developments.


“We are the most welcomed country in the West for Chinese investment, and Chinese investors see lots of opportunities here. London is the most offshore financial centre for China,” said Grimstone, who has paid more than 200 visits to China since 1992.

Last month, Grimstone visited China as a member of the British delegation led by the country’s First Secretary of State and Chancellor of Exchequer George Osborne.

Grimstone, delighted to see the development of China’s currency Renminbi (the Chinese yuan) and the country’s financial reforms, said: “We used to talk about the internationalization of Renminbi, but the currency is now international — the volume of Renminbi traded internationally rises every month.”

He expected the next big step of China’s foreign trade to be the internationalization of its investment portfolio, highlighting Britain as a hotspot destination for Chinese assets.

“Everybody, including my friends in China, expect that as part of the next wave of liberalization, there will be more freedom to invest assets overseas,” Grimstone said.

“You will see Chinese asset manager actively looking to establish presences in London, and you will also see asset manager in Britain doing more and more businesses with China,” he added.

Looking beyond the collaboration between Britain and China in the financial sector, he said: “I think the most visible thing (in the near future) is Chinese investment in British infrastructure, such as nuclear power station, high speed rail system, and property markets.”

“Eventually, I think in not a long period from now, doing business with China will become doing business with any other country. There will be no differences for doing business between UK and China and as it between UK and Germany, or UK and France,” he said.


One of the witnesses for many historical milestones in China-Britain relations, Grimstone said that the current so-called “Golden Year” has its own tracking record.

“I don’t think it is a moment coming from nowhere, I do think it is a moment that has been growing for years, and I would rather take that moment back to 1997 with the successful return of Hong Kong to China. I think it is 1997 which really marked the start of a new relationship between the UK and China,” he said.

Recalling every single British prime minister’s visit to China since 1997 — all of which Grimstone has been a witness — the British businessman said the most visible achievements in the financial sector over the last five years are the internationalization of Renminbi and the development of London as a major Renminbi trading center, which are “really practical opportunities” built upon “the foundation of warmth.”

“Without Renminbi becoming internationalized, you would not have seen the investment flows between China and UK. So you have to have that warmth, have the internationalization of Renminbi, have the businesses flows which you might have seen the intertwining of UK and China,” he said.


Grimstone reiterated his confidence in China’s long-term economic prospect and its reforms chapters in the interview.

“It will never be good and possible for the Chinese economy to continue to grow at the rate that it had been growing, and indeed it would be unstable if it had kept growing that quickly,” he said, adding that the rebalancing of the Chinese economy to pursue a growth at an annual rate of 7 percent or 6 percent is a necessary and sensible move.

“And of course, the Chinese economy itself has become so large; the amount of activities that it generated by 6 percent or 7 percent is certainly large,” he said.

Reviewing his business engagement in China and personal connection with Chinese people for years, Grimstone raised two “special characteristics” of China’s development, which are the role of the Party in China and the nature of the Chinese people themselves.

“Chinese people are family-oriented. They work hard, and they have a huge sense of social responsibility. I think those characteristics will remain even when China has a much more developed economy,” said Grimstone, who believes that by 2049, China will look like a fully developed Western economy on the surface while underneath the surface it will be still China.

“I think China will be almost certainly the most powerful nation in the world by 2049; it will be a major economic power. I hope it will be a force of stability and peace in the world; it will use the international trade to create the prosperity for its people and the people in other countries,” added Grimstone.


Grimstone is upbeat about the pivotal development of the reform chapters China is now undertaking, such as free trade zone, the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road Initiative and the establishment of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, among others.

He said the experimental purpose that China’s free trade zones serve is vital, because these are living laboratories where economic reforms can be tried out to see whether it can be worked for the whole country.

“I am working with three out of four free trade zones, which are Shanghai, Guangdong and Tianjin. Each free trade zone has its characteristics, and each of them is working with the UK to identify policy area where the input from practitioners can help policy maker develop activities,” he said.

He also highlighted that the Belt and Road Initiatives and the AIIB are an “extraordinary thought”, which opens up trading pattern for countries in the world and in which Britain can play a major role in financing, professional services and other fields of expertise.

Comparing the China-proposed initiative with the Marshall Plan which was initiated with the aim of aiding post-war Europe, Grimstone believed the “Belt and Road “initiative is created in a more positive economic environment, it will bring benefits not only to China but also to the participating countries.

“The beauty of it is that it is not a selfish plan, in the same way as the Marshall Plan, it is a plan that China wants to give to the rest of the world, and of course China has its self-interests in it. And Britain wants to be part of it,” he said.

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