Keynote Speech by H.E. Ambassador Liu Xiaoming at the “Icebreakers” 2020 Chinese New Year Dinner: Seize Opportunities for Cooperation and Achieve Greater Breakthroughs

Chairman Stephen Perry,

Chairman Fang Wenjian,

Sir Sherard,

Secretary Glen,

My Lords and MPs,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Dear Friends:

Good evening!

It is a real delight to join you at the “Icebreakers” Chinese New Year Dinner hosted by the 48 Group Club, CCCUK and CBBC. And for the tenth time, I would like to share with you the meaning of the zodiac animal of the year.

The year 2020 is the Year of the Rat. It is the third time that the 48 Group Club celebrates the Year of the Rat. In Chinese culture, rat is the first of the twelve zodiac animals. Legend says that in a race of all zodiac animals, the rat came first by riding on the back of an ox. So, this is rat — shrewd, clever and good at seizing opportunities.

I hope and believe that the Year of the Rat will be a year of opportunities and breakthroughs.

The year 2019 is an important year for China. In this year, we built on past achievements and achieved new success. We celebrated the 70th anniversary of the founding of New China, and embarked on a new journey in the new era with persistent efforts.

For China-UK relations, the year 2019 is also important. It was the 65th anniversary of China-UK diplomatic relationship at the chargé d’affaires level. Our two countries drew lessons from the extraordinary journey of the past 65 years and made plans for the future. In particular, we have taken China-UK business cooperation to a new stage by seizing three opportunities.

First, we seized the opportunity of open cooperation to achieve new leaps in China-UK financial cooperation.

The financial sector saw increasingly close partnership between the businesses of our two countries and became the most vigorous, fruitful and influential part of China-UK cooperation.

  • Vice Premier Hu Chunhua visited the UK and hosted the tenth China-UK Economic and Financial Dialogue, which took China-UK financial cooperation to a new level.
  • The Shanghai-London Stock Connect was launched, the first-ever link between the Chinese and a foreign capital markets.
  • London became the world’s second largest offshore clearing centre and the largest offshore trading centre of the Chinese currency, RMB, achieving a total clearing volume of 40 trillion RMB yuan.
  • Shanghai Pudong Development Bank, Agricultural Bank of China and China CITIC Bank opened branches in the UK; ICBC issued pound-denominated bonds, the first-ever by a Chinese bank; And Ant Financial purchased Worldfirst, a UK-based cross border payments group.

At the same time, British financial institutions further expanded their business in China. Heng An Standard Life set up the first-ever foreign owned pension insurance business in China.

FinTech, inclusive finance and green finance have become new growth points for China-UK financial cooperation.

Second, China and the UK seized the opportunity of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), which served as a new platform for China-UK cooperation.

In 2019, then Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond attended the second Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation as the special representative of the Prime Minister. Our two countries deepened the consensus that China and the UK are natural partners in building BRI.

During Vice Premier Hu Chunhua’s visit to the UK, our two countries signed an agreement on cooperation in third markets, which provided a new platform and new impetus for China-UK cooperation on BRI.

BRI has seen active participation from all sectors in the UK, who hope to take advantage of this platform to combine the best of Chinese manufacturing, engineering and construction with the best of British project design and legal, technical and financial services expertise, so as to deliver more outcomes.

Third, China and the UK seized the opportunity of innovation-driven development and opened a new chapter of China-UK cooperation on innovation.

There has been steady progress in the implementation of the China-UK Joint Strategy for Science, Technology and Innovation Cooperation. We are working to dovetail development strategies and conduct joint projects in innovation, with new highlights in artificial intelligence, block chain, telecommunications and bio medicine.

  • In 2019, Huawei opened the 5G Birmingham Training Centre; OPPO set up an international design centre in London; And Chinese companies Tencent and ByteDance bought shares of UK artificial intelligence companies or acquired some AI companies.
  • Pitch@Palace China 3.0, an important platform for China-UK cooperation on innovation and entrepreneurship, was once again a great success.
  • The Western Returned Scholars Association of China held a forum in London which focused on cooperation in technology and finance and explored new ideas on China-UK cooperation on innovation.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Dear Friends:

In 2020, China will achieve the first centenary goal, namely, to complete the building of a moderately prosperous society in all aspects and eliminate absolute poverty. The UK will complete Brexit, which will be a historic moment, and focus on building a “global Britain”.

The year 2020 will also mark the fifth anniversary of the China-UK “Golden Era”. A new chapter for China-UK cooperation will begin, promising new opportunities and new driving forces. I think China and the UK should seize three opportunities.

The first opportunity comes from regional cooperation in all areas.

There are 68 pairs of sister provinces and cities between China and the UK. Regional cooperation is becoming an important pillar for China-UK relations.

From 17 to 19 February, the fifth China-UK Regional Leaders’ Summit will be held in Birmingham. Our two sides should take full advantage of this mechanism to steer our regional cooperation in the right direction.

The UK has rolled out plans such as Midlands Engine and Northern Powerhouse. China is promoting the coordinated development of Beijing, Tianjin and Hebei, the development of Yangtze Economic Belt, the building of Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area and the integration of Yangtze River Delta. China and the UK could take the opportunity of this Summit to match these development strategies and policies.

We could also explore new ways of cooperation on innovation, take advantage of our comparative strengths, and enhance cultural and people-to-people exchanges. This will broaden, deepen and cement the foundation for the mutually beneficial cooperation between our two countries.

The second opportunity arises from the new round of technological and industrial revolution.

Economic globalisation is an irreversible trend. This is both a historical conclusion and a reflection of the reality. Openness creates opportunities, integration promotes development, and cooperation delivers win-win results.

As the fourth industrial revolution is unfolding, new technologies, new industries and new business models keep cropping up. This is the best time to enhance open cooperation.

China and the UK are both committed to building an open economy. Our two countries share consensus on safeguarding free trade and opposing protectionism.

China is opening its market wider and improving its business environment. In particular, the Foreign Investment Law and its implementing regulations, which took effect on January 1st, cut short the negative list for foreign investment and strengthen legal protection of the rights and interests of foreign investors, especially IPR.

China and the UK should keep up with the trend of the times, and expand cooperation on AI, big data, clean energy and digital economy. We could also carry out high-standard, high-quality and sustainable cooperation on the Belt and Road Initiative, and take the lead in building a new type of economic globalisation which is open, inclusive, win-win and balanced.

At the same time, it is our hope that the UK will continue to foster a fair, just and non-discriminatory business environment for Chinese companies, including Huawei, so as to create sound conditions for deeper cooperation between our two countries.

The third opportunity lies in cooperation on addressing climate change. This will contribute to the green development in China, in the UK and around the world.

China has taken vigorous steps to address climate change. It pursues green, low-carbon and sustainable development. This concept of green development has been our guidance and driving force in tackling climate change.

The UK has also attached great importance to the issue of climate change. Prime Minister Johnson and his cabinet have pledged to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050.

Later this year, China will host COP15 to the Convention on Biological Diversity and the UK will host COP26 to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change respectively. These conferences will be good opportunities for closer China-UK cooperation on climate change, environmental protection and wildlife protection.

Our two countries could explore new concepts, ideas and models of development, and promote green development. This will add positive energy to the sustainable development in our two countries and around the world.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Dear Friends:

Cooperation is based on mutual respect.

In the past year, British friends from all walks of life, especially the business community, have been committed to the principle of mutual respect and mutual trust, and have made positive contribution to China-UK cooperation. I would like to express my appreciation for this.

It is my hope that, in 2020, you could continue working together with your Chinese partners, respect and trust each other, learn from each other and engage in mutually-beneficial cooperation. I am sure you will make more positive energy, achieve more business breakthroughs and contribute more “golden fruits” to China-UK golden era.

In conclusion, let me quote a famous line from a Chinese poem.

“Thousands of boats sail past the wreckage in the reeds.

Millions of saplings spring forth from the dying trees.”

There might be challenges ahead but I call on you to have confidence in a promising future.

As we ring in the new year, let’s work together and lose no time in seizing the opportunities so as to achieve greater breakthroughs and sail the ship of China-UK relationship towards an even better future!

Thank you!

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