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Ambassador urges China, UK to embrace 'converging new eras'

By Cecily Liu | chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2018-02-13 10:17
Chinese ambassador to the UK Liu Xiaoming addresses 500 business, political and cultural leaders at a Chinese New Year dinner in London on Monday. [Photo by Cecily Liu/China Daily]

China and the UK should embrace their "converging new eras" to achieve common development in 2018, said Chinese ambassador Liu Xiaoming on Monday evening in London.

As China builds a modern and open economy and the UK tries to maintain its global ties, opportunities for the UK to participate in the China-led Belt and Road initiative could crucially link together the two countries' respective goals, said Liu.

Liu was addressing over 500 business, political and cultural leaders at a Chinese New Year celebration hosted by The 48 Group Club and the China Chamber of Commerce in the UK.

His words closely followed British Prime Minister Theresa May's successful China visit, during which contracts worth 9 billion pounds ($12.8 billion) were signed. The leaders of both countries also agreed on building a "golden era 2.0", which makes reference to the "golden era of relations" coined in 2015 during President Xi Jinping's UK state visit.

"Our converging new eras set the stage for our two countries to explore opportunities and achieve common development," said Liu.

For China, 2018 marks the 40th anniversary of its reform and opening up, a crucial strategy that gave birth to China's four decades of fast growth and international integration. Leaving behind its previous export-dominated economic model, China is transforming itself into a modern information economy.

Importantly, in November it will host the first-ever China International Import Expo in Shanghai, focusing on China buying from the world, and hence sharing the fruits of its economic progress with international trade partners.

For the UK, building international trade links beyond the European Union has become a buzzword since a 2016 referendum, when British voters decided the UK should leave the European Union.

During May's China visit last month, the Department for International Trade appointed its first overseas trade commissioner, to be based in China, signaling recognition for the importance of China's market.

Liu said that the China-led Belt and Road initiative will "create new opportunities and gather new impetus for broader, higher-level and deeper cooperation that is in the interest of both China and the UK".

In December, the government agency UK Export Finance announced 25 billion pounds of funding to support British companies' exports to Belt and Road projects.

Meanwhile, private sector activities are gaining traction. Standard Chartered and China Development Bank agreed to jointly make available 10 billion yuan ($1.6 billion) to facilitate Belt and Road deals during the coming five years. British legal firm Linklaters has given legal advice to more than 40 Belt and Road deals, while Herbert Smith Freehills has advised Belt and Road projects in more than 30 countries.

Douglas Flint, the British Chancellor's city envoy to the Belt and Road Initiative, said Britain has abundant expertise to offer infrastructure projects along the Belt and Road including project financing, law, insurance, advisory, engineering and design.

Flint said British companies across these sectors traveling in May's delegation had fruitful discussions with their Chinese counterparts and local Chinese government representatives.

Sun Yu, chairman of CCCUK, highlighted the UK's significance for China. "London is increasingly a hub for the internationalization of the renminbi and the UK and China can have great cooperation in professional services as China further opens up."

Stephen Perry, chairman of The 48 Group Club, said his team will continue to help UK businesses "understand and benefit from the opportunities offered by a resurgent China".

This week's celebrations mark the beginning of the Year of the Dog, according to Chinese lunar calendar. Liu said the initials DOG can be interpreted to stand for "diligence, obligation and goal", three keywords he offered to summarize his aspirations for China-UK relations in 2018.

British exports to China grew by 19.4 percent in 2017, to reach $22.31 billion. Britain's cumulative direct investment in China reached $22.55 billion by the end of 2017, making it the second-largest EU investor in China.

Britain is also China's second-largest investment destination within the EU. China's non-financial direct investment in the UK totaled $1.53 billion last year, while cumulative non-financial direct investment from China to the UK was $19.44 billion by the end of 2017.

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