Speech by H.E. Ambassador Liu Xiaoming at the 'Icebreakers' Chinese New Year Dinner
The Dorchester, 23 January 2017
The Right Honourable George Osborne,
President Jin Liqun,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is a great pleasure to join you at this "Icebreakers" Annual Chinese New Year Dinner. We are gathered to welcome the Chinese New Year of the Rooste.
For seven consecutive years I have been truly delighted to attend this outstanding annual event hosted by the 48 Group Club. Every year, I share with you the meaning of the zodiac animal of the year. By now I have covered half of the twelve animals. This evening I will continue this tradition.
In Chinese culture the rooster is an image of an early riser. This bird works hard and energetically. That's why the Chinese often say:
"A golden rooster heralds the break of the day."
We also quote:
"Rising at the crow of a rooster makes a vigorous start of the day."
In the Chinese language, the pronunciation of the word "rooster" is similar to that of "auspiciousness". Therefore the rooster also signals propitious good luck.
Moreover, China's land territory is shaped just like a rooster:
• The northeastern region is its head.
• Xinjiang is the feathered tail.
• And Hainan and Taiwan the two feet.
So, people in China love to compare the Chinese nation to a proud rooster standing in the East. In this sense, the Year of Rooster is much admired by Chinese people for reasons more than the 'Rooster' being a lucky zodiac animal.
In his New Year message, President Xi Jinping said that 2016 has been an extraordinary and unforgettable year for the Chinese people. I think this is also a pertinent description of the relationship between China and the UK in the past year.
In 2016, China-UK relations stood the test of Brexit. Our relationship demonstrated resilience and continued the momentum of growth. In that context I would like to share with you my three observations.
First, the "Golden Era" of China-UK relations, which stood the test of Brexit, remains a clear goal that both countries are firmly committed to:
• Building the "Golden Era" of China-UK relations is a long-term strategic vision of the leaders of our two countries. It is in the interests of both sides.
• Here I would like to pay my sincere tribute to Mr. George Osborne.
• While you were First Secretary and Chancellor, you and then Prime Minister David Cameron, together with Chinese leaders, jointly opened the "Golden Era" of China-UK relations.
For Britain, 2016 was an eventful year. The British people voted to leave the EU, which was then followed by the formation of a new government with a new Prime Minister.
However, China and the UK managed to overcome the uncertainties and steadied our relationship in this time of transition:
• President Xi and Prime Minister May had a successful meeting in Hangzhou.
• And both leaders reaffirmed our shared commitment to the "Golden Era" of our bilateral ties. This has kept our relationship on track.
Towards the end of last year the three dialogue mechanisms between China and Britain were all successfully held. These are the Economic and Financial Dialogue, the High Level People to People Dialogue and the Strategic Dialogue. All three mechanisms speak to one fact that the high-level cooperation between our two countries has been running smoothly and steadily.
Some media have predicted the coming end of the "Golden Era". I would like to use a new and increasingly popular catch phrase in response to such reports: Fake news!
My second observation is that China-UK cooperation has become more tangible and resilient with more diversified outcomes. The "Golden Era" is not simply a slogan. It is increasingly being materialised by business cooperation across the board, from trade, investment, financial services, to infrastructure, energy, and in many other fields. It is evidenced by people-to-people exchanges in the fields of culture, education, science and technology, media, think tanks, tourism and sports. Here too the list can go on and on to cover a wide range of areas. And now "abundant golden fruits" have begun to adorn a truly "Golden Era".
Let me give you a list of some of the "golden fruits" we have harvested in 2016:
• Golden fruit one - China's Ministry of Finance issued a three billion yuan RMB sovereign bond in London. This is the first time for Chinese Government to issue RMB sovereign bond outside China. This is truly a new milestone in RMB internationalisation.
• Golden fruit two - China and the UK together with France signed the package deal for the Hinkley Point C nuclear project and set up the Joint Research and Innovation Centre. It means China and the UK have made a solid step forward in our nuclear energy cooperation.
• Golden fruit three - the Bank of China issued in London a three billion dollar green bond. This opened up the new area of green finance cooperation between our two countries.
• Golden fruit four - China and the UK started to issue two-year multi-entry visas to each other's nationals. In addition both nations lifted the limit on the number of flights between our two countries. These measures will greatly facilitate mutual visits.
• And golden fruit five – our two countries co-hosted a series of activities to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the passing of Tang Xianzu and William Shakespeare. These events have brought our cultural and art exchanges to a new high.
Now let me share with you my third observation: China and the UK have worked together to expand our global coordination both in width and depth:
• Last September, with the strong support of the UK among others, China successfully hosted the G20 Hangzhou Summit. Within the G20 framework, China and Britain are committed to boosting world growth.
• Together we aim to promote global trade and investment.
• Together we seek to advance inclusive and interconnected development.
• Together we pledge to strengthen cooperation in anti-corruption and anti-microbial resistance.
• China and the UK co-hosted the first High Level Security Dialogue and agreed to reinforce cooperation in counter-terrorism and cyber security.
• Our two countries played a leading role in global governance, climate change, sustainable development and peacekeeping.
• Together we issued joint statements on Syria and Afghanistan.
• And together we enhanced cooperation within the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank by jointly contributing capital to the AIIB special fund.
These are highlights of the fruitful and effective cooperation between our two countries. They are concrete examples of how China and the UK as key players on the global scene have fulfilled our international obligations. Such cooperation helps increase stability and positive forces in time of uncertainties in the international relations. And all these advances help enrich the China-UK global comprehensive strategic partnership for the 21st century.
Looking ahead to the new year, we have a great deal to expect.
As Prime Minister May put it in her New Year message:
"2017 is a year of opportunity"
And she added that Britain has:
"A golden opportunity to demonstrate".
I think her words are also true for China-UK relations.
2017 marks the 45th anniversary of the establishment of the ambassadorial-level diplomatic ties between China and the UK:
• We will co-host a number of celebration and commemoration events.
• We will use these celebrations to reflect. In this way we can strengthen relations going forward by learning from the experience of the past four and a half decades.
• We must all the more value the strong momentum of our ties today.
• And we also need to jointly plan for the future of our relations and endeavor to achieve even more.
2017 also marks the 20th anniversary of the return of Hong Kong to China. The return of Hong Kong is significant in many ways:
• It meant China and Britain successfully resolved a major issue that was left from history.
• It helped clear the way for further growth of our bilateral relations.
• And, more importantly, it set a good example for the world that international disputes can be solved peacefully through negotiations.
30 years ago, both China and the UK demonstrated extraordinary political wisdom, long-term vision and courage during the negotiations over Hong Kong. Today as we usher in a new year, China and the UK need to work together more closely, build stronger mutual trust, and handle disputes properly. Hong Kong should be a bridge to facilitate China-UK cooperation. We should focus on making it a positive factor in our bilateral ties. We need to do this so that China-UK relations will advance steadily and smoothly.
2017 is a year for consolidating the "Golden Era" of China-UK relations:
• I am more than happy to hear the announcement by the UK government at the beginning of the year. This was the news that the generic design assessment of HPR1000, China's nuclear reactor, has begun. That's great news.
• There has been more good news at the start of 2017. Last week, the first China Railway Express arrived in London. It was the first direct freight train between China and Britain.
• In Davos, President Xi Jinping announced an important agenda for 2017. China is going to host the "Belt and Road" Forum for International Cooperation in May.
• I hope that in the new year, China and the UK will seize the new opportunities arising from the "Belt and Road" initiative and maintain high-level exchanges.
• I hope we will make solid steps forward in our practical bilateral cooperation. This covers many areas such as trade, investment, finance, energy, infrastructure, scientific innovation, education and culture.
• And I hope we will advance our "Belt and Road" cooperation. We need to bring in more flagship projects, create new highlights and deliver more tangible benefits to our two countries and peoples.
2017 is a year for China and the UK to join hands and promote world peace and development:
• There is a broad consensus that 2017 will see much complexity and uncertainty around the world.
• In particular, there will be general elections in Germany and France. The Brexit negotiation will begin. And there is a new administration in the United States.
• In a world of uncertainty, we have every reason to pull together rather than to pull apart.
Just as President Xi Jinping pointed out in his keynote speech at the World Economic Forum annual meeting at Davos that:
"As long as we keep to the goal of building a community of shared future for mankind and work hand in hand to fulfill our responsibilities and overcome difficulties, we will be able to create a better world and deliver better lives for our peoples."
In this spirit, China and the UK should keep our respective doors wide open for cooperation. Through these channels we must:
• Uphold free trade.
• Oppose protectionism.
• Adhere to multilateralism.
• Oppose unilateralism.
• And stand for a new type of globalisation that is open, inclusive and benefit-sharing.
By working together we can make new contribution to world peace, stability and security.
Ladies and Gentlemen:
The Chinese often say:
"A day's work starts with the first thing you do in the morning and a year's success starts with what you do in spring".
Tonight, we celebrate the beginning of 2017.
In the coming year:
• Let us carry on the "Icebreaker" spirit!
• Let us roll up our sleeves to work with vigor.
• Let us seize the "golden opportunities" arising from our cooperation in all fields, including the "Belt and Road".
• And, let us work together to contribute more "golden fruits" to the"Golden Era" of China-UK relations.