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China's ambassador 'deeply impressed' by UK support for Belt and Road

By Li Wensha and Chris Peterson in London | chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2017-05-12 01:18

Liu Xiaoming, the veteran Chinese diplomat who is ambassador to the United Kingdom, told China Daily in an exclusive interview he was "deeply impressed" by the strong support shown by many British friends for the China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative – a blueprint initiated by President Xi Jinping in 2013.

China's ambassador 'deeply impressed' by UK support for Belt and Road

Chinese ambassador to the United Kingdom Liu Xiaoming receives an exclusive interview with China Daily. [Photo/China Daily]

"The UK was the first major Western power to join as a full member of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and the second contributor after China to inject capital into the AIIB special fund. These moves speak to Britain's entrepreneurship, of daring to take the lead, and Britain's farsightedness and truly global vision.

"They also reflect the vigorous momentum of the win-win cooperation between China and Great Britain," he said.

The initiative is a modern version of the ancient Silk Road that linked China and Europe at the time of Marco Polo, the Italian explorer and trader who exploited the route in the 13th and early 14th centuries.

Xi's proposal consists of land and maritime links connecting China with the rest of Eurasia and beyond.

The AIIB is a central part of the plan.

"I believe that, with the concerted efforts of China and the UK, our cooperation on the Belt and Road will go a long way and deliver more benefits to the people of our two nations," Liu said.

UK Chancellor Philip Hammond will attend the upcoming Belt and Road Forum in Beijing as a personal envoy of Prime Minister Theresa May, who has told the Chinese authorities she strongly supports the initiative.

"This provides a valuable opportunity for China-UK cooperation on the Belt and Road," he said. "At present, China and Britain are working together to advance projects in the field of nuclear power, high-speed railways, infrastructure etc."

The ambassador said he believes the forum, which is set for Sunday and Monday, will facilitate stronger synergy between respective development strategies, "which will help unleash the potential in bilateral investment, trade and forecast, and give rise to tangible outcomes of China-UK cooperation on the Belt and Road".

Liu dismissed suggestions that the UK will miss out because it is not directly on the proposed route from China.

"Not long ago, China Railway Express made the return trip between Yiwu and London. This was the very first time China-UK trade was completely connected by land transportation. It also means China Railway Express has completed its ‘last mile' and has extended the Belt and Road to the very Western point. This is a landmark event," Liu said.

One apparent tangible by-product of the Belt and Road Initiative is a plan by a Chinese developer to construct 15,000 affordable homes in the Dagenham area of East London, not far from the arrival point of the China Railway Express service.

The ambassador stressed that Britain's role in the Belt and Road plan is not limited by geography.

"For example, the UK has an advanced and international financial sector, and mature professional service industries in law and consulting. These are what countries along the Belt and Road routes need for setting up financial service platforms and improving legal systems.

"The UK also has prestigious think tanks and education institutions, and world-class R&D and innovation capabilities. These are all intellectual resources to support the Belt and Road projects," he said.

Addressing the broader issue of China-UK relations, the ambassador, who moved to the UK in 2010, said relations could not be swayed by a single incident.

"Last year, Britain voted to leave the European Union and the government went through a reshuffle. But developing positive ties with China remains the consensus of all British political parties," he said. "Next month, there will be a general election in the UK. Whatever the result will be, I believe the China-UK relationship in the ‘golden era' will continue to deepen. In a world of uncertainties, the sound bilateral relationship between our two countries will always be a certainty."

Contact the reporters at liwensha@chinadaily.com.cn and chris@mail.chinadailyuk.com

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