Building Better Bridges for Mutually Beneficial Cooperation
Ladies and gentlemen,
It gives me great pleasure to attend today’s forum. Thank you to Chairman Marsh for the kind invitation. On behalf of the Chinese Embassy in the UK, I would like to extend congratulations on the holding of this forum and gratitude to friends from all sectors who have long supported the development of China-UK relations.
The theme of today’s forum “Building Bridges” could not be more fitting. In today’s world full of turmoil and change and with rising instability and uncertainties, it is all the more imperative for China and the UK as well as other countries to build bridges for cooperation, broaden roads for mutual benefit and work together to respond to challenges and advance peace and development.
It has been a Chinese traditional virtue to focus on self-cultivation in hard times and bring prosperity to all after achieving success. Starting with running our own affairs well, we have all along been building bridges for communication and cooperation, with the purpose to promote world peace and development.
This year, despite a complicated and daunting external environment, we have been advancing Chinese modernisation and pursuing high-quality development. Our economy has been steadily recovering and turning for the better.
In the first three quarters of this year, China’s GDP grew by 5.2% year-on-year. In the first 10 months, the total retail sales of consumer goods increased by 6.9%, and industrial added value grew by 4.1%. China’s economic growth is now higher value-added and greener.
New energy vehicles, lithium-ion batteries and photovoltaic products have become the new name cards of Chinese exports, and the total exports of these products in the first three quarters expanded by 41.7%. The IMF has just raised China's economic forecast for 2023 to 5.4%, and China is projected to generate about one third of global growth this year.
China remains committed to advancing high-standard opening up. We have announced the removal of all restrictive measures on foreign investment in manufacturing. The sixth China International Import Expo (CIIE) was held recently, attracting over 3,400 companies from various countries. And tomorrow, the second Global Digital Trade Expo will be held.
We are applying high standards to the implementation of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (RCEP). We are also working to align with the economic and trade rules of the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) and the Digital Economy Partnership Agreement (DEPA), and expand a globally-oriented network of high-standard free trade areas.
This year marks the 10th anniversary of the Belt and Road Initiative proposed by President Xi Jinping. Last month, we hosted the third Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation. Over 10,000 participants from 151 countries and 41 international organisations joined the forum, with 458 deliverables achieved and over 97 billion US dollars worth of business agreements signed.
At the forum, President Xi announced eight major steps China will take to support the joint pursuit of high-quality Belt and Road cooperation. This has opened a new chapter for the initiative and will inject strong impetus into global connectivity, development and prosperity.
Since the beginning of this year, Western media has painted a grim picture of China’s development prospects, going as far as to say that China’s development has been reversed. But facts speak louder than words. The reality is China’s economy has not only ranked among the top of major economies this year, but also enjoys more prominent strengths for the medium to long term:
- a socialist market economy in systemic terms,
- a supersize market in terms of demand,
- a full-fledged industrial system in terms of supply, and
- abundant, high-caliber labour forces and entrepreneurs in terms of human resources.
China’s economic development is self-generative, resilient and has many potentials. The overall Chinese economy remains promising, and it will remain so in the long run.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Development requires a peaceful and sound external environment. That is why China has all along stood on the side of peace and justice, all along pursued friendship and cooperation with all countries, and all along played a constructive role in the settlement of regional and international hotspot issues. Be it the lingering Ukraine crisis or the recently resurgent Palestinian-Israeli conflict, China has always been promoting talks for peace and a political settlement of the issues.
A few days ago, President Xi Jinping and President Joe Biden met in San Francisco. This meeting was significant for enhancing trust, removing suspicion, managing differences and expanding cooperation between China and the United States. It pointed the way for the growth of China-US relations and injected stability into a volatile and changing world. It is hoped that the US will work with China in good faith to implement the important consensus reached by the two presidents, so as to take China-US relations back to the track of healthy and steady development.
This year marks the 20th anniversary of the comprehensive strategic partnership between China and the EU. Since last year, the two sides have maintained frequent exchanges in the forms of mutual visits and virtual meetings and witnessed new progress in their practical cooperation. The steady development of China-Europe relations have brought enormous benefits to both sides and provided positive energy for world peace and development.
Ladies and gentlemen,
China-UK relations are consequential, and cooperation only brings benefits to both and to the world. In the past, the UK led Western countries in developing relations with China and served as an important bridge for exchanges between China and the West. Regrettably, over the past few years, the UK is no longer so much as such a bridge.
I mention this with many British friends, and I know they are reflecting on how to reverse this trend. In my opinion, we need to do the following:
First, we need to develop the right perspective. One has to accept the basic fact that China is not a challenge to the UK, still less a threat. The 50 odd years of diplomatic relations has shown that China’s development means opportunities for the UK. The UK’s challenges, be it low productivity or slow growth, high inflation or high cost of living, none of those is caused by China. Militarily, the UK’s threats do not come from China either. China regards the UK as a cooperation partner. Treating China as a challenge or even threat is not the right prescription and it is fundamentally wrong.
As for those who clamour for “de-risking” or “decoupling” from China, they are misleading the people here in the UK and are definitely not doing this country any favour. After all, decoupling from the Chinese market means missing out on opportunities.
Second, we need to respect each other. China and the UK have different histories, cultures and social systems. There are bound to be differences and disagreements between the two countries on certain issues. For the relations to grow smoothly, both sides must respect each other’s social system and development path and respect each other’s sovereignty, security, and development interests. China does not seek to change the UK’s social system. Likewise, the UK should not harbour any unrealistic hope to change China. Issues related to Taiwan, Hong Kong, Xinjiang, and Tibet are China’s internal affairs, and we firmly oppose any interference in our internal affairs from any country.
On the basis of respecting each other’s core interests and major concerns, we have every possibility to narrow differences, expand common understandings and increase mutual trust through dialogue based on equality.
Third, we need to pursue mutually beneficial cooperation. Dialogue and cooperation should be the keynote of bilateral ties. There is great complementarity and strong cooperation potential between our economies. I am delighted to note that China-UK bilateral trade in goods exceeded 100 billion US dollars for two consecutive years, and two-way investment stock has surpassed 50 billion US dollars. The UK was a guest of honour country at the 2023 China International Fair for Trade in Services (CIFTIS), and 55 UK companies took part in the sixth CIIE in Shanghai.
Our two countries can enhance mutually beneficial cooperation in extensive areas such as finance, trade, investment, new energy, bio-medicine, and digital economy. In particular, China has strong manufacturing and innovation capabilities in the field of new energy. Cooperation with China will help the UK achieve its 2050 net zero target. Chinese and British companies can also explore more cooperation in third markets.
To make it clear, any move to abuse national security legislation and deliberately target Chinese companies will only affect their confidence in investing in the UK. The two countries must work together to create a fair, just and non-discriminatory business environment for Chinese and British companies to have mutually beneficial cooperation.
Fourth, we need to join hands in tackling challenges. As permanent members of the UN Security Council, countries with important global influence and G20 members, China and the UK should enhance communication and coordination on climate change, global AI governance, and regional and international hotspots.
President Xi has proposed the Global Development Initiative, the Global Security Initiative, and the Global Civilisation Initiative. We welcome all countries, including the UK, to participate in these initiatives and jointly contribute to world peace, stability and development.
Ladies and gentlemen,
The world has entered a new period of turbulence and transformation, presenting unprecedented opportunities and challenges. The UK will have the general election next year. At a time like this, more than ever, people with insight from all sectors in both countries, especially the business community, must proceed with confidence and be down to earth, build better bridges for mutually beneficial cooperation, so as to deepen mutual understanding and friendship between our two peoples, and lay a more solid foundation for the steady and sustained growth of China-UK relations.
I wish today’s forum a full success.