A Fruitful 2019 to a Promising 2020
The year 2019 was an extraordinary one for both China and the United Kingdom. China celebrated the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic and continued to make progress in the new era along the path of socialism with Chinese characteristics. And the UK achieved important breakthroughs in Brexit and worked to build a “global Britain”. The year also marked the 65th anniversary of China-UK diplomatic relations at the chargé d’affaires level. Our relationship grew steadily, which can be summarized in four C’s.
The first C stands for communication between China and the UK at a higher level.
Queen Elizabeth II and Prime Minister Boris Johnson sent messages congratulating China on the 70th anniversary of the founding of New China. Premier Li Keqiang sent a congratulatory message to Johnson after the general election returned him to 10 Downing Street. In April 2019, Philip Hammond, then chancellor of the exchequer, attended the Second Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation as the special representative of the British prime minister. And Mark Sedwill, Cabinet secretary and national security adviser led a delegation of permanent under-secretaries from more than 10 departments of the UK government to visit China.
Hu Chunhua, Chinese vice-premier, visited the UK and hosted the 10th China-UK Economic and Financial Dialogue, where 69 outcomes were reached. And Chen Zhu, vice-chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress, and Gao Yunlong, vice-chairman of the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, visited the UK separately.
The second C stands for cooperation, which saw sustained expansion in the past year.
In the first 10 months of 2019, China-UK trade in goods reached $71.14 billion, increasing by about 8 percent year-on-year. Britain resumed beef exports to China. Thirty British companies attended the second China International Import Expo. The 15th World Chinese Entrepreneurs Conference, which was held in London for the first time, served as a new platform for cooperation. And the Shanghai-London Stock Connect was launched in June, the first-ever link between the Chinese capital market and a foreign market.
London saw the opening of new branches by Shanghai Pudong Development Bank, Agricultural Bank of China and China CITIC Bank. The British capital is also the world’s second-largest offshore clearing center and the largest offshore trading center for the Chinese currency, with China Construction Bank, the yuan clearing bank in London, achieving a total clearing volume of more than 40 trillion yuan ($7.4 trillion). Also, China and the UK signed an agreement on cooperation in third markets, which opened a new channel for China-UK cooperation on the Belt and Road Initiative.
The third C stands for closer cultural and people-to-people exchanges between China and the UK.
There has been steady progress in the implementation of the China-UK Joint Strategy for Science, Technology and Innovation Cooperation. Close to 200,000 Chinese students are studying in Britain. Across the UK, 30 Confucius Institutes and 161 Confucius classrooms have enrolled more than 190,000 students, and more than 1.7 million people have attended the various cultural events at the Confucius Institutes, and over 600 British schools are offering Chinese language courses.
A British government program known as “Generation UK” has enabled more than 10,000 British students to visit China for studies. Shanghai Symphony Orchestra and China National Peking Opera Company gave successful performances in the UK. And China-related events such as Festival of Spring, Happy Spring Festival and “China Lates” at the Science Museum were extremely popular.
Exchanges and cooperation at the sub-national level have also seen much expansion, evidenced by the increasing number of trade, cultural and tourism road shows in Britain by Chinese provinces and cities including Guizhou, Liaoning and Hunan provinces, and the city of Shenzhen. Every week, 168 flights operate between the two countries, facilitating personnel exchanges of close to 2 million a year. And China has become an important source of overseas tourists visiting the UK.
The fourth C stands for coordination on global issues.
China and the UK have stepped up coordination and communication under the framework of international organizations such the United Nations, the G20 and the World Trade Organization. We have reached a consensus on opposing protectionism and unilateralism, and on supporting free trade and multilateralism, and joined hands to address global challenges such as climate change and bio-diversity depletion.
The year 2020 has special significance for China, for the UK and for China-UK relations. In 2020, China will complete the building of a moderately prosperous society in all aspects, which is our first centenary goal. It will then focus on realizing the second centenary goal of building a strong, modern socialist country in all aspects. The UK will have left the EU and embarked on a new journey of building a “global Britain”.
The year 2020 also marks the fifth anniversary of the China-UK “Golden Era”. The China-UK relationship is standing at a new starting point and faces new opportunities for development. Looking into 2020, I have three hopes for China-UK relations.
First, I hope China-UK relations will advance with steadier steps.
China and the UK should enhance strategic communication, deepen political mutual trust, see each other as partners rather than rivals, and view each other’s development as opportunities rather than threats. I hope our two countries will respect and accommodate each other’s core interests and major concerns, refrain from interfering in each other’s internal affairs and handle differences appropriately, so as to keep our relationship on the right track.
Second, I hope China-UK relations will deliver more tangible outcomes.
Both deeper reform and further opening-up in China, and Brexit in the UK will create huge opportunities, which our two countries should seize with both hands. We should foster a fair, transparent and non-discriminatory business environment for the companies of our two countries, which will in turn encourage deeper business cooperation across the board. In particular, we could expand cooperation on the Belt and Road Initiative, in order to make the pie of our common interests bigger and deliver more tangible benefits to the peoples of our two countries.
And third, I hope China-UK relationship will take one step further.
Our two countries should follow the trend of our times by holding high the banners of multilateralism and free trade, and by championing cultural diversity and encouraging exchanges and mutual learning between different civilizations. As key global players, China and the UK should take up historical responsibilities, work together to build a community with a shared future for mankind, and make new contributions to world peace and development.
Scottish author and government reformer Samuel Smiles said: “Hope is like the sun, which, as we journey toward it, casts the shadow of our burden behind us.” The world is undergoing profound changes unseen in a century. Steady and sound development of the China-UK relationship will serve the common interests of both countries and will be conducive to world prosperity and progress. With the strategic vision, political wisdom and innovative spirit needed, China and the UK will cast the shadow of burden behind them, and embrace a better future of 2020 for China-UK relations.