The Chinese Ambassador to the UK H. E. Liu Xiaoming gave a private briefing to a packed room of Asia House corporate members on Wednesday in which he spoke about 2015 being “no ordinary year” and a “golden time” for China-UK relations.
Ambassador Liu said that with President Xi Jinping’s state visit to the UK in “the golden month of October”, the first state visit by a Chinese President to the UK in 10 years, the successful royal visit to China earlier this year, close ties being built between the new Conservative Government and the Chinese Government, and progress in trade, economic and financial cooperation, this was the “big year for China-UK relations.”
Speaking to more than 40 corporate members, one of the largest turnouts at a private briefing at Asia House, demonstrating the huge interest in China among the UK business community, Ambassador Liu said the strengthening of ties between the two nations began in February when UK Prime Minister David Cameron, in his Chinese New Year message in the Chinese media, referred to 2015 as the “Golden Year”. Mr Cameron added in that message that he envisioned a ‘golden time’ for China-UK relations in the next five years.
“This depiction gradually became a consensus between China and UK leaders. It was quoted by both sides on many occasions. China and the UK have now agreed to jointly initiate a ‘Golden Time’ for China-UK relations,” Ambassador Liu explained.
Chinese Ambassador to the UK H.E. Liu Xiaoming receives a gift from chairman of Asia House Sir John Boyd at the private briefing. Image copyright: Miles Willis Photography
Ambassador Liu, currently the longest-serving Chinese Ambassador to the UK, outlined why the Chinese Government felt that 2015 was a “most significant year” with a “series of good, big and happy events.”
He spoke about “increasingly strong political mutual trust between China and the UK.” He said this was reflected in “the close contacts and exchanges at the top level.”
He said the historic significance of the President’s visit in October could not be overstated. “It is expected to mark a new milestone and herald a ‘Golden Time’ for the China-UK relationship,” he said.
He said the “most important royal visit to China in nearly 30 years” took place in March when Prince William, the Duke of Cambridge paid a “very successful trip to China.”
Then in May, shortly after the Conservatives formed a new Government, UK Prime Minister David Cameron telephoned Chinese Premier Li Keqiang. The two leaders agreed to work together to elevate China-UK relations to a new and higher level. Soon afterwards Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi made a three-day official visit to the UK to establish early contact with the new British Government and conduct strategic dialogues ahead of the Chinese President’s visit. This was followed by high-level visits to the UK by two members of the Politburo of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China.
These high-level talks continue. British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond will travel to Beijing this month for a new round of the China-UK Strategic Dialogue, he said. Then the UK Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne will travel to Beijing in September to co-host the Seventh Meeting of the Economic and Financial Dialogue. The same month Chinese Vice Premier Liu Yandong will come to London to co-host the Third Meeting of the High Level People-to-People Dialogue.
Trade is also increasing between the two nations, Ambassador Liu said. China is now the UK’s fourth largest trading partner and the UK is China’s second largest trading partner in the EU. China currently invests more than US$40 billion into the UK, its number one investment destination in Europe. That investment stock includes infrastructure, commercial property, R&D centres and high-end manufacturing. The value of China-UK trade in goods stood at US$36.74 billion in the first half of this year, Ambassador Liu added.
There have been significant breakthroughs in financial cooperation between the two countries too, following the launch of offshore Renminbi business in London in 2011, he said. Ambassador Liu pointed out that China and the UK have signed their first currency swap agreement, the UK has been awarded the first Renminbi qualified foreign institutional investor (RMB RQFII) quota outside Asia [worth RMB 80 billion] and the UK has issued its first Renminbi denominated treasury bonds. One of the key highlights of financial cooperation, which has put the UK in a leading position among developed nations in its relations with China, was the UK’s announcement in March to apply for membership of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), the new multilateral development bank, conceived by China, to promote interconnectivity, economic integration and infrastructure in Asia, Ambassador Liu said.
In March during his trip to Beijing, Prince William, the Duke of Cambridge, launched the first ever UK-China Year of Culture Exchange, a showcase of innovative UK culture in China and of Chinese culture in the UK. The idea is to celebrate UK and Chinese creative talent and help forge new business relationships in the creative industries and stimulate collaboration between artists and creative organisations in the two countries. The UK season took place in the first half of the year. “Now is the time for the China season, entitled Creative China,” Ambassador Liu said. Creative China, which was announced yesterday at the Chinese Embassy in London, will roll out 66 cultural events in the UK to share Chinese culture with the British public.
For China, it is the first Chinese state-level cultural festival to be held in a Western European country. The aim is highlight China’s creativity and help cultural industries contribute more to the Chinese economy.
“An even better future for China-UK relationships is unfolding right before us,” Ambassador Liu concluded.
He also thanked Asia House for its “interest in and support for China-UK relations over many years”.
Chinese Ambassador to the UK H.E. Liu Xiaoming, centre, signs the Asia House guest book after the briefing, with Michael Lawrence, CEO of Asia House, left, and Sir John Boyd, chairman of Asia House, right. Image copyright: Miles Willis Photography
Following his speech, Ambassador Liu held an off-the-record discussion with Asia House corporate members, at which the UK’s membership of the EU, proposed leadership of the AIIB, the listing of Chinese companies on the London Stock Exchange, green bonds, the Renminbi and business visas to China, were among the topics discussed.
Asia House corporate members represented at the table included HSBC, Bupa, Mitsui & Co Europe, KPMG, BP, G3, Standard Chartered, BAT, Kroll, University College London, Jardines and Anglo American.
Nazir Razak, Chairman of CIMB Group, will receive the prestigious Asia House Asian Business Leaders Award at our annual Gala Award Dinner to be held at The Banqueting House, Whitehall on 13, October 2015. Asia House presents this annual Award to those individuals who exemplify the concept of the ‘Servant Leader’. This Award highlights the links between economic success, professional excellence, moral leadership and service to society. We are delighted that Battersea Power Station is this year’s Lead Sponsor. For information on sponsorship opportunities and table sales for the 13 October event please click here or contact Rachelle Kessels on +44 207 307 5466 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
To read an article by Duncan Innes-Ker, Regional Editor for Asia with the Economist Intelligence Unit, on the state of UK-China relations ahead of President Xi Jinping’s visit, click here.