Working Together for a Better Future
Opening Remarks by H.E. Ambassador Zheng Zeguang at the Seminar on the 50th Anniversary of the Establishment of China-UK Ambassadorial Diplomatic Relations
22 March 2022
Special Representative Wu Hongbo,
Vice President Jiang Jiang,
Director Dan Chugg,
Sir Vince Cable,
Lords and MPs,
Ladies and Gentlemen:
Thank you for joining us at this seminar today. On March 13th, 1972, China and the UK signed the Joint Communiqué on an Exchange of Ambassadors to establish ambassadorial diplomatic relations, which turned a new page for the bilateral relationship. Today, we are gathered here to mark this important moment and explore ways to take the China-UK relationship a step further. This is of great significance.
It is a great honour to have with us a highly representative group of guests today, including Special Representative of the Chinese Government on European Affairs, incumbent and former officials of the British Government, members of the British parliament, and leaders from the business, culture, education and science and technology communities. You have witnessed, taken part in and made contribution to the growth of the China-UK relationship. On behalf of the Chinese Embassy in the UK, I would like to express our heartfelt thanks and pay tribute to you, and through you, to friends from all sectors of both countries, for your long-standing care and support for the cooperative ties between our two great countries!
Over the past 50 years, our relationship has gone through ups and downs and overcome difficulties and obstacles to achieve historic progress. These achievements can be summarized in three key words.
First, pioneering. The UK was the first major Western country to recognize New China, the first to carry out trade with New China, and more recently, the first to apply to join the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank. China chose London to issue the first RMB sovereign bonds and the first central bank bills overseas, and contributed to London’s growth into the biggest offshore RMB trading centre and the second biggest offshore RMB clearing centre.
Second, extensive. China-UK practical cooperation has expanded from traditional areas such as trade in goods to other important sectors of financial services, science and technology and health care, and in recent years, to emerging fields including clean energy, digital economy, green finance and FinTech. In the meantime, our two sides have maintained close coordination within multilateral frameworks such as the UN and the G20. In recent years, we have enhanced cooperation on global affairs, including fighting Covid-19, addressing climate change and preserving biological diversity.
Third, win-win. Win-win has been the nature of China-UK cooperation. Take for example bilateral trade and investment. They not only boosted our respective economic growth but also satisfied consumer demands and created huge employment opportunities in both countries. Over the past decade, British export to China has increased by 126%, which was much higher than the growth rate of Britain’s export to other trading partners. The Tou Ying Tracker Report of 2021 shows that Chinese companies in the UK employed over 60,000 people in the country. Another example is the exchanges of students and researchers, which have promoted the development of education and scientific research in both countries as well as enhanced mutual understanding between our two peoples.
Facts fully prove that cooperation between China and the UK have not only brought benefits to the peoples of our two countries but also played a positive role in promoting world peace, stability and prosperity.
Ladies and Gentlemen:
Today, after 50 years, the world is experiencing profound changes unseen in a century, China and the UK each has entered a new development stage, and the China-UK relationship is facing a new situation. Against this backdrop, our two sides should take the 50th anniversary as an opportunity, seize it with both hands, tackle challenges appropriately and work together to promote the steady and sustained development of the China-UK relationship on the right track of dialogue and cooperation.
First, we should have a right understanding of each other. President Xi Jinping pointed out that for China-UK relations to fare well, mutual understanding is the precondition. Over the past 50 years, China and the UK have gained increasingly wider and deeper knowledge of each other. That being said, we must admit that there is still much misunderstanding here in this country about, among others, China’s political system. China believes that the people of a country are the sole judges of whether the country’s system is good. The right of every country to choose the development path that suits its national conditions should be fully respected. Last year, we celebrated the centenary of the founding of the Communist Party of China. The profound changes that China has experienced in the past century have convinced the Chinese people that only socialism can save China and only socialism with Chinese characteristics can ensure further development in China. We are fully confident in the path of our own choice. Many surveys in the world also show that over 90% of the people in China trust their government. China has no intention to change other countries’ political systems, and hopes that other countries will respect China’s political system in return.
Another example is the perception of China’s Covid-19 response policy. Some British newspaper has been carrying articles criticizing the Covid response measures in China, saying they are too strict and not science-based. In our opinion, different countries have different national conditions and face different Covid situations. We support different countries in adopting different policies based on their national conditions. The fact is, in the past two years and more, China has coordinated its epidemic response with economic and social activities in a scientific way. Our achievements are self-evident. As a country with a population of over 1.4 billion, China has the world’s lowest infection and fatality rates, at 9.4/100000 and 0.4/100000 respectively. On the economic front, China’s GDP last year exceeded 110 trillion RMB yuan, increasing by 8.1% year-on-year. The increment alone was the equivalent of the world’s sixth largest economy. And the inflation rate stood at only 0.9%.
The third example is the perception of China’s foreign policy. Some people in the UK see China as a “systemic competitor” or event a threat. But the fact is that China always upholds peace, good neighbourliness and harmony. We adhere to peaceful development, and we call on all countries to practise peaceful development as well, treat other countries with respect and on an equal footing, and work for win-win cooperation. China is always a defender of world peace, contributor to global development and upholder of international order. China’s development will only create opportunities for the common development of all countries. It will not pose any threat to any country. That is why we are committed to enhancing the exchanges and cooperation with all countries including the UK.
Second, we should deepen political mutual trust. This is the foundation for the healthy and steady development of the China-UK relationship. Fifty years ago in the Joint Communiqué, China and the UK confirmed the principles of mutual respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity, non-interference in each other’s internal affairs and equality and mutual benefit; the UK side acknowledged the position of the Chinese Government that Taiwan is a province of the People’s Republic of China, and recognized the Government of the People’s Republic of China as the sole legal Government of China. These principles constitute the cornerstone for the China-UK relationship. History tells us loud and clear that when these principles are faithfully observed, our relationship will progress smoothly; otherwise, it will encounter numerous problems and even setbacks.
Recently, you can hear some people trying to make a comparison between Ukraine and Taiwan. I would stress that the two issues are of entirely different nature. The Ukraine issue is an international dispute, while the question of Taiwan is purely China’s internal matter. There is but one China in the world, and Taiwan is an inseparable part of the Chinese territory. China will and must realize reunification. This is the common aspiration of all sons and daughters of the Chinese nation. At the moment, the biggest threat to the peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait is the secessionist activities of the Taiwan authorities seeking so-called “independence” and the interference of external forces. We are ready to strive for the prospect of peaceful reunification with the utmost sincerity and greatest efforts. However, if secessionist forces bent on “Taiwan independence” carry out provocations and coercion or even cross the red line, we will be forced to take decisive actions. The sensitivity and gravity of this issue must not be underestimated. This is the fundamental reason why we urge the countries with diplomatic ties with China to live up to their pledge on the one-China principle and handle the Taiwan-related question appropriately.
For the Chinese people, the affairs related to Taiwan, Hong Kong, Xinjiang and Tibet are not issues of human rights, democracy or religion. They are affairs that bear on the nation’s sovereignty, security and territorial integrity. China adheres to the principle of non-interference and strongly opposes interference in its internal affairs by any external force. In the meantime, China stands ready to engage in equal-footed dialogue with other countries on the basis of respecting each other’s core interests and major concerns, in order to narrow differences, find common ground and deepen mutual trust.
Third, we should expand practical cooperation. Practical cooperation is the adhesive for the China-UK relationship. Such cooperation has achieved fruitful outcomes in the past 50 years, but the potential is far from being fully tapped. Our two sides should, in a win-win and pioneering spirit, expand cooperation in traditional areas of trade, investment and infrastructure, explore new areas of health care, FinTech and digital economy, create new highlights in clean energy, low-carbon technology and green development, and address the pressing global problems of inflation, energy shortage and instability in the supply chain. This will enable us to bring more tangible benefits to the peoples of both countries and beyond. Last week, I visited Huaneng Group’s battery energy storage project in Minety, Wiltshire. This project is a shining example of China-UK win-win cooperation. It has contributed to the local community by bringing tax revenue, creating jobs, and boosting economic growth. It has also contributed to the development of green energy in the UK. China is open to cooperation with the UK. We hope to see and would like to actively encourage more mutually-beneficial projects like the Huaneng Minety project. Likewise, we hope that the UK will be equally committed to open cooperation and foster a stable and friendly political environment and a fair, just and non-discriminatory business environment for Chinese enterprises here in this country.
Fourth, we should shoulder the responsibilities as major countries. China and the UK are both permanent members of the UN Security Council. We both bear global significance. It is important that we enhance communication and coordination on international affairs and shoulder the responsibilities as major countries. At the moment, the situation in Ukraine has drawn extensive attention from the international community. Recently you can hear criticisms and accusations against China’s policy on Ukraine, but they are based on misinformation, and are unfounded and wrong. China’s principled position on the Ukraine issue is transparent, objective, fair and consistent. It should not be misinterpreted or distorted.
China is deeply saddened by the developments in Ukraine. China’s position has always been that the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all countries should be respected, the principles and purposes of the UN Charter should be observed, the legitimate security concerns of all countries should be taken into serious consideration, and international disputes should be settled peacefully. To resolve the Ukraine crisis, the pressing priority now is for all sides to jointly support the parties involved to have dialogue and negotiation that will produce results and lead to peace. It is critical to cease hostilities as soon as possible, prevent the situation from worsening and, in particular, avoid more civilian casualties. To achieve an enduring solution, it is imperative for the relevant sides to reject the Cold War mentality, refrain from bloc confrontation, and build through negotiation a truly balanced, effective and sustainable security architecture for the region, so as to achieve long-term stability on the European continent.
China has been working with all sides to push for peace talks. After speaking over the phone with Russian President Vladimir Putin, French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and other leaders, President Xi Jinping had a video call with U.S. President Joe Biden last Friday. State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi have also talked separately with his counterparts in multiple countries over the phone. These efforts are aimed at easing the situation and urging the parties involved to negotiate a political settlement of the Ukraine crisis. We have put forward a six-point initiative on the humanitarian situation in Ukraine, and have provided multiple batches of humanitarian supplies to the country. We believe the United States and NATO should also have dialogue with Russia so as to address the crux of the crisis and ease the security concerns of both Russia and Ukraine. We support all efforts that are conducive to a peaceful solution, and will continue to play a constructive role on the Ukraine issue. At the same time, we firmly oppose any practice of pouring fuel over fire, instigating conflicts or creating bloc confrontation. China has always been a force for justice and peace, and has always stood on the right side of history.
China and the UK should also strengthen communication and coordination in combating COVID-19, tackling climate change, promoting global economic recovery and green development, as well as on Afghanistan, the Iranian nuclear issue and so forth. Together we can make greater contributions to world peace and development.
Fifth, we should deepen friendship between our peoples. Such friendship has always been the source of strength for the development of China-UK relations. It should be cherished at all times. Over the past 50 years, China-UK people-to-people exchanges and friendship continue to grow. Mutual visits totaled 2 million per year before the pandemic. Over 220,000 Chinese students are currently studying in the UK and this is predicted by research institutions to grow a further 70% by 2030. We are glad to see the growth trend, but we should not assume that everything can be taken for granted. We hope that Chinese students will be able to study in a friendly and safe environment. The two countries should also encourage more exchange and cooperation in culture, sports and tourism and other areas after the pandemic.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Fifty years have passed in a blink of an eye. The baton of developing China-UK relations is now passed on to us. This is both an honor and a responsibility. The road ahead will not be without difficulties, but we must move forward with confidence and concerted efforts. We must not allow differences to mask broad consensus between our two sides. We cannot afford to miss out on long-term opportunities because of temporary setbacks. The Chinese Embassy is ready to work together with friends from all sectors in the UK to forge ahead and create a better future for China-UK relations!
Thank you all. I look forward to hearing your valuable insights.