Remarks by Ambassador Liu Xiaoming
The Finals of the China-UK Panda Pals Project Speech & Drawing Contests
（From Chinese Embassy in UK）
The Chinese Embassy, 23 February 2012
Teachers and Students,
I am delighted to welcome you to the Chinese Embassy.
I especially want to offer my warmest greetings to the 34 speaking contestants and drawing winners.
The event today echoes the launch of the China-UK Panda Pals Project around 100 days ago.
At that launch last November, I said I looked forward to presenting awards to the winners of the Panda Pals contests at the Chinese Embassy. The event generated a lot of excitement, as we were anticipating the two giant pandas to come to the UK.
80 days ago, Tiantian and Yangguang landed in Britain. Now they have settled into their cozy new home in Edinburgh Zoo.
We are glad that they have since become true 'celebrities' in Scotland. We are delighted with the great care being given to them by the Zoo.
During last week's half term, I was told the panda enclosure in the Zoo was packed with visitors. Getting a ticket is a big challenge. This is a clear measure of the pandas' popularity amongst young people.
The past 100 days also saw the Panda Pals speech and drawing contests going full swing. The speech contest took place in over 60 schools across Britain. And the drawing contest had the participation of almost 1400 young students.
Today, we are extremely pleased to invite 14 drawing winners to the Chinese Embassy. They come as far as Aberdeen, Scotland and one of them, Sebastian Del Risco from Bristol, is only 5 years old. I offer warm congratulations to all of them.
I also wish all of our 20 speaking contestants good luck and every success in the finals.
In China, we have a saying:
'Friendship First, Competition Second'.
Following the spirit of this Chinese saying the Panda Pals contests are important because of their educational value. But the competitions are not the end. They are the means to boost friendship and understanding between China and Britain.
Likewise, the pandas are here in Britain for research collaboration between Chinese and British scientists. But the pandas also provide an important symbol of the deep friendship between our two nations.
2012 is the 40th anniversary of China-UK full diplomatic relations. Our relations have come a long way in the past 40 years.
· First we have the strength of a state-to-state relationship.
· But, that has only been possible because of a genuine heart-to-heart communication between the peoples of our two countries.
I sincerely hope that the coming of Tiantian and Yangguang and the Panda Pals project will help advance our relations. This can happen through deeper understanding, goodwill and trust between our people and especially the young generations.
These programs have the potential to enrich our friendship and offer strong impetus to China-UK relations.
Let me close with warm thanks to all the teachers and parents for your support over the past few months.
I want to pay special tribute to the following for being close partners in all these events:
· The Schools Network;
· The London South Bank University Confucius Institute and other partnership Confucius Institutes;
· And the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland.
Also thank you to all the judges for your time and hard work in these contests.
And I must also thank HSBC and Huawei (UK) and for your generous sponsorship!