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Opening a New Chapter in China-UK Cultural and People-to-People Exchanges

Speech by State Councilor Liu Yandong at The China-UK Publishing and Media Industry Investment Forum

2012/04/15

London, 15 April 2012

Ladies and Gentlemen,
Dear Friends,

I am delighted to attend the China-UK Publishing and Media Industry Investment Forum on the occasion of the 40th anniversary of ambassadorial diplomatic relations between China and the United Kingdom. On behalf of the Chinese government, I would like to extend warm congratulations on the opening of the forum and express heartfelt thanks to all the friends who have contributed to China-UK cooperation in the publishing and media sector.

Thirty years ago, I visited the United Kingdom for the first time, leading a Chinese youth delegation. Even today, I still have vivid memory of the friendship of the British young people. In the years after that trip, I have been involved, on a number of occasions, in China-UK exchanges and cooperation in education, science, technology, sports, youth and other areas, and I feel keenly the importance of closer people-to-people exchanges.

The purpose of my current visit is to implement the important agreement between Premier Wen Jiabao and Prime Minister David Cameron last year to establish the China-UK High-level People-to-People Dialogue. This is the third high-level people-to-people exchange mechanism China has established with other countries, following the ones with Russia and the United States, and the first of its kind with an EU member. Tomorrow, I will join Secretary Jeremy Hunt to officially launch this mechanism and co-chair the first meeting. I look forward to a productive meeting tomorrow.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The United Kingdom was the first major Western country to recognize the People's Republic of China. Over the past 40 years since the establishment of ambassadorial diplomatic relations, China-UK relations have been forging ahead despite international vicissitudes. In recent years, we have established a comprehensive strategic partnership, conducted all-round cooperation and carried out dynamic and fruitful exchanges across the board. These hard-won achievements should be cherished by both sides.

The world of today is undergoing major transformation, major adjustment and major development. The deep-seated impact of the international financial crisis is still with us. Climate change, food, energy and resource security, public health safety, big natural disasters and other global issues have become all the more pronounced. Regional conflicts occur from time to time. Mankind is facing increasing common challenges and risks. China and the United Kingdom are both permanent members of the UN Security Council and fine examples of the Eastern and Western civilizations. Friendship and cooperation between our two countries are not only of greater benefit to our two peoples, but also important to the world. We hope to work together with the United Kingdom, approach the bilateral relations from a strategic and long-term perspective, enhance strategic mutual trust, deepen cooperation in all areas, strengthen communication and coordination in international affairs and properly handle our differences in a joint effort to raise China-UK relations to a new high.

The key to sound relations between state lies in the affinity between their peoples, which largely stems from mutual understanding. Therefore, people-to-people and cultural exchanges play a fundamental and leading role in bilateral relations. Our two governments have decided to lift cultural and people-to-people exchanges to a strategic level so that such exchanges, together with political mutual trust and business cooperation, will form three pillars in China-UK comprehensive strategic partnership. In this way, the mutual understanding and appreciation between our peoples will add to the popular support of China-UK friendship and put our comprehensive strategic partnership on a more stable and dynamic footing. This pioneering and visionary endeavor is indeed a milestone in China-UK relations.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Both China and the United Kingdom, with long histories and rich cultures, have made unique and remarkable contribution to human civilization and progress. In the 5,000-year continuous Chinese civilization, the profound and splendid Chinese culture has produced such philosophies as "harmony between man and nature", "people being the fundamental of the state", "harmony without uniformity" and "taking into account both interests and obligations". The wisdom embodied in these philosophies are valuable assets of world civilization and its value is increasingly recognized by the international community. The United Kingdom, as the birthplace of the Enlightenment Movement and the industrial revolution, has a significant impact on modern world with its science and technology, market economy, financial system, legal system and business culture.

The great geographic distance between China and Britain did not hold back our cultural and people-to-people interactions. More than 2,000 years ago, China opened three routes of the Silk Road on land and sea, connecting Asia with Europe and Africa, and heralding an era of friendly exchanges with countries along the routes. Through millennia of interflows, both countries have shown great admiration for the fine cultural achievements of the other side: China's Confucianism and imperial examination system, when introduced to Europe, were highly commended by British Enlightenment thinkers, while British philosophers, writers and artists of the post-Renaissance age enjoyed tremendous popularity in China. Shakespeare's works were published in China more than 100 years ago and have been staged in a variety of forms such as drama and Peking Opera. The tragedy of Hamlet, the integrity of Othello and the wit of Portia are all familiar to generations of Chinese readers. The golden saying of Francis Bacon, "Knowledge is power", can be found even on the walls of remote village schools in China.

In recent years, thanks to the strong push from both the governments and non-government sectors, China-Britain cultural and people-to-people exchanges have seen unprecedented expansion and dynamism. Over 300 million Chinese are learning English, and tens of millions in China watch Premier League events. In Britain, the Chinese language is taught in over 500 primary and secondary schools, and there are altogether 19 Confucius institutes in the UK, more than any other country in Europe. Stewart Johnson, an undergraduate from the University of London, won the first prize at the Chinese Bridge language competition for non-native university students. Forty-seven Chinese provinces and cities have forged sister relationships with their counterparts in the UK, and last year, over 200,000 Chinese visited this country. The British pavilion at the Shanghai World Expo attracted eight million Chinese visitors, while the terracotta warriors and the treasures from the Palace Museum were warmly received when displayed in London.

These facts have made it clear that the potential and prospects of China-UK relations depend on the solid public support from both countries forged through cultural and people-to-people exchanges. Standing at a new starting point of our bilateral relationship, we should make the best use of the High-Level People-to-People Dialogue mechanism, and build wider bridges for dialogue between civilizations and greater understanding between our peoples. To this end, I would suggest that we work together in the following four areas.

First, respect and safeguard the diversity of civilizations. It is a valuable asset of human history and the defining feature of the modern world. Today, there are over 200 countries and regions in the world, home to more than 2,500 ethnic groups who speak over 6,000 languages. These ethnic groups, through hundreds of years of trials and tribulations, have created splendid cultures of unique charm. The beauty of our world lies in the diversity and richness of different civilizations. It is the constant interflow and fusion of various civilizations that form the history of humanity. To pursue common ground amid diversity, seek harmony in differences, and achieve development through exchanges is the right approach to other civilizations. We should fully understand that countries are different in national conditions, development stage as well as history and culture. We should respect their independent choice of social system and development path. Only in this way will we have a colorful world.

Second, deepen and broaden mutual trust and consensus in the cultural field. Culture is imbedded in all aspects of economy, society and institutions and its influence is beyond time and borders. In today's world, people live in a global village. It is an era when different cultures intersect and an era that more than ever requires tolerance and understanding. Exchanges and dialogue are the fundamental way to achieve harmonious coexistence of different cultures and an important foundation of understanding and mutual trust between people. We should approach other cultures with a broad mind, and learn from others by drawing on their strengths. We should seek consensus and reduce disputes whenever possible and prevent differences from degenerating into confrontation. This is not only the common wish of people of all countries, but also the strong driving force behind human prosperity and harmony.

Third, value and advance exchanges between people. Cultural and people-to-people exchanges are about heart-to-heart communication and bond-building between people. To be honest, exchanges between Chinese and British people are still not sufficient, and misunderstanding and estrangement sometimes still obstruct mutual appreciation and affinity. Therefore, we need to institute an exchange pattern, with multiple players from both the government and non-government sectors, and oriented towards all members of society, to enable greater understanding between people from all walks of life and all age groups. We believe that when a great number of people from both China and the UK are engaged in this worthy cause, friendship between our two countries will enjoy even stronger vitality and dynamism.

Fourth, explore and expand new areas of cooperation in publishing and media. Cooperation between China and the UK in publishing and media started early and has huge potential. The UK is strong in publishing and creative industries while China is a big publisher of books. Since the founding of the People's Republic of China, over 34,000 published books have been introduced from the UK to China, making the UK the second largest copyright trading partner of China. In recent years, our cooperation in publishing and media has been diversified and conducted through multiple channels. Well-known publishers such as Oxford, Cambridge, Pearson, Penguin and Macmillan have all established good cooperative relations with China. China has rich historical and cultural resources and a large market for cultural consumption while the UK has impressive modern technologies and mature business models. Therefore, it is only natural for us to complement each other for win-win progress. The rapid development of information and internet technologies calls for major transformation of the publishing and media industry. Our two countries should make good use of the new features of cultural communication in the digital era, expand our cooperation in new media, new technology and emerging cultural industries, and jointly foster flagship projects of strategic importance, so as to offer each other the best of our respective cultural products and let the two peoples enjoy the benefit of diversified cultures.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

China, a country with 1.3 billion people, is now undergoing industrialization, urbanization and modernization unseen in human history. It pursues development in a scientific way and promotes comprehensive, coordinated and sustainable economic and social development at home, and, in its external relations, seeks peaceful development and equal cooperation with all countries for win-win progress. In this process, making cultural progress is a strategy of China for enhancing the educational and ethical standards of the whole society and creating a happier life with dignity for its people. In the past five years, the Chinese government's input in cultural programs averaged an annual growth of 22.5%. Last year, China mapped out new plans for advancing the structural reform in the cultural sector and promoting greater development and prosperity of culture. We will follow a cultural development path with Chinese characteristics, carrying forward the fine traditional culture and drawing upon the achievements of world civilizations. We will establish a public cultural service system that covers urban and rural areas and build the cultural industry into a pillar of national economy. This will not only bring out new creativity in the Chinese culture, but also make greater contribution to the progress of human civilization. It will also offer unparalleled opportunities for cultural cooperation between China and foreign countries.

Cultural exchanges is an important area of China's opening-up. We are ready to work with other countries to protect, develop, use and spread all the fine achievements of human civilization. With more and more Chinese cultural enterprises in the global market, Chinese publications have entered more than 190 countries and regions. Each year, China purchases over 10,000 copyrights on books. Best-sellers are published in China at almost the same time as in other countries. As China's cultural consumption grows the fastest in the world, we sincerely hope to strengthen exchanges with cultural institutions in the world for win-win cooperation, in a joint effort to create a bright future of cultural diversity for mankind.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

London is a city of culture and creativity. As an important event of the London Book Fair 2012 China Market Focus, this Forum is a concrete component of China-UK people-to-people exchange mechanism and provides a platform for friends from different countries to have a first-hand experience of the Chinese culture. I hope there will be candid communication and mutual learning. Shakespeare once said, actions speak louder than words. We hope more people with vision will take part in our bilateral cultural exchanges and jointly write a new chapter in China-UK cultural and people-to-people exchanges.

Two years ago, I paid a special visit to "the most creative" UK Pavilion ― the Seed Cathedral at the World Expo in Shanghai. When the Expo was over, 60,000 seeds were given to the primary and middle schools of both countries for permanent preservation. Indeed, cultural and people-to-people exchanges are like planting seeds of friendship in people's hearts which will then take root and blossom, bringing benefits to our two peoples and the whole world.

In conclusion, I wish this Forum and the London Book Fair a great success!

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