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Remarks by Chinese Ambassador to the UK Zheng Zeguang at the 48 Group Club “Icebreakers” Chinese New Year Dinner 2024

(From Chinese Embassy in UK)

2024-02-06 19:44

On 5 February 2024, the “Icebreakers” Chinese New Year Dinner was jointly hosted by the 48 Group Club, the China Britain Business Council, and the China Chamber of Commerce in the UK. Over 500 guests including Mr Stephen Perry, President Emeritus of the 48 Group Club, Sir Sherard Cowper-Coles, Chair of the CBBC, Mr Fang Wenjian, Chairman of CCCUK, MPs, business leaders and people from different sectors were present at the event. Premier Li Qiang of the State Council of China sent a congratulatory message to the gathering. H.E. Ambassador Zheng Zeguang and Councilor Hua Mei, wife of Ambassador Zheng, attended the event. Ambassador Zheng read out Premier Li’s message and delivered remarks on the occasion. The full text of the remarks is as follows:

Mr Stephen Perry,
Sir Sherard Cowper-Coles,
Mr Fang Wenjian,
Mr Jack Perry,
Ladies and gentlemen,
Friends,

It gives me great pleasure to attend the “Icebreakers” Chinese New Year Dinner 2024. Thank you to the 48 Group Club, CBBC and CCCUK for the kind invitation. On behalf of my wife and my colleagues at the Chinese Embassy, I would like to extend our best wishes for the New Year to you all.

Now, I have the great honour to read out Premier Li Qiang’s congratulatory message to tonight’s celebration. The full text is as follows:

On the occasion of the Chinese New Year, on behalf of the Chinese government, I would like to extend sincere greetings and best wishes to friends from the 48 Group Club and across all sectors in both China and the UK.

Last July, President Xi Jinping sent a congratulatory letter to the event commemorating the 70th anniversary of the "Icebreaking Mission" in China-UK trade. In the letter, President Xi spoke highly of the British pioneers represented by the late Mr Jack Perry, who made great contributions to opening up trade exchange channels between the two countries and the sustained development of bilateral ties, and gave full recognition to the “icebreaking” spirit featuring farsightedness, audacity and open cooperation.

Over the years, the 48 Group Club has worked proactively to advance economic and trade exchanges and people-to-people interactions, which has promoted mutual benefit and mutual understanding between the two sides. The historic contributions made by the elder generations of British friends will always be remembered. And I believe that the new generation of “icebreakers” will carry on their legacy and keep moving forward China-UK friendship.

What has happened in the past decades fully proves that closer cooperation between China and the UK, two permanent members of the UN Security Council and major global economies, not only serves the fundamental interests of both sides but also contributes to world peace and prosperity.

In today’s world where economic recovery is weak and global challenges are increasing, China stands ready to enhance coordination and deepen cooperation with the UK to jointly advance the common development of both countries and the world at large.

It is hoped that people with vision from all walks of life in both countries will carry forward the “icebreaking” spirit, continue to take active and vigorous actions, and make new contributions to the friendship between the Chinese and British people and mutually beneficial cooperation between the two countries at a higher level.

I wish you all good health and all the best in the Year of the Dragon!

                              Li Qiang

                      Premier of the State Council

                    The People’s Republic of China

                       Beijing, 5 February 2024

Ladies and gentlemen,

This message from Premier Li speaks volumes about the importance the Chinese government attaches to China-UK relations and expresses full recognition of the contributions made by generations of “icebreakers” to China-UK friendship.

It sends out a call for action to people across all sectors in both countries to promote the steady development of China-UK relations.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Over the past year, in the face of a complex and daunting external environment, China has stayed the course to pursue modernisation through the Chinese path, taken concrete actions to advance high-quality development, and made new achievements.

China’s economy scored a 5.2% growth and contributed around one third of global economic growth. With domestic demand accounting for more than 110% to growth, the internal drivers of China’s economy were stronger.

The per capita disposable income grew by 6.1%, so people’s livelihoods were better guaranteed. With investment in high-tech industries increasing by 10.3%, fruitful outcomes were achieved in technological innovation.

And China also made remarkable progress in green and low-carbon transition, leading the world in terms of total installed renewable energy capacity and contributing one fourth of the world’s increased area of afforestation.

China has taken more measures to advance high-standard opening up. We have removed all restrictive measures on foreign investment in manufacturing early on. And most recently, we have lifted the caps on foreign equity holdings in banking and insurance institutions.

China is applying high standards to its implementation of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (RCEP), aligning itself with the economic and trade rules of the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) and the Digital Economy Partnership Agreement (DEPA), and expanding a globally-oriented network of high-standard free trade areas.

And we continue to foster a market-oriented, law-based and world-class business environment.

Looking ahead, there will still be a few mountains to climb, but  the positive trajectory of China’s long-term development remains unchanged.

This is because China has strong political leadership and consistent major policies, the demand of a supersize market, a fully-fledged industrial system, fast-growing technological innovation, and high-caliber workforce and entrepreneurs. These advantages give China enormous potentials and great resilience. 

Ladies and gentlemen,

Our world today is undergoing increasing turbulence and accelerating transformation unseen in a century. Against such a backdrop, it is all the more important to make sure that the China-UK relationship develops on an even keel, along the right track. It is my hope that people with insight from both countries will actively respond to Premier Li’s call, and be “icebreakers” in the new era.

We need to mainstream the right perspective. A China that pursues modernisation through the Chinese path and strives for a community with a shared future for mankind means opportunities for all countries, and positive energy for world peace and development.

China-UK relations should not be defined by division or rivalry, still less confrontation. Rather, cooperation is definitely the right choice that serves the interests of both countries.

We need to follow the spirit of mutual respect. Respecting each other’s sovereignty, security and development interests is the prerequisite for the smooth development of state-to-state relations. China never meddles in the internal affairs of other countries. And we firmly oppose interference in our internal affairs by any country.

China and the UK should use dialogue to narrow differences, expand common understandings and increase mutual trust on the basis of mutual respect.

We need to promote mutually beneficial cooperation. We are already important trading partners and maintain close educational and cultural exchanges. But the full potentials are yet to be tapped.

Both countries should further enhance cooperation in finance, investment, new energy, bio-medicine and digital economy, expand people-to-people exchanges, and explore collaboration in third markets to complement each other and achieve win-win results.
We need to contribute to addressing global challenges. As permanent members of the UN Security Council and major global economies, China and the UK should enhance communication and coordination on climate change, biodiversity, global AI governance, and regional and international hotspots, and make greater contributions to world peace, stability and prosperity.

Let’s work together to carry forward the "icebreaking" spirit, stand up to challenges, and forge ahead to deepen mutual understanding, friendship and cooperation between our two peoples.

In the spirit of the Chinese New Year, I wish you and your families happiness, prosperity and all the best in the Year of the Dragon.

Thank you.

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