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Keynote Speech by H.E. Ambassador Liu Xiaoming at the APPCG Webinar: Stay Committed to Win-Win Cooperation

(From Chinese Embassy in UK)


Chinese Embassy in the UK, 23 June 2020

Chairman Richard Graham,
Vice Chairmen,
My Lords and MPs,
Ladies and Gentlemen:

Good morning!

It is a real delight to join you online.

The last APPCG event I attended was Chinese New Year reception at the Palace of Westminster early this year. A lot have happened in the past five months.

The continued spread of Covid-19 is bringing profound changes to the world. This pandemic has not only changed our way of meeting and communicating but also posed unprecedented challenges to mankind.

Against this background, there have been discussions and debates on China-UK relationship here in this country. Some people think it could no longer be "business as usual" after the epidemic is over. Some call for a "review" of the relations and "decoupling" so as to make Britain "less strategically dependent" on China. Some even clamour for a new "cold war" against China.

Of course, the majority still believe that China is an indispensable partner for a "global Britain", and developing relations with China is of critical importance to the UK.

Today, I would like to take this opportunity to share with you my understanding of the world and China-UK relationship, especially

  • what has changed,
  • what has not changed, and
  • how to properly handle this important relationship.

Covid-19 has changed the world profoundly in the following four aspects:

First, it has posed grave challenges to global public health.

Covid-19 is the most wide-spread pandemic in the past century. As of today, it has spread to more than 210 countries and regions, infected over 8 million people and claimed over 400,000 lives.

This reminds us that major infectious diseases are still grave challenges to the safety and health of mankind. This is not the first major public health emergency mankind has encountered. It will certainly not be the last. Countries must stand united to fight this battle hand in hand.

Second, Covid-19 has dealt a severe blow to the world economy.

Since the outbreak, global supply and demand have both plunged, international travel and trade have been facing restrictions, and global industrial and supply chains have been under severe strain.

The IMF predicted a 3% contraction in this year's world economy, while the WTO's prediction for international trade is 13-32% contraction. There is a risk that this might evolve into the most severe recession since the Great Depression of the last century.

Currently many countries are bringing their economies gradually back on track, but an overall recovery for the world economy remains a daunting task.

Third, Covid-19 is a grave test to global governance.

In face of the unprecedented challenges of our times, mankind needs unprecedented solidarity and cooperation. This is true in epidemic response. This is also true for economic recovery. It means countries must uphold multilateralism.

However, some countries are doing the opposite,

  • resorting to unilateralism and protectionism,
  • taking advantage of the pandemic to "decouple" economies,
  • stigmatizing other countries,
  • And even clamouring for a new "cold war".

Such moves severely undermine the joint response to global public health crisis and pose grave challenges to the post-War international governance system and multilateral mechanisms.

Fourth, Covid-19 has reminded the world that all mankind belong to a community with a shared future.

Solidarity and cooperation are the most effective weapons to win the battle against the virus.

The more difficulties and challenges we face, the more we need exchanges and cooperation in order to build up consensus and strengthen confidence.

The more misgivings and doubts we encounter, the more we need mutual learning between different civilisations in order to draw strengths from others and achieve common progress.

In face of the major challenges of Covid-19,

  • Do we remain open or hide behind closed doors?
  • Do we embrace cooperation or descend to confrontation?
  • Do we build bridges or erect walls?
  • Do we pursue win-win results or play the zero-sum game?

These questions test the wisdom, reason and sense of responsibility of every country in the world.

The world is experiencing profound changes. So is China-UK relationship. However, I think China-UK ties remain unchanged in the following three aspects.

First, the global and strategic importance of this relationship remains unchanged.

As permanent members of the UN Security Council, China and the UK are both countries with global influence. We both have on our shoulders the important mission of safeguarding world peace and development.

In recent years,

  • China and the UK have engaged in sound cooperation within the frameworks of the UN, the G20 and the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank.
  • We have extensive common interests in upholding multilateralism, free trade and the rule-based international system.
  • In particular, we share consensus on building an open world economy and promoting reform in global governance.

China and the UK have played an active and leading role in international cooperation on environmental protection and climate change. We have maintained communication and supported each other in hosting COP15 and COP26 in our respective countries.

Our two countries have also had close communication and coordination on major international and regional issues. We have contributed to the political settlement of hot-spots issues such as the Iran nuclear programme, the Korea Peninsula and Syria. Such efforts have provided more stability and certainty for the world.

Since the outbreak of Covid-19, China and the UK have coordinated our policies and shared experience. We worked with each other on R&D of vaccine and medicines, supported each other with medical supplies and engaged in international cooperation.

Earlier this month, China's Premier Li Keqiang attended the Global Vaccine Summit hosted by the UK Government. He announced China's donation to GAVI.

  • Both our two countries support the leading role of WHO in the global response to the pandemic.
  • Both believe we should help developing countries fight the pandemic and achieve economic recovery and social development.
  • Both emphasize greater accessibility and affordability of vaccine in developing countries.

China-UK joint response to Covid-19 adds new contents to our bilateral relationship. There is a great deal our two countries can do together to make new contribution to safeguarding and improving global public health.

Second, the complementarity and win-win nature of China-UK relationship remains unchanged.

The economies of our two countries are highly complementary; Our interests are deeply intertwined; And our mutually-beneficial cooperation has been expanding.

The UK is the third largest trading partner of China in the EU. It is the largest destination for Chinese investment in Europe. China is the third largest export market for the UK.

China-UK cooperation is both vigorous and resilient. Even Covid-19 can not stop us.

In March this year, I attended the event marking the acquisition of British Steel by China's Jingye Group. This deal saved 3,200 jobs for the local community. But that is not all because Jingye also pledged 1.2-billion-pound investment in the next ten years to transform and upgrade British Steel.

Last week, as Shanghai-London Stock Connect marked its first anniversary, China Pacific Insurance Group listed its Global Depository Receipts on the London Stock Exchange. This was a new highlight of China-UK financial cooperation despite the challenge from Covid-19.

China is one of the first countries to have brought Covid-19 under control and restarted the economy.

At the "Two Sessions" concluded last month, the Chinese Government emphasized once again that no matter how the world might change, China will remain committed to deeper reform and further opening up.

At the moment, the Chinese Government is

  • taking further steps to implement the Foreign Investment Law;
  • shortening the negative list for foreign investment by a large margin;
  • promoting the building of pilot free trade zones and free trade ports;
  • and fostering a level-playing field for domestic and foreign businesses.

China is faced with opportunities to accelerate its economic transformation and upgrading. The outbreak of Covid-19 has revealed the enormous vitality and potential of "stay-home economy", "cloud office", digital economy, artificial intelligence, and health care. There is every reason to believe that China will remain a major powerhouse for world economic growth.

The steady recovery of China's economy will create more opportunities for China-UK business cooperation. It will also help the UK realize economic recovery and achieve greater development after Brexit.

Third, the mutual appeal of our cultures and the fact that there is so much we can learn from each other remains unchanged.

China and the UK differ in history, culture, social system and development stage. But our history and culture are both time-honoured and splendid.

Recent years have witnessed close exchanges and cooperation between our two countries in the areas of education, culture, science and technology, youth, sports and tourism. This has enhanced mutual understanding, promoted cultural integration, strengthened the bond between our peoples and will ultimately enable us to carry on China-UK friendship from generation to generation.

Going forward, our two countries could adopt a more inclusive attitude and a broader vision, transcend differences in our cultures, and tear down the ideological fence. We should enhance understanding of each other's culture and development path, deepen exchanges and cooperation in all areas, and become a shining example of open and inclusive exchanges and mutual learning between different civilizations.

Now let me turn to the third part of my speech and explore whether and how we can achieve greater progress in China-UK relationship when we put the pandemic behind us.

I think the following three principles hold the key to the answer.

  • The first principle is equality and mutual respect.

Seventy years ago, the UK was the first major Western country to recognize New China. It is true we had differences throughout the past 70 years. But we have always found more common interests than differences. Our two countries are not driven apart by our differences. On the contrary, we have come closer because of common interests.

A look back at the history of China-UK relationship tells us that when we treated each other as equals, sought common ground despite differences and respected each other's core interests and major concerns, China-UK relationship would move forward in leaps and bounds. Otherwise, our relationship would suffer setbacks or even retrogression.

The most prominent challenge we face now is in relation to Hong Kong Special Administrative Region. Twenty-three years after the handover, some people in this country have yet to bid farewell to the colonial past. They keep making irresponsible remarks about Hong Kong and interfering in China's domestic affairs.

When China's top legislature, the National People's Congress (NPC), adopted the decision at this year's "Two Sessions" on national security legislation for Hong Kong SAR, and the draft law is placed under review by the NPC Standing Committee, some people once again made unwarranted and irresponsible remarks to demonize this legislative action. China strongly opposes this.

Why is the national security legislation for Hong Kong SAR necessary?

In the past 23 years since the handover, "One Country, Two Systems" has achieved tremendous success in Hong Kong SAR. However, this great city has been "defenseless" in terms of national security. This is caused by severe stigmatization and demonization of Article 23 of the Basic Law, which provides for the making of a national security law for the SAR. As a result, no such law has been enacted, making the SAR a risk and a loophole for national security.

In particular, since the turbulence over the proposed amendment bill in 2019, anti-China elements seeking to disrupt Hong Kong have clamoured for "Hong Kong independence" and "self determination". They have been engaged in separatist activities that threaten national unity and created terror in the city through violence, including beating, smashing, looting and arson.

These activities have gravely undermined the social stability, economic prosperity and public safety in Hong Kong. They have broken the bottom line of "One Country, Two Systems" and severely endangered China's national security. They have landed Hong Kong in the gravest situation since the handover.

As is in all countries, safeguarding national security is the primary responsibility of the Central Government and falls within the power of the Central Government.

Here in the UK, it is the Central Government and Parliament that are responsible for matters relating to national security in England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales.

In China, it is the same. Therefore, it is within the power of the National People's Congress to plug the loophole that compromises national security in Hong Kong through legislation in accordance with the Constitution and the Basic Law. This is entirely reasonable and lawful. This is something that must be done.

This legislation targets only the few actions and activities that gravely jeopardize national security.

  • It will not impact the high degree of autonomy in Hong Kong.
  • It will not affect Hong Kong's independent judicial power, including the power of final adjudication.
  • On the contrary, it will provide better safeguards for the lawful rights and freedom of the Hong Kong residents.
  • It will ensure better protection of the legitimate rights and interests of foreign investors in the city.
  • It will guarantee better rule of law and business environment in Hong Kong.
  • And it will strengthen people's confidence in "One Country, Two Systems", and in Hong Kong's development in the future.

It has already won the support of the majority of the Hong Kong people. Some British businesses, including HSBC, Standard Chartered, Jardine Matheson and Swire Group have expressed their support. And many countries have also upheld justice and expressed their appreciation and support for this legislation.

Hong Kong is home to more than 300,000 British citizens and over 700 British firms. A prosperous and stable Hong Kong is in the interests of both China and the UK.

I believe that everyone who hopes to see long-term prosperity and stability in Hong Kong as well as steady and sustained development of "One Country, Two Systems" would understand the need for and support the national security legislation for the Hong Kong SAR.

It is my hope that MPs and Members of the Lords will be able to appreciate the big picture and major trend, and view this legislation from an objective, fair and reasonable perspective.

The second principle is to regard each other as opportunities and partners, rather than threats or rivals.

President Xi Jinping said, "History will demonstrate that the pursuit of the Chinese dream will bring to the world opportunities rather than threats, peace rather than turmoil, and progress rather than backwardness."

China is committed to peaceful development, pursues peaceful coexistence, mutually-beneficial cooperation and common development with all countries in the world, including the UK, and is ready to be a strategic partner of a "global Britain".

In recent days, there have been many discussions about Huawei and its presence in the UK. Some people urged the UK Government to change its decision on allowing Huawei in its 5G development and to impose restrictions on Chinese investment. This is a cause for concern in the Chinese business community in this country.

The question of Huawei is not simply about whether a private company from China is allowed to take part in the UK's 5G development. More importantly, it is about how the UK perceives China. Does it see China as a partner, a rival, or even a threat?

Huawei has been here for 19 years. It has worked for the economic and social progress locally and contributed to the development of the telecommunications sector of this country. It is a good example of win-win cooperation between China and the UK.

From 2012 to 2017, Huawei brought two billion pounds into Britain through investment and procurement, and created 26,000 jobs. In early 2018, Huawei pledged a further investment of three billion pounds in the UK over the next five years. As of today, over one billion pounds have been put in place.

Huawei is now working with NCSC (the National Cyber Security Centre of the UK) to improve the weak links in its products and technology, so as to do a better job in helping the UK realize its goal of full 5G coverage by the year 2025.

The decision on Huawei also matters to the UK's image in the world -- whether it remains a supporter of free trade and open cooperation, or not. This will have a very important bearing on the confidence of businesses from China and other countries in the UK.

It is my hope that the UK Government will, in light of the fundamental interests of the UK and the big picture of China-UK relationship, come to an independent judgment and decision, and continue to foster an open, fair, transparent and non-discriminatory environment here in this country for Chinese businesses, including Huawei.

The third principle is to manage differences through equal-footed dialogues rather than "megaphone diplomacy".

It is natural that China and the UK do not always see eye to eye. The key is to deal with the differences in a proper manner.

Take human rights for example. Some politicians have the inclination of politicizing human rights and applying "double standards".

But if they have no bias and take a look at what China has achieved in safeguarding human rights, they would recognize the rapid and tremendous progress. In the past 40 years since China started reform and opening up,

  • China has grown to be the world's second largest economy.
  • It has lifted 850 million people out of poverty and contributed over 70% of the world's total poverty reduction.
  • Life expectancy for average Chinese is 77.3, approaching the level in developed countries.

China has the confidence and capability to overcome Covid-19 and other difficulties, and achieve its goal of eliminating absolute poverty and completing the building of a moderately prosperous society in all aspects this year.

Of course, no country is perfect. There is room for improvement on human rights in every country. There are always differences of views and sometimes even frictions, but the solution of differences can not be found in "megaphone diplomacy".

China stands ready to engage all the relevant parties in constructive dialogues in an open, candid, inclusive and cooperative attitude and on the basis of equality and mutual respect. However, we strongly oppose smears and accusations based on arrogance and bias.

China and the UK should make full use of existing channels, such as the China-UK Human Rights Dialogue, and engage in constructive discussions on issues of common concern.

My Lords and MPs,

Ladies and Gentlemen:

In the past 23 years since its establishment, APPCG has worked hard to promote dialogues and exchanges between the UK Parliament and China's NPC, and to enhance cooperation across the board. You have made significant contribution to better understanding and deeper trust between our two countries.

President Xi Jinping said,

In a closed room, you run into walls and can never get anywhere;

But if you open up, the road under your feet will become wider and wider.

It is my sincere hope that APPCG will continue to be a pioneer in enhancing understanding of China in the UK, a supporter for China-UK relations, a promoter of China-UK cooperation and a contributor to China-UK friendship.

I am confident that, with the concerted efforts of both sides, China and the UK will emerge from the pandemic with stronger relationship, broader cooperation and deeper friendship between our peoples.

Thank you!

Now I am ready to take your questions.

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