Name: His Excellency, LIU Xiaoming
Job Title: Ambassador to the UK
Organisation: Embassy of People’s Republic of China
Date: 03 February 2016
My China Voice: #2
A career diplomat, Ambassador Liu joined the Chinese Foreign Ministry in 1974. He has had a distinguished career serving as Minister and Deputy Chief of Mission to the US (1998-2001), Ambassador to Egypt (2001-2003), Ambassador to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (2006-2009). He was also Assistant Governor of Gansu Province in 2004-2005. He was born in Guangdong and lives here in the UK with his wife, Madame Hu Pinghua.
Ambassador Liu has represented the Chinese government here in the UK for more than 5 years. In this role he has been at the frontline of China-UK political engagement and dialogue during a key period of China’s continuing transformation and has played a key role in strengthening ties between China and UK into this special ‘Golden Era.’
Chopsticks Club Joint CEOs, H-J Colston and Theresa Booth met with Ambassador Liu at the Chinese Embassy in London.
Introduction by Chopsticks Club:
Ambassador, we know that you are asked to give many speeches. You often talk of your country’s four main principles of engagement with the UK. We are delighted that Chopsticks Club shares these principles, namely:
1. Deepening China-UK friendship: We have been committed to this principle since 1993. Unlike other China-UK networks our membership comprises 50% mainland Chinese and 50% British. This creates a very real platform for developing deep trust and friendship.
2. Sharing ideas & knowledge: You were our guest speaker at our very successful ‘Dialogue with the Ambassador’ event in 2010. Through high level events like that one, panel discussions and business networking involving other experts we create opportunities to share ideas openly and spread knowledge. In recent years we have responded to the greater demand in business topics and insight into changing trends in China.
3. Mutual understanding – At our core we are a China-UK professionals’ membership network. Our network has been built through trusted, personal relationships over the last 23 years. We understand Chinese culture well; we lived and worked in the ‘old’ modern China of the 1990s and we have been close observers to an ever-transforming ‘new’ China. We marvel at the ancient nature of the Chinese civilisation and its ability to re-invent itself whilst remaining true to its traditions. The majority of our members have lived and worked in China or studied mandarin. This makes us an informed group of individuals who understand the nature of China’s rise and are keen to support the Chinese people in the next stage of its development.
4. Cooperation for common development: We are optimistic about the future and ways in which UK companies can work with China for example through the Belt & Road initiative and increasing inbound investment.
Q: How do you see the China-UK relationship developing through this “Golden Era”?
Ambassador Liu: Let me start by thanking you most warmly for allowing me to reach out to your members of Chopsticks Club through this interview. Your Club and members, through its activities have played a very important role in strengthening bilateral relations between China and UK. It is these kind of efforts that laid the foundations of the State Visit last year.
President Xi Jinping’s “Super State Visit” to the UK last October was a huge success. It opened the “Golden Era” of China-UK relations. As the first year of the “Golden Era”, 2016 will witness China-UK ties being upgraded in four key areas.
First, the political mutual trust between China and the UK will be further enhanced. During President Xi’s UK visit, both countries made their commitment to building a global comprehensive strategic partnership for the 21st century. The commitment elevated the China-UK relationship to a new level. Our relationship is provided with a global vision and reflects the lasting, open and win-win features of our times.
China and the UK recognise the importance they attach to their respective political system, development path, core interests and major concerns. Both agree that the two countries need to increase shared trust and to learn from each other on the basis of equality and mutual respect. The UK stated publicly that it wants to be China’s best partner, strongest supporter and the most open cooperative partner in the west. This is the strong evidence of deeper political mutual trust between our two countries. It not only puts our ties on a more solid foundation for sound and sustainable growth, it also sets an example of greater mutual trust and cooperation between emerging countries and existing powers.
This year, China and the UK will keep up the momentum of the bilateral relations and make comprehensive plans to promote cooperation in all fields. We will continue with our high-level exchanges, hold a new round of the Annual Prime Ministers’ Meeting, and work closely to ensure the success of the High-Level Culture and People-to-People Dialogue, the Economic and Financial Dialogue, the Strategic Dialogue and the High-Level Security Dialogue.
Turning to the second area of upgraded relations. Here the win-win cooperation will be enhanced. China and the UK seek to align their respective development strategies, including China’s Belt and Road Initiative, Made in China 2025 and the Yangtze River Economic Belt and the Britain’s National Infrastructure Plan, UK Industry 2050 and the Northern Powerhouse. Working together to match these strategies will help release the untapped cooperation potential. We will also further our cooperation in finance, nuclear energy, high-speed rail, science and technology, creativity industry etc. Efforts in these areas will produce tangible results and create a promising prospect. China is also looking forward to reinforcing cooperation with Britain under the framework of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank.
Thirdly, upgraded relations will be seen through China-UK cooperation on global issues. China and the UK will maintain close communication and coordination in international organizations such as the UN. In addition, we will make joint efforts to improve global economic governance and address international and regional hotspot issues. We will explore the building of a new partnership for development and initiate peacekeeping dialogue. On the area of fighting corruption we will cooperate more closely. We will start joint research and study to respond to a series of global challenges including antimicrobial resistance. There will be other areas; for example, we will work for joint response to climate change, illegal trade of wildlife and a number of other issues.
In 2016, the UK will host the Syria Donors Conference and the Anti-Corruption Summit, and China the G20 Summit and the related meetings. We must closely coordinate each other’s efforts in these international meetings.
The fourth area of upgraded relations is where cultural and people-to-people exchanges will continue to expand. In early January, our two countries started to issue two-year multiple entry visas on reciprocal basis, which facilitates mutual visits and helps increase the exchanges and friendship between our two peoples. We will step up cooperation in culture, education, sports, health, youth as well as sub-national cooperation. Discussion is ongoing about China-UK Tourism Year activities in each other’s country. All these efforts will create a new momentum to boost the friendly exchanges in all areas and at all levels.
All in all, I am confident that with a strategic and long-term vision, China and the UK will lift our relationship to a new level in the “Golden Era”.
Q: How can the Chopsticks Club best support China-UK relations?
Ambassador Liu: The Chopsticks Club is a pioneer in non-governmental exchanges. It is a powerful testament to the vigour and vibrancy of the Club that since it was established in 1993, the number of its members has grown rapidly from less than 100 to now over 4,000. In addition, the Club increasingly makes valuable contributions to the growth of China-UK relations.
Building on the two decades of efforts and achievements of the Club I believe that the Club can contribute even more to closer China-UK ties in the “Golden Era”. I suggest that the following aspects are where the Chopsticks Club might focus on in order to continue with its valuable role.
First, it is my sincere hope that the Chopsticks Club will adhere to its values such as integrity, collaboration and friendship, and spread the “Chopsticks spirit” of equality, mutual learning and win-win cooperation, so as to deepen the non-governmental exchanges and cooperation between our two countries.
Second, more diversified forms of activities, with an aim to explore the huge opportunities in culture, education, commerce and other areas, will stimulate the creativity and enthusiasm in China-UK cooperation and contribute more great ideas to the sound growth of our ties.
Third, I look forward to a further enlarged ‘circle of friends’ of the Chopsticks Club, so that more people from both countries will join to share know-how, to engage in cultural dialogue, and to enhance friendship. This is the way to grow and consolidate the public support for China-UK relations and to power the non-governmental exchanges and cooperation between our two countries.
Q: Do you feel that the UK sometimes misunderstands China?
Ambassador Liu: It is true that in the UK and other western countries, there are people who do not know much about China or have misunderstandings. This is partly because of the differences between our two countries in the history, culture and development stage.
But, prejudice also plays a part. For example, the media sometimes fail to look at China comprehensively and objectively and instead look for negative news for eye-catching headlines. It is understandable how lack of knowledge about China or having misunderstandings might induce fear amongst some people as they observe China rising in the world. In response, the Chinese Embassy is always ready to help increase understanding about China here in Britain. For my part, I try my best to meet people from all walks of life, to share with them China’s stories and explain to them the importance of China-UK relations. I also give interviews and write articles to answer questions from the British public. Those questions range from why China invests in the UK’s nuclear plants to China’s human rights progress and cyber security issues.
It is my firm belief that better understanding requires concerted efforts. That is where contributions of organisations, like the Chopsticks Club, play such a vital role. My embassy will share more of China’s stories and ideas with your Club and members so you can help communicate these to the British public. And, in turn, I hope that different sectors of the British society, especially the media, will look at China and introduce China in a comprehensive, objective, fair and reasonable way. By working together in these ways, the British public will gain more knowledge and a bigger picture of a real China.
Q: What is the biggest impact that China’s rise will have on itself and the rest of the world?
Ambassador Liu: China’s peaceful development is the result of the hard work of the Chinese people and has significant impact upon China itself. It will help build China into a wealthy, democratic and modern socialist country and it will bring better life and happiness to every Chinese.
Now the Chinese people are working tirelessly to renew the Chinese nation - we call it the “Chinese dream”. It contains two goals.
The first goal is building a moderately prosperous society in China by 2020. To reach this goal, China will comprehensively deepen reforms, uphold the rule of the law, and strengthen the discipline of the party. China will follow through the blueprint of the 13th Five Year Plan and make serious efforts to implement the five development concepts, namely, innovation, balanced growth, green economy, opening-up and inclusive development.
The second goal is to build China into a modern socialist country around 2050, when China celebrates the centenary of the founding of the People’s Republic.
The realisation of the “Chinese dream” means better life for one fifth of the world’s population. This is the biggest impact that China’s rise will have on itself. It is also the biggest impact of China’s rise on the world. Just as it showed that in recent years China has emerged as the driving engine of global economic growth.
Some in the west cast doubts on China’s development and worry about China’s rise posing threat to the world. I think these doubts and worries are groundless. What happened in recent years has shown that the international community welcomes China’s rise with growing recognition of China’s development path. More and more people are looking to China playing a greater role in international and regional affairs.
I want to stress that China resolutely follows the path of peaceful development and rejects the logic that a country will invariably seek hegemony when it grows in strength. What China seeks is to build through international efforts a community of shared future for mankind and a new type of international relations featuring win-win cooperation. We live in a world where the prevailing trend is development. China’s peaceful development is part of it and will create greater momentum and opportunities for the common development of the world. As China grows, it will gradually take up more responsibilities, and contribute more of its wisdom and strengths to world peace and development. Far from being a cost on the interests of others, China’s development is a contribution to the shared interests of all.
China is committed to upholding world peace and development. We will continue to promote a new type of major country relationship featuring sound interaction and win-win cooperation. China will continue to cooperate with other countries to meet global challenges. We will continue to work on political solutions to hotspot issues in the Middle East, Africa and China’s neighborhood in a constructive manner. The Chinese nation will earnestly fulfill its pledge on UN peacekeeping missions. And China will continue in its own approach to take part in international anti-terrorism cooperation and uphold the international non-proliferation system.
China wants to take an active part in global economic governance. As the second largest economy in the world, China contributes one third of the world’s growth. This year, the G20 Summit will be held in Hangzhou, China. Following the principles of openness, transparency and inclusiveness, we will stay in close coordination with other members to ensure the success of the summit and make new contribution to world growth.
Q: What is your lasting impression of the UK, its people and its culture?
Ambassador Liu: Over the past six years as the Chinese Ambassador in the UK, I have visited many places in this country and had in-depth exchange of views with people from many different sectors. The UK boasts a time-honoured history and unique culture. It is home to enchanting scenery and talented people. All these have left on me moving, deep and lasting memories. Here are some of my deepest impressions.
The first is open-mindedness and vision of this country. Despite the profound changes of the international architecture in the 21st century, the UK, with its important role in promoting world peace and development, remains one of the most important forces in today’s world.
The UK worked actively for economic transition and was among the first to overcome the impact of the global financial crisis. The UK made a wise and strategic choice in growing relations with China, which are concrete evidence that the UK is an open-minded nation and good at long-term thinking. It is of great significance how the UK pledged to be China’s strongest supporter and best partner in the west. The UK made a very wise move when it took the lead to join the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank. The UK has made a big impact with how it worked vigorously to facilitate the internationalization of RMB. China warmly welcomes how the UK has supported the building of the Belt and Road.
My second impression is how British culture is rich and profound. In London alone, I have enjoyed various kinds of cultural activities, ranging from British literature to drama and music, from song and dance to creativity and visual arts. The exhibitions at the British Museum, the National Gallery, Victoria and Albert Museum, and many others have been impressive and stimulating. As Samuel Johnson once put it, “When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life.” I am deeply impressed by the UK’s colorful traditional culture and diversified and creative modern arts, and never feel tired of them!
My third impression is how the British people are having increasing interests in China. Every day the Chinese Embassy receives mails, emails and calls from different sectors and places around the UK. I receive invitations from schools, enterprises, think tanks and societies to deliver speeches or attend China-related events. Interaction with the political circle, the business community, the academia and people of all walks of life gives me the impression that more and more British want closer China-UK exchanges and cooperation and are willing to do their part for better and stronger China-UK relations.
Let me conclude these thoughts and impressions by wishing you and your Chopstick Club members a very happy and successful Year of the Monkey!
This Interview took place at the Chinese Embassy in London, 03 February 2016.