In its autumn party conference issue, the Politics First Magazine published a signed article by Ambassador Liu Xiaoming entitled Invaluable Lessons of 65 Years of China-UK Relations. The full text is as follows:
During my nine odd years in London as Chinese Ambassador, I had been frequently asked about the most important lessons that can be learnt from China-UK relations so far. As a Chinese adage goes, "Knowing history helps understand what is happening today." As we celebrate the 65th anniversary of the establishment of China-UK diplomatic relationship at the level of chargé d'affaires, it is time to review the extraordinary journey of China-UK relations and draw invaluable lessons, which I summarise as five R's.
The first R stands for Respect. This is the basis for the four historic leaps in China-UK relations over the past 65 years – the establishment of diplomatic relationship at the level of chargé d'affaires in 1954, the establishment of ambassadorial diplomatic relationship in 1972, the handover of Hong Kong to China, and the beginning of the China-UK "Golden Era" marked by President Xi Jinping's visit to the UK in 2015. At all these critical junctures, China and the UK made the right strategic choice on the basis of equality and mutual respect.
A sound and stable China-UK relationship is in the interests of both countries. It is important that the two countries continue to keep in mind the larger picture and long-term interests of the bilateral relations, keep to the right direction and resist disruptions. We should regard each other's development as opportunities rather than challenges, still less threats. It is also important that the two countries continue to respect each other, enhance strategic dialogue and deepen political mutual trust so as to keep the China-UK "Golden Era" on the right track.
The second R stands for Reciprocity. Based on reciprocity, China-UK trade and investment have grown exponentially in the past 65 years, with trade soaring more than 5,000 times from only tens of millions of dollars to 80.44 billion dollars last year, and investment from practically zero to 22 billion dollars of Chinese non-financial direct investment in the UK and 24.5 billion dollars of British direct investment in China.
In recent years, China-UK cooperation played a leading role in the business cooperation between the China and the industrialized countries. The UK was the first to issue RMB sovereign bond, the first to join the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, the first to appoint a Belt and Road special envoy and an expert board, and the first to issue the Joint Strategy for Science, Technology and Innovation with China. At the first China International Import Expo last year, China and the UK signed business contracts worth more than 2 billion pounds. At the tenth China-UK Economic and Financial Dialogue (EFD) last June, the two countries reached 69 outcomes and launched the Shanghai London Stock Connect.
As the UK is actively developing trade partnerships around the world and building a global Britain after Brexit, and as China further deepens reform and opening up wider to the world, the two countries face huge opportunities and broad prospects for mutually-beneficial cooperation. Implementing the outcomes of the EFD is one of such opportunities which enables China and the UK to deepen cooperation on the Belt and Road Initiative and match their development strategies such as China's 13th Five-Year Plan and the UK's Modern Industrial Strategy, the "Northern Powerhouse" and "Midlands Engine for Growth". This will create more opportunities for trade, mutual investment and cooperation on infrastructure building, equipment manufacturing, high technology, financial services and innovation between China and the UK. Working together, the two countries can make the pie of their common interests bigger.
At the same time, China hopes that the UK will continue to foster a transparent, just and non-discriminatory business environment for Chinese companies, including Huawei, to invest and do business in the UK, which will deliver more benefits to the two countries and their peoples.
The third R stands for Responsibility. China and the UK shoulder important responsibilities for the world where 65 years of tremendous changes have turned the popular tide in favour of openness, connectivity and win-win cooperation, and against the cold-war mentality and "zero-sum game".
China and the UK, as permanent members of the UN Security Council, major countries of global influence, and supporters of multilateralism, free trade and the rule-based international trade system, must demonstrate the courage to shoulder historical responsibilities. They should join hands to hold high the banner of multilateralism and open economy, oppose unilateralism and protectionism, address global challenges such as climate change, terrorism, cyber security and wildlife protection, and promote the reform of the global governance system. Working together, the two countries can help build a community with a shared future for mankind.
The fourth R stands for Recognition, i.e. to recognise and appreciate each other's culture. Over the past 65 years, China-UK cultural and people-to-people exchanges have become closer, which laid a solid foundation of public support for the sound interactions between the two countries despite various changes in the world. Sixty-five years ago, there were few mutual visits between the two countries. Today, there are 168 flights per week and more than 4,000 mutual visits per day. The UK has more Chinese students, Confucius Institutes and Confucius classrooms than any other country in Europe. Nearly 200,000 Chinese young people are studying in the UK.
Lasting relationship is built on heart-to-heart exchanges. History shows that no civilisation is superior to others, and exchanges and mutual learning enrich civilisations. China and the UK are great civilizations, both being inclusive and open. The two countries should enhance understanding of each other's culture and deepen exchanges and cooperation across the board in the spirit of inclusiveness, so as to consolidate public support for bilateral relations and serve as an example for cultural and people-to-people exchanges between the East and the West.
The fifth R stands for Resolving disputes. China and the UK differ in social system, history, cultural heritage and development stage. It is natural that the two countries do not always see eye to eye. China-UK relations had not always been smooth in the past 65 years, but as long as the two countries respect each other, treat each other as equals and manage and control differences appropriately, China-UK relations can achieve sound and steady development. Otherwise, this relationship will encounter setbacks or even backpedal.
China and the UK should draw lessons from history, respect each other's sovereignty and territorial integrity, and respect each other's core interests and major concerns. Moreover, the two countries should refrain from interfering in each other's internal affairs, harming each other's core interests, undermining strategic mutual trust, or challenging each other's bottom lines.
Take the Hong Kong issue for example. Hong Kong is part of China after the handover, and a prosperous and stable Hong Kong is in the interests of both China and the UK. China hopes that the UK recognizes this and refrains from interfering in Hong Kong's affairs or doing anything that undermines the prosperity or stability of Hong Kong, so that Hong Kong will be an "asset" rather than a "liability" in China-UK relations.
China and the UK are both in a new stage of development. China will celebrate the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic and build a moderately prosperous society in all aspects. Here in the UK, Prime Minister Johnson has pledged to recover Britain's "natural and historic role as an enterprising, outward-looking and truly global Britain, generous in temper and engaged with the world".
China-UK relationship is standing at a new historical starting point and faced with new, historic opportunities. Winston Churchill once said, "In history lies all the secrets of statecraft." This applies to China-UK relations. Going forward, China and the UK should cherish the outcomes of 65 years of relations, learn the five important lessons, and work to ensure that China-UK relations go steady and far in the 21st century.