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Chargé d'Affaires a.i. Chen Wen Attends 2021 "Icebreakers" Chinese New Year Online Celebration

On February 3, 2021 “Icebreakers” Chinese New Year Celebration was jointly hosted by the 48 Group Club, China Chamber of Commerce in the UK (CCCUK), and China-Britain Business Council (CBBC) online. Chinese Premier Li Keqiang sent a special video message to the event. Chargé d'Affaires a.i. Chen Wen of the Chinese Embassy in the UK, Stephen Perry, Chairman of the 48 Group Club, Fang Wenjian, Chairman of CCCUK, Sir Sherard Cowper-Coles, Chairman of CBBC, Sir Vince Cable, former Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, John Edwards, Her Majesty's Trade Commissioner to China, and David Sayer, Vice Chairman of KPMG, spoke atht he event. Around 1,000 guests from Chinese and British sectors of business, academia and media joined the event.

(Photograph: Rao Aimin/Xinhua News Agency)

Premier Li extended his Chinese New Year greetings and sincere wishes to the 48 Group Club and all the Chinese and British friends who attended the event online. He said, 68 years ago a group of visionary British businessmen, represented by Mr. Jack Perry, went on an “Icebreaker Mission” to China, which opened the British trade ties with China and had since left an invaluable legacy in the friendly exchanges between the two countries.

“Each year, we gather together to renew the spirits of the founding Icebreakers. We reflect on the past, draw inspiration for the present, and more importantly, pool our ideas for a better future. Each generation has its own icebreaking mission to accomplish. The climate and environment may be different, yet with an abiding commitment to the Icebreakers spirit, and to friendship and development, there will be no ice too strong to break, and no obstacles too hard to overcome,” said Premier Li.

Premier Li pointed out, the year 2020 was an extraordinary one on China, the UK and the whole world. The international community battled the Covid-19 pandemic in solidarity and partnership, and fought to protect the life, health and safety of the people and promote world economic recovery and growth.

“Here in China, with painstaking efforts, we achieved a 2.3% GDP growth last year, a truly hard-won outcome. Yet daunting challenges posed by the pandemic remain, and the world economy is confronted with many uncertainties and destabilizing factors. In the new year, China will maintain the continuity, consistency and predictability of its macro policies and execute them with a thoughtful and targeted manner to keep major economic indicators within a proper range. China’s economic fundamentals will be more solid,” added Premier Li.

Premier Li emphasized that the UK is an important cooperation partner in Europe. The two countries both are permanent members of UN Security Council, support multilateralism and free trade, have a common stake and responsibility in maintaining peace and stability and promoting development and prosperity. No matter how the regional and international landscape may evolve, China’s commitment to its relations with the UK remains strong as ever.

“Compared with the original Icebreakers, we are better positioned today to tackle challenges, seize opportunities and overcome difficulties and obstacles. On the basis of mutual respect and equality, and reinforcing our commitment to mutual benefit, we will further build up cooperation and put China-UK relations on a firmer footing. China wishes Global Britain every success. We are ready to work with the UK and all other countries in achieving an early victory against the pandemic, boosting economic recovery and growth and meeting global challenges. Today, we need Icebreakers more than ever. We need to each do our best, pool our strengths, and be the Icebreakers of our time to take forward the friendship and cooperation between the Chinese and British peoples,” said Premier Li.

(This photograph and those below: Chinese Embassy in the UK)

In her speech, Chargé d'Affaires a.i. Chen said during the extraordinary year of 2020, the Chinese and British business communities and people from all walks of life made concerted efforts to keep the cooperation between the two sides growing. China and the UK joined hands to fight the pandemic in the spirit of solidarity, China-UK business cooperation showed resilience, China-UK cultural and people-to-people exchanges grew despite the difficulties, and China-UK coordination on global affairs were enhanced. In 2021, China embarks on a new journey of building a modern socialist country in all aspects, while the UK enters a new stage of building a “global Britain”. Chen hoped that China and the UK should seize the opportunities in 2021 and bring their cooperation forward in the spirit of the “humble, pioneering and hard-working Ox”.

First, China and the UK should work together to serve the peoples like the humble Ox and shoulder their responsibilities as important global players. “This means we should deepen cooperation with other countries in fighting the pandemic.COP15 and COP26 provide opportunities for our two countries to enhance coordination and take the lead in global governance on climate change and green development,” added Chen.

Second, China and the UK should expand business cooperation like the pioneering Ox and leverage each other’s respective strengths, be creative, and expand cooperation in new industries, new models and new forms of business, so as to bring new momentum to China-UK pragmatic cooperation and the world economic recovery.

Third, China and the UK should cement the foundation for cooperation like the hard-working Ox. “It is my sincere hope that people from both China and the UK will keep in mind the historical experience and carry on the fine tradition. It is important that we take up the responsibilities bestowed upon us by our time, and keep ‘breaking the ice’ and resisting the attempts by a handful to push our two countries and the world into division, confrontation or even another cold war, so as to generate driving forces and positive energy needed to advance China-UK relations and business cooperation,” said Chen.

Chairman Perry thanked Premier Li for his acknowledgement and encouragement for Icebreakers, saying that Premier Li’s message sent out a positive signal not only to the friends in the UK but also to the whole world. Over the past 40 years, China has achieved enormous development, based on which China will transform into something new for the next 15 years. Major programmes, including the Belt and Road Initiative, have remarkable international influence and will bring huge opportunities. He hoped that everyone would seize the opportunities to deepen UK-China cooperation and create a more prosperous future.

Chairman Fang shared with the participants the traditions and origins of the Chinese New Year, encouraging both Chinese and British business communities to carry on their traditions and make joint efforts to help bring the pandemic under control and contribute to the development of China-UK relationship.

Sir Sherard said, in 2020 against the backdrop of the pandemic, China’s economy has remained a strong growth, and the commercial and economic cooperation between China and the UK has continued to develop. Over years, the connection between the two countries has gone beyond business. With nearly a million Chinese tourists visited Britain in 2019 and around 100,000 Chinese students currently studying in British universities, cultural and people-to-people exchanges between the two countries are even closer. Faced with the appalling pandemic and the noises about the geopolitical threats, it is important to remember the humanity is a community. The UK and China should advance business cooperation and cultural and people-to-people exchanges, and pool efforts to build a better world. CBBC will maintain its commitment to promoting business cooperation between the two countries.

Sir Cable shed lights on what has been accomplished between the UK and China over the past decade. The trade between the two countries has doubled, making China the third largest market for British exports. The Chinese investment in the UK has grown by a factor of 20. Major projects, like Hinkley Point C, are moving ahead in a steady pace. China has issued Chinese sovereign bonds in the City of London, and Britain was one of the first members of Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank. There has been a large influx of Chinese students to British universities, which benefits both sides. Besides, President Xi Jinping’s state visit to the UK was a high point politically in UK-China relationship. Sir Cable said last year was a difficult one that affected both countries and the world, but he remained optimistic with UK’s vaccine rollout. China is also motoring ahead with rapid growth of its economy, which will benefit the UK and the whole world. He said that there is every reason to be positive and hoped that the two countries would build on the existing relationship on the basis of mutual respect.

Commissioner Edwards said, in the face of challenges posed by the pandemic in 2020, the economic relationship between China and the UK has been resilient. The trade and investment between the two countries have seen remarkable growth, especially that Britain has imported a large amount of PPE from China. Chinese companies have benefited from Britain’s open and transparent economy. Meanwhile, British companies have also benefited from China’s rapidly growing and large market. He noted that the two countries share enormous potential in cooperation in green and low-carbon economy and hoped for a deepening cooperating in the coming new year.

Vice Chairman Sayer said, in the past few years the UK and China have enjoyed deepening business cooperation, close cultural and people-to-people exchanges, and growing mutual trust and friendship. He hoped that the two sides would carry on the “Icebreakers” spirit and take the UK-China relationship forward.

Guests at the event expressed appreciation of the encouraging message of Premier Li, and their readiness to play an active role in advancing China-UK business and cultural cooperation in the new era, achieving more collaboration outcomes, and making greater contribution to the development of the relationship and the welbeing of the peoples of the two countries.

Chinese New Year traditions were showcased during the event, including dumpling making, paper-cutting, and calligraphy. There were also performances including Guqin duet by both Chinese and British players.

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