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Mutual Interests can be Catalyst for Growth here and in China
Article by H.E. Ambassador Liu Xiaoming for the Birmingham Post
2011/06/24

 

On 23rd of June, 2011, just two days before Premier Wen Jiabao's visit to Birmingham, the Chinese Ambassador to the UK Liu Xiaoming published an article titled Mutual Interests can be Catalyst for Growth here and in China in the Birmingham Post:

Chinese people know about the proud heritage of Birmingham. In their school textbooks Chinese students learn that Birmingham was the city where the Industrial Revolution in Britain began. They read that in Birmingham James Watt developed the steam engine into a machine that transformed the world.

In my role as Chinese Ambassador to the UK, I have been to Birmingham several times. I have learned first hand how Birmingham has built on its heritage to create one of the most vibrant cities of Europe. Council Leader, Mike Whitby, proudly told me about the city's leadership in sports and culture, and I have seen for myself the strengths of Birmingham as an industrial and education centre.

I have seen the impressive University of Birmingham and visited the remodeled downtown area of the city with recreational, conference & exhibition, sports and tourist facilities. I have admired leading businesses such as Grayson Thermal Systems and Brandauer precision pressings. ,

My most recent visit to Birmingham was at the launch of the MG6 GT in the MG Longbridge Plant. There to witness the event were the top leaders of Shanghai and Birmingham, Mr Yu Zhengsheng and Mr Mike Whitby

The MG6 showcases the spirit of corporate responsibility as Chinese businesses seek to go global. In 2005 the Nanjing Automobile Company (NAC), purchased the assets of the MG Rover Group. In turn SAIC took over NAC in 2007. Both NAC and SAIC decided to maintain MG's Longbridge facility as an engineering and design centre. The facility employs about 400 people and is now moving back into production. This means the famous Longbridge plant is increasingly contributing to local job creation and economic development. The MG6 is made possible through the new concept of "designed in the UK, produced in China and assembled in the UK". It is a splendid example of the burgeoning China-UK business collaboration and complementary strengths.

China-UK relations have also been marked by a continuous progress. There has been a deepening dialogue in recent years. For example, China and Britain have established the 'comprehensive strategic partnership'. There are a host of exchange mechanisms at senior levels. Examples of these are the annual Prime Minister's meeting, the Economic and Financial Dialogue and the Strategic Dialogue. We have seen positive and productive cooperation in areas such as business, education, culture, science and technology.

If we compare China-UK exchanges and partnership as a magnificent painting, Birmingham is fully capable of adding many more key brush strokes. I believe these are what Birmingham can contribute.

First, seize the opportunities of China-UK trade and investment cooperation. According to economists in the UK, China is in the midst of an 'industrial revolution', which may have 20 years to run. So how can Birmingham benefit from this? One step is to study for opportunities using the recently published Chinese 12th Five Year Plan. This gives a guide to economic development in China. It compares with the plan the UK has formulated with a development strategy for the medium to long term.

Both the Chinese Plan and the UK strategy give priority to economic restructuring and economic growth. In addition both are committed to promoting two-way trade and investment. The Prime Ministers of China and the UK have together set the goal of doubling our trade by 2015 to reach 100 billion US dollars.

Both our governments have identified hi-tech sectors, creative industries, financial services, energy-efficient, environment-friendly industries, and infrastructure development as key areas of cooperation. Birmingham is a manufacturing centre of the UK and a new financial centre. So, I urge Birmingham businesses to explore more of the Chinese market and share in the benefits of China's upgrading of its growth model to boost imports and domestic consumption. In turn, I am sure more Chinese companies like SAIC will come to Birmingham to seek a win-win partnership.

A second way that Birmingham can contribute is to be part of the mutual learning process between China and the UK. For example on issues of governance. China takes improving people's livelihood as the ultimate objective of its development. It is exploring a new way of governance. The UK is pressing ahead with a public services reform and experimenting with the Big Society idea. It serves our best interests if we exchange ideas about governance issues on a regular basis. For a China upgrading its way of economic growth and revitalising its industrial cities, Birmingham can offer its valuable experiences.

Thirdly Birmingham can contribute to China-UK people-to-people and cultural exchanges. Relations between countries boil down to amity among the people. China and the UK are different in social system, historical and cultural heritage. We are at differing levels of development. But this does not stop the people from getting to know and befriending each other.

Take exchanges among cities for example. Out of the over 40 pairs of twin cities between China and the UK, Birmingham has 3 pairs. It is twinned with Guangzhou, Nanjing and Changchun.

Then there is education exchange. China is the largest source of overseas students for the UK. In turn Britain is home to the largest number of Confucius Institutes and Classrooms in Europe.

Cultural exchanges have great value. The Chinese people still recall the wonderful performance of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra during the Shanghai World Expo. There is much anticipation in China about the forthcoming UK NOW events in 2012. This is said to be the biggest ever celebration of British culture and arts in China. I am delighted to hear the Birmingham Royal Ballet will be a part of this festival.

With sports the London Olympic Games is a great forum of exchange. I believe some Chinese athletes will experience the state-of-the-art sporting facilities in Birmingham and come for pre-Games training.

Premier Wen Jiabao of China is going to visit the UK very soon. I am delighted he chose to start his visit in Birmingham. Here he will cut the ribbon for a launch of another MG model – the MG6 Magnette.

Premier Wen's visit is sure to boost China-UK relations. For Birmingham it will help the Chinese people and businesses know more about this great city. That provides a wonderful catalyst to multiply cooperation between China and Birmingham.

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First published in 1857, the Birmingham Post was originally known as the Daily Post. It is the largest mainstream newspaper in West Midlands and focuses on business news with the majority of readers being business people and the middle class. It is now part of the Trinity Mirror group. It moved to weekly publication in 2009 with a circulation of more than 10 thousand.

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