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Keynote Speech by H.E. Ambassador Liu Xiaoming at the Briefing on the Fifth Plenary Session of the 19th CPC Central Committee: New Opportunities, New Confidence, New Journey
17 November 2020

Chairman Fang,

Chairman Perry,

Sir Sherard,

Executive Director MacLeod,

Ladies and Gentlemen:

It is a real delight to join friends from the Chinese and British business communities once again online.

Today is a special day. On this day 177 years ago, China opened the port of Shanghai officially to foreign trade. At that time, China was impoverished and weak. Its door was forced open by Western powers.

Over the past 177 years, profound changes have taken place in the world. In China, there have been great leaps forward, from gaining independence to achieving prosperity and growing strong. The country is now standing at a new historical starting point.

Last month, the Fifth Plenary Session of the 19th CPC Central Committee was held in Beijing. This important conference coincides with a key moment in history where the timeframe of China's two centenary goals converge. Therefore, it bears overall and historic significance. It has outlined the blueprint for China's development in the future, defined the direction and the goals, and set forth a guideline for China's economic and social development in the coming five years and beyond.

Above all, the conference reviewed and approved the "CPC Central Committee's Proposals for the Formulation of the 14th Five-Year Plan (2021-2025) for National Economic and Social Development and the Long-Range Objectives Through the Year 2035". This is definitely the most important outcome.

To understand the significance of this document, I have summarized four "new"s.

First, it unveils a new development stage.

2020 is the last year for the implementation of the 13th Five Year Plan. This is the year when China will have completed the building of a moderately prosperous society in all aspects and eliminated absolute poverty.

In 2021, China will enter a new development stage and embark on a new journey of building a modern socialist country in all aspects. This will be a milestone in the history of China's development.

The document sets forth the guidelines, main targets, key tasks and major measures for China's development in the 14th Five Year Plan period. It outlines the long-term vision of basically realising socialist modernization by 2035. And it answers the important question of what kind of development China is pursuing and how we are going to achieve it.

This year, China's GDP will exceed 100 trillion RMB yuan. By the end of the 14th Five Year Plan period, China's economy is expected to reach the current level of high-income countries. Hence it is certainly possible that China's GDP or per capita income could double by 2035.

Second, the Proposals embody the new development concept.

Unlike in the past, the principal contradiction in the Chinese society now is the one between unbalanced and inadequate development and people's ever-growing aspiration for a better life. The resolution, of course, lies in high-quality development.

In the 14th Five Year Plan period and beyond, the theme of China's economic and social development will be none other than high-quality development.

  • We will let the new development concept lead the way, namely, innovative, coordinated, green, open and shared development.
  • We will focus on deepening supply-side structural reform.
  • We will promote transformation in quality, efficiency and driving forces so as to achieve higher quality and better efficiency.
  • We will rely on the creative vigour of 1.4 billion Chinese people.
  • And we will ensure everyone has a share in the outcomes of development.

Third, the Proposals set up a new growth pattern.

At the moment, the world economy is experiencing grave recession; economic globalization is encountering headwind; and unilateralism and protectionism are on the rise. All these have resulted in an obvious weakening in the traditional international circulation.

The Proposals suggest that China will accelerate the building of the "dual circulation" growth pattern in which the domestic market will play a leading role, with international and domestic markets reinforcing each other. This new growth pattern is not a closed domestic circulation but an inclusive one that connects domestic and international markets.

The world may have changed, but China will not change its basic national policy of opening up. We will engage more deeply in the international circulation and enable the domestic and international circulations to complement each other and achieve multiplying effects.

Fourth, the Proposals lay out new requirements for development.

The great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation under the leadership of the Communist Party of China is the choice of history and the choice of the people.

In the face of the outbreak of Covid-19, China has balanced epidemic response and economic and social development in an effective and orderly manner. It is the first country in the world to get the epidemic under control, bring economic activities back on track and achieve positive growth. This bears witness to the strong leadership of the CPC.

In the Proposals, notable and substantial progress in common prosperity is clearly marked as a long-term goal. This is a brand new definition of China's long-term goal and it goes to show that putting the people at the centre is the development philosophy of the CPC.

The CPC believes that development is for the people and by the people; and development outcomes shall be shared by all. The CPC has spared no effort to meet people's ever-growing needs for a better life and to work for greater benefit, happiness and security for the people.

Ladies and Gentlemen:

The profound changes unseen in a century are compounded by the raging pandemic across the world. This is posing unprecedented tests and challenges.

Against this background, how will China's development affect the world in the coming five years and more? I think China's development will strengthen confidence in the following four aspects:

First, it will strengthen confidence in the peaceful development of the world.

The world is now facing increasing instabilities and uncertainties. Some countries are pushing for unilateralism, protectionism and hegemony, and clamouring for a "new cold war" and "economic decoupling". As a result, the stability and security of the international community has come under threat.

The Proposals emphasize that China will hold high the banner of peace, development and win-win cooperation, adhere to an independent foreign policy of peace, advance external exchanges in all areas and at all levels, and promote the building of a new type of international relations and a community with a shared future for mankind.

China is firmly committed to the path of peaceful development. It never seeks hegemony, expansion or sphere of influence, let alone start a "cold war" or "hot war" with any other country.

On relations with the United States, it is China's consistent position that the two countries should enhance communication and dialogue, manage differences while maintaining mutual respect, and expand cooperation based on mutual benefit. We hope that the next administration of the United States will work with the Chinese side in the same direction, and uphold the principles of non-conflict, non-confrontation, mutual respect and win-win cooperation, so as to move China-US relationship forward on the right track.

Facts have proven and will continue to prove that a more developed China will be a stronger force for world peace and progress, and will inject more positive energy to international peace and stability.

Second, China's development will strengthen confidence in the open development of the world.

Openness brings progress while isolation results in backwardness. Under "dual circulation", China will be more open. This not only meets domestic needs for development but also brings more benefits to the people around the world.

With a population of 1.4 billion, including a middle-income group of over 400 million, China is a huge market with the greatest potential in the world. In the coming ten years, it is expected to import goods worth over 22 trillion US dollars.

Going forward,

  • China will open up more areas and more sectors at a higher level.
  • We will advance international cooperation for win-win results.
  • We will promote trade and investment liberalization and facilitation.
  • And we will pursue high-quality development of the Belt and Road Initiative.

All these will provide strong impetus for world economic recovery and growth.

Third, China's development will strengthen confidence in global growth driven by innovation.

Innovation is the primary driving force for development. The Proposals suggest that China will put innovation at the centre of its modernisation drive.

China regards self-reliance in science and technology as a strategic pillar of its national development. At the same time, it stands ready to step up dialogue, exchanges and cooperation with the rest of the world in science, technology and innovation (STI), to share its STI achievements and to contribute its wisdom to the world.

We believe that lucid waters and lush mountains are just as precious as mountains of gold and silver. Based on this belief, China respects, protects and follows the law of nature, and strives to protect ecological environment.

Not long ago, President Xi Jinping announced that China will scale up its intended nationally determined contributions. It aims to peak CO2 emissions by 2030 and to achieve carbon neutrality by 2060. We will make implementation plans for achieving those goals.

China is determined to take an active and leading role in international cooperation on climate change and biodiversity, and make its contribution to global green development.

Fourth, China's development will strengthen confidence in building better global governance.

According to the Proposals, China will actively build partnerships with countries of the world, remain committed to multilateralism and the principles of extensive consultation, joint contribution and shared benefits, and take an active part in the reform and development of the global governance system.

China will uphold the international system with the United Nations at its core, uphold the international order based on international law and uphold the multilateral trade system with the WTO at its centre. China will also take an active part in international cooperation on the prevention and control of major infectious diseases, and advance the building of a global community of health for all.

China advocates a multilateral approach in global affairs:

  • Every country has a say in addressing global challenges through consultations;
  • Every country has a role in building global governance system;
  • And the people of every country have a share in the benefits of development.

China will always be a defender of world peace, a contributor to global development, and an upholder of international order.

Ladies and Gentlemen:

During the 14th Five-Year Plan period and beyond, the high-quality growth of China's economy will create more opportunities for cooperation between Chinese and UK businesses.

Opportunity number one: China's huge market.

China is the first country in the world to achieve economic recovery amid the pandemic. It will be a major powerhouse for global growth in the post-pandemic era. It will create enormous cooperation opportunities and development space for businesses of all countries, including the UK.

At the Third China International Import Expo (CIIE) concluded last week, British businesses signed contracts worth more than 430 million pounds in a wide range of areas.

Going forward, Chinese and UK businesses can seize the opportunities of platforms such as CIIE, the China International Fair for Trade in Services and the China Import and Export Fair to expand trade and economic cooperation. Working together, the business communities could contribute to recovery and growth of both our economies and bring more benefits to our peoples.

Opportunity number two: open and win-win cooperation.

In building the "dual circulation" development paradigm, China is committed to opening up at a higher level on all fronts. This will enable better connection and sharing of production factors and resources between the domestic and international markets in a more efficient way.

The UK aims to build a "global Britain" after Brexit and find more partners for cooperation around the world. We hope that the UK will continue to provide an open, fair, just and non-discriminatory environment for Chinese businesses to invest and operate here in this country.

China and the UK can do more to match our policies, share our experience, expand bilateral and international cooperation in trade, investment and financial services, pursue high-quality cooperation on the Belt and Road Initiative, and contribute to building an open world economy.

Opportunity number three: China-UK complementarity in innovation.

China is pursuing innovation-driven development and speeding up the development of modern industries, especially emerging ones. The UK leads the world in innovation and is implementing a strategy for industrial development.

With complementary strengths in innovation, China and the UK are well positioned to deepen cooperation in science, technology and industrial innovation. Our two countries can work together to boost the development of emerging industries and business models in response to the pandemic, enhance cooperation on development at the local level, and unlock the potential of innovation, so as to always be at the forefront of international cooperation in innovation.

Opportunity number four: green development and synergy between COP15 and COP26.

In 2021, China and the UK will host COP15 and COP26 respectively. Our two sides are enhancing synergy between the two conferences to achieve greater results.

China is pursuing green and low-carbon development, and promoting a full transition to green economic growth and social progress. The UK has unique strengths in climate response, clean energy and green finance.

Businesses from our two countries should seize the opportunities of COP15 and COP26 to expand cooperation in green recovery, green technology and green finance, and take the lead in the global governance on climate change and green development.

Ladies and Gentlemen:

As people often say, confidence is more precious than gold.

Today, the world is undergoing dramatic transformations. China is embarking on a new, historical journey.

Let's join hands to seize opportunities with greater confidence. Let's work together to write a new chapter for China-UK win-win cooperation and embrace a brighter future for world peace and development!

Thank you!

Now I would like to take your questions.

Stephen Perry, Chairman of the 48 Group Club: Thank you, Ambassador, for your comprehensive introduction to the 5th Plenary Session of the 19th CPC Central Committee. I have been interested in the development of the regions. It looks to me like that China will create four major metropolises of maybe over 100 million people each. How could the UK approach these new emerging regions in order to offer their services and goods?

Ambassador Liu: China is a large country and certain provinces, municipalities and regions are different. Some of the problems for China's development are imbalance and inadequacy. So how do you achieve a balanced development to make sure that people share the benefits of the reform and opening up?The Party and government decided on different strategies for different regions.

First, more than 20 years ago, the government started the strategy of large-scale development in the western region. After serving as Ambassador to Egypt, I was seconded for two years as assistant governor to Gansu Province, one of the provinces in the western part of China. The strategy of large-scale development in the western region has been going on for more than 20 years and has achieved substantial progress. The landscape has changed completely. If you look at the landscape of Lanzhou, the capital city of Gansu Province, you will be very impressed.

Second, the central part of China is relatively developed, but still underdeveloped compared with the eastern part of China. We have the strategy known as the rise of the central region. This strategy aims to unlock the potential of the six provinces within this region. This region has very strong advantages, but they're different from western part of China and, also, different from eastern part of China.

Third, we have the trailblazing development of the eastern region. Most of the region is in the coastal area and there are more developed cities like Shanghai, Guangzhou, Shenzhen and many others.

Fourth, the full revitalization of the northeast. It used to be and is still an industrial base of China. In 1950s, it was home to many projects. It contributed a great deal to China's modernization. Even today, it is still an industrial base and agriculturally very important. It has very fertile land and produces the best quality rice, wheat and so on.

So these are the four big major areas. We have adopted a balanced approach to regional development aiming at better promoting development of both developed and underdeveloped regions, and achieving common development for the eastern, central, western and northeastern part of China.

And we also have different development strategies for metropolises. We have the coordinated development of the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region, the development of the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area, and the integrated development of the Yangtze River Delta. Each area and each region has its own strength.

Here in the UK, you have plans such as Northern Powerhouse and Midland Engine. So I think there are great potentials for China and the UK to dovetail regional strategies. We need to find the strengths of each region and find opportunities to work together and develop together to enjoy the benefits of regional cooperation.

Sir Sherard Cowper-Coles, Chair of the China-Britain Business Council: CBBC sees the fact of China's growth as a great economic power. So we're delighted that the latest figures show in the first eight months of this year, British exports to China rose nearly 10%. We're delighted that the number of Chinese students in Britain remains stable, that the pipeline of Chinese investments remains extremely promising. And the research which the CBBC is commissioned shows more than 100,000 jobs across the United Kingdom attributable to our trade with China. So we welcome this opening up. It's important for China, of course. It's vital for China, but also as part of Britain's future prosperity. So with that in mind, a lot of the sinologists around me have been intrigued by the concept of dual circulation. Could you please explain to all of us a bit more of your understanding of the concept of dual circulation and how that will help those of us who want to benefit from it.  

Ambassador Liu: I think I did a brief introduction of the dual circulation in my speech. To set up a new growth pattern of dual circulation is the strategic choice. China is coping positively with the changes of domestic and international situation. It is a long term strategy rather than an expedient measure.

First, about domestic circulation. I think you know the challenges in the international arena. The world economy is experiencing grave recession because of the rising headwinds of protectionism, unilateralism, and also the broad and deep impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. All these have resulted in an obvious weakening in the traditional international circulation. So we need to make some adjustments to strengthen our domestic circulation in order to consolidate the resilience of economic growth and to enhance the international economic circulation.

Number two, the energy of domestic circulation is strengthened. You know when a country develops to a certain stage, like China now becoming the second largest economy, itself is a huge market. Like other great economic powers, the domestic supply and demand play a more important supporting role in the Chinese economic circulation.

Thirdly, the new growth pattern emphasizes that the dual circulation is by no means a closed domestic circulation. On the contrary, it means China will be more open and it is both domestic and international. It gives you greater space to develop and to maneuver. So, we need to make the best use of the domestic market, to unlock the potential of our domestic market. The domestic circulation means the whole country is regarded as a unified market. How to tap the potential of the huge market of China? China will take full advantage of this huge market and participate deeply in international circulation. Moreover, China will also expand the market access of foreign enterprises to build a market-oriented, law-based international business environment. And we will rely on a strong domestic market to attract global high-quality production factors in order to become the fertile soil for foreign investment.

So what we're saying is that domestic market will play a leading role, but the international market and domestic market will have their role to play to reinforce each other. Now China will make more efforts to connect international and domestic market. How to achieve win-win of the two markets? How to take advantages of the two markets? That means there will be more opportunities rather than fewer opportunities for UK business. So, I do hope that UK businesses will take advantage of this dual circulation concept, and China-UK cooperation and partnership will contribute to this dual circulation development. And so, you have nothing to worry about. I do hope my speech will give you confidence to get involved and to participate in this dual circulation and development.

Merethe MacLeod, Executive Director of Great Britain China Centre: Thank you, Mr. Ambassador, for outlining the Five Year Plan so succinctly for us. You know I represent the Great Britain China Centre and we've worked very closely with institutions in China on rule of law. I've been very keen to hear your views on how you see rule of law, or what the top priorities for legal reform are to support China's development in the next few years.

Ambassador Liu: This Five Year Plan, and the goals for 2035, are not only about economic development. It's an all dimensional development strategy for China. Take the 14th Five Year Plan for example. It sets the targets for China in the next five years in six new areas. First is to strive to make new strides in economic development. Second is to take new steps in reform and opening up. Third is to make a new development in the social etiquette and civility. Fourth is to make new progress in building the ecological civilization. Fifth is to boost the well-being of the people. Sixth is to enhance governance capacity. The third and the sixth are closely related to the construction of socialist rule of law.

This is what the plenary session has adopted. The proposals set the guidelines and directions. At the next Two Sessions, the central government will introduce specific policies, the framework and measures on how to translate these guidelines into specific policies. I advise you to follow the Two Sessions closely. In short, we are building a country with rule of law. There will be comprehensive reforms in the legal areas and law enforcement. There would be a lot of expectations.

Fang Wenjian, Chairman of the China Chamber of Commerce in the UK (on behalf of other participants): Recently, China signed the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) agreement (with 14 other participating countries). With the ratification of the RCEP agreement, will China pay more attention to cooperation with the signatories of the agreement? Will this affect China-UK trade and investment cooperation in the future? With Brexit, China and UK are going to sign free trade agreement. What is the relationship with RECP?

Ambassador Liu: I think RCEP is a great achievement. I call it "a victory of free trade". It will provide a big boost to the development in the East Asia region, but that does not mean China will focus only on this region. As I said in my presentation, China has a global vision. We want to build partnership around the world. The UK and Europe are important partners for China. I would like to call your attention to the important speech made by President Xi Jinping at the opening ceremony of the third China International Import Expo. President Xi said we would like to sign high-standard free trade agreements with more countries. So, when it comes to the UK, we are open, positive and forthcoming in terms of engaging with UK partners to reach a high-standard free trade agreement. We're ready for that.

I think UK business community has nothing to worry about. Chinese businesses, like the Bank of China, still feel positive about the UK market. That is why I always quote this figure that over the past 10 years, since I became Chinese Ambassador to the UK, the Chinese investment in the UK has increased 20 times. That never happened before in the history of China-UK relations. UK still remains attractive to foreign businesses, including Chinese businesses.

Having said that, we have our own concerns as well. First of all, uncertainties of Brexit. We don't know whether there will be a Brexit with a deal or without a deal, so we follow these negotiations between the UK and the EU very closely.  

Secondly, we also have concerns that there are some diehard 'Cold War warriors' who regard China as a threat, even 'hostile country', rather than opportunities. They are pushing in the Commons to launch security review with regard to foreign investment. We have been told by the British government that it is not targeting Chinese businesses.

What we are asking for is that the UK should continue to provide fair, just, transparent and non-discriminatory treatment to Chinese businesses. If the UK continues to provide the business-friendly environment to Chinese businesses, I'm sure there will be more Chinese investments coming over in the years to come.

Fang Wenjian (on behalf of other participants): The UK's Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) has in the last few days made allegations against China of violating the Sino-British Joint Declaration (in response to the Decision of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress of China on the Qualification of Members of the Legislative Council of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region). There are reports that possible sanctions have been considered against Chinese and Hong Kong officials by the UK side. In the event of such unfriendly acts by the UK authorities, including the UK government and parliament, what concrete actions would China take to retaliate?

Ambassador Liu: There are some reports that I was summoned by Sir Philip Barton, Permanent Under-Secretary, top civil servant in the FCDO of the UK, to talk about Hong Kong. And I made our position very clear that we are strongly opposed to the UK's interference in Hong Kong affairs, which are China's internal affairs. As for accusation of China "failing to fulfill its international obligations", I said, this year marks the 75th anniversary of the United Nations. Not many people know that China was the first country to put its signature on the UN Charter 75 years ago. And since then China has all along abided by the UN Charter and has been carrying out its international obligations. China has joined almost all inter-governmental organizations and has signed more than 500 international conventions. There isn't any record of China's violation of international obligations. I argued in the meeting that it is the UK side who fails to implement, to live up to, its international obligations. The key principle of UN Charter is every sovereign state should be respected on equal basis and should not interfere in other countries' internal affairs. So the UK has violated its international obligations by interfering into Hong Kong affairs and China's internal affairs. So I told them the decision made by the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress of China is reasonable, constitutional, and consistent with the Constitution of China and the Basic Law.

As I said on many occasions, now we run into some problems in China-UK relations. The big problem is that the basic norms governing international relations, that is, respect for sovereignty and non-interference in each other's internal affairs, have been violated. This year is the 70th anniversary of the UK recognizing New China. The UK was the first Western power to recognize the People's Republic of China. We always recognize that. Over the past 70 years, we have made tremendous progress in China-UK relations. But sometimes we ran into some difficulties. I always say, if these basic principles are abided by, China-UK relationship will move forward; otherwise, it will suffer setbacks or even retrogression. So that's the key reason for the current problem in China-UK relations.

Having said that, we still attach great importance to this relationship because we believe that a good relationship between our two countries not only benefits our two peoples but also contributes to world peace and development. China and the UK are two countries with global influence. We are two permanent members of the UN Security Council. We are important members of G20. And we have a lot of common agendas globally and bilaterally. So we have every reason to make this relationship succeed. We have no reason at all to let it fail. But, as I said on many occasions, "you need two to tango". We hope the UK side will treasure the hard-won relationship and work together with us.

I always say, business relationship is the bedrock of the overall relationship. So I always encourage Chinese businesses in the UK to play the role of a stabilizer and promoter of this relationship. But, if the political relationship is damaged and if the mutual trust is damaged, there will be consequences for the overall relationship. In China we have a saying, "friendship goes ahead of business". I think friendship comes from mutual trust. I do hope, by working together, we can overcome the current difficulties, set the relationship back on the right track and elevate our partnership to a new level in the new year.

Fang Wenjian(on behalf of other participants): Why is China restricting British nationals' entry into China?

Ambassador Liu: We are very concerned about COVID-19. Though we have achieved strategic progress, it's not totally wiped out yet. We still have sporadic cases domestically, and our main concern is imported cases. Unfortunately, the UK ranks very high when it comes to imported cases. We are very concerned about imported cases. We have imposed some restrictions on the entry of foreign visitors. But these are, I would say, temporary measures in response to the increase of imported cases. This helps not only preserve the hard-won epidemic containment results in China, but also safeguard people's health and security. Once the situation improves, I believe that we will make adjustment to these measures.

Aftab Siddiqui, Adviser to the All Party Parliamentary Group on BRI and CPEC:The Belt and Road Initiative is bringing foreign and Chinese domestic markets together. How do we see the Belt and Road Initiative and the dual circulation model coming together and what is their relationship?

Ambassador Liu: The dual circulation is a new development pattern that China is promoting under the new situation. BRI has become the largest international cooperation platform. These two are related very closely. As a matter of fact, BRI is a channel of dual circulation. Via the Silk Road Economic Belt, the western part of China is connected with Central Asia and Europe. Via the 21 Century Maritime Silk Road, we're connecting the ASEAN countries. So the dual circulation provides great impetus for the joint construction of the BRI. I think the BRI and dual circulation will strengthen and reinforce each other. Dual circulation will make the BRI more efficient and more productive.

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