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Speech at Farewell Reception


Fu Ying

London, January 26, 2010


Your Excellencies,

My Lords,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Thank you for coming this evening - this is a bitter sweet occasion for me.

In the 1920s, the Chinese envoy to the UK was Gu Weijun, a great diplomat whom I highly admire. When he was asked what was the most cruel Chinese saying, he quoted this proverb: 'However grand the feast, it always has to end'.

Leaving London for me, is like savoring the last sip of wine at the end of this party, still warm, but already tempered with a little sadness.

As a diplomat and someone who is ethnically Mongolian, I am a natural nomad. My career took me to many places across the world, Bucharest, Phnom Penh, Jakarta, Manila, and Canberra. Leaving was always a difficult thing to do, but leaving here seems even more so.

I will miss the many friends I have met here and colleagues I worked with in the UK, who have supported me and helped me to understand Britain and its people.

In the past 3 years, I walked many streets and countryside across Britain. What I felt can best be expressed by a quotation from a famous Chinese writer Wang Meng. He wrote: 'coming to London is like walking into a familiar oil painting'.

British life is exciting and diverse. Whether it was watching a play, cheering for a football team, or watching horse racing, it was always enjoyable and exiting. The charm and maturity of the British style has not been lost on me.

Like many Chinese, British literature was part of my education. Being here has given me the luxury of tracing the roots of some famous names. The little round table under the window where Jane Austen wrote, including Pride and Prejudice, is printed on my memory. The open moor which so inspired Bronte sisters gave me much to think. The quiet lakeside home of William Wordsworth took me hours to walk through.

This is quintessentially British, the charm of culture that is a magnet for countless Chinese.

My 3 years in London have seen stable development of relations between the two countries. The Chinese President and Premier visited here and PM Brown went to Beijing. In addition, leaders and ministers met and called each other so many times that I almost lost count. There is also increasing visits from all the provinces.

Chinese investment in the UK grew almost 6-fold. The numbers of Chinese students and tourists are increasing at double digit numbers. I was told that the money spent by Chinese shopping on Bond street almost doubled last year.

Britain maintained its position as the largest EU investor in China and the third largest EU trading partner for China.

During my summer holiday in Beijing, I went shopping for a mattress and the one I eventually bought turned out to be a brand name from 19th century Britain.

The word "British designed" carries strong weight in China. During my visits to the Midlands, company after company have opened my eyes to Britain's role as a leading creative powerhouse in the world, in addition to being a global financial center, which fits nicely with Chinese manufacturing power. Both sides need to work harder to tap this potential.

China and British partnership is increasingly underpinned by support amongst our people. Organizations like CBBC, the 48 group club and many other educational and friendship groups have created a wealth of interest and business opportunities which needs to continue and grow over the coming years.

I have also seen the interest in China amongst the British media and public grow in front of my eyes. I was told by the SSAT that their ambition is to provide every child in Britain the chance to study mandarin if they want to.

And the outpouring of sympathy and support to China after the earthquake in Sichuan in 2008 was without doubt, the most moving experience during my stay. A 19 year old boy named Isaac Lewis walked from his home in Wales all the way to London to collect donations along the way.

Therefore, I am very optimistic about the outlook of our relations.

Having said all that, since I am with friends, I have to say the past three years have also seen more than their fair share of highs and lows. I found the great temptation is to judge and criticize when we do not meet or agree with each other's preferences.

Each time problems occur, I have tried to draw inspiration from the historical wisdom of our two countries, and worked with my counter part to steer a way through candid dialogue, not losing sight of the larger interests of our two countries.

But I think, the West needs to decide whether it's going to accept China as an equal and take China as it is. To do this it must engage and discuss rather than lecturing when problems occur. There is a story in Chinese called Mr Ye liking the dragon. Mr Ye is a great fan of the dragon. He had the dragon on his clothes, in his home and indeed everything around him. One day the dragon heard of this and decided to pay him a visit. When the dragon suddenly appeared, Mr Ye was so scared that he fainted. This is a story about liking something, but not necessarily really understanding it. If the West's policy objective towards China is to change it in the image of the West, it may never be satisfied.

China is in the middle of reforms. Seldom does one see a major country whose professed objective is to reform itself. This is because we realize that they are still many areas that still leave room for improvement. China will continue to do so at its own pace and in its own way, not because the West wants it, but for the interest of the Chinese people.

The sooner stereotyping of China gets replaced by a wider understanding, the sooner we will be able to recognize our differences and diversity and build a strong relationship based on understanding and respect.

We in China also need to learn how to better explain ourselves to the world. My message to my colleagues is always: communicate, communicate and communicate.

This is particularly important for China and UK as our relations are growing beyond the bilateral level and we more and more need to work together on global issues.

As I leave this country, I achieved some full stops in my work. There are still quite a few commas and unfinished business. There are even some question marks. But my commitment to the China-Britain partnership remains unchanged and I am confident of a better tomorrow.

On a personal note I hope that my successor Ambassador Liu Xiaoming receives the great welcome and support I have had and I would like to thank my great embassy team for the support over the last three years. My thanks also go to Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park Hotel, which has provided such a nice setting for tonight's reception.

I am flying out next Monday. I will be trying to take my last jog in the park and walk on Oxford Street for the last time. I am already missing Britain.

May I wish our friendship last forever.