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Home > Important Message
Visiting British Traditional Industrial Bases for Greater Win-Win Cooperation
Sidelights on Ambassador Liu Xiaoming's Two-day Visit to North East England
2012/03/08

February 29, 2012 (Wednesday)

On February 29, 2012, when the dawn was just breaking, the London King's Cross Railway Station was bustling with people. Another busy day has begun. Ambassador Liu Xiaoming and Madame Hu Pinghua were already on board of the train bound for the north. They were about to start their visit to North East England.

At 12:00 PM, the train arrived at the Newcastle Railway Station, more than 2 hours late due to a mechanical failure. The British hosts had long waited there. After exchange of greetings, the hosts and the guests quickly decided to follow the original programme, but shorten their stay at each stop.

                                                Meeting with Councillor Henry Trueman, Deputy Leader of Sunderland City Council (second from left), and others

Northeast England used to be a well-known traditional industrial base in Britain. Sunderland was a shipbuilding centre in the North of Britain. The city also had a highly developed mining industry. Newcastle was one of Britain's major coal capitals. With the decline of traditional industries, the region adopted a series of measures to restructure industry to revive the economy. Today, the North East makes up half of Britain's chemical industries. It's also a magnet for many multinationals to base operations here, including BASF, Huntsman and the largest automaker in England, Nissan. New sectors are booming and arts, culture and tourism are rising.

Roundtable with Entrepreneurs from Sunderland

In the afternoon, Ambassador Liu and his party first came to Evolve Software Centre in Sunderland. They were briefed about the city's cooperation with China and discussed with local business representatives. Councilor Henry Trueman, Deputy Leader of Sunderland City Council, warmly welcomed Ambassador Liu and Madame Hu. He said that Sunderland wanted to strengthen exchanges and contacts with its sister city Harbin and enhance bilateral cooperation in economy, trade, education, culture and other fields.

Ambassador Liu and Madame Hu then went to the Miller Company, a well-known local enterprise, and learned about the design and welding process of large-scale mining equipment. Ambassador Liu encouraged the Company to make full use of its technological advantages and further deepen cooperation with Chinese enterprises. He said that the Chinese Embassy was willing to serve as a bridge for such cooperation.

Visiting the Miller Company

In late afternoon, Ambassador Liu and his party returned to Newcastle by car for the welcoming reception and dinner respectively hosted by Councillor Geoff O'Brien, the Lord Mayor of Newcastle, and Councillor Paul Watson, Leader of Sunderland City Council. Mr. Hugh Morgan-Williams, Chairman of the North East Economic Forum, Adam Boulton, famous Sky TV presenter, Professor Graham Henderson, Vice Chancellor and Chief Executive of the Teesside University, attended the events. Lord Mayor Geoff O'Brien said that Newcastle paid great attention to the development of its relations with China. He hoped that the two sides would have more fruitful cooperation. The Mayor spoke highly of the important contributions of the Chinese community to the development of Newcastle. He said that last year the Newcastle Chinese Healthy Living Centre received the Queen's Award for Voluntary Service and stressed that Newcastle will continue its commitment to promoting the local cultural integration and the harmonious coexistence of different races, and will help the Chinese community to live a peaceful and prosperous life.

Lord Mayor Geoff O'Brien addresses the welcoming reception

Ambassador Liu thanked the host for the hospitality. He said that Newcastle had built its reputation mainly for coal industry. He learned of the city in his university classroom, when the English teacher asked them not to 'carry coals to Newcastle'. If 400 years ago it was foolish to carry coal to Newcastle, today 'carrying business opportunities to Newcastle' would be more than welcome for both of us. His words immediately won hearty laughters and lasting applause from the guests.

Ambassador Liu delivers a speech

Ambassador Liu continued to say that in recent years Newcastle has made fruitful cooperation with China, and the cooperation has been expanding from trade, economy and investment to culture, education, science and technology and other fields. Newcastle is a twin of the city of Taiyuan. The city also has developed a sister relationship with Henan Province of China. The Newcastle University and China's Xiamen University have recently signed an agreement on setting up a Confucius Institute. This will be the 19th Confucius Institute between China and Britain. This means that Britain has more Confucius Institutes than any other European country.

                                                             Toasting at the welcoming dinner hosted by Councillor Paul Watson, Leader of Sunderland City Council

Ambassador Liu pointed out that this year would see a series of important events: China and Britain will mark 40 years of full diplomatic relations, London will host the Olympic Games and China will attend the London Book Fair as the Guest of Honour. These will present rare opportunities for further enhancing the cooperation between the two countries. China and Britain will also launch the high-level people-to-people exchange mechanism, which will become a new driving force for the development of the bilateral relations. The transition and upgrading of the traditional industrial bases in the North East England have something in common with China. In this respect, we are ready to learn from each other with Britain, explore the opportunities for cooperation and achieve common development. This is just the purpose of the journey of the Ambassador. He hoped that Newcastle would place a unique role in this respect.

With the guests talking pleasantly on the China-UK cooperation, the dinner lasted until nearly eleven o'clock. In the night, the Tyne Bridge built in 1928 and the Millennium Bridge built in 2001 cross the Thames side by side, linking the castles with a history of over 900 years and the Sage Gateshead Theatre with a strong modern style on the two sides of the River. The ancient Newcastle brims with the vigour of youth.

                                                                           Talking with Professor Graham Henderson, Vice Chancellor of the Teesside University

March 1, 2012 (Thursday)

In the morning, the enterprises from the North East England gathered for the Annual Conference 2012.

The North East Economic Forum was held for the first time in 2006. It is an important forum to discuss economic development of the northeast part of Britain. The Annual Conference of the Forum is the top-level economic and trade forum in the region, attracting significant political figures in Britain to attend each year. Prime Minister David Cameron, Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne, Labour Party leader David Miliband and other important figures all delivered speeches at the Forum.

                                                                                              Delivering a Keynote Speech at the North East Economic Forum

Ambassador attended the Annual Conference as the first foreign envoy invited since the founding of the Forum and delivered a keynote speech. Ambassador Liu said that like many Chinese, the first thing that comes to his mind about the city is Newcastle United of the Premier League. Of course, there are other famous teams here in the North East, such as Sunderland and Middlesbrough. I'm sure in the audience there are many supporters and fans of these three teams. I visited Sunderland and Newcastle yesterday and I learned that Newcastle United and Sunderland will present a derby event on Saturday. I can do nothing but to wish both of them good luck. Ambassador Liu's humourous opening remarks immediately won laughter and applause from the audience.

Ambassador Liu pointed out that the economic developments in China and the UK have both similarities and differences. China and Britain are major economies in a globalised world. As such both countries have to deal with the turmoil and risks in the world economy. This means we have to factor in America's weak economic outlook and the evolving debt crisis in Europe. Clearly these factors means the stakes are high for both China and Britain. Both China and UK are pushing through ambitious structural reforms. Yet the difference is, China is a developing country and emerging economy. It needs to boost consumption, move up the industry value chain and build stronger technology innovation capacities. Britain, by contrast, is a developed country. It is determined to revive its manufacturing strength, develop creative industries and increase exports. But what lie behind the differences are the real opportunities for China and Britain to build closer commercial ties. In these conditions what we need is a win-win partnership. That is the way to emerge from the crisis stronger and more prosperous.

Going forward, China and the North East have immense potential to strengthen our commercial ties. What's pressing now is for both of us to seize opportunities. We must unleash potential and lift our cooperation to a new level. And our cooperation must be extended to wider spheres. For this to happen, the two sides need to boost high-tech trade, build a research and development partnership, promote SME cooperation, expand two-way investment, widen people-to-people exchanges and learn and benefit from each other's experience in urban renewal and regeneration.

The entrepreneurs present responded to the speech with enthusiastic applause. They said that Ambassador Liu's rich, vivid and simple but profound speech is a strong positive signal to the local entrepreneurs and provides for them valuable advice and guidance on their implementation of the specific cooperation.

After the speech, Ambassador Liu and Madame Hu went to the Teesside University, the Best British University for 2011, which was 40 miles away. There, Ambassador Liu and Madame Hu exchanged views with the Deputy Vice-president of the University Caroline Macdonald and other leaders on the University's personnel exchange, research and educational cooperation with China. Ambassador Liu and Madame Hu also met with the faculty and students from China and asked them about their work, study and life. Ambassador Liu answered in details their questions on China-UK relations, staring business in China, etc., and encouraged them to work hard in their studies and make their own contributions to the development of relations between the two countries.

Discussing with Chinese scholars and students at the Teesside University

At 4 PM, Ambassador Liu and Madame Hu said goodbye to the hosts and went on board the train back to London.

The two-day visit was brief but substantial. Ambassador Liu left the British entrepreneurs with inspiration and confidence cooperation would bring benefits to both sides. This indicates that the economic cooperation and trade between China and North East England, like the Angel of the North, the largest sculpture in Britain standing in Newcastle, will spread its wings and fly up high.

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