I. What was your feeling when you first came to UK?
I mainly worked in Asia in the past years and I do not know much about UK. Nevertheless, I studied in UK in 1980s and my graduation thesis was about Sino-UK trade. In order to write the thesis, I interviewed the 48 group and other enterprises, I realized at that time that the Sino-UK relationship had a long history and there were twists and turns.
Before I took office in UK, I read a lot relevant documents and books and had some new knowledge and understanding about the history and status quo of the Sino-UK relationship. I feel it is important to keep a good relationship between China and UK in the context of the increasing development of the globalization, and the two countries need to coordinate and cooperate in the international and regional affairs; meanwhile as the industrialization of China is speeding up and China faces a lot of new challenges, UK can be an important cooperative partner.
This year marks the 35th anniversary of ambassadorial diplomatic relations between China and UK. I am the 10th Chinese Ambassador in UK. Many of my predecessors are respectable veteran diplomats and I am deeply honoured to be their successor, I am also full of appreciation and perturbation for being granted such a heavy responsibility by the State. After years of development, the Sino-UK relations have entered into a good and stable stage, what I need to think about and strive for is how to put it to a new height.
II. How do you value current Sino-UK relations?
10 years after the hand-over of Hong Kong to China, Sino-UK relations are more mature now. There are no outstanding problems left over by history and major geopolitical contradictions of strategic interests between the two countries. The Sino-UK relations have entered into the new stage of all-round development; both sides have deep interests in enlarging their links in politics, economy, culture, science and technology.
The Chinese and UK governments established an interactive task force for bilateral relationship in 2003 which is specially responsible for putting forward suggestions for developing bilateral cooperation. When Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao visited UK in 2004, the two sides made a joint statement and declared the establishment of the comprehensive strategic partnership and designated six fields such as trade and investment, finance, energy, science and technology, education and culture and environmental protection to be key cooperation areas. Sustainable development, Olympic Games and health cooperation were added later. In the large framework, the two countries also established the negotiation and dialogue mechanism at different levels, such as the Sino-UK strategic dialogue, joint economic and trade committee, joint committee on science and technology, and dialogue on finance.
I have been here for 3 months and I have got the following impressions:
Firstly, there are frequent and high level exchanges and communications between the two countries. Prime Minister Blair visited China many times during his 10-year tenure and most other cabinet members also visited China. Several Chinese leaders, such as President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao, also visited UK.
The new UK government is now well in place, Gordon Brown, the new Prime Minister of UK, offered to have a phone conversation with Premier Wen Jiabao on the second day after he assumed office. David Miliband, Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs also had a phone conversation with Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi. The visits by Chinese government departments and provinces to UK have maintained a high level in recent years.
Secondly, there are a lot of communications and consensuses between the two countries in major international issues. China and UK often exchange opinions about such issues as Afghanistan, Iran nuclear issue, Korea nuclear issue, Middle East, Darfur, climate change and development of Africa, they also initiate the dialogue and negotiation mechanism on such issues as diplomatic policies, sustainable development, Africa, climate change, energy, environmental protection and arms control, the two sides are getting more and more mutual understandings and consensuses.
I got the opportunity to meet Prime Minister Blair at my first weekend in London, when he met the press delegation led by Cai Wu, Minister of the State Council Information Office. Mr.Blair highly appraised China and said that the participation of China was essential to solve any important issues in the world.
Thirdly, both sides have great enthusiasm for economic and trade cooperation. In recent years, the bilateral trade have maintained a stable increase. The investment of UK in China is the largest among all EU countries, the total number of the investment projects has reached 5,580 with an agreed amount of 26.6 billion US dollars. The trade volume between the two countries has been increasing at a rate higher than 20% since 2002, it exceeded 30 billion US dollars in 2006 and reached 17.4 billion US dollars in the first half year of 2007, with a 29.8% increase compared with the same period that of last year.
However, as to the economic relations, compared with Australia where I served my last post, the speed of the trade and economic cooperation between China and UK is not among the leading ones in the whole foreign trade of China. China and UK are the 4th and 5th biggest economic entity in the world, but China is only listed the 13th in the exporting markets of UK and the market share of UK in China is only 1.5%. The proportion of the trade volume between China and UK is only 11% in the trade volume between China and Europe, which is less than half of the trade volume between China and Germany. Frankly speaking, there is still a large space for the advancement of the trade and economic cooperation between the two countries, the industrial and commercial circles of both sides are considering how to further expand the trade and economic relationship and they have great passion and expectations to find new growth points.
Fourthly, there are active cultural exchanges between China and UK. After I assumed post, I felt the mighty "China fever" in UK, from the government to the general public, all desire to know more about China and many people are very interested in Chinese culture. Sino-UK exchanges have always maintained high levels and solid foundation. For example, London has organized the celebration of Chinese Spring Festival for three consecutive years and the scale is getting larger and larger every year. The celebration of Chinese Spring Festival for 2007 in Trafalgar Square attracted 300,000 audiences and it is estimated that the number will reach 500,000 next year, what we need to consider and discuss now is how to divert the audiences. The exhibition of "The Three Emperors" held in the Royal Academy of Arts last year lasted half a year and attracted 320,000 audiences. The exhibition of cultural relics named "UK & World" held by the British Museum in the first half of this year in the Forbidden City of Beijing was also a success.
The Exhibition of "The First Emperor: China's Terracotta Army" to be held in the British Museum in September will display more than 200 rare cultural relics and more than 20 original terracotta warriors and horses, the exhibition is the largest scale of terracotta warriors and horses going abroad in recent years. UK people are now actively booking tickets online. What is interesting is that the evening time after the exhibition begins has now become the hotspot for the reservation by major enterprises; they want to use that opportunity to organize activities introducing themselves and China. I have received some invitations to talk about China on such occasions. A large company invites its clients and asks me to say something about Emperor Qinshihuang and the traditions and culture of China. I have to make good consideration of this topic, Emperor Qinshihuang is a complicated character while the historic inheritance of Chinese economy, culture and society is rare in the world, many foreign merchants get interested with Chinese social culture after they come to China.
When I presented my credentials to H.M. Queen Elizabeth II on 12 June, I also presented a replica of the Compiled British Illustration.,which was a birthday present to Emperor Qianlong by British King Gorge III in 1793, it showed british urban buildings, natural sceneries, palaces and gardens at late 1700s and is of high value for history study. The Queen like the present very much and she invited me to enjoy her most cherished pictures of Windsor Castle 200 years ago, she also listened with interest my introduction how the Compiled British Illustration went through the years and passed down. The Queen showed her favour of China in her words and expressions and she had a deep impression of her visit to China in 1986, she also described how she went into the pits when visiting the terracotta warriors and horses in Xi'an and found their expressions were different. She also showed her care to my husband and me, she especially asked Hao Shiyuan, my husband, to come to UK often to accompany me.
III. What is your consideration for the future development of Sino-UK relations?
As the Ambassador, I have to make contribution to the Sino-UK relations and promote it to a new phase. I need to set a clear goal for my work in accordance with the direction decided by the leaders of the two countries. The goal should measure up to two conditions: it should accord not only with the actual conditions and needs of China; but also with the actual conditions of UK and the expectations to us.
After I assumed office, I visited all walks of life in UK and visited such areas as Birmingham and North Ireland, I also organized a series of seminars in the Chinese Embassy. I have got a preliminary impression of UK and after discussing with sections of the embassy, I have mainly got the following two ideas:
Number 1: the economic construction of China is entering a new historic stage and the economic and trade relations between China and foreign countries is also being adjusted, whose emphasis is transferring from export to the realization of trade balance and the expansion of import. At the same time, the foreign exchange reserves of China has increased greatly, we should make good use of it and expand overseas investment. UK attracted 170 billion US dollars of foreign investment every year and listed No. 2 in the world. The financial service sector of UK is very advanced, investment environment here is favourable and the cost is relatively lower. Many Japanese and Korean enterprises took off here when they began to go abroad, getting listed in London can make an enterprise not only have a favourable international status but also able to use this platform to find opportunities in the world. UK has its obvious advantages in such technological fields as low carbon economy and clean energies, life sciences, new materials, nano technology and automatic control.
Based on the aforesaid facts, my conclusion is that expanding investment of Chinese enterprises in UK is the prominent interest superposition of the two countries at present.
I think the standpoint for the present work should be promoting Chinese enterprises to go abroad, get listed and merged in UK and expand the cooperation. At the same time, we should actively promote UK enterprises to invest in China and promote the technology export to China. At present, the two sides are considering and designing a high-level Sino-UK trade and investment forum during the visit of Prime Minister Brown in China, so as to provide a high-level platform for the meeting of suppliers and buyers.
Number2: the understanding between the two peoples is the social basis for promoting the development of the Sino-UK relations. In history, the cultures of China and UK exchanged with, learned from and referred to each other. The ancient four inventions and the porcelain, tea, building and drawing art of China were introduced to UK long time ago. The excellent UK works in natural sciences, social sciences and literature also had a profound influence in China. At present, the strengthening of bilateral cultural exchanges is good for promoting mutual understanding and mutual benefits of the two peoples. Therefore, the further expansion of the Sino-UK cultural exchanges will be another priority of my work.
China will hold the Olympic Games next year and the interest and focus of the world to China will reach a summit. At present, we are actively preparing a series of large-scale cultural exchange activities in UK in 2008. The event was launched according to the demand of the public by the industrial and commercial circle of UK and the name is "China Now". It will begin from February 2008 and last till August 2008 just before the Beijing Olympic Games, it will be throughout UK and its contents include culture, art, economy and trade, science and technology, education, medicine, sports and media with the aims of completely and objectively introducing the development of modern China and helping the UK public to have a better knowledge of China. At present, the two sides have preliminarily decided nearly 700 activities and are actively making preparation for the implementation. Our goal is to make the event the largest scale, the longest period, the highest level and the richest contents in the history of the Sino-UK cultural exchange. "China Now" gets the support of both governments and China will dispatch senior leaders to attend the opening ceremony in UK.
I introduced "China Now" to some Chinese entrepreneurs not long ago and they expressed ardent interest, they think the event provide a good platform for improving the Sino-UK economic and trade cooperation, promoting the image of Chinese enterprises and expanding their overseas influences, and the event is a "cultural frontier" for Chinese enterprises to "go abroad". We hope as many as Chinese enterprises can actively participate in the event and become naming sponsors, they can also organize their own performances. The interested enterprises may get more information from the website of China Now and the Chinese Embassy in the UK will provide all kinds of support and help.
In the next few years, Shanghai will hold the World Expo and London will hold 2012 Olympic Games, these events will provide good opportunities and broad space for the expansion of the Sino-UK cultural exchanges.