In the evening of November 22, 2007, the Chinese Embassy in the UK and 48 Group Club jointly held a reception for "Icebreakers". H.E. Mme. Ambassador Fu Ying emphasized that "the spirit of Icebreaker" should be carried on so as to add new vigor to Sino-UK relations.
Fu Ying delivered an ardent address. She first expressed warm welcome to old friends from 48 Group Club. She said, in Chinese, "old friend" is a very affectionate word. It embodies friendship, gratitude and a bit of nostalgia. It carries trust, understanding and businesses. Of course, it also means a lot of Mao-tai 50 degree plus.
Fu Ying said, the Chinese will never forget their old friends, will never forget the role "icebreakers" played linking China with the outside world when the People's Republic was at its very young age. Whatever happens in China and whatever happens in the world, the doors of China and of the Chinese Embassy are always open to those "old friends".
Fu Ying told a story in a witty manner. In 1953, it took Jack Perry 7 days from London to Hong Kong and 4 more days to arrive in Beijing. It was a time when China was under the western blockade, he had to enter China indirectly by taking a ferry to Zhuhai. The captain moved the things around to place a table and chair for this only foreigner on board. Jack Perry remembered the kindness of the captain and smiling faces of people around. Today, Stephen Perry, the son of Jack Perry, can arrive in Beijing in 9 hours by plane. He would see British, American, African and Indian, all kinds of faces in Beijing.
Fu Ying pointed out, the last half century saw continued changes in the world, in Britain and probably more so in China. However, the Spirit of Icebreaker initiated by 48 Group has not changed, which means courage, cool-judgment, perseverance, and sacrifice and endured the trial of history.
Fu Ying emphasized, we should carry on the spirit of Icebreakers continuously add new vigor to the relationship between our two countries. We need to think how the two countries, each has unique influence in the world, can join hands to work on such important issues as climate change, counter-terrorism, financial safety, global trade and African development. We need to think what kind of advice and assistance Britain as a post-industrial country can offer China, which is in the middle of fast industrialization. We need to think how the two countries could expand trade and raise the level of investment in an ever changing global and bilateral environment.
Fu Ying pointed out, among the priority areas for international cooperation listed by Chinese president Hu Jintao in his 17th CPC Party Congress report, Britain has advantages in almost all of them ranging from environmental protection and low emission technologies to financial services and life science. There is also growing interest among the Chinese enterprises to look for opportunities in UK. The Sino-UK economic cooperation has huge potentials and a bright future.
Fu Ying said:, 48 Group Club has always stood at the front-line of Sino- British cooperation. Besides business cooperation, it is also an active promoter of Sino-UK cultural exchanges. She hoped that 48 Group Club could actively involve in "China Now" program and contribute to the success of Prime Minister Brown's visit to China early next year.
Fu Ying proposed a toast for "the spirit of Icebreaker" and the ever-growing China-British friendship. She also awarded winners of the "Icebreaker Award" this year and took photos with them..
Lord Heseltine, former British Deputy Prime Minister, and Mr. Stephen Perry, Chairman of 48 Group Club, spoke highly of Fu Ying's address. They said the vision of "Icebreakers" is admirable and such a vision is still needed for promoting Sino-UK exchanges and cooperation. China has become a force that can not be overlooked on world stage and an indispensable partner for solving major international issues. The development of China is an opportunity, not a threat. It serves UK's interest to actively promote Sino-UK relations.
200 Chinese and foreign guests, including Keith Burnet, Vice Chairman of 48 Group Club and Mr. Ben Chapman MP, chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary China Group, attended the reception. The atmosphere was friendly and ardent.
48 Group Club has a brilliant history. In 1953, a group of people from industrial and commercial circles led by Jack Perry, Chairman of London Export Company, came to China after overcoming great difficulties. They were called the "Icebreakers" of Sino-UK relations. The next year, 48 UK companies commited to trade with China set up China-Britain 48 Trade Group and changed the name into 48 Group Club in 1991.