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Speech at HSBC Dinner for China Design Now
2008/03/19

Mr. Mark Jones, Director, Victoria & Albert Museum,

Mr. Stephen Green, Chairman, HSBC

Distinguished guests,

This is the 4th time I am coming to this V&A for the China Design Now in two days and every time I am learning something new in this exhibition.

I am impressed with the way the Exhibition showcases the work of contemporary Chinese designers who are at the forefront of modern art of design.

30 years ago when China started the reform and opening-up, its GDP ranked the 15th place in the world. Last year we landed at the 4th place.

The most important growth in China has been in its manufacturing capabilities. A Chinese tourist needs to be careful buying souvenirs or may well bring back goods "made-in-China".

However, "designed-in-China" is still a very rarely mentioned term. Among the 500 most important brands in the world, there are only 12 from China. China accounts for only 3.5% of international patent registrations.

With ever increasing pressure from environmental concerns, rising prices of resources and higher labor cost, China's manufacturing industry may need to upgrade faster than expected.

To achieve that, it is important to have a strong creativity sector. That set the stage for the vigorous expansion of the creative industry in China in the coming years.

Britain is a country known for its creativity and V & A has played a historic role in boosting British science during the key period of industrialization.

Now Britain leads the world in many hi-tech areas. From iPod to the Terminal 3 of Beijing Capital International Airport, and the UK Pavilion of Ideas for the Shanghai Expo, designed-in-Britain has won fame in China.

When the Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao proposed 5 priority areas for cooperation to Prime Minister Gordon Brown, creative industry was on the list. This Exhibition can't be better timed and I am sure it will lead to more interest in both countries in the design field.

For China and Britain, this is a year of opportunities. We opened the year with high level political dialogues. There is a lot lined up in the coming months and economic expectation is growing in both directions.

I therefore think it is particular important for the two sides to work to cultivate understanding and be aware of each other's concerns given the different historical and cultural background.

The China Now Program is playing an important role for this purpose. I look forward to many of its excellent events such as China and UK Partners in Sustainability Conference, the Shenzhen fashion night in April, and the Chinese Central Ballet Raise the Red Lantern and the Acrobatics of Swan Lake in summer, and many other events, totaling 800.

In Beijing, the National People's Congress session is in its second week and in the middle of most important policy discussions. Economy and Social Policy are the focus of attention.

Before the Congress started, a special online column was created under the title Questions to the Premier. In 2 weeks, 10 million people visited the website and left 200,000 comments. Top on the list of concerns is the price increase, then the health and education issues.

Ma Kai Chairman of the NDRC explained that the price rise is structural and imported. He insists that the macro control measures have been successful in containing the over-heatedness and ensuring growth at the same time. But he did admit that there is the danger of inflation.

There are lots of discussions about the two rates, namely interest rate and exchange rate.

According to the policy objectives, there should be continuous increase of the interest rate and appreciation of the RMB. But the international environment is making it difficult for China to carry on with its tightening up measures.

The US economy in particular is a hot topic at the Conference. Who would have thought a decade ago that the Chinese National People's Congress would be interested in knowing the US economic and monetary policy?

Now the two countries are certainly watching each other. Larry Summers characterized the current relationship between the US and China as a balance of financial terror.

I am not sure if people would agree, but it highlights the interrelated nature of the two economies. President Hu remarked at the Party Congress that, we should keep the world in mind when making domestic policies. Because what we do today may affect the world and what happens in the world could have direct impact on us.

On that note I want to once again thank the V & A for this historic effort and thank HSBC again for its vision and generosity.

I heard Stephen Green suggesting Britain Now after China Now. The whole of London has heard it and everybody is talking about it.

These efforts are indispensable for a stronger China-UK relationship. On that idea I would like to register my support.

Thank you.

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