Gunboat Diplomacy Can Only Harm Britain’s Relationship with China
The Guardian Publishes a Signed Article by Ambassador Liu Xiaoming
26 February 2019
A certain British politician’s hyping up of the “China threat” in a recent speech struck a discordant note with the mainstream view in the UK that the country has a strong and constructive relationship with China. It has led me to think about how much could be learned from the world-class concerts by London’s leading symphony orchestra that I have attended, the beauty of which comes from the harmony of various sounds and the coordination between the players. If the China-UK relationship were compared to a symphony, its success would depend on close coordination between the two countries and a firm resistance to interruptions and noises. In this symphony, China and the UK rely on mutual respect and trust to keep us in tune, and keep out the noise of enmity and confrontation.
In this symphony, China and the UK rely on mutual respect and trust to keep us in tune, and keep out the noise of enmity and confrontation. This year marks the 65th anniversary of the establishment of a China-UK diplomatic relationship at the level of chargé d’affaires. The past 65 years have not been all plain sailing: when there was mutual respect and equality, the bilateral relationship leapt forward. Otherwise, the relationship has had to battle against strong headwinds, or even back-pedal. In an age when hot and cold wars should be long gone, resurrecting the cold war and gunboat diplomacy from the grave, as this politician did, was anachronistic and risks disrupting the progress of China-UK relations. Both countries must resist this disruption and keep the larger picture in mind. To do that, they need to view each other’s development as an opportunity rather than a challenge, still less a threat. In particular, we should respect each other’s sovereignty, territorial integrity, core interests and major concerns; we should build mutual trust, expand strategic consensus and handle differences properly so as to ensure that the China-UK relationship develops in the right direction.
In the symphony of these relations, mutual benefit, not the pursuit of a zero-sum game, creates consonance. China-UK cooperation has never been deeper and more extensive, and the interests of the two countries have never been more intertwined. This is not only reflected by the £11bn contracts signed during Prime Minister Theresa May’s visit to China early last year and the first China International Import Expo. It is also reinforced by the fact that China is the fastest-growing market for UK exports and UK’s second largest trading partner outside the EU. Last year, our bilateral trade totaled more than $80bn and UK exports to China increased by 6.9%, much higher than its GDP growth rate. Chinese investment in the UK tops $20bn now and maintains a robust growth momentum, with Chinese companies having invested more over the past five years than the previous 30 years. The bond between the Chinese and British people has never been closer. With the opening of seven new direct flight routes between London and Chinese cities last year, the total number of flights linking the two countries increased to 168 a week, facilitating 1.5m mutual visits every year. Going forward, deeper reform and further opening up in China will create more opportunities for China-UK cooperation, including the second Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation and the second China International Import Expo to be held in China this year. An open, innovative and inclusive UK is an internationally recognized brand name, and I hope that it will continue to provide a fair, transparent and non-discriminatory business environment for Chinese companies, including Huawei. This will win more respect, trust and cheers for a global Britain.
The symphony of China-UK relations should also play a rising crescendo of mutual learning and cooperation, and reject the chaotic disruption of rigidity and narrow-mindedness. Both China and the UK support multilateralism, free trade and rule-based international trade system. Both are permanent members of the UN Security Council and are countries with global influence. We have a responsibility to oppose unilateralism and protectionism, and build an open world economy. We should deliver our consensus on addressing global challenges such as climate change, terrorism, cyber security and wildlife protection, and promoting reform of the global governance system. We should enhance exchanges and mutual learning between different civilizations with a view to building a community with a shared future for mankind. I hope and believe that an independent, rationally minded and down-to-earth UK will work with China in the spirit of win-win cooperation to create a better future for our two countries and the rest of the world.
Amid profound changes of a kind the world has not seen in a century, a sound, stable, mutually reinforcing and mutually beneficial China-UK relationship is not only in the interests of the two countries and their people, but also a contribution to world peace and development. China and the UK have the strategic vision, political wisdom and creative spirit to seize opportunities, resist disruptions and create a China-UK golden era: a symphony both beautiful and harmonious.