Opening Remarks by H.E. Ambassador Liu Xiaoming at the Press Conference on China-UK Relationship
Chinese Embassy in the UK, 30 July 2020
Welcome to today’s press conference.
This year marks the fifth anniversary of the China-UK “Golden Era”. Since early this year, President Xi Jinping and Prime Minister Boris Johnson have had two telephone conversations, during which they reached important agreements on advancing China-UK relations and enhancing joint response to Covid-19. The departments of the two governments have been working hard to implement these agreements and carry out cooperation in various areas. This was a positive momentum in China-UK relationship that should be cherished so that further progress could be achieved. To our regret however, this relationship has recently run into a series of difficulties and faced a grave situation.
People are asking: What is happening to China-UK relationship? The British media are also asking: What has caused the current difficulties in China-UK relationship? Has China changed or has the UK changed? Today, I am going to give you my answer to these questions. My answer is loud and clear: China has not changed. It is the UK that has changed. The UK side should take full responsibility for the current difficulties in China-UK relationship.
First, China’s determination to follow the basic norms governing international relations has not changed. These basic norms include: mutual respect for each other’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, non-interference in each other’s internal affairs, equality, and mutual benefit. These are the fundamental principles that are enshrined in the UN Charter. They are the basic norms of the international law and state-to-state relations. They are also the basic guidelines that have been written into the Joint Communiqué of China and the UK on exchange of ambassadors and hence form the bedrock for China-UK relationship. China has never interfered in the internal affairs of other countries, including the UK, and we ask the same from other countries. Recently, however, the above-mentioned important principles have been violated time and again. On Hong Kong: There has been blatant interference from the UK in Hong Kong affairs, which are internal affairs of China, including groundless accusations against the National Security Law for Hong Kong SAR, change to the policy involving BNO passport holders, and suspension of the extradition treaty with Hong Kong. These moves have severely disrupted the stability and prosperity in Hong Kong. On Xinjiang: The UK disregarded the facts, confused right and wrong, flung slanders recklessly at China’s Xinjiang-related policies and interfered in China’s internal affairs by raising the so-called “human rights issue” in Xinjiang, bilaterally and multilaterally. These actions have seriously poisoned atmosphere of China-UK relationship.
Second, China’s commitment to the path of peaceful development has not changed. Pursuing peaceful development is the unwavering strategic choice and solemn pledge of China. China has never invaded other countries or sought expansion. China has never and will not export its system or model. China seeks development because we want better life for our people. We do not want to threaten, challenge or replace anyone. History has proved and will continue to prove that China is always a defender of world peace, a contributor to global development and an upholder of international order. A stronger China will make the world a more peaceful, stable and prosperous place. However, some British politicians cling to the “Cold War” mentality and echo the remarks of anti-China forces in and outside the UK. They play up the so-called “China threat”, see China as a “hostile state”, threaten a “complete decoupling” from China, and even clamour for a “new Cold War” against China.
Third, China’s resolve to fulfill its international obligations has not changed. This year marks the 75th anniversary of the founding of the United Nations. China was the first country to put its signature on the UN Charter. It is now a member of more than 100 inter-governmental international organisations and has signed over 500 multilateral treaties. It has faithfully fulfilled its international responsibilities and obligations. It has never withdrawn from international organisations or treaties. Nor does it believe in “us first” at the expense of others. It is completely wrong to see the National Security Law for Hong Kong SAR as a violation of the Sino-British Joint Declaration or a failure to honour international obligations. The core content of the Joint Declaration is about China’s resumption of exercise of sovereignty over Hong Kong. The National Security Law for Hong Kong SAR fully embodies the comprehensive jurisdiction of the Central Government of China over Hong Kong. The policies regarding Hong Kong laid out in the Joint Declaration were proposed by China on our own initiative. They are not China’s commitments to the UK or international obligations. The label of “failure to fulfill international obligations” should not be stuck on China. It is the UK side that has failed to fulfill its international obligations and went against its own pledges by changing the policy on BNO passport holders and suspending the extradition treaty with Hong Kong to create public confusion in Hong Kong, disrupt the implementation of the National Security Law and interfere in China’s internal affairs.
Fourth, China’s willingness to develop partnership with the UK has not changed. During President Xi Jinping’s state visit to the UK in 2015, China and the UK issued a joint declaration on building a global comprehensive strategic partnership for the 21st century. China has always seen the UK as a partner and it has been committed to developing a sound and stable relationship with the UK. As State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi said two days ago in his telephone conversation with Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, for the UK, China is an opportunity rather than a threat, a factor for growth rather than a cause for decline, a solution rather than a challenge or a risk. However, there have been major changes and serious deviations in UK’s perception and definition of China. This is particularly evidenced by the recent ban on Huawei. The issue of Huawei is not about how the UK sees and deals with a Chinese company. It is about how the UK sees and deals with China. Does it see China as an opportunity and a partner, or a threat and a rival? Does it see China as a friendly country, or a “hostile” or “potentially hostile” state? The UK leaders have said on many occasions that they want to build a balanced, positive and constructive China-UK relationship. We hope they will match their words with actions.
The world is undergoing increasingly profound changes unseen in a century. Covid-19 is still ravaging, dealing a heavy blow to economic globalization and resulting in a deep recession of the world economy. What kind of China-UK relationship do we need in face of such a situation? China and the UK are both permanent members of the UN Security Council and important members of the G20 and other international organizations. Both are countries of global influence. Both shoulder the important mission of safeguarding world peace and promoting development. A sound and stable China-UK relationship is not only in the fundamental interests of the peoples of the two countries but also conducive to world peace and prosperity. We have a thousand reasons to make this relationship successful, and not one reason to let it fail. How can we make it successful? I think it is critically important to follow three principles:
First, respect each other. History tells us that when international law and the basic norms governing international relations are observed, China-UK relationship will move forward; otherwise, it will suffer setbacks or even retrogression. China respects the UK’s sovereignty and has never interfered in the UK’s internal affairs. It is important that the UK do the same, namely, respect China’s sovereignty and stop interfering in Hong Kong affairs, which are China’s internal affairs, so as to avoid further harm to China-UK relationship.
The second principle is: engage in mutually-beneficial cooperation. China and the UK have highly complementary economies and deeply integrated interests. The two sides have both benefited tremendously from cooperation. Such mutual benefit should not be gauged by an over-simplified comparison of who is more dependent on the other or who has been “taken advantage of”. It is our hope that the UK would resist the pressure and coercion of a certain country, and provide an open, fair and non-discriminatory environment for Chinese investment, so as to bring back the confidence of Chinese businesses in the UK. China and the UK already share broad consensus on safeguarding multilateralism, promoting free trade and addressing global challenges such as climate change. When Brexit is completed and Covid-19 is over, there will be unlimited prospects for China-UK cooperation in the areas of trade, financial services, science and technology, education and health care. It is hard to imagine a “global Britain” that bypasses or excludes China. “Decoupling” from China means decoupling from opportunities, decoupling from growth, and decoupling from the future.
The third principle is: seek common ground despite differences. China and the UK differ in history, culture, social system and development stage. It is natural that we do not always see eye to eye. Seventy years ago, the UK was the first major Western country to recognize New China. For the past 70 years, China and the UK have found common ground despite differences and went beyond ideological differences to achieve continuous progress in their bilateral relationship. Today, after 70 years, this relationship has been more substantial and profound. It is not a relationship between rivals, where one side’s gain is the other’s loss. Still less is it a relationship of “either-or” that exists between hostile states. China-UK relationship is one of partnership, which is defined by equal treatment and mutual benefit. China and the UK should have enough wisdom and capability to manage and deal with differences, rather than allowing anti-China forces and “Cold-War” warriors to “kidnap” China-UK relationship.
I often say “Great Britain” cannot be “Great” without independent foreign policies. The UK has withstood the pressure from others and made the right strategic choices at many critical historical junctures, from becoming the first major Western country to recognize the People’s Republic of China in 1950, to establishing diplomatic relationship with China at the chargé d’affaires level in 1954; from taking part in the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank to building a global comprehensive strategic partnership for the 21st century with China. Now, China-UK relationship is once again standing at a critical historical juncture. It is my hope that political leaders and visionary people from all sectors in the UK would keep in mind the big picture of the international trend, prevent various disruptions and make the strategic choice that serves the fundamental interests of the peoples of our two countries.
Now I would like to take your questions.