Speech by H.E. Ambassador Liu Xiaoming at the HSBC Chinese New Year Lunch: Gather Our Confidence to Deliver Abundant Outcomes
Mandarin Oriental, London, 30 January 2020
Chairman Mark Tucker,
My Lords and MPs,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is a real delight to join you at the HSBC Chinese New Year celebration ten times in a row. Let me begin by extending my Chinese New Year greetings to all of you present today. I wish you a healthy, happy and prosperous Year of the Rat!
In the Chinese culture, rat is sharp-witted and keen-eyed. In a world which is undergoing profound changes unseen in a century, we do need a keen eye to have a clear understanding of the major trend of our times and seize the opportunities so as to create a better future.
At my first HSBC Chinese New Year Lunch in 2011, I said, “I like your Chinese name, Hui Feng, very much. Hui means to gather the best together and Feng means abundant harvest.”
In the past ten years, HSBC has indeed harvested fruitful outcomes. As the largest foreign-owned bank in China, HSBC has witnessed China’s deepening reform and further opening up. It has benefited from China’s sustained economic growth. And it has taken part in and contributed to the mutually-beneficial cooperation between China and the UK.
In 2019, HSBC was named the Best Overall International Bank for the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) in the Asiamoney New Silk Road Finance Awards for the second time. I would like to extend my warm congratulations to you.
Ladies and Gentlemen:
In the past year, amid downward pressure on the world economy, slowdown in international trade, and increasing instabilities and risks, China continued to deepen reform and open wider to the world, and its economy maintained steady growth. Let me use three key words to summarise China’s overall performance. They are “steady, concrete and substantial”.
First, China’s economic growth was steady.
China’s economy has maintained a mid-to-high growth rate. Household income has kept pace with economic growth.
• China’s economy grew at 6.1%, much higher than the world average and the highest in the trillion-dollar club.
• Total GDP stood at about 100 trillion RMB yuan, and per capita GDP crossed the $10,000 line.
• Average disposable income increased by 5.8%, almost keeping pace with GDP growth.
• 13.52 million jobs were created in urban areas. We have maintained annual job creation of more than 13 million for seven years in a row.
• Foreign trade increased in both quantity and quality. Exports and imports in goods were up by 3.4%.
• Despite a sharp fall in overseas investment around the world, paid-in foreign investment in China increased by 6% year-on-year in the first 11 months of 2019. This was expected to exceed $130 billion for the whole year.
Second, China’s opening-up measures were concrete.
China has opened up more regions and more sectors at a deeper level.
• The second Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation and the second China International Import Expo were successfully held in China.
• A number of new pilot free trade zones were set up, including an extension to the China (Shanghai) Pilot Free Trade Zone.
• Opening-up policies were rolled out in banking, insurance and financial services.
The Foreign Investment Law and its implementing regulations took effect on January 1st this year. This will cut short the negative list for foreign investment and strengthen legal protection of the rights and interests of foreign investors, especially IPR.
According to the World Bank’s Doing Business 2020 report, China’s “ease of doing business” ranking rose to 31 in 2019, up by 15 places over the previous year.
Third, China’s contribution to world economy was substantial.
China is expected to account for more than 16% of the world’s GDP in 2019. We contributed more than 30% to world economic growth, being the biggest contributor for 14 years in a row. China remained the most powerful locomotive driving economic growth in the world.
A number of economic and trade cooperation zones were set up in countries along the Belt and Road Initiative, where Chinese companies invested $35 billion in total, paid more than $3 billion in tax and fees to host countries, and created 320,000 jobs for the local communities.
In 2019, China-UK economic and trade cooperation also witnessed fruitful outcomes. Bilateral trade in goods exceeded $86 billion. This has more than doubled the trade figure of ten years ago. Two-way investment also grew steadily. The UK is now China’s largest investment destination and the second largest source of investment in the EU.
Ladies and Gentlemen:
The year 2020 is a milestone for China. In this year, China will achieve its first centenary goal, namely, to complete the building of a moderately prosperous society in all aspects. It will then embark on a new journey of building a modern socialist country in all aspects.
In face of the complexity and volatility of the global economy, China will continue to follow the new concept of “innovative, coordinated, green, open and shared development”. Our objective is high-quality economic growth. We want to deepen integration with the global technological chain, industrial chain, innovation chain and value chain. We will contribute more positive energy to the world economy.
China’s consumer market will continue to move up the value chain, expand in capacity and grow faster. This will create more space and opportunities for businesses from other countries, including the UK. How to seize these opportunities and take full advantage of them? I would like to suggest three C’s.
The first C stands for confidence. Businesses should increase confidence in their cooperation with China.
China’s economy will maintain steady growth for a long time to come. This overall trend has not changed because China enjoys
• the strong leadership of the Communist Party of China,
• solid foundation after years of sustained economic growth,
• a huge market and enormous potential in domestic demand,
• and rich human resources and a large talent pool.
Earlier this month, China and the US reached the phase-one economic and trade agreement. This agreement is in line with market and business rules as well as WTO rules. It is beneficial to China, to the US, and to the whole world.
I want to reiterate that, going forward, China will continue to open its market wider to the world. We will lower overall tariff. We will accelerate the opening up of the financial market. We will encourage and strengthen the protection of foreign investment and shorten the negative list for market access. These measures will foster a better environment for businesses from all over the world, including the UK and other European countries, to invest in China.
Closer cooperation is the trend of our times. It is my hope that you will have greater confidence in your cooperation with China and seize the opportunities of China’s economic growth.
The second C stands for creativity. There are new areas and ideas of China-UK cooperation waiting for creative businesses to explore.
Both China and the UK value creativity. Both our two countries are good at seizing opportunities. Our governments have issued a number of policies and established many platforms for business cooperation on the Belt and Road Initiative and on financial services.
In Belt and Road cooperation, China and the UK are natural partners. British businesses lead the whole world in financial, legal and professional services. Chinese companies are strong in infrastructure, connectivity and financing.
I hope the business communities of our two countries will always be creative and dare to think and take actions. There are ample opportunities for cooperation in digital economy, science, technology and innovation, green finance, inclusive finance, Fintech and in third markets. I am sure you are capable of contributing new driving forces and new vitality to China-UK business cooperation.
The third C stands for commitment. China and the UK should take up the responsibilities as major global players and remain committed to open cooperation.
Both China and the UK have benefited from economic globalisation. We both support and safeguard free trade. In face of the challenge of anti-globalisation, it is all the more important that we uphold open cooperation and free trade, and stand together against protectionism.
As business leaders, you have an important role to play. You have the responsibility to encourage the business communities of our two countries to seize the new opportunities in China-UK cooperation after Brexit.
I hope that the UK will continue to foster a fair, just and non-discriminatory business environment for Chinese companies, including Huawei, in this country. I look forward to UK working with China to contribute to the building of an open world economy.
This year marks the fifth anniversary of the China-UK “Golden Era”. It is important that China and the UK remain committed to mutual trust, mutual benefit and mutual respect for each other’s core interests and concerns. This is the only way to ensure the steady and sustained development of the China-UK relations.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
A most quoted line from China’s Tang Dynasty poetry goes like this:
“In the happiness of festival, thoughts of folks back home double.”
As we celebrate the Chinese New Year here in the UK, our hearts are with the people back home fighting the new coronavirus, especially the people of Hubei who are on the very frontline of this battle.
The Chinese Government has gone all out to fight the disease since its outbreak. A series of prevention and control measures have been taken. President Xi Jinping has made important instructions on many occasions. He called a meeting of the top leadership a few days ago to map out further plans of epidemic prevention and set up a taskforce to address the crisis.
In face of the grave difficulties, people have shown great love for each other. We are deeply touched and greatly encouraged by British people who expressed their sympathy and willingness to offer help.
I am confident that, under the strong leadership of the Central Government of China, and with the broad support of the international community, including the UK, we have the resolve and capability to beat the virus.
Ladies and Gentlemen:
An ancient Chinese sage once said, “For he who is unstoppably determined, there is no place too far to reach.”
In the new year, I hope the Chinese and British business communities will aim high and work together. I am sure you will contribute more “golden fruits” to the China-UK “Golden Era”, and deliver more benefits to the peoples of our two countries and beyond!