英国 工党影阁外交国务大臣凯瑟琳·韦斯特(Catherine West)
英国 工党影阁外交国务大臣凯瑟琳·韦斯特(Catherine West)
China, UK & Europe: Win-Win Co-operation on the Belt & Road Initiative
I would like to thank the International Department of the Communist Party of China for inviting me to speak at the 5th China-Europe High-Level Political Parties Forum. As the UK’s Shadow Foreign Minister for Asia and as the Vice-Chair of the UK All-Party Parliamentary Group on China, it is a real honour to address this conference today.
In 1596 British Captain Benjamin Wood set sail for Canton (Guangzhou) with the aim of establishing trade with China but alas his ship never made port. Some 420 years later, Chinese imports to the UK are worth over £38.3 billion, making China the UK’s third largest source of imports, whilst UK exports to China are valued atapproximately £18.7 billion. In the past fifteen years we have seen the UK’s share of service exports soar by nearly 500%. Equally, Chinese direct investment in the UK is at its highest level ever; helping British businesses to grow such as Thames Water and Diageo(Diajeo) and delivering large infrastructure projects like London’s new Crossrail metro line. We also share strong academic links, with the Universities of Nottingham, Liverpool, Lancaster and Cardiff all hosting fantastic campuses across China; and in the UK we welcome over 80,000 students to our universities every year.Business may be booming, but there is much more we can achieve together.
China certainly weathered the storm of the 2008 financial crisis far betterthan most of the G20, and whilst economies are recovering,persisting economic anxietyreminds us that full confidence in the market is a goal we have yet to reach.
We both face challenges specific to our countries. In the UK we are currently faced with the deeply worrying prospect of leaving the European Union, thereby abandoning a project that has bolstered peace & stability; improved the conditions and employment rights for workers; strengthened intergovernmental co-operation in the fight against global crime &terrorism and secured trade deals worth £4.6 trillion per year. Whereas China is faced with the task of successfully navigating its expanding export market within a macro-economic framework where demand fluctuates and regulations are changeable. Both China and Europe are faced with the very real mid-term problem of an ageing population, and the effects it will have on social care and the job market.
Strengthening links between China and the European continent must take a variety of forms. When President Xi Jinping announced the ‘Belt and Road’ Initiative to develop a framework of connectivity between the two regions, it was more than just an infrastructure plan to improve the trade routes discovered centuries before. It is a vision, which seeks to facilitate trade, tourism, cultural exchange and the transfer of knowledge between regions- the fruits of which we are already seeing. Only two weeks ago we saw the launch of the Europe and China Tourism and Cultural Development Committee.Headquartered in Brussels, this committee is an excellent example of consolidating high-level Chinese, EU and national partners to create a comprehensive framework for tourism within the ‘belt and road’ initiative.
We see the launch of IT schemes which run parallel to cultural schemes, aimed at creating a “digital silk road”. Through headquarters in China and the EU we are creating hubs for internet and telecommunications companies to take root and grow. We are beginning to observe the exchange of green technologies based at the Neoma Business School in Paris and Chinese manufacturing systems to enable a more sustainable and environmentally aware approach.‘Belt and Road’-focused think tanks have even been launched, providing academic analysis as the initiatives develops. These recent developments are significant but they go beyond the governments. They are embracing many sectors of society: business, culture and academia. This wide-ranging approach to developing the belt and road initiative is surely more likely to lead to a system that is economically efficient and culturally engaged.
These are only the first steps on this journey.We need to develop new ways of approaching problems. The Neoma Business School’s green technologies are a starting point, but Chinese- EU co-operation must go much further if we are to tackle pollution, energy solutions and long term climate change. President Xi and Leader of the Opposition JeremyCorbyn held cordial talks earlier this year in London at the Official State Chinese visit to the UK, where the two leaders discussed the importance of improved cultural exchange; improving human rights and working conditions; addressing global inequality; ensuring our steel, copper and silver markets are open but fair and the pressing need to stand in solidarity in our fight against terrorism.
We live in a time of global challenges: economic uncertainty, the growing gap between the rich and the poor, rising debt levels, climate change, terrorism, human rights abuses, religious fundamentalism, human trafficking; drug traffickingand a refugee crisis that now engulfs continents. We are making progress together, and in the week of the World Anti-Corruption Summit in London I welcome President Xi’s firm commitment to tackling corruption, I sincerely hope other countries follow his strong lead on this issue. His excellency Liu Xiaoming, Chinese Ambassador to the UK remarked earlier this year of a need to learn from each others cultures: to develop our own economies and to strengthen our relationships. The ‘Belt and Road’ initiative will help us tackle these issues together and develop a more effective exchange of goods, knowledge and ideas fostering a fairer, more secure and more prosperous world.