Vice-Premier Li Keqiang is paying an official visit to the United Kingdom from Jan 9 to 12. China's Ambassador to Britain Liu Xiaoming talks to China Daily's Zhang Chunyan about the importance of Li's visit and the development of China-UK relations. Excerpts from the interview follow:
Q: What is the purpose and schedule of Vice-Premier Li Keqiang's visit to the UK?
A: China-UK relations are flourishing now, which is in the fundamental interests of the people of the two nations and conducive to world peace and development.
At the invitation of the British government, Vice-Premier Li Keqiang is paying a four-day visit to Britain from Jan 9. This is the first visit by a Chinese leader to the UK after the coalition government came to power. It marks the beginning of high-level exchanges between China and the UK in 2011 and takes China-UK relations forward on the path of sustainable and sound growth.
We hope that Li's visit will reaffirm China-UK political partnership of equality and mutual respect, economic partnership of mutual benefit and common development, cultural partnership of dialogue and mutual learning and partnership of regular dialogue and close collaboration in international affairs.
Vice-Premier Li started his visit in Edinburgh on Sunday. He met with Scottish Secretary Michael Moore, First Minister Alex Salmond and visited the Pelamis wave project.
On Monday, he met with UK Prime Minster David Cameron, held talks with Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, and had separate meetings with Foreign Secretary William Hague, Chancellor George Osborne, Business Secretary Vince Cable and Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt.
On Tuesday and Wednesday, Li will meet with Prince Andrew, who is the UK's special representative for international trade and investment, and talk about different aspects of China-UK relations.
He is scheduled to meet with a wide range of people from different communities of the UK during his stay. He will also have a roundtable discussion with business and financial leaders, deliver a keynote speech, meet with some young people, scholars and students, and visit the BRE Innovation Park and low-carbon and new energy projects.
Q: How do you view the current China-UK relations?
A:I think Sino-British relations maintained a good momentum of development last year.
The UK's coalition government, which assumed office in May 2010, is committed to taking forward the positive China policy of the previous government. China-UK relations have made a smooth transition and continued to make progress since the coalition came to power.
Prime Minister Cameron led the largest ever delegation to China in November and reached extensive agreement with Chinese leaders on ways to increase political mutual trust and step up practical cooperation. The leaders also set a new target of $100 billion in bilateral trade in the next five years.
Exchange mechanisms such as the Economic and Financial Dialogue, Strategic Dialogue, Joint Economic and Trade Commission and the Education Ministers' Summit are working well and strengthening our cooperation in relevant fields. Bilateral trade in the first 10 months of 2010 hit a record high of $40.2 billion.
Mutual investment is also growing fast. In the 2009-2010 fiscal year, China was the sixth biggest foreign investment source for the UK, while the number of Chinese companies investing in the country was the second highest.
What's more, people-to-people and cultural exchanges are booming. The Shanghai 2010 World Expo highlighted bilateral cooperation, with the British Pavilion attracting more than 8 million Chinese visitors. In fact, the British Pavilion was awarded the gold prize.
The UK remains the largest destination for Chinese students and we have seen "Mandarin fever" rising among British students. All this has further enriched our comprehensive strategic partnership.
Q: In what areas should China and the UK promote and deepen development?
A:China-UK relations are at a new starting point. Both sides should seize the good opportunity to deepen cooperation and exchanges in various fields from a global and strategic perspective.
To further develop bilateral ties, first, China and the UK should continue to promote high-level exchanges and maintain close communication and coordination between their leaders. That's why the vice-premier is paying an official visit to the UK at the beginning of the year.
China and the UK should also deepen their economic and financial dialogue, as well as strategic dialogue mechanisms to promote understanding and mutual trust and reach consensus.
Second, the two nations enjoy strong economic complementarity and have great potential and broad prospects in bilateral economic and trade cooperation. They should further expand the scale of their cooperation, extend the areas of their cooperation, and cultivate new growth.
Third, both sides should strengthen communication and coordination on macroeconomic policies, and share their experiences in managing state affairs, and economic and social problems.
In addition, China and the UK should enhance cultural cooperation and exchanges among young people, promote communication and coordination in international affairs to maintain the common interests of both countries and promote world peace and development.
In other words, the two countries should strengthen mutually beneficial, comprehensive and strategic partnership.