On 31 January I hosted our annual All Party Parliamentary China Group Chinese New Year reception here in Parliament. This is always a good moment to take stock of the UK-China relationship, and we were honoured with speeches by Greg Hands, Minister of State for Trade & Investment and Chinese Ambassador Liu Xiaoming, as well as from our two event sponsors the China-Britain Business Council (CBBC) and VisitBritain.
All of us had much to celebrate, and plenty ahead to take forward. The strategic partnership with China is in good shape, as Greg reminded us, with positive bilateral exchanges and formal meetings (including the recent Economic & Financial, People-to-People, and Human Rights Dialogues). The first ever sovereign bond outside China was issued here in the UK: a highlight with which our corporate sponsor the City of London was particularly pleased. Visitor numbers from China are up sharply, there are now over 140,000 Chinese students studying here, and Cambridge English examined over a million students in China last year. Inward investment was very strong again in 2016, and cultural collaboration also continues to grow.
Meanwhile the APPCG has made steady progress towards our target of 120 MPs visiting China (including Hong Kong) during this Parliament, with 31 visiting last year: and 10 MPs have held “China Business Seminars” in their constituencies – we aim to hold 50 during this Parliament. Lastly, we hosted 24 events in Parliament in 2016, on subjects from education to green energy and aviation to human rights.
The variety of Britain’s engagement with China can be seen in those who came to our CNY Party: King’s College London, the Chopsticks Club, the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, St. James’s Place Wealth Management, and Christian Solidarity Worldwide to name a few, as well as several UK government departments and over 50 cross-party MPs and Peers. We toasted the beginning of the Year of the Rooster, and look forward to welcoming the National People’s Congress later this year and to continuing our own visits.
We greatly appreciate the support of our sponsors: Arup, Cambridge Assessment, City of London, HSBC, and Swires. Without them we could not achieve our main objective of getting so many parliamentarians to China and enabling them to see for themselves what is happening there.
I am grateful to all our Officers, especially those who have led trips abroad: Lord Clement-Jones, Stephen Hammond MP, and Graham Brady MP. We are also grateful for the close co-operation with the Chinese Embassy and the NPC, as well as the HKETO who have been magnificent also in encouraging parliamentarians and parliamentary researchers to visit Hong Kong.
On behalf of us aIl, I also want to thank our Co-ordinator Florence Rountree, who does so much to widen knowledge of and enthusiasm for the APPCG inside and outside Parliament.
The APPCG depends on good partnerships to help keep parliamentarians well informed on China, and act as a platform for discussion on all issues of importance to the UK-China relationship. In an era of growing nationalism and protectionism worldwide, engaging with partners who believe in global trade is important. We welcomed President Xi’s speech at Davos earlier this year which attested to the importance of “developing global free trade and investment” and “expanding market access for foreign investors”. We hope this leads to greater opening up of opportunities for countries like ours who champion open markets and the reduction of non-tariff trade barriers.
I look forward to encouraging as many parliamentarians as possible joining the APPCG in 2017-18.
Thank you, and Happy Chinese New Year / Xin Nian Quai Le / Sun Nin Fai Lok!
Richard Graham MP
Chair of the All Party Parliamentary China Group
A selection of photos from the event can be viewed below, and for any enquiries please contact us.