When we celebrate Chinese New Year, as we do every year in Number 10 Downing Street, remember what we’re celebrating.
The first thing we’re celebrating is the extraordinary rise and success of modern China. To anyone who visits, to anyone who trades, to anyone who invests, it is an extraordinary story. There are so many different ways to measure it. China is set to become once again the largest economy in the world.
One of the best ways to measure the extraordinary rise of China is the extraordinary way this economy has brought more people out of poverty more quickly than anywhere else at any time in history. It is an extraordinary achievement, and one that strikes you when you go there.
So we’re celebrating modern China and all that has been achieved. We’re also celebrating the relationship between Britain and China, and I’ve worked as Prime Minister to further that relationship and take it to another level. And it is a good and strong relationship.
This year we’re going to see some very important moments. Prince William’s visit to China will be very significant, and the country is looking forward to the state visit by President Xi, which will happen in the second half of this year, another signature moment of the importance of this relationship. A relationship where we have dialogues at the highest possible level, covering everything countries should discuss. Whether it is culture, whether it’s the arts, whether it’s people to people, whether it’s business and industry, whether it’s human rights, we discuss everything between our countries at the highest possible level, and that’s a sign of the importance that we attach to this relationship and I believe that our Chinese interlocutors do. So, we celebrate that tonight.
Trade and investment
I think the third thing we celebrate is the extraordinary extent of the commercial, industrial, trading and investing relationship. I met 3 Chinese financial institutions earlier who between them employ almost 2,000 people in the City of London. It is an extraordinary relationship and it has grown massively under this government. When I went to China in 2010 we set a target of doubling our trade, and we have met that target. There are twice as many British goods being bought in China today as there were just 4 and three-quarter years ago.
So it is an extraordinary success, and part of the success is that Britain has a very clear message for Chinese businesses and investors, which is we want to be the most open and welcoming country that you invest in. So we don’t just want to trade in the easy things, buying and selling of cars or consumer goods or retail goods; we want to open up to more difficult areas that sometimes countries struggle with, but we don’t struggle here in Britain. We welcome the fact that Chinese investors are investing in organisations like Thames Water and Heathrow Airport. Our nuclear programme is something where we welcome Chinese investment. One of Britain’s calling cards in the world today is that we are an open trading nation and we welcome investment, and we’ve seen a lot of that investment from China and that is excellent.
So we’ll keep working at that. We will be the ones in Europe pushing for the free trade agreement with China. We can see what a massive success these free trade agreements have been for some of the countries in China’s region, and we think that the European Union should be pushing for that free trade agreement too. And Britain will always be the strongest voice for freeing up trade and investment between the European Union and China.
Chinese people in Britain
The fourth thing we celebrate tonight for Chinese New Year is the immense contribution of Chinese people in Britain. We know that the British-Chinese population is the hardest working, it has the lowest rate of unemployment, it has the best school results and it makes an extraordinary contribution to our country.
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And this demonstrates an important point about our country, which is we are a multi-ethnic, multi-faith, multicultural country where people can come and sometimes in as little as 1 or 2 generations they can sit round the highest tables in the land. That is the case in business, it is now the case in politics, and it should be the case in every part of our country. Whether it’s our courts or our military, we are a country open to merit, open to talent, where we show that our diversity is a very important part of our strength. And our political system should demonstrate that. [Political content removed].
So, welcome everybody, great to have you here. Xin Nian Kuai Le! Happy New Year!