Press conference with Premier Wen Jiabao

This speech was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

Opening statements between Prime Minister David Cameron and Chinese Premier Wen at a press conference at the Foreign Office on 27 June 2011.

Prime Minister

It’s a great pleasure to welcome Premier Wen to Downing Street and to Britain today and to return the very kind hospitality that I enjoyed on my visit to Beijing last November. I’m particularly pleased that Premier Wen was able yesterday to visit Shakespeare’s birthplace at Stratford-upon-Avon. I know that, Premier Wen, you have a great knowledge of Shakespeare’s works and it’s greatly appreciated that you chose to make that visit.

Since taking office in 2003, Premier Wen has been a friend to the United Kingdom and has sought to take the relationship between our two countries to a new level, and I warmly welcome what he has done to make that happen. I’ve made deepening and strengthening the UK’s relationship with China a priority for this Government.

Today, we’ve reached important agreements on bilateral trade, on working together to address the big global policy issues of our time and on deepening the dialogue between our governments, but also between our peoples. Let me take each in turn. First, bilateral trade: compared with 30 years ago, China today exports more in one week than it used to export in one year. China has accounted for a third of the world’s growth in the last five years. This is just one indication of the extraordinary economic progress that China has made, progress which is obviously transforming China but is also reshaping the world. So trade with China is a huge opportunity for the United Kingdom and we have a lot to offer China too. As our economies become increasingly complementary, the UK has the goods and services, the experiences and the skills to match China’s ambition to move up the value chain - for example, our world leadership in areas like pharmaceuticals; education; green tech; oil and gas exploitation.

Since my visit to China last November and the visit to Vice Premier Li Keqiang here at the start of the year, UK exports of goods to China have increased by more than a fifth. Building on this trade and investment will mean jobs, growth and prosperity for all of us, so I’m delighted that today’s summit has seen new deals signed worth another £1.4 billion. This includes BG’s Memorandum of Understanding with Bank of China to provide a credit facility worth up to £1.5 billion to expand their business in China. Projects like Diageo’s increased investment in China are an example of business success that we want to see more of in the future.

But we’ve also agreed to signpost the best places for British business to invest in China’s regional cities, to increase infrastructure investment and bilateral trade and services, and to reduce the burdens on exporters through a double-taxation agreement. Our target is $100 billion of bilateral trade by 2015 - something we discussed and agreed again this morning. To achieve that, both countries must continue to make the case for mutual commitment to market access. The UK is one of the most open economies in the world - one of the easiest places to invest, to raise capital, to expand and to export from. We are the natural home for Chinese investment into Europe. We’re already home to over 400 mainland Chinese companies. Chinese investment in the UK has reached £1.2 billion. Now, there are some within Europe calling for measures to protect markets from Chinese competition.

We profoundly believe that is the wrong approach. The breadth of deals agreed today shows that we can all gain from freer markets and that the EU and China should continue to open up to trade in both directions. We should also continue to make the argument for free trade internationally, including for a Doha deal.

Second, global policy: from rebalancing the global economy to tackling climate change and promoting international development, China’s influence is vital. As partners for growth, we’ve agreed to work together in the G20 so the global economy can grow strongly without the economic and financial imbalances which led to previous crises. In this context, Premier Wen has spoken about the need for China to rebalance her own economy, and we welcome that. Recognising the complexity of our national economies, we are determined to cooperate to do all we can to ensure strong and balanced global growth. On climate change, I welcome China’s plans to test carbon pricing in six pilot emission trading zones, and I offered to share UK experience on this and also on carbon capture and storage, where we’re going ahead with a vast demonstration project. We agreed the need to work together for a positive outcome at the UN conference in Durban at the end of this year, and on international development today’s Memorandum of Understanding will expand our collaboration and enhance our annual development dialogue.

Third: this summit has taken a real step forward in terms of developing the dialogue between our countries and our people. In addition to the annual UK-China summit, an economic and financial dialogue, a strategic dialogue and a development dialogue, we’ve established a new dialogue on economic growth strategies between Stephen Green and the National Development and Reform Commission. And, of course, we look forward to a further round of the UK-China human rights dialogue.

China and Britain are different countries with different histories and we completely respect that, but we believe that the development of civil society - freedom of expression, the rule of law and respect for human rights - underpins stability and prosperity for us all. We applaud the economic transformation that’s taken place in China and we certainly do not claim that Britain has a monopoly of wisdom or is a perfect society, but as I said in Beijing last November, we do believe that the best guarantor of prosperity and stability is for economic and political progress to go in step together.

We believe that being able to talk through these issues should be a sign of strength in our relationship, but the dialogue between our two countries is about more than relations between two governments - it’s also about the links between our people, so I’m delighted today that we’ve agreed to launch the first ever people-to-people dialogue. This will include our mutual interests in education, in culture, in science and, of course, in sport. Building understanding and trust between our people is vital for the long-lasting relationship that Premier Wen and I hope can be established for generations to come. Today’s summit has helped to lay the foundations for that future.

Premier Wen, once again you are very welcome here today. Thank you.

Wen Jiabao, Premier, People’s Republic of China

[Speaking via interpreter] Dear friends from the press, good morning. This is my first visit to the United Kingdom since the coalition Government took office. The purpose of my visit is to promote communications, promote co-operation and promote development. Just now, I had productive talks with Prime Minister Cameron. We both agreed that China and the UK are countries of global influence. We face many global challenges and share many common opportunities. There is no big strategic conflict between us. Our common interests outweigh our differences. A sound China-UK relationship will not only serve our respective development, but also exert a positive impact on the evolution of the international landscape. We also exchanged views on how to upgrade our economic and trade co-operation.

We are confident about meeting a goal of raising bilateral trade to $100 billion by 2015. This said, our trade still accounts for a small proportion of our respective external trade volume and its ranking in China-EU trade is slipping down, therefore we must do all we can to fully tap our potential and intensify mutually beneficial co-operation in such areas as trade, investment, SMEs, financial services, science and technology and infrastructure. To this end, China proposes the establishment of a working group: our investment promotion, a China-UK forum on SME co-operation and that the two countries will set up a giant fund for research and development centres and joint labs. And we established a working group for infrastructure.

Just now, Prime Minister Cameron and I bore witness to the signing of economic and trade co-operation agreement worth a total of $4.3 billion. To vigorous advance people-to-people exchanges, we are going to establish a high-level people-to-people dialogue mechanism to integrate our co-operation in education, culture, media and youth. Here I wish to announce a piece of good news to you. China will provide a pair of giant pandas to the Edinburgh Zoo, and they will come to the UK before the end of this year. In addition, we exchanged views on human rights. On human rights, China and the United Kingdom should respect each other; respect the facts; treat each other as equals; engage in more co-operation than finger-pointing and resolve properly our differences through dialogue; enhance mutual understanding. Ladies and gentlemen, next year will mark the 40th anniversary of our diplomatic relations at ambassadorial level. London will play host to the Olympic Games.

The China-UK relationship face a new opportunity for development. I hope the two sides will seize opportunities and work together to usher in an even brighter future, a new situation in our relationship. Thank you.


Same question, perhaps phrased slightly different for both of you. Prime Minister Wen, do you accept, as is often argued here, that if China is to continue its impressive economic progress, it will have to also make progress on both human rights and democracy? And Mr Cameron, are you worried that in Britain’s eagerness to make a trading partner of China and move closer to it, you end up propping up a regime which is fundamentally inamicable [sic] to what you believe in?

Prime Minister

Thank you. Well, first of all, I would say that there’s no trade-off in our relationship. It’s not about either discussing trade or discussing human rights. Britain and China have such a strong and developed relationship that we have a dialogue that covers all of these issues, and nothing is off-limits in the discussions that we have, and we discuss human rights issues both at this level, but also we have a specific human rights dialogue with China as well, and that will be going ahead, as I said in my statement, in the new year.

Clearly, as Premier Wen said, and as I said, and let me repeat again, you know, we’re different countries; we have different histories, different stages of development; we should show each other respect. But we are very clear that political and economic development should go hand in hand, that one supports the other. That’s what I said in Beijing when I visited in November and I’d say that again today. But I think the test of a good relationship is when you’re able to discuss and speak about these things in the way that we have done and will always do so.

Premier Wen

Your question struck me that you may have not made very many visits to China. I cannot help but recall one of your colleagues who made the remark in 1948 that one needs to travel more by the metro and buses if one is to fully understand a country and its people. My country has a vast land expanse, it has 1.3 billion people and over 2800 counties. Every year I take time out of my busy schedule to travel widely across this country, but so far even I have not been able to visit all the places in this big country. So I’m afraid you have not visited as many places in China as I have.

Well, I would like to say that China’s development is comprehensive in nature. It covers not only development in the economic field but also development in democracy, the legal system, social fairness and justice and all-round development of the Chinese people. I agree with Prime Minister Cameron that the ideas of human rights, democracy, freedom and equality have immensely emancipated the human mind, yet different countries and societies may realise these ideas in different ways and forms.

Now China is not only pursuing economic development but also political structural reform and the improvement of democracy and the rule of law. I am confident that tomorrow’s China will not only enjoy economic prosperity but also improved democracy and the legal system. It will be a country based on the rule of law. China’s development is not only about economic development, but also all-round development of the Chinese population. We are working hard to address the social ills, including unfairness and the widening gap between the rich and the poor, so that the Chinese people will enjoy equal rights in the economic, political and other fields.

We are committed to protecting human rights in China. The respect and protection of human rights has already been incorporated into the Chinese constitution. I agree with Prime Minister Cameron that countries have different social systems and histories. Therefore we can enhance our communication and dialogue on a range of issues, including human rights, and I believe that is in the common interests of both sides. As far as history’s concerned, China has a 5,000-year history, and in history the Chinese nation was once exposed to untold sufferings. That has taught the Chinese never to talk to others in a lecturing way; rather we respect all other nations on the basis of equality.


Prime Minister, when the coalition Government under your leadership took office, you said that you intend to pursue a partnership for growth with China, and you said in your opening statements that trade with China represents a tremendous opportunity for the UK. However, the reality we have seen in recent years is that the trade between the UK and China has been falling, and the place of this trade in the list of China’s trade with European countries has dropped to the third, and the place of trade in technology between the two sides has dropped to the fifth. Moreover the investment by the UK in China has also been overtaken by Germany last year in terms of its rank in place, and at the same time UK’s exports to China have been growing lower than the average pace of EU member states. I would like to ask - what is your perspective on such a reality? Do you think there is a need for a change rather than the reality of the UK being overtaken by other European countries? And do you think the current British Government will be able to make that change, and what specific measures do you think the Government of the UK needs to take to make this change?

Prime Minister

Well, thank you. I mean, first of all, if you look at the figures of British exports to China, it actually grew by 40% last year, and actually since November, since my visit to China, have gone up by 20%. So I don’t accept that Britain isn’t exporting more to China and isn’t on target to meet the very challenging target of $100 billion of two-way trade by 2015. I think the performance is good; of course, I want it to be better. In terms of investment into each other’s country, Britain is the second-largest European investor into China and Britain is the second-largest destination of Chinese investment into Europe. One of the reasons, I think, why we will do even better in future - and the opportunities are so great - is if you look at the strengths of the British economy against some of other European economies, yes, of course, some economies like Germany have a larger share in manufacturing, and we want to grow our manufacturing, but one of Britain’s strengths is in areas like pharmaceuticals, insurance, retail, banking: many of the service industries which actually tend to grow in exports as economies open up and develop. That’s why we call ourselves “partners for growth”, because as the Chinese economy develops, as it starts to buy more in the way of services and branded goods and things like that, I think the opportunities for Britain are immense, but they’ll only happen if both our countries continue to open up the trade and investment.

One last point which we discussed this morning at our meeting: equally important, when you’re a country like Britain that is creating quite a lot of intellectual property, has great strengths in music, in television, in film; when you’re also inventive in terms of new products, it’s absolutely essential that intellectual property is respected and patents are respected. And Premier Wen and I agreed today at his suggestion that we should have a symposium this year on intellectual property, so we can better understand any of the issues and difficulties and problems between us. Just to take one example: Dyson, obviously a fantastic UK inventor; they’ve specifically mentioned problems and difficulties they want to get over. So as I say, our economies are at a complementary stage of development: Britain an advanced economy with great strengths in advanced industries and also service industries; China: fast growing, fast developing, now beginning to consume more domestically the opportunities for Britain are very great. And I’m quite convinced that this Government will help industry and business to make sure we take those opportunities.

Question [Unclear - summary below]

Should Chinese money be used to fund the next generation of British railways? Libya - hasn’t the international community done enough?

Prime Minister

Thank you. Well, let me first of all deal with the issue of railways. Obviously there’s great complementarity between China and Britain. China is seeing an enormous expansion of high-speed rail, and there are great opportunities for British companies like Arup and others to get involved in design and also in provision of those facilities. Likewise Britain is an incredibly open economy: we welcome investment from around the world, and we don’t limit that investment to say you can only invest in plant and machinery; we welcome investment into infrastructure, into services. This is probably one of the best places in the world to start a company, grow a company, raise finance, and that’s why I think we’re a very attractive destination for Chinese investment. In terms of high-speed rail, there’ll obviously be a proper process for all these things and proper competitive tenders, but do I welcome Chinese investment into British infrastructure? Yes, of course I do. For the first time in a long time we’ve actually set up an organisation Infrastructure UK with a huge set of plans that we want to see funded. We take that presentation to different parts of the world to make sure that we get international capital into our infrastructure as well as domestic capital. I think it’s a famous Chinese expression that it doesn’t matter whether a cat is black or white as long as it catches mice, and that should be our attitude towards Chinese infrastructure into infrastructure.

On the issue of Libya, what I would say is that Britain and our partners are acting absolutely within the ambit of a UN resolution that was passed without objection and without veto, UN Resolution 1973. And our action in Libya is about protecting civilian life. And that is why we’re taking the steps that we are to stop Gaddafi, who is still trying to kill, maim, murder, bomb, shell, snipe his own civilians, his own citizens, and we’ll continue to act under UN Resolution 1973. That is our responsibility: to protect civilians. Obviously it’s for the Libyan people themselves to decide how they are governed and who governs them, and I’m confident that the pressure is growing on Gaddafi - military pressure, diplomatic pressure, political pressure - and we should keep that pressure up.

Premier Wen

The position of the Chinese government on the issue of Libya is a clear-cut one. We believe that the UN Security Council Resolution 1973 should be fully complied with by all countries concerned, including Libya. We believe that the settlement of issues in a country should be based on the efforts of the people of that country concerned. We hope that the issue of Libya will be resolved through political peaceful means to reduce the humanitarian harm; in particular, the harm of innocent civilians. We respect the choice made by the Libyan people. You may have noticed that recently China has had contacts with both the Libyan government and the opposition party in Libya. That actually reflects the just position of China on this issue. We place our hope on the Libyan people, and we believe that is the efforts of the people of that country who will eventually spur progress in the country. Foreign troops may be able to win war in a place, but they can hardly win peace. Hard lessons have been learned from what has happened in the Middle East and Afghanistan. As to what position the UK Government should take on this matter, Prime Minister Cameron has made it very clear already.

On the development of high-speed rail, I want to say that China has made tremendous achievements in development of high-speed rail in recent years, and that marks a big step forward in our efforts to boost the growth of strategic emerging industries. We certainly hope to enhance co-operation with other countries in this field. At the same time we fully respect the independent choices made by those countries. The high-speed rail between Beijing and Tianjin, a city with a distance of 120 kilometres, will only take about half an hour, and that travel is safe, comfortable and convenient. As to whether China’s high-speed rail will be able to meet the UK’s needs and demand, I think it’s up to the British people to make a final say.


A question for Premier Wen. Just now you said China and the UK have decided to establish a high-level people-to-people exchange mechanism. I would like to ask in what more areas do we expect greater progress in China-UK co-operation?

Premier Wen

I started my visit to the UK by paying a visit to Shakespeare’s birthplace first. I have long had great admirations for this great literary giant. When I was a boy, I read the works written by William Shakespeare, including the Twelfth Night, King Lear and Othello. I have been deeply impressed by the humanistic spirit that is demonstrated in all his works. That is why we all call William Shakespeare one of the greatest geniuses in our world, and his achievements have transcended his own era but belong to the whole century and transcended the boundary of the UK and belong to the whole world. I also watched a brief performance of one excerpt from Hamlet in the birthplace of Shakespeare, and it make me wonder whether foreign friends also cherish as keen an interest in China’s history and theatre as I do for Shakespeare. And if they do, I believe they will be able to fully appreciate the long history of China in the past 5,000 years, the twists and turns the country went through, and the extraordinary course the country travelled in the past 30 years in particular since it pursued reform and opening up. Through reform and opening up we transformed the backward Chinese economy and lifted the Chinese economy to the second-largest in the world today. We succeed in providing the adequate food and clothing for over 200 million Chinese people, who used to live in poverty, and raised the average life expectancy of the Chinese population by five years. Moreover, we have taken good care of some 80 million people with disabilities in this country. I always believe that people-to-people exchanges are essential to a strong state-to-state relationship in particular exchanges between the young people, because such exchanges form the foundation of friendship and co-operation between countries. I hope that in the future the leaders of all countries will better appreciate and respect cultures of each other, and that will contribute to stronger friendship between us. You may also know that I visited Longbridge, a famous auto town with up to 100 years of history in auto making. It has not only produced vintage cars but also very modern models of cars. The co-operation model we have established in that factory can be summed up as designed by the UK, manufactured by the Chinese and assembled in the UK. And through that model we have brought out the respective strengths of our two countries: that is, the UK’s strength in science and technology and China’s strength in human resources. I believe that co-operation can be further enhanced, and that co-operation model has also contributed to the creation of local job opportunities. These are the main points that have struck me most deeply in my visit to the UK so far.

Prime Minister

Thank you. Can I thank you all very much for coming, and thank you for those questions and thank you for our very good discussions today? Thank you.