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Ambassador Liu Xiaoming Gives Exclusive Live Interview on CGTN Agenda

On 12th October, Chinese Ambassador Liu Xiaoming gave an interview on CGTN's flagship news and current affairs program Agenda hosted by Stephen Cole, and shared his views on China-UK relations, China's role in the world and Hong Kong issue. The transcript is as follows.

Cole: Ambassador Liu Xiaoming has been China's man in the United Kingdom since 2009. He's seen four British Prime Ministers come and go during his almost ten years in London. Recently, of course, he observed the very public and political agonies of the Brexit debate. The Ambassador joins me now live in the studio.

Welcome, Your Excellency, to the Agenda. The British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the UK has a deep and broad relationship with China which will continue to be important as UK gets ready to leave Europe. You've been in London for almost ten years. How would you describe the relationship between China and the UK?

Ambassador: I think the relationship between China and the UK, generally speaking, is in good shape. Both countries are committed to the "Golden Era" started by President Xi during his State Visit in 2015. That has been reaffirmed by Prime Minister May three years ago and reaffirmed by Prime Minister Johnson lately when he sent a message of congratulations to President Xi and Premier Li. I think the relationship has been robust since the President's visit. The trade between our two countries reached historic high last year, reaching about 80 billion USD. Also we have registered continuous growth of the trade between our two countries since the beginning of this year.

Cole: I wonder how you increase that level of trade. Mr. Johnson said he has ambition for stronger ties in trade and investment. And there is a trade gap. We buy more from China than China buys from the UK by 20 billion, something like that.

Ambassador: I think there are great potentials for this trade relationship. Because I believe that there is complementarity between our two countries. The UK is very strong in high-end manufacturing, life science and chemicals. China is very strong in telecommunications and manufacturing capacity, and there is a huge market. We would like to buy more from the UK.

Cole: But I want to sort of move away from trade for just a second, and come back to it in a moment, and talk about Brexit. And I wonder, you've been through the Bexit here, you've been watching all the debates and arguments, the rancour. What is the view from Beijing? How are they watching this incredible row develop? Do they prefer the UK to be in the European Union or out?

Ambassador: We certainly follow Brexit very closely because the UK is not only an important business partner to China, but also the two countries have lots of cooperation across the board -- politically, economically and culturally. We are also two permanent members of the UN Security Council with broad agenda internationally. We would like to see things be resolved smoothly and satisfactorily to both sides.

Cole: So would we.

Ambassador: Both the UK and the EU are important partners to China. So we wish you the best of luck. But we believe this is very much up to the UK and the EU.

Cole: I understand that. But is it easier for China to deal with a UK inside Europe, because the UK is a bit of a conduit into Europe, isn't it? Or else, do you prefer to deal with Europe and Britain separately? What would be the most advantageous?

Ambassador: You know it's very hard for us to make a choice. We only try to make the best of what we can have. So I think there are both advantages for the UK in Europe and for the UK out of Europe. So we have to make the best of what we can have. The UK is now building what it calls a Global Britain. I think that will provide more opportunities for collaboration between China and the UK.

Cole: There is a good relationship between the UK and China. You have explained that. But is there a good relationship between Beijing and Europe? Because when I talked to Brussels before you came in, they say they are increasingly worried about what they call China's growing swaying over the European economy. They are worried about how big China is getting.

Ambassador: We certainly would like to have a stronger, robust relationship with the EU. The EU is the largest trading partner for China and China is also a huge market for them. And economically and culturally we have very strong relationship. We understand there are some worries on the part of the European countries. But I think it is because of misunderstanding or lack of understanding. So we want to engage with them in what we call "four partnerships", politically, economically, globally and culturally. I think China's relations with the EU are very strong.

Cole: When you see the pictures of Hong Kong, how damaging are those pictures when they go around the world to China's reputation?

Ambassador: I don't think it has damages to China's reputation. I think there are more damages to some Western countries who, I believe, are behind these violence, these rioters' activities. You know, I think China has gained a lot of credit from the success of "One Country, Two Systems." For instance, in my engagement with British politicians, I think some of them still fail to realize Hong Kong now is part of China. They still treat Hong Kong as a part of the UK or still under British colonial rule. For instance, some people would like to give citizenship to those with so-called BNO status. I think that shows their ignorance of the development in Hong Kong.

Cole: Does Beijing still believe in "One Country, Two Systems"?

Ambassador: Yes, very much so. I think on the eve of our National Day, at the reception marking the 70th anniversary in the Great Hall of the People, President Xi reaffirmed "One Country, Two Systems" for Hong Kong, Hong Kong people administer Hong Kong affairs, and Hong Kong will continue to enjoy high degree of autonomy. But the important thing is, you know, in this country, some people focus on "Two Systems" only. They forget that "One Country, Two Systems" is a whole concept, and that "One Country" is the foundation of "Two Systems".

Cole: Let's go back to trade. I want to point out remarks from UN Secretary General António Guterres. We talked about "One Country, Two Systems". He is talking about "One World Two Systems". You probably saw what he had to say. He said, "There is a looming risk of the world splitting in two, with the United States and China creating rival interests, currency, trade and financial rules, and their own zero-sum geo-political and military strategies". Do you see yourself head-to-head with the America?

Ambassador: We certainly would like to have good relations with the US. You probably know that I had been posted twice in Washington, D.C.. Half of my diplomatic career is devoted to China-US relations. We always believe that the world will not be a tranquil place without good relationship between China and the US. We certainly would work for win-win relationship between China and the US. We oppose to, we do not believe in zero-sum game. We do not believe in "you win, I lose". We do not believe in the "Thucydides trap". China wants to have good relationship. We want to have a stable, coordinated, non-confrontational relationship.

Cole: A China-US trade war; the possible US-Europe trade war; the US-Iran nuclear stand-off; the endless EU-UK battle over Brexit; possible impeachment proceedings in America; the world on the move in numbers never seen before. The only global certainty seems to be the rise and rise of China. You must feel very happy. One must be smug, sitting there and thinking, just sit back and let it happen because China's rise is inexorable.

Ambassador: I think you described the world accurately. In our words, we would say, the world is now witnessing changes unseen in a century. I think the most important and significant part of it is the rise of China. But I cannot say I am happy, sitting back and watch the world unfolding so many uncertainties and un-predictabilities. We would like to see, you know, we do not think China will continue our march without a peaceful international environment. So that's why we always think that China will continue to follow the path of peaceful development. We would also like other countries to follow the path of peaceful development. When all countries work for peace, join hands to build a beautiful world, to use President Xi's words, to build a shared community for mankind, then we can have a more beautiful, peaceful world. I don't think China will develop with doors shut, with doors closed. In China we have a saying, the bloom of one flower does not symbolize the spring; when you have a garden of hundreds of flowers, that will usher in the spring. So we would like to have the garden, that is, our planet, to have hundreds of flowers in blossom. Then we will have a more beautiful garden, more beautiful and better world.

Cole: I can only hope so, and so do the rest of us. Mr. Ambassador, thank you very much indeed for joining us here on the Agenda.

Ambassador: Thank you for having me.

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