Premier hails 48 Group’s pioneering work in forging China-Britain trade ties
China and the United Kingdom should adhere firmly to an orientation of cooperation for mutual benefits and win-win progress, expand the positive momentum of collaboration and enhance the stability of bilateral ties, Premier Li Keqiang said on Wednesday. Li’s remarks came as he delivered a speech via video link at the “Icebreakers” 2021 Chinese New Year Online Celebration, held by the 48 Group Club, the China Chamber of Commerce in the UK and the China-Britain Business Council.
The UK is China’s important cooperative partner in Europe, and Beijing, as always, attaches importance to its relations with London, he said, adding that he hopes the two sides can promote bilateral relations on the basis of mutual respect and equal treatment.In his remarks, the premier recalled the ice-breaking trip led by Jack Perry, the founder of the London Export Corporation, who led a group of 48 British businessmen on a historic trade mission to Beijing in the early 1950s and established one of the first modern-day trade links with China.
The 48 men were the precursors of the 48 Group Club. The trip became known as the “Ice-breaking Mission”, and the club members were called the “Icebreakers”. The premier hailed the group led by Perry for breaking the solid ice at that time and opening the door to trade between China and the UK. There will be no ice that cannot be broken or gaps that cannot be overcome as long as the spirit of the “Icebreakers” is passed down from generation to generation and the original aspiration to promote friendship and growth remains unchanged, he said.
Li said the year 2020 was an extraordinary one for China, the UK and the whole world, with China attaining a hard-won year-on-year economic growth of 2.3 percent through arduous efforts. He noted that the global economy still faces many uncertain and unstable factors, and the challenges brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic remained daunting.
He reiterated China’s pledge to maintain the consistency, stability and sustainability of macro policies this year, with the rollout of scientific and targeted measures to maintain its major economic indicators within a reasonable range. China’s economic fundamentals will be steadier after persistent efforts, he added. The premier also expressed China’s commitment to work together with the UK and different nations to secure an early victory against COVID-19, better promote economic recovery and jointly cope with global challenges.
Wednesday’s celebration attracted over 1,000 guests and participants from political, business, cultural and academic circles from both China and Britain. Also speaking at the event, David Sayer, vice-chair of accounting giant KPMG UK, highlighted the importance of mutual trust and building relationships between the two nations. “In times when the winds of political change are blowing, the history of the relationship between our two great nations should ensure that bilateral business can continue to thrive and the many Chinese students and tourists that enjoy this country will continue to do so,” he said.
China was the UK’s third-largest trading partner by total trade in goods in the first half of 2020, according to the UK’s Office for National Statistics. In another development, Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin announced that Li is scheduled to deliver a speech at a high-level video dialogue with European business leaders in Beijing on Friday.