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Why Britain and China should stick together

22 September 2015

10:00 PM

22 September 2015

10:00 PM

Today I’ve been at the Shanghai Stock Exchange – the epicentre of the volatility that spooked global markets over the summer.

I deliberately chose to come here because I wanted to make sure this simple message would be heard in both our country and China: through the ups and downs, Britain and China should stick together. 

Indeed the constant refrain of my five-day tour – with one of the broadest, most ambitious British delegations of recent years – is that China can count on Britain to be its best partner in the West.

That means Beijing choosing London as its bridge to Western financial markets, which it has demonstrated this week with groundbreaking agreements that will deepen our financial ties.

But it will also mean China bringing jobs and investment to other parts of our country, including the Northern Powerhouse. I am particularly pleased to be accompanied on my tour by both Labour and Conservative leaders of our great Northern cities and regions. Already Britain is the top country of choice for Chinese investors in Europe, a trend I want to see accelerate. I’m also outlining a new ambition to see China become our second biggest export destination over the next decade, from our sixth today.


This is because China’s growth, even as it slows from the double digit expansion we’ve seen in recent years, is phenomenal. It will produce another economy the size of the UK within the next five years even at the lower end of expectations – opening up ever greater opportunities for our entrepreneurs and businesses, who are also represented in force in our delegation. 

Incredibly, by 2030 China is expected to have over 200 cities with more than a million people – compared to just 35 in the EU. More and more of those people are middle class consumers who want both to buy British and come to Britain to study or holiday – with Chinese now naming our country as among their top three dream destinations in the world.

Cultural exchanges are hugely important to foster understanding between our two great cultures, which have arguably done more to shape the world than any other. So with me are the leaders of our great cultural institutions, such as the British Museum, the Tate and the Globe.

Of course our political systems are very different – and, as Britain always does, I have raised issues of human rights in my meetings with Chinese leaders this week.

We don’t see a choice between securing growth and investment and raising these concerns. We do both consistently. It’s also my hope that with our programme to help to showcase the very best of British tradition and culture in China, we can help Chinese people better appreciate a society other than their own.

In Britain, I want the next generation to be better plugged in to China too.

So thousands more pupils will be learning Mandarin in school by 2020 thanks to £10 million in funding we are announcing today.

I want to give more young people the opportunity to learn a language that will help them succeed in our increasingly global economy – and frankly serve them better in their lives and careers than some languages more traditionally studied in Britain. 

This is why I’m here in China: to help forge closer economic and cultural relationships between our nations, to the mutual benefit of each.

I see this as another central part of our long-term economic plan: making bold decisions at home and abroad to ensure that Britain is walking tall again.


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