9th UK-China Leadership Forum

On 21st-22nd September 2016, the Great Britain-China Centre (GBCC) organised the 9th annual UK-China Leadership Forum at Ditchley Park, with a delegation of 30 Chinese government officials, embassy representatives and business people led by H.E. Secretary Du Qinglin, the most senior Chinese official to attend the Forum to date. Welcoming this delegation was a group of 18 cross-party Members of Parliament led by former Chancellor Kenneth Clarke MP and former EU Trade Commissioner and current President of GBCC, Lord Mandelson.

Organised with the support of long-term Forum sponsors BP, this flagship political dialogue between the UK and China provides a high level channel for engagement between UK Parliamentarians and senior Chinese politicians to strengthen mutual understanding and discuss issues of common concern.

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From Right: Lord Mandelson, Kenneth Clarke MP, Liam Byrne MP, Lord Powell

With the Forum taking place just a few months after the UK’s referendum decision to leave the EU, the topics of discussion focused on the UK’s relationship with China post-Brexit. Both sides proved keen to explore all of the possibilities and opportunities this new chapter in the UK’s global political history may bring, with representatives from both sides commenting that the discussions had been the most wide-ranging of any of the previous Forums. Many different aspects of the UK-China relationship were covered, including the potential for free trade agreements between China and the UK following Brexit, areas for cooperation linked to China’s Belt and Road Initiative, joint projects in third-party countries such as Syria and Afghanistan, and issues of global importance such as tensions in the South China Sea and North Korea.

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H.E. Secretary Du Qinglin, Chinese Ambassador to the UK H.E. Liu Xiaoming, and Chinese Delegates to the Forum

Secretary Du cited several areas of particular focus for the Chinese government in the coming years, including the two centenary goals mentioned by President Xi Jinping, as well as the development of the rule of law and better governance within the party in line with the anti-corruption drive. He went on to say that dialogues such as the Leadership Forum provide ways of deepening discussion and cooperation between our two countries, and that a frank exchange of views helps to develop the relationship, with this Forum being an “indispensable part of the UK-China relationship.”

Also in attendance on the Chinese side was Vice-Minister of the International Department of the CPC Central Committee, Guo Yezhou, who had attended the first Leadership Forum in 2007, and since moved up to Vice-Minister level to lead discussions on the second day of the Forum.

The UK delegation consisted of 18 senior Parliamentarians led by co-leaders, the Rt Hon Kenneth Clarke MP and the Rt Hon Lord Mandelson, and several Forum alumni including Richard Graham MP and the Rt Hon Liam Byrne MP.

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Catherine West MP, Shadow Minister for Asia, and Lord Sassoon, Chairman of CBBC

The UK delegates raised several topics of concern with their Chinese counterparts, including the issue of cheap steel exports from China, international terrorism and their desire for an increased Chinese role in the global refugee crisis. There was also discussion on the opportunities for cooperation in the finance sector, particularly in reference to the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), as well as on the topics of intellectual property rights and green finance.

The Forum concluded with remarks from officials on both sides which made it clear that, despite the uncertainty surrounding the UK’s future in global politics, there are many opportunities within the UK-China relationship for cooperation and shared growth.

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Breakout discussion group

In addition to the Forum, Chinese delegates also met with officials from the newly-created Department for Exiting the EU to discuss the vision for the UK-China relationship over the next few years, as well as taking part in a roundtable discussion with EU experts from the Centre for European Reform, a London-based EU policy think tank.

The Leadership Forum is made possible by sponsorship from BP. The next Forum will take place in Beijing in late 2017

Date posted: 27 October 2016

Categories: Political Dialogues

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