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Meg Munn MP - Sheffield Heeley's voice in Parliament | Welcome
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Post Olympics China and its role in the World

Monday, September 29, 2008

Meg was asked to make some remarks at a meeting on ‘Post Olympics China’. She was joined on the panel by the Chinese Ambassador Fu Ying and John Prescott MP. The event was chaired by Ian Stuart MP, Vice-Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on China.


It’s a pleasure to be here and share the platform with the other panellists.


‘Post Olympics China’ I have to start with reflecting just how successful both the Olympics and Paralympics were, and I don’t just mean for Team GB. Though in both Games Team GB did superbly!


Both Games were a huge success for the organisers with both the opening and closing ceremonies being spectacular. London 2012 will have learnt much from your experience, Beijing 2008 will be a hard act to follow. As Ambassador Fu Ying has said, ‘through these Games China has learnt far more about the world and crucially, the world has learnt much more about China.’


Our relationship with China is thriving. We have a partnership across a wide range of areas, and engagement and dialogue remains one of the UK Government’s top priorities. The exchanges between UK political parties and the Chinese Communist Party in Beijing earlier this month, which John Prescott attended, is probably the most recent example of this.


I want to cover two issues today. Firstly, I want to look at where the UK Government sees China going over the next few years. Secondly, I want to set out how the UK Government should engage with China for our mutual benefit.


China’s progress has been stellar. In 1978, when it first began opening up to the world, it contributed 0.5% of world GDP. Last year that figure was 6.2%. By 2020 that figure could be as high as 14%. In 2006 China had 14 billionaires, last year it had over 100.


I know that President Hu is commited to addressing inequalities caused by unbalanced economic development, environmental damage and mass migration. And that the Chinese path for this is through well-planned and sustainable ‘scientific development’. The next few years should see further reductions in the numbers of people in absolute poverty. 


How then should the UK government engage with a rapidly changing China? First, the UK should ensure that it is in a position to benefit from China’s increasing economic growth. The UK is a global hub for business, educational, scientific and cultural excellence.


As China develops, these aspects of the relationship become deeper and more complex. No longer is our trading relationship, for example, solely about importing cheap Chinese goods or outsourcing British companies. UK exports to China rose by over 40% in the first half of this year. Chinese company listings on the London Stock Exchange rose by 10%.


We now have more British students studying in China and more of our school pupils learning Mandarin than ever before, including in my own constituency. The ‘China Now’ festival earlier this year brought Chinese culture to the UK on a scale we have not seen before. With our strong relationship we are in a position to work together on some of the global challenges we face.


China’s has a fundamental role in ensuring we can cope effectively with the global economic downturn, or make progress on counter-proliferation. In order to resolve international conflicts, or take effective action on climate change, China has to be centrally involved. Working through our growing range of bilateral and multilateral dialogues with China enables us to reach common positions and then take action.


This is not at the expense of issues such as human rights, where the Government, the British public and Parliament take a close interest. We believe that the progressive extension of political freedoms and respect for human rights go hand-in-hand with strong and widespread lasting economic development. We will continue our close dialogue with China on this, at a political level between our two Ministries, and through funding projects that make a practical difference.


I think the experience of the Beijing Games has been enormously positive for the relationship between the people of our two countries. If our two Governments continue to pursue honest, objective dialogue on all the important questions of the day our understanding of each other will only grow.   

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