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Speech by Mr. ZHENG Xi Yuan, Consul General in Manchester at the Concert to Celebrate the 72nd Anniversary of the Founding of the People's Republic of China

2021-09-24

 
Distinguished guests,

Good evening!

I really didn’t expect to be meeting you all today by video recording!

Many thanks to Chetham’s School of Music for their considerate arrangements and to all of you here today to attend the symphony concert in these beautiful surroundings to celebrate the 72nd anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China and the launch of the UK’s first China Music Classroom at Chetham’s School of Music.

As you know, China and UK have taken different approaches to the control of the pandemic, and that is why I am not here in person today. However, Chetham’s have kindly provided the technology to allow me to be here remotely. This is a wonderful example of respect and tolerance for each other’s views and values, mutual co-operation , and working together.

Speaking of working together, after reading in the media that Sir Richard Leese will stand down in December from his post as Leader of Manchester City Council, after 25 years in the role, I decided that I would make a trip to Hough End to visit Wuhan Wood.

I stood quietly, touching the stone monument erected by Manchester City Council to commemorate the sister city relationship between Manchester and Wuhan. Coincidentally, the cities first twinned in 1986, the same year that the Chinese Consulate-General opened in Rusholme.

I recalled the committed and concerted efforts of Sir Richard, as well as other leaders and people from both cities, to strengthen and nurture open economic relations, trade and investment between China and UK, and deepen co-operation and friendship between the two cities and countries.

The sequoia, ginko, birch and tree of heaven were in full bloom and I found the whole experience overwhelmingly emotional. It was such a symbol of the strength and importance of growing relationships and working together, which is even more essential at this time of pandemic.

As John Donne, a British poet, so eloquently stated: ‘No man is an island’. It is no wonder that this poem, written way back in 1624, has recently gone viral! It reflects the strong human desire for inclusion and solidarity, which is so important in today’s world.

It has been inspiring to watch the people of Manchester, Liverpool, Leeds, York and elsewhere, working closely with their sister cities in China to support each other at this difficult time. They truly embody the foreign policy goal of China to create ‘a community with a shared future for mankind’.

I am sincerely grateful to everyone who is committed to friendship between China and UK.

The music that you will enjoy this evening has been chosen carefully with this relationship in mind.

I am delighted and proud to announce that this evening is the national premiere of ‘Memories of Mount Jin Gang’ and ‘Backyard of the Village’.

Their composer, Mr Ye Xiaogang, is one of China’s leading contemporary composers, Chairman of the Chinese Musicians’ Association, a renowned composer of film scores, as well as the International Chair of Composition at the Royal Northern College of Music.

His musical epics illustrate the hard work and perseverance of the Chinese Communist Party in its 100 year journey, and the celebration of the resulting great victory of the Chinese people in the battle against poverty.

Ladies and gentlemen, I am pleased to report that China is not only improving life for its own people, but also for many other countries across the world.

For example, the Trans-Eurasia Logistics, is a joint venture between German, Russian and Chinese railway companies. 40 fully-loaded trains run from China to Europe every week, via Mongolia, Siberia, Belarus and Poland. It is the longest and busiest rail freight line in the world.

Recently, HMRC reported that UK’s total export trade fell in the first quarter of 2021, but the value of trade between China and UK encouragingly bucked the trend.

Also, according to a report released by King’s College London, Chinese students contributed £3.7 billion to the UK economy in the 2019/2020 academic year, in tuition fees alone.

I am delighted that more and more of our British friends are recognizing that the further deepening of economic and trade co-operation between China and UK is beneficial to both countries.

I realise that there are currently a few murmurs in China-UK relations, but I would like to borrow another historical poem, this time a Chinese one called Down River to Jiangling, to illustrate my beliefs.

It was written by Li Bai, one of the greatest Chinese poets of the 7th Century. He was banished to a remote part of China by the authorities during the Tang Dynasty, but on the journey he received a reprieve. It describes his elation as he travels on a small skiff through the countryside on his return to civilization:

In the midst of clouds all glowing.

Baidi, I left you at dawn,

By evening I’ll be home at Jiangling, a thousand miles I’ve gone.

While on cliffs of the Yangtze Gorges,

Gibbons ceaselessly cry,

Ten thousand folds of mountains, my skiff has slipped them by!

So, although the ‘gibbons’ may currently be crying and murmuring in both of our countries, I sincerely believe that we will continue to travel together, enjoy the scenery, learn from our experiences, invest in our relationship and feel the elation and optimism of a successful, close and ever developing and deepening friendship.

Ladies and gentlemen, there is no greater investment for every family and every country than the education of our children. As we speak, chartered flights full of Chinese students are flying from Chongqing to Manchester. This is part of China’s investment in the future and a testament to our long-term belief in the importance of UK-China relationship.

The Chinese Consulate General hopes to work with you to nurture the thousands of Chinese students studying here into ambassadors of friendship and co-operation between our two countries becoming the new ‘Wuhan Wood’ of the 21st century.

Thank you all!

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