BRI, Innovation in AI, Blockchain Among Top China-UK Cooperation Priorities

China-UK sees opportunity in innovation-driven development and to open a new chapter in several technology areas including blockchain, the Chinese Ambassador to the UK has said on Tuesday night at the “Icebreaker” Chinese New Year Dinner 2020 in London.

Liu Xiaoming said at the event jointly held by the China Chamber of Commerce in the UK, the 48 Group Club and the China-Britain Business Council that the development of Sino-British relations should seize major opportunities including to open a new chapter of China-UK cooperation on innovation.

“There’s been steady progress in the implementation of the China-UK joint strategy for science, knowledge and innovation cooperation,” he says. “We are working to dovetail these strategies and conduct joint projects in innovation with new highlights in artificial intelligence, blockchain, telecommunications and biomedicine.”

He also talked on new cooperation between Chinese and British enterprises and the development of a new Sino-British economy and trade relations to achieve new leaps in the China-UK financial cooperation with reference to the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

The envoy used what seems like a 2019 scorecard for China’s investment in the UK – especially in the finance and technology sectors – to hint at the opportunities a cooperation in line with the BRI stands to bring to both countries.

“BRI has seen an active participation from all sectors in the UK,” Liu says. “We hope to take advantage of this platform to combine the best of Chinese manufacturing engineering and construction with the best of British project design, legal, technical, financial services expertise so as to deliver more outcomes.”

He adds that London became the second largest offshore RMB clearing center last year as well as the largest offshore RMB trading center which see it achieve a total clearing volume of 40 tln RMB (~US$5.8 tln). Also, the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China issued its first GBP-denominated bond to become the first ever Chinese bank to do so while British financial institutions further expanded their business in China at the same with the likes of Standard Life UK setting up first ever foreign-owned pension insurance business in China.

In the tech space, Alibaba’s Ant Financial purchased the UK’s largest cross-border online payment company, World First; Huawei set up its 5G Birmingham Training Center; OPPO set up its international design center in London; and Tencent and Bytedance bought shares in some or acquired AI companies in the UK.

Britain’s Economic Secretary to the Treasury, John Glen, said his country and China are “natural partners” and that the two sides have broad prospects for cooperation in financial services and the “Belt and Road”.

It would be recalled that members of the group that acts as a common voice for the various business sectors of the European Union and European businesses operating in China recently called for EU countries to tighten reciprocity  against China, particularly in the digital sphere, if China won’t stop protecting its own companies while blocking access to the Chinese market. The European Union Chamber of Commerce in China surmised in their report this month that not many European companies have shown interest in participating in the BRI as a result.

So far, the EU and most of its member states have yet to sign up to the BRI – except for 12 member states which have signed MOUs: Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Malta, Poland, Portugal, Romania and Slovakia. Whereas, geographically, the EU sits at the opposite end of both the ‘belt’ and the ‘road’ from China hence “has been on the receiving end of extensive BRI-related infrastructure projects, including railways, ports and highways.

Based on the view that China is protecting its own, they recommended that that China implements “an open and transparent procurement and tendering system for all BRI-related projects” while EU member countries “create an initiative that both complements the BRI and offers a credible alternative.”

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