On 26 January, the 48 Group Club, China Chamber of Commerce in the UK (CCCUK) and China-Britain Business Council (CBBC) jointly hosted the ‘Icebreakers’ 2022 Chinese New Year celebration. President Xi Jinping sent a congratulatory message to the ‘Icebreakers’ 2022 Chinese New Year celebration. More than 500 Chinese and British guests and audience gathered online and celebrated the Spring Festival, looking forward to a fresh start to Chinese New Year.
In the letter, President Xi remarked in the 1950s, British entrepreneurs, represented by Mr Jack Perry, embarked on a journey to break the ice of Western trade embargo on China. This year marks the 50th anniversary of the ambassadorial diplomatic relations between China and the UK. Looking back, we remember the old generation of friends who have made historic contributions to the development of the China-UK relationship. Looking ahead, I hope that the visionary people from both our two countries, including the business community, will carry forward the ‘icebreaking’ spirit and expand mutually beneficial cooperation to give the China-UK friendship a new dimension befitting our times and bring more benefits to both our two countries and peoples.
In his keynote speech, Zheng Zeguang, Chinese ambassador the UK said that the message of congratulations represents the great importance that President Xi attaches to the China-UK relationship and conveys his expectations to the visionary people from both our two countries, including the business community. It has charted the course for us to make joint efforts to advance China-UK ties and expand our mutually-beneficial cooperation. Ambassador Zheng expressed his hope that visionary people from our two countries, including the business communities, should persevere with confidence and not allow anyone to turn back the wheel of history and deny the common aspiration of our two peoples; should blaze new trail and share in the opportunities of China’s development; and should join hands and leverage their respective strengths, consolidate the cooperation in traditional areas including trade, investment, traditional finance, manufacturing and infrastructure, expand into new areas such as health care, FinTech, green energy, digital economy and creative industries, and explore third markets, so as to create more highlights of in their business partnership and bring more benefits to the peoples of both our two countries and beyond.
Grand gathering of political and business leaders in a lively atmosphere
The event, themed around ‘Celebrating Chinese New Year Together, Looking to a New Future’ was attended by some VIP guests and speakers, including: H.E. ZHENG Zeguang, Chinese Ambassador to the UK; The Rt Hon Lord Hammond of Runnymede, the former Chancellor of the Exchequer; John Edwards, Her Majesty’s Trade Commissioner, British Embassy Beijing; Stephen Perry, Chairman of the 48 Group Club; Mr FANG Wenjian, Chairman of the China Chamber of Commerce in the UK (CCCUK), General Manager of Bank of China London Branch; Sir Sherard Cowper-Coles, Chair of the China-Britain Business Council (CBBC), Group Head of Public Affairs, HSBC Holdings plc.
The Rt Hon Lord Hammond of Runnymede, the former Chancellor of the Exchequer said in his speech that the last two years of pandemic have been a challenging period for the global economy, especially for international trade and UK-China relations.
China is the second largest economy in the world and it takes important position in UK’s export market and imports source. Current forecast suggests a strong recovery in both Chinese and the UK economies. The UK remains a destination of choice for Chinese businesses investing in Europe. As China creates huge incremental market demand it will be an important partner for UK’s post Brexit.
He also reminded that China will also be an indispensable partner in the battle against global warming. Both as a contributor to decarbonisation and its own economy.In the future, we should focus on what we have in common, on cooperating to the mutual benefit of our people as well as free and fair trades.
John Edwards, Her Majesty’s Trade Commissioner, British Embassy Beijing, wishes Happy New Year to all participants of the event. He stated in his keynote speech that the UK is determined to deepen China-UK trade relationship and attract more Chinese investment into the UK in ways that support UK values, national security and long-term economic strength. He highlighted that not only is UK an important market for Chinese goods, but its investment in China continues to grow. Equally, China is a significant market for UK goods. Chinese companies recognise the transparent and predictable investment environment that the UK provides and that the UK have particularly welcomed the contribution China has been making to the UK’s green transition. Looking into the future, the UK will be working with Chinese companies to expand electric vehicle manufacturers, renewable supply chain to help the UK build the most exciting green market in the world and to make a joint contribution to the defining thing in our time, green economy.
Stephen Perry, Chairman of the 48 Group Club expressed his sincere thanks to President Xi Jinping for his congratulatory letter and Ambassador Zheng for his message. He said that despite the current challenges in China-UK relations, President Xi’s congratulatory letter gave us a deep sense of the importance China attaches to bilateral trade relations between China and the UK. Both China and the UK are permanent members of the UN Security Council and have a responsibility to work together to maintain peace in the world. China and the UK continue to set new records in trade levels to build a solid foundation for economic and trade cooperation. We look forward to China sharing their innovation and development achievements and contribution to the advancement of global economic recovery and the development of relations between the UK and China.
Mr FANG Wenjian, Chairman of CCCUK, General Manager of Bank of China London Branch, said that the tiger symbolises strength, courage, determination and confidence in China. He quoted an ancient story about how a tiger goes from nobody to king as an analogy for the flourishing of China-UK economic and cultural relations since the first icebreakers opened the door to trade links in the 1950s. He hoped that with the new challenges and opportunities for relations between two countries, China and the UK could be more open-minded and accommodating to open up a new and shared future.
Sir Sherard Cowper-Coles, Chair of CBBC, Group Head of Public Affairs, HSBC Holdings plc, praised the wise words of President Xi’s congratulatory letter and sent New Year’s greetings to the guests. He said that the Chinese community has brought wealth and diversity to the British society and has made extraordinary contributions to British national life. It is hoped that China and the UK will work together to continuously strengthen economic, commercial and cultural ties, build up momentum in the new year, continue to enhance bilateral exchanges and mutual trust, and inject new vitality into China-UK economic and trade cooperation.
Virtual celebration of the Chinese New Year with various cultural highlights
Having been held for many years consecutively, the ‘Icebreakers’ Chinese New Year celebration has become an iconic event for the political and business communities from China and Britain. This year’s celebration was held online again in happiness and warmth, filled with a festive mood of vibrant spring and jubilant delight. In a cookery demonstration, which was part of the special cultural interactions arranged by the organisers, the ‘Meaningful Courses’ (pronounced Yi-Tou Cai in Chinese) for the Year of the Tiger were presented to the audience, offering a glimpse of the broad range of Chinese culinary arts. A great performance of singing and Chinese folk dance was also put on, virtually creating a unique festive atmosphere of the Year of the Tiger.
The event is nine days away from the opening of the 2022 Winter Olympics. In order to express their expectations and wishes for the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics, the audience also watched the theme songs of the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics, “Meet Beijing in 2022” and “You Are a Miracle”. Children from Millburn Primary School in Northern Ireland, UK, sang Chinese songs with clear voices to cheer for the Beijing Winter Olympics. The Olympic ice and snow and traditional Chinese culture complement each other, making this “Icebreaker” Chinese New Year celebration a complete success.
The event was co-hosted by The 48 Group Club, whose predecessor was the ‘48 Group of China-Britain Trade Mission’ established in 1954. At the time, 48 businessmen from British companies, known as the ‘Icebreakers’, took the lead in breaking the barriers of the western embargo against China and started the earliest trade discussion between the UK and the People’s Republic of China with non-governmental forces. The other two hosts – CCCUK and CBBC – have continuously built bridges for economic and trade cooperation between the two countries and promoted positive Sino-British relations over the years.
前英国财政大臣哈蒙德勋爵（The Rt Hon Lord Hammond of Runnymede），英国驻华贸易专员吴侨文（John Edwards），英国48家集团俱乐部主席斯蒂芬﹒佩里(Stephen Perry)，英国中国商会会长、中国银行伦敦分行行长方文建，英中贸易协会主席、汇丰集团公共事务全球负责人古沛勤爵士(Sir Sherard Cowper-Coles)等嘉宾出席本次活动并致辞。
前英国财政大臣哈蒙德勋爵（The Rt Hon Lord Hammond of Runnymede）在致辞中表示受到疫情的影响，过去两年全球经济都处于动荡时期，尤其对国际贸易和英中关系产生了较大影响。但最新预测显示，英国仍是中国企业在欧洲投资的首选地，同时，英国公司也在继续积极寻求机会进军正在快速增长的中国消费市场，中国将成为英国脱欧后的重要合作伙伴。哈蒙德勋爵还提出在应对全球变暖问题上，中国也是不可或缺的伙伴，中英将共同为减碳和其自身经济做出贡献。他表示，未来两国应该求同存异，合作共赢，实现自由公平的贸易。
英中贸易协会主席、汇丰集团公共事务全球负责人古沛勤爵士(Sir Sherard Cowper-Coles) 对习近平主席贺电的睿智话语表示感谢，并为现场嘉宾送上虎年新春祝福。他表示，华人社区为英国社会带来了财富和多样性，做出的卓越贡献有目共睹。希望中英两国携手合作，不断增强经济、商业及文化纽带，在新的一年里蓄满动力，继续增进双方交流互信，为中英经贸合作注入新的活力。
本次活动距离2022年冬季奥林匹克运动会开幕还有9天。为表达对2022年北京冬奥会的期待与祝福，与会观众还观看了2022年北京冬季奥林匹克运动会主题歌曲《2022相约北京》和《你就是奇迹》。英国北爱尔兰米尔本学校（Millburn Primary School）的孩子们用清澈的歌声唱响中文歌曲为北京冬奥会加油，奥林匹克冰雪与中国传统文化交相辉映，为本次“破冰者”新春庆祝活动画上圆满句号。