Last updated at: (Beijing Time) Tuesday, July 22, 2003

Chinese Premier, British PM Hold Talks

Premier Wen Jiabao and visiting British Prime Minister Tony Blair hold a 65-minute talks Monday at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing. Both men hailed the momentum of bilateral relations, and Blair said during the talks that he thought highly of the China's way of resolving latest problems in Hong Kong.


Premier Wen Meets Blair
Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao and his British counterpart Tony Blair voiced their willingness to make joint efforts to promote mutual cooperation in various fields during their talks Monday.

The two leaders gave a positive evaluation of Sino-British relations and expressed the belief in the huge potential for the growth of bilateral relations.

Premier Wen said that Sino-British relations have developed noticeably in recent years.

In the political field, he noted, the administrative power of Hong Kong has smoothly returned to China and an all-round Sino-British partnership has been forged.

In the economic field, the volume of bilateral trade had been doubled in the past five years and British investment in China exceeded the 10 billion US dollar mark, he said.

Moreover, bilateral cooperation between the two countries in the cultural, educational, scientific, technological and environmental areas has also proven fruitful, Wen added.

In view of the present complex and changeable international situation, he said, as permanent members of the UN Security Council and with the common interests and vital responsibilities, it is both necessary and urgent for China and Britain to strengthen cooperation either for the maintenance of world peace and or for economic development.

Premier Wen also set forth four points of hope for the future development of Sino-British relations.

First, to continue to maintain the momentum for high-level contacts and establish and further improve the strategic dialogue and consultation mechanism.

Secondly, to explore and expand economic and trade cooperation in order to help small and medium-size enterprises to strengthen exchanges, to encourage British companies to invest in the development projects in the middle and western region of China and to increase the volume of bilateral trade to 15 billion US dollars from 10 billion US dollars in the next three to five years.

Thirdly, Premier Wen hoped to promote the in-depth cooperation in the cultural and educational spheres and enhance the mutual understanding and trust of the people of both countries and, finally, to properly settle the differences of the two sides through dialogues.

Meanwhile, Premier Wen reiterated China's stance on the issues concerning Taiwan and Tibet and exchanged views with Prime Minister Blair on international issues of common concern.

Prime Minister Blair expressed his full endorsement with Premier Wen on bilateral relations and suggested furthering the reciprocal cooperation.

Britain and China have wide-ranging interests in common, he noted, saying that the two sides also share the common expectations and pursuits of maintaining world stability and promoting development.

Meanwhile, he added, the British side is ready to work hand in hand to keep increasing cooperation with the Chinese side in the fields of politics, economy and trade, education, culture and other fields.

Prime Minister Blair said he had had a better understanding of China through contacts with Chinese personalities from various circles, and he also underlined that the British side would adhere to the one-China principle to resolve the relevant issues properly.

Wen said that facts have proven that the practice of "one country, two systems" has been successful in Hong Kong, and has won international acclaim.

He said he hoped that concerned countries will do more to support Hong Kong's stability and development.

He recalled that in the past more than six years, the Chinese government has, strictly in accordance with the Basic Law of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, completely implemented the principles of "one country, two systems", "Hong Kong people governing Hong Kong", and high-degree autonomy.

In these years, Wen said, Hong Kong was hit by the Asian financial crisis, the global economic slowdown and severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS). However, Hong Kong scored economic stability and development, and Hong Kong people's legal rights and freedom were fully guaranteed.

He stressed that a stable and prosperous Hong Kong is not only in the interest of all Chinese people including Hong Kong compatriots, but also conducive to foreign interests in Hong Kong.

Blair said the implementation of the principle of "one country, two systems" in Hong Kong in the past six years has yielded very good results, which he called "gratifying".

He said that during the implementation of the principle, which was a new concept, it was highly possible for serious problems to emerge. However, such problems did not occur.

Blair pointed out that the British side appreciates the Chinese side's treatment of Hong Kong's recent issues and hopes to find a way to maintain Hong Kong's stability.

Britain will make its own efforts to this end, added Blair.

Blair arrived in Beijing Sunday night, kicking off his three-day official visit to China. He is the second Western European state leader, following French Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin, to meet with the new Chinese leadership.

"Britain hopes to enhance co-ordination with China on a number of regional and international hot topics,'' said Zhao Jun, director of the ministry's Department of Western European Affairs.

Britain is one of the few Western countries with an embassy in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), and Blair has discussed the nuclear issue when he visited Japan and the Republic of Korea (ROK) after a stop in Washington.

Being two permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, China and Britain share common interests and responsibilities in a variety of international affairs, said Professor Zhao Huaipu of the Beijing-based Foreign Affairs College.

"Both (China and Britain) hope to see stability in the Korean Peninsula, Iraq and South Asia at an early date,'' Zhao Huaipu said.

Blair will focus on promoting trade ties with China, which has so far not figured very prominently on the prime minister's agenda.

There will be the exploration of the potential for economic co-operation between the two nations, said Zhao Huaipu.

Bilateral trade volume was US$11.4 billion last year, and had reached US$5 billion by May 2003, an increase of 16.3 per cent over the previous year. By the end of 2002, the UK had invested in 3,406 projects in China, with US$10.7 billion actually put into use, ranking the UK the largest investor among European Union members in China.

"I believe that Chinese leaders and Blair will discuss new philosophies and measures to boost bilateral co-operation in various fields,'' said Zhao Jun.

Blair is taking a number of British business leaders with him to China -- including executives from the pharmaceutical firm GlaxoSmithKline, auto giants Rolls-Royce and oil companies Shell and BP.

They will attend a forum with Chinese entrepreneurs in Shanghai, and Blair is due to make a speech on globalization to the British Chamber of Commerce in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (SAR).

"The smooth transfer of government in Hong Kong between China and the United Kingdom in July 1997 opened a new chapter in the annals of Sino-British relations,'' said Zhao Jun.

During Blair's visit to China in October 1998, the two countries issued a joint statement, formally announcing the establishment of a comprehensive China-UK partnership.

"Blair has clearly expressed his hope that Hong Kong would act as a `bridge' of bilateral relations rather than a barrier,'' Zhao Jun said, adding that recent years witnessed a good momentum for the development of a comprehensive China-UK partnership.

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