China-UK Bilateral Trade Sets New Record

The Chinese ambassador to the United Kingdom, Liu Xiaoming, disclosed yesterday that China-UK bilateral trade surpassed US$70 billion in 2013, setting a record high. He also noted that the United Kingdom’s exports to China increased by 13.8 percent, stating that this is “much higher” than China’s other European Union trade partners. Moreover, Liu revealed that over the past two years, Chinese investment in the United Kingdom reached US$13 bn, which is more than the total of the three decades previous to that. This increase is attributed to the consensus reached by the leaders of the two countries on expanding cooperation and bilateral trading relationships.

Ambassador Liu was speaking at a reception organized by the 48 Group Club as a celebration of the Chinese lunar new year. Chairman of the 48 Group Club, Stephen Perry, was reported as saying that “the UK can be the most profitable destination in the Western world for Chinese outward investment in infrastructure, real estate, energy and transportation.”

After the founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1949, a group of business people in the United Kingdom sought to establish trade relations with China, becoming the first ‘Icebreakers’ of the Western world. The UK was one of the first countries to officially recognize the newly established PRC, but any advancement came to a halt with the war in Korea which saw the UK joining the US-led embargo against China.

In 1952, the first Director of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, Lord Boyd-Orr went on record as saying that “The Iron Curtain and the Bamboo Curtain would be less dangerous if there were more wagons crossing over them carrying goods from one side to the other. Trade increases understanding.” He set about paving the way for British trade with foreign countries by forming the British Council for the Promotion of International Trade (BCPIT), and in 1953 led 16 British company representatives to China for trade discussions. This became known as the ‘Icebreaker Mission’ opening the way for the 1954 trade mission of 48 businessmen from British companies, the foundation of The 48 Group which continues to this day upholding their mission of ‘Equality and Mutual Benefit’ – a phrase coined by China’s Premier from 1949 to 1976, Zhou Enlai.