Mike O’Brien – 2004 Speech on the UK and China

Below is the text of the speech made by Mike O’Brien, the then Foreign Office Minister, at the Dorchester Hotel in London on 19th January 2004.

Thank you for inviting me to speak here this evening.

I should start by wishing you all GONG SHEE FAR CHAI (long life and prosperity) in this, the year of the Monkey.


Britain is one of the most open and one of the most successful trading nations in the world. Millions of jobs depend on our ability to export around the rest of the world.

UK exports to China from January to September 2003 stood at £1.4 billion showing a rise of nearly a quarter on the figure for the same period in 2002.

Countries who complain that they are losing out on investment or on jobs because of China’s success, fail to see the benefits that China’s success is bringing to global markets. Yes, China’s exports were up last year by 32%, but imports were up more – by 41%. Of course, there is still some way to go – Intellectual Property Rights need to be enforced more rigorously, and some trade barriers are still too high. But huge progress has been made.

The reality is that as developing countries become richer, they contribute more to the global market – they buy more, they have more to invest.

China’s new open approach to the global economy and its membership of the WTO are important steps along the way.

I’m sure the British businesses amongst us here tonight agree, and I am looking forward to presenting the award for exporter of the year later in the evening.

I was in Beijing and Shanghai last summer and saw for myself the level of involvement that Britain has in China’s awesome development as potentially the world’s major economic force.

Just last year P&O signed an $800 million contract with COSCO and Maersk to create China’s biggest container port at Qingdao and British Architect Lord Foster and Arup are part of the successful consortium developing the new terminal at Beijing airport.

For the Beijing 2008 Olympics Arup, British consulting engineers, are working on the National Stadium and the new aquatics centre; HSBC, Allen & Overy, PWC and PMP – all great British firms – are working alongside the Chinese in this ambitious project.

These are just some of the impressive, large scale projects that shout China’s presence on the world stage. I know that more are in the pipeline and I hope that UK firms continue to be valuable partners for China.

Just before closing, a quick mention for the China Britain Business Council’s 50th anniversary coming up in June. The CBBC has assisted thousands of British companies in China. As an organisation they are continually adapting their services to meet market demand.


China is no longer the ‘sleeping tiger’ it once was – it is now a vibrant open and dynamic economy playing an important role in the global family of trading nations. And the UK looks forward to enhancing our trading relationship with China even further over the coming years.