Britain is looking forward to making a significant and practical contribution to the China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative, said British Ambassador to China Barbara Woodward on Friday.
Britain is very much excited about the vision of the Belt and Road Initiative, an inclusive development project, and sees a huge opportunity of bilateral cooperation in practical terms, said Woodward in an interview with Xinhua.
The Belt and Road Initiative, comprising the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st-Century Maritime Silk Road, was put forward by Chinese President Xi Jinping in 2013. It aims to build a trade and infrastructure network connecting Asia with Europe and Africa.
The infrastructure is important “to the development and growth of the countries along the road” as well as “to global trade,” said Woodward.
While Chinese companies are experienced in infrastructure development, British companies could contribute in project design, engineering, sustainable and green growth, as well as management and consultancy, she added.
“Our relative strength could be complementary,” said the ambassador.
The year of 2017 marks the 45th anniversary of the establishment of the diplomatic ties between China and Britain.
“I think at all levels the UK-China relationship in the golden era is in very good shape,” said Woodward in the interview.
The China-UK ties have grown steadily over the past decades and reached a new high after Xi's state visit to Britain in 2015, which unleashed the start of the “golden era.”
The two sides have witnessed a significant business and investment growth, said Woodward.
From 2004 to 2014, Britain's total exports to China grew from 4.8 billion U.S. dollars to 23.6 billion dollars, according to statistics provided by the Chinese embassy in Britain.
In 2016, China-UK bilateral trade in goods reached 74.3 billion dollars.
Britain is an attractive destination for Chinese companies and its financial services sector looks forward to growing its cooperation with China as Chinese economy is opening up in the services sector, said the ambassador.
Referring to the Brexit, the senior British diplomat said that her country saw it as an opportunity “to be truly global” and was ready to establish “stronger and deeper” ties with partners outside Europe.
“Obviously with China, that will be a very important example,” said the ambassador, noting that the two countries share a common vision of global free trade.
Britain will “remain a very open economy,” said Woodward.
More cooperation opportunities between the two countries could be found in areas of innovation, research and development, and sustainable and green growth, she added.
Increasing people-to-people exchanges are another highlight in the China-UK relations.
Woodward said that around 582,000 UK visas were issued to Chinese nationals in 2016, 19 percent up from the previous year. Among them, 73,000 were study visas for Chinese students studying in Britain, a 14 percent increase on a yearly basis.
“We are very keen to encourage more Chinese tourists to the UK,” said Woodward, adding that the embassy has already been working to streamline the visa application procedures, which would make it faster and easier for eligible applicants to get a visa.