Third pillar now in place

| by Zhang Jiansong

( April 20, 2012, Beijing, Sri Lanka Guardian) First High-Level People-to-People Dialogue helps support the bridges being built between China and the UK
On a beautiful spring day on April 16, State Councilor Liu Yandong and British Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport Jeremy Hunt co-chaired the first meeting of the China-UK High-Level People-to-People Dialogue in London.
A bank clerk stacks up yuan notes in Nantong,
Jiangsu province. The central bank pledged to
ensure adequate liquidity to support economic
growth by using various tools, such as reducing
 the reserve requirement ratio. [Photo/China Daily]

Liu’s visit to the United Kingdom is a follow-up to Premier Wen Jiabao’s visit to the UK last June, when he and British Prime Minister David Cameron announced the establishment of the dialogue.

This dialogue is the third of its kind between China and a major country, it has already established similar dialogue mechanisms with the United States and Russia but this is the first between China and a European Union country.
It is believed that the dialogue will help the two countries further understand and learn from each other, and deepen friendship between the Chinese and British peoples. Following the Economic and Financial Dialogue and Strategic Dialogue, the High-level People-to-People Dialogue is the “Third Pillar” of the China-UK Comprehensive Strategic Partnership.
This year marks the 40th anniversary of diplomatic relationship between China and the UK at ambassadorial level. Over the past four decades, China-UK relations have withstood tests and maintained continuous growth.
In particular, since the establishment of the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership in 2004, exchanges and cooperation in various areas between the two countries have been increasingly dynamic, among which people-to-people exchanges are an important highlight.
Currently, there are around 120,000 Chinese nationals studying in the UK, making it one of the largest recipients of Chinese students. There are 20 Confucius Institutions and 60 Confucius Classrooms across the UK, ranking number one among the EU states.
There is also an explosion of interest in China among the British public. China NOW, The First Emperor: China’s Terracotta Army, China: The Three Emperors and other exhibitions have been a major hit in the UK. Visitor numbers at Edinburgh Zoo are soaring, thanks to the recent arrival of the two giant pandas Yang Guang and Tian Tian. The Chinese ballet The Peony Pavilion and a Peking opera version of Hamlet were also staged in the UK to great acclaim. All these demonstrate the robust growth of people-to-people exchanges between the two countries.
People-to-people dialogues are about communication and interaction among the public. They are pivotal in bridging differences, enhancing mutual trust and friendship, and promoting cooperation. They help to build a solid foundation of public support for the steady growth of state-to-state relations, and are therefore a core part of the overall bilateral relationship between China and the UK.
This year, the UK will host a series of major events, including the Olympic Games, and celebrations for the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II. This week the Chinese culture is taking central stage and market focus at the 2012 London Book Fair, which opened on Monday.
These activities, along with the establishment of the dialogue, will surely usher in new opportunities for the deepening and broadening of people-to-people exchanges between China and the UK.
Both China and the UK shall, in a spirit of mutual respect, openness and inclusiveness, take hold of the opportunities, work hand in hand to identify ways to strengthen cooperation in the coming years, explore “flagship programs” to boost interactions in culture, education, science and technology, media, sport and youth, carry out more wide-ranging activities that involve both governments and the general public, rally more public engagement, and build an ever stronger China-UK and China-EU relationship.
We have every reason to be confident that with the formal launching of the China-UK High-Level People-to-People Dialogue, exchanges and cooperation between China and the UK in people-to-people sector will continue to prosper and deliver greater benefits to the two peoples.
The author is an official with China’s Foreign Ministry. 

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