B&R offers room for further China-UK cooperation

Source:Global Times Published: 2018/6/11 21:03:40

Gerry Grimstone Photo: VCG

Editor's note:

The UK and China share strong ties and their collaboration on academic and business levels is getting deeper. As China's new round of opening-up continues and the Belt and Road (B&R) initiative gathers steam, the two countries will be able to broaden their cooperation. The 48 Group Club celebrated the 10th Anniversary of "The 48 Group Club Young Icebreakers" on June 5 in London. The "young icebreakers" is a network for young UK-China business leaders, acting as a bridge between China and the UK. On the sidelines of the event, Global Times London correspondent Sun Wei (GT) talked to Sir Gerry Grimstone (Grimstone), chairman of Standard Life Aberdeen, on China's further opening-up.

GT: This year marks the 40th anniversary of China's opening-up. What has impressed you most through the years?

Grimstone: I think the path that has been followed by the Chinese leadership has been very good and predictable, and they have stuck to it, so people have a good understanding of what is happening there. Carrying on introducing market reforms is challenging. China is a very complicated country and it operates at many different levels. Sometimes the messages from the top take time to filter down to middle ranking officials and to lower ranking officials. So the stability of the leadership has been important. We have branches in 86 Chinese cities so I go to many parts of the country and I see how deep and wide the reform is in China.

GT: You have praised the Chinese government for its long-term strategic planning. What's your suggestion for China in its further reform and opening-up?

Grimstone: As I said at the Boao Forum for Asia earlier this year, President Xi Jinping is a great beacon of stability in a world that has become quite unpredictable.

China is very good at long-term planning. Chinese planning stretches further out than any other country in the world. And I think that's one of the strengths that China has. It has consistency of purpose, consistency of planning, and that's allowed these very great changes to happen in China.

Harmony and stability are very important things, so maintaining harmony across different sorts of people and maintaining a balance are very important. I am very optimistic about the future in China.

GT: You participated in former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher's economic reforms in the UK. How do you see the similarities and differences between the reforms in China and Britain?

Grimstone: I was in charge of state enterprise reform for Margaret Thatcher. The first time I went to China was nearly 30 years ago at the invitation of former Chinese premier Zhu Rongji, who was working on the reform of Chinese State-owned enterprises at the time. I think good progress has been made with that, but there is still room for further development. And I'm sure that will be a priority for the administration going forward.

GT: You are an expert on reform of state-owned companies. A lot of countries are now introducing more private entities into this sector. What are the challenges facing them, and what would you suggest?

Grimstone: I think all countries have a balance between the public sector and the private sector according to the characteristics of the countries. That boundary is set in different places but sectors can learn from each other. I think the private sector can help the state, and the state can help the private sector. And when you see cooperation between the State enterprises, the markets and the people of China, I think it's very a good thing. It's also good to give people an opportunity to invest in state enterprises. There has been progress here in encouraging workers to invest in the enterprises in which they work. And Chinese people participating in the wealth of China is a very good thing going forward.

GT: How do you evaluate China's wealth gap issue and the social security and welfare system?

Grimstone: When countries are developing, some people become more wealthy. The important thing is to have a sense of social equality. To maintain harmony in society, you have to have a strong balance between the wealthy and the not-so-wealthy.

China has made good progress by helping people escape from poverty in the process. Some people have become wealthy but we shouldn't mind that as long as their wealth has been created from hard work and strong enterprise.

GT: What would you advise regarding the B&R initiative, and what is Britain's role in the initiative?

Grimstone: Both countries have traditional ways of thinking while also being very modern and entrepreneurial. 

China looks to Britain for innovation and it sees that Britain is very entrepreneurial. Some of the ideas that have been developed here could be very useful to China. So I think there should be collaboration in academia, entrepreneurs and general business activities. Chinese investment is very welcome in Britain. We're one of the most welcoming countries in the West for China.

My asset management company is very interested in investing in the B&R. When China helps to build infrastructure in these other countries, it has a very deep impact on them. The infrastructure may be financed by China, but the economic development the infrastructure creates gives huge benefits to the other countries.

Britain is really keen to cooperate with China on this. I sit on the advisory board that advises the British government on these matters and we are keen to do more.



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