|Chinese Vice Premier Liu Yandong speaks at a ceremony celebrating 40 years of student exchange between China and Britain in Beijing, capital of China, April 23, 2014. (Xinhua/Pang Xinglei)
BEIJING, April 23 (Xinhua) -- Chinese Vice Premier Liu Yandong on Wednesday called for closer people-to-people exchanges between China and Britain to lay a solid social foundation for bilateral relationship.
People-to-people exchanges can be a "booster" for bilateral ties, which will benefit the people of the two countries, Liu said at a meeting on China-UK high-level people-to-people dialogue.
Liu and British Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt co-chaired the meeting on Wednesday in Beijing.h The two sides should look at people-to-people exchanges with a strategic and long-term perspective, carry forward the pledges of predecessors and open up a new road for the future, take care of each other's major concerns and core interests, and share experiences of reform and development, said the Chinese vice premier.
She said China and Britain should seek common ground while putting aside differences, and enhance mutual understanding.
"Despite differences in national conditions, social systems and values, China and the UK have more common interests than disputes," Liu said, urging the two sides to build a "bridge" featuring understanding, inclusiveness and cooperation through dialogue.
She said there was no "quick and easy recipe" for people-to-people exchanges, noting that the two sides should advance practical cooperation with innovative thinking step by step in a consistent way.
Liu said the two sides should make use of both governmental and non-governmental channels and focus their work on the grassroots level to promote interactions between people, especially the youth, to win firm support to friendly cooperation.
According to Liu, more than 100,000 Chinese students went to Britain for further study in 2013, compared with 16 in 1973 when the two governments started student exchange programs. China has become Britain's largest country of origin for international students.
There were more than 1.6 million Chinese students studying overseas and 350,000 foreigners studying in China last year, said the vice premier.
Youths, being the most energetic and innovative members of society, act as a major force of people-to-people exchanges that can forge mutual understanding, Liu said, suggesting the two sides set up "flagship programs" to cultivate youth leaders.
Calling Britain and China "indispensable partners for each other," Hunt said the two nations enjoy broad potential for cooperation.
He said student exchanges are the most tangible part of the Sino-British cooperation, adding that Britain wants to encourage 80,000 British to study in China between 2013 and 2020, and to double the number of Chinese-learners in Britain to 400,000 by 2020.
Britain is willing to learn from China and expand consensus so as to lift the level of bilateral humane cooperation, the health secretary said.
The China-UK high-level people-to-people dialogue was launched by Liu and then culture secretary Hunt in London in April 2012. The mechanism is aimed at expanding cultural ties between the two countries, strengthening direct communication between the two peoples, as well as allowing more trade opportunities.
There are more than a hundred programs under the framework of the mechanism covering 30 aspects in seven fields including education, science, culture, sports, media, youth and health.