Skip to main content

Mr Speaker's speech, President Xi Jinping's address to Parliament

The Speaker of the House of Commons, John Bercow, delivered a welcome speech prior to the President of the People's Republic of China, Xi Jinping's, address to members of both Houses of Parliament on Tuesday 20 October in the Royal Gallery of the Palace of Westminster.

Parliamentary colleagues and distinguished guests: welcome to the Royal Gallery. Mr President, Madame Peng Liyuan, it is my pleasure to introduce the leader of a nation that is both very ancient and truly modern to a Parliament that is both very ancient and truly modern. It is a reflection of our changing times that we have hosted no fewer than four prominent daughters and sons of Asia in our Parliament in the past three years, starting with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi of Burma, the Nobel Peace Prize winner, democracy champion and international symbol of the innate human right of freedom. Your visit here today, Mr President, reinforces the links between the United Kingdom and China. Those links are social and personal as well as economic and political and are all the stronger for that. This trip should provide the means for both sides to come to understand one another better. The Chinese people have many, many, friends in this Parliament.

Those friends are familiar with what you, Mr President, have described as the "Chinese Dream" and which others have referred to as a second Chinese Revolution. Your country is engaged in an experience and an experiment without equal in history. You are attempting to complete an industrial revolution which took Britain the better part of two centuries in little more than two decades. Your country has seen a transformation in how its people work and in what they rightly expect for themselves, for their families and for their society. The enormous challenge of how to deal with this falls to you and to your colleagues.

Yet what China does, economically but also politically, is seen by, and relevant to not merely your own 1.5bn citizens. It is seen by and relevant to billions more across the globe. The world will be watching and waiting expectantly on the outcome as the emerging superpower that is China takes its new place in the world. In this century, no country can exist in isolation: in all matters, from international law to individual liberty, we should all aspire to be seen not merely as a powerful force in the world, but as a moral inspiration to it.

In all this, we can usefully reflect on the wise Chinese words that it is

better to light a candle than to curse the darkness

We very much hope that your time here will assist the process of illumination. On behalf of our Parliament I invite you, Mr President, to address us.