"I am so stunned to have received this award," said 56-year-old British entrepreneur Simon Haworth who was granted this year's Friendship Award on September 29 in Beijing.
At the Great Hall of the People, Simon with others received Friday China's highest honor granted to foreigners, for his contribution to the country's development.
"I just start out on my China journey and there are many who have travelled far further than I have," Simon said.
For Simon, his business in China may have just begun, but for his family, their China story has lasted for more than 140 years and crossed six generations.
About five years ago, Simon came to Wuhan, capital of central China's Hubei Province, and began his business in a bio-industry park there.
At that time, he did not know the connection between his family and China until he found his grandmother Dorothy Gaddum's diary.
"My family has been in close contact with China for 140 years," said Simon.
Back around 1874, Simon's great-great-grandfather, Henry Gaddum, set up a company importing silk from Shanghai.
Then in 1887, Henry sent his eldest son Harry to Shanghai to learn business management for two years, which he described as the "best two years in my life."
Gaddum's company imported silk thread from China till the 1990s. Simon's uncle, the then-owner of the company, had also visited China many times.
Dorothy and her husband visited China in the 1960s and their experiences were in her diary.
"Look, this is exactly the bridge behind us," said Simon, pointing to a cigarette package pasted in the diary with a picture of the Yangtze River Bridge.
"The bridge is high enough for any boats to pass under, and has two layers with the road above and the railways below," Dorothy wrote in her diary.
Besides Wuhan, Dorothy also wrote about other cities after her visits in 1963 and 1967, including Beijing, Shanghai, Hangzhou, Harbin and Jinan.
Dorothy mentioned that "Chinese people were all very curious about us" and that they "attracted great crowds".
However, compared with that time, Simon said the situation has completely changed now. "We are sitting here by the Yangtze River and speaking English. It is very normal. It is such an international place."
The family's China story continues.
Five years ago, Simon came to Wuhan to set up his biotechnology company.
In 2015, the municipal government of Wuhan granted him the Yellow Crane Friendship Award in recognition of his contribution to a city eager for foreign investment and technology. The award is the highest honor that the city with a 10 million population gives to a foreigner.
Simon also turned his attention to cultural exchanges between China and Britain. By establishing a youth exchange project, he wanted to eliminate misunderstandings or prejudices between people in the two countries.
Walking along the banks of the river and looking at the bridge, Simon said "I believe I am building a bridge, a bridge between here and Britain."
Simon's elder son, George, 24, has come to Shanghai for internships. His second son William is looking forward to coming to China.
"My seventeen-year-old daughter came to my office last Wednesday said 'It is time I learned Chinese,'" Simon said.
For Simon's family, China is the future. "I believe it's China's turn now. Everything is in place here."
"I hope in the future I am able to repay China's friendship by welcoming Chinese visitors to Britain and to my home, and by helping Chinese investors access the best technology that Cambridge, Britain and Europe can offer," Simon said.
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