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Speech by Ambassador Wang Guangya, Permanent Representative of China to the United Nations, at Princeton University
(9 April 2004, Princeton University)


Ladies and Gentlemen,

Good evening.

It is an honor for me to be invited to your seminar tonight. For me, for my colleagues and many other Chinese, Princeton has long been a familiar name. With a history longer than the country, it has produced many outstanding people, Woodrow Wilson, the 28th US President, Albert Einstein, the great scientist, and T. S. Eliot, the famous poet, to name but a few. As the former President Bill Clinton said in 1996 in celebration of the 250 anniversary of Princeton: "At every pivotal moment in American history, Princeton, its leadership, its students have played a crucial role."

I am more pleased to learn that all of you have a keen interest in China. Though our two countries are geographically far apart, we have lots in common. While many Chinese enjoy Hollywood movies and McDonald's fast food, many Americans find that their clothes and daily necessities are made in China. I hope that today's seminar will help you gain a better understanding of China and its foreign policy, thus further deepening our friendship and cooperation.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Let me begin by briefly talking about China's current situation. As you all know, China introduced the policy of reform and opening up 25 years ago. In the short span of a quarter century, China has achieved unprecedented progress in its development. 25 years ago, China's GDP was only 147.3 billion US dollars. Last year, it exceeded 1,400 billion, an increase of almost 10 times. 25 years ago, China foreign trade was merely 20.6 billion USD. Last year, the volume climbed to 851.2 billion. 25 years ago, more than 250 million people were living below the poverty line. Last year, the figure was reduced to less than 30 million. It is certainly not an overstatement to say that the past 25 years constitute a most glorious chapter in the annals of the Chinese history.

The most fundamental reason for such remarkable achievements is that we have found a development model, which fits our own conditions. That is socialism with Chinese characteristics. Needless to say, we still have a long way to go, as China still faces many challenges including, among others, a huge population, problems left over from the past, low productivity and lack of balance in its development.

China is slightly larger than the United States in size, but its population is 1.3 billion and it is still increasing. It will reach its peak of 1.5 billion around 2040 and will only then begin to decrease. With such a huge population, no matter how enormous the total volume of financial and material resources is, once being divided by 1.3 billion, it becomes a small per capita figure. Last year, China's GDP ranked sixth in the world, but in per capita GDP terms, it was only a little over 1,000 USD, which was behind more than 100 countries. The huge development gap between the coastal areas and the interior of China is another problem confronting the country.

The more immediate objective of the Chinese government is to enable all the Chinese people to lead a fairly well off life. This requires consistent and tireless efforts. The Chinese government has made development its top priority. By development, we do not simply mean economic growth, but an all round, balanced and coordinated development, with the focus only on the people. The development strategy will seek to maintain a balance between the rural and urban areas, and between the economic development and social progress. All in all, it is aimed at achieving material, cultural and political progress, and harmonious coexistence between man and nature.

To revitalize the Chinese nation is the common aspiration of all the Chinese people. We now embrace a wonderful opportunity for development. By what has been achieved, the rise of China sounds no longer a dream. This, however, has caused concerns and worries of some people. They argue that modern history shows that the rise of a big power would often lead to disturbances of international relations and world order and even war. While I understand such concerns, I must say however that they are really unnecessary. It is because:

First, China as a nation has always believed in the philosophy of "peace is priceless". To pursue a world of "Great Harmony" is not just a teaching from our ancestors. It is a "gene" deeply rooted in the Chinese nation. Never seeking hegemony is our solemn commitment.

Second, while proud of its long and splendid ancient civilization, China also remembers the bitter and humiliating experiences in its modern history. We keenly feel the pain inflicted by outside aggressors. "Do not do unto others as you would not have them do unto you". This is the will of the Chinese people and no one can go against the will of the people.

Third, as mankind has entered the 21st century, no country can retreat to "zero sum" games. China will not be an exception. Our only choice is to develop in a peaceful environment, which in turn will enhance peace.

Fourth, for a country with over a billion people, China can rely on nobody but itself for development. We will mainly take advantage of our vast market potentials, abundant labor resources and capital accumulation, while working hard to improve education and develop science and technology.

Finally, the peaceful rise of China with its 1.3 billion people will be neither a hindrance nor a threat to any country. Quite the contrary, it can only greatly contribute to maintaining world peace and stability.

To achieve peace and development is the ardent aspiration of the entire mankind. China will continue to pursue an independent foreign policy of peace. We wish to see a multi-polar world where international relations are conducted on the basis of democracy and rule of law, disputes are settled through dialogue and cooperation, and the world affairs are managed by all countries on an equal footing. We are in favor of diversified modes of development, more extensive dialogue and exchanges among civilizations, poverty elimination and environmental protection so as to attain common and harmonious development of all countries. We are against all forms of terrorism and proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. We advocate a new security concept of mutual trust, mutual benefit, equality and coordination.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Sino-US relations are one of the most important bilateral relations for China. Since the establishment of diplomatic relations 25 years ago, they have enjoyed continued progress, despite twists and turns. Before the establishment of diplomatic ties, Sino-US trade volume was less than 2.5 billion USD. Now, the volume is over 100 billion. The two countries have become each other's major trade partners. People-to-people contacts used to be virtually nonexistent. Today, our annual two way exchanges amount to several million persons. Over 60,000 Chinese students are studying in your country, and more than 3,000 Americans are taking courses in China.

The United Sates is the largest developed country, while China is the largest developing country. The two countries are having more and more common interests, and the areas of cooperation are expanding. In our bilateral relations and in multilateral fora such as the United Nations, one can find many examples of cooperation. From economic relations and trade to environmental protection and AIDS prevention, and to anti-terrorism, Korean nuclear issue and nonproliferation. All this has helped broaden the scope and consolidate the foundation of our strategic interests.

It is unthinkable that China and the United States should see eye to eye on everything. After all, the two countries have different historical traditions, cultures and values. However, as was described by Secretary of State Colin Powell, "the United States sees an even greater need to shape a relationship with China that is defined by our mutual interests, not by those of disagreement. … And we know that China shares that goal."

I fully concur with this view. As an ancient Chinese saying goes, "true friendship between gentlemen allows for differences". When we have differences, we should discuss them frankly, and not let them obstruct the development of our relations. A sound and stable friendly relationship and cooperation is in the common interests of our two peoples and is conducive to world peace and development.

Mankind is faced with numerous challenges in its endeavor for peace and development. The future of the world is full of variables. While the traditional security issues such as border conflicts, ethnic disputes, and religious grievances still exist; new security problems are cropping up in the form of terrorism, transnational crimes, environmental degradation and drug trafficking.

I have noticed that basketball, baseball and football are the most favorite sports for American youth. All these sports manifest and require a strong team spirit. Maintaining world peace and security also requires that spirit. With the fast development of globalization and transnational challenges and threats, no country can develop itself in seclusion, even it is in possession of unparalleled military and economic might. The international community can only choose cooperation to realize true peace and security.

About 60 years ago, drawing on the lessons of WWII, President Franklin Roosevelt and his colleagues blueprinted and founded the United Nations. Its major objective was to jointly safeguard security and promote development through collective action. As the most broadly representative and authoritative international organization in the world today, the United Nations still serves as an important forum for countries to strengthen cooperation and respond to common challenges. A powerful United Nations is what the future of the world lies.

The war in Iraq a year ago has caused repercussions on the collective security mechanism, putting multilateral approach and the United Nations under severe test. Developments in Iraq over the past year show that unilateral approach cannot bring peace and security. Rather, It undermines mutual trust and cooperation among states. It is gratifying to see that more and more countries have realized that collective security and multilateralism offer the effective way to tackle global issues. The United Nations should play a substantive role in seeking a solution to the Iraqi issue.

Undoubtedly, to better respond to the wide spectrum of challenges confronting the world today, we need a more effective and efficient United Nations. There have been thought-provoking discussions and studies in this regard. In order to adapt to new changes and meet emerging challenges, it is necessary to reform the United Nations in an appropriate manner with a view to strengthening its authority and functions and enhancing people's confidence and trust.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

108 years ago, Woodrow Wilson, the 13th president of Princeton, called on students to work hard and be ready to serve their country in his famous oration entitled "Princeton in the Nation's Service". This coincides with the tradition of the Chinese intellectuals – "to study and apply what you learn, to serve the country with unreserved loyalty".

I am also delighted to hear that thanks to the proposal of President Harold Shapiro, the famous phrase has now become "Princeton in the Nation's Service, and in the Service of All Nations". This has given full expression to the spirit of multilateralism and represents the trend of the world today.

Thank you.

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