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Progressing with Rest of the World
Speech by Ambassador Zhang Yishan at the Symposium "A Dialogue on Russia and China Today"at Lehman College

2006/03/25

President Richardo Fernandez,
Ambassador Denisov,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am honored to be invited by Lehman College to join this event of "A Dialogue on Russia and China Today".

Today's topic has closely linked Russia and China, the two important powers in the world, and both are permanent members of the UN Security Council. Currently, the two countries are enjoying the best relations in history. Supported by people of both countries, China and Russian have established a new kind of relationship. It is non-aligned, non-confrontational and not targeted against any third country. China-Russia strategic cooperation and partnership has been consolidated. There is frequent exchange of high-level visits on the basis of mutual trust and mutual respect. President Putin has just concluded his successful state visit to China. It was his fifth meeting with the Chinese President Hu Jintao within one year. Presidents Putin and Hu presided over a grand ceremony in Beijing to celebrate the Year of Russia in China. And next year, 2007, the Year of China will be launched in Russia. In today's complex world, I believe the significance of a long-term friendship and cooperation between the two big neighboring countries has far exceeded China and Russia themselves.

American friends are very interested in the development of China-Russia relations and the related foreign policies. I am more than happy to share my views with you. US,Russia and China are all influential powers of the present world and have shared responsibilities of safeguarding world peace and security as permanent members of the Security Council. The event of today will help increase understanding among our three peoples and will also promote healthy development of our state-to-state relations. The topic of my speech today is "Progressing with Rest of the World".

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Nowadays, China has often become a headline in the news report. Some media even produced special edition for a series of report on China. The views and assessments on China differ significantly. Some see China as an opportunity, some as a threat, while the rest put it in the middle and adopt a wait-and-see approach. China has attracted more attention since last year in particular, when some Chinese companies made merger attempts towards American enterprises, such as Lenovo vs. IMB PC, Haier vs. Maytag, CNOOC vs. UNACO. Although the latter two attempts didn't go through, the efforts themselves, especially the last one, aroused a lot of discussion among Americans, making China an even hotter topic here in the US.

How does the true picture of China look like? Is it a threat or an opportunity? I hope my introduction today could help you in understanding the real China. China has three special features, i.e. long history, large population and profound changes. In order to better understand China, it is crucial to learn something about these features.

ONE. Long History

The first feature China has is its long history. China has a recorded history of over 5000 years. And in my opinion, the entire history could be divided into three parts, ancient times, modern times and contemporary times. Each part has its own characteristics, i.e. splendid ancient times, humiliated modern times and rising contemporary times.

A. Splendid ancient times.

You all know that in human history, there have been ancient Babylon, Egyptian, Greek, Roman, Indian and Chinese civilizations. Some of these civilizations, due to natural disasters, foreign invasion or internal turmoil, demised or mixed into other civilizations. However, the Chinese civilization, thanks to its persistent cohesion, preserved its integrity through all the historic ups and downs. In ancient times, China had long been the most developed country in the world, creating advanced productivity and science and technology. The four most important inventions for mankind,-gunpowder, compass, papermaking and letterpress printing - are all from China. The Chinese people are proud of their long history.

B. Humiliated modern times.

Since the modern times, China became weaker and weaker and the society stopped progressing because of the ignorant, corrupt and backward feudalist monarchy and its self-isolation from the rest of the world. Since the first Opium War waged by Britain in 1840, China was degraded gradually from a feudalist power to a semi-colonial semi-feudal country. The 110 years from 1840 to 1949, when New China was set up, have witnessed dozens of wars waged by foreign powers against China, resulting in numerous unequal treaties forced on China. One case could best illustrate how China was bullied at that time. A colonial power put on a plate at the park entrance within their concessions in Shanghai which reads "Chinese and dogs not allowed". This wanton humiliation against the Chinese people persisted until the founding of new China.

C. Rising contemporary times.

The sharp contrast between the splendid ancient times and humiliating and backward modern times makes the Chinese people cherish dearly the national independence and the mastery of their own destiny. It is the shared aspiration of all Chinese people to see the rejuvenation of the Chinese nation.

Since the beginning of the reform and opening-up policy in 1978, we have found the right path of national development, which is the path of independently building a socialist country with Chinese characteristics. The experience shows that it is a path of success.

China's economy is one of the fastest growing economies in the world. From 1978 to 2005, the GDP of China grew from 147.3 billion USD to 2,200 billion USD, which is estimated to be the 4th in the world. This means a 9.4% average annual increase, three times of the world annual economic growth rate in the same period. In 1978, China's total foreign trade volume was only 20 billion US dollars. Last year, it reached 1,400 billion, which put China to the third largest trading nation in the world now. Over the past 27 years, people's living standard has achieved remarkable progress. China's population of poverty has been reduced from 250 million to 26 million. This is widely acclaimed by the United Nations which is implementing an ambitious Millennium Development Goals to halve the world's poverty by the year 2015. China's efforts and achievements in the field filled people the worldwide with confidence in the MDGs.

TWO. Large Population

The second feature China has is its large population. China has a population of 1.3 billion, which means one out of every five of the world's people is Chinese. Besides this, 10 million more people are added every year. 1.3 billion people represent valuable assets and huge market, but it also means tremendous pressure.

Outside of China, countries and companies tend to set their eyes on the big market of China with 1.3 billion people. In UN, there is a joke, saying that some Latin Americans are complaining why God made Chinese prefer tea over coffee, because if the Chinese love coffee, they would not face any financial difficulties. Some other Latin Americans wish the Chinese will buy their bananas, arguing that if each and every Chinese eats just one banana, their economy would boom. Now, there is some good news for them. There are more and more Chinese, especially young people switch to coffee and according to the news report, it won't take too long before the Starbucks opens more stores in China than in the US.

These countries and companies are right about the huge market in China. I can give you a few figures to show this. Mobile phones have witnessed the fastest development in China. When the network was established in China in 1988, there were only 3000 users. Now this figure grows to 358 million with an annual increase of 60 million. In addition, Internet, which is very popular among young people in China, is also growing fast. The net surfers have totaled over 100 million, making China No 2, just trailing after the U.S.

China's territory is more or less the same size as the US, but her population is four times more. Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao has used a well-know deduction: no matter how small a problem is, multiplied with 1.3 billion, it becomes a huge problem; no matter how remarkable financial and material resources are, divided by 1.3 billion, it becomes a very low average level. Though our GDP was the 7th largest in the world in 2004, the average per capita was only 1,290 US dollars, which, according to the World Bank statistics, ranked 132 in the world.

President Bush knows the population pressure faced by the Chinese leaders very well. Here, let me quote from a recent statement by President Bush. On January 23, President Bush made a very important policy statement at the Sates University of Kansas. When asked about the Sino-US relations, President Bush said the following and I quote: "It's really interesting, do you realize that it takes China 25 million new jobs a year to stay even. Thinks about that - I'm out there blowing when we get 4 million in the past - since April of 2003- President Hu Jintao of China needs to get 25 million new jobs."

THREE. Profound Changes

The third feature China has is its profound changes. Along with the deepening of the reform and opening-up, Chinese people have witnessed unprecedented extensive and profound changes in the political and economic fields and in their daily lives, such as their choice of career, movement, wealth accumulation, investment, traveling and way of life.

One of the most fundamental changes in China is the establishment of a socialist market economy. Over a long period of time, China implemented a highly-regulated "central planning economy". Under the planned economy, any item and quantity of production is decided by the plan, even as small as a box of matches. The resources are allocated by the government, the enterprises are responding to handed-down guidelines and quotas instead of the changing market. The farmers cannot decide what to grow, rather they have to listen to the plans adopted by local authorities. For example, some lands are suitable for peanut, but the plan directs the land for growing grain; then the farmers could only comply even if they know it may be more profitable to grow peanut. At present, the production and the price for goods and services are mainly determined by the market. It is up to the farmers themselves to decide how and what to grow on the farmland.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

What I have said above are some basic facts about China. Indeed, over the past 27 years, China has made some progress. Nevertheless, due to the large population, weak foundation and uneven development, we still face lots of problems and difficulties. As a developing country, China also has significant income gap between the rural and urban areas and the eastern and western provinces. If you go to cities in the southeast coastal areas, you will see skyscrapers and busy traffic; but the lit-up metropolitan skyline is not the whole picture of China. In the countryside, especially in western China, there are many places lagged behind. 30 million peasants still do not have adequate food and clothing, and 23 million urban population still live on basic living allowances. Every year, 24 million new labors enter the job market which only 10 million new jobs created. There are 60 million disabled persons need care and support from the society.

When I started my presentation, I mentioned that some news report called China as a threat. Some people argue that in modern history, the rise of a power always led to dramatic changes in the international structure and the world order, even triggered wars. Thus they feel worried and anxious about the rise of China. I personally believe that China will not be a threat to the world. I am saying this not only because I am a Chinese, but on the basis of the following reasons:

First, the peaceful development of China is deeply rooted in its 5000-year culture. Confucianism lies at the core of the Chinese culture, whose essence is the emphasis of "preference of peace" and "attaining harmony while reserving differences". It means keeping harmony and variety at the same time.

The Chinese nation is a peace-loving nation. 2000 years ago, the first emperor of Qin Dynasty built the Great Wall, which is of a defensive nature. 1000 years ago, the Tang Dynasty government paved the well-known Silk Road leading to the far west, in order to spread silk, tea and china to the rest of the world.

2005 was the 600th anniversary of the expedition by famous diplomat and sailor of Ming Dynasty, Zheng He. 600 years ago, Zheng He led 200 boats and 20,000 sailors traveling from Pacific Ocean to Indian Ocean. During 28 years of time, they made 7 trips and set their feet on scores of countries in Southeast Asia, South Asia and Eastern Africa.

Zheng He's expedition is almost one century earlier than Columbus discovery of the "new continent"; his boat is 8 times bigger than that of Columbus, which could room 1000 passengers. The fleet was scores of times bigger than that of Columbus. History showed different outcomes of these expeditions. The former Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir put it very well, "what Zheng He brought with him was fine products and advanced agricultural and handcraft technology, wherever he went, he extended knowledge and friendship, in stead of conquer, invasion, occupation and war, in sharp contrast to the European colonizers."

Second, there is another important principle in the Chinese tradition and culture, i.e. "do not do upon others what you don't want others do onto you". The Chinese nation has been subject to foreign aggressions many times, in particular the repeated invasions by Japan in the modern history, which incurred untold sufferings and tremendous losses to the nation. During WWII, the military and civilian casualty reached 35 million, the direct economic losses, calculated according to the exchange rate of 1937 when Japan waged the all-round invasion war against China, reached 100 billion USD and indirect losses amounted to 500 billion USD. Japan even used biological and chemical weapons in China. Till now, chemical weapons left behind by the Japanese aggressors can still be found in some places in China.

From their personal experiences, the Chinese people realize how valuable peace and independence are. The Chinese people, who have been humiliated and bullied by foreign aggression, aspire and cherish peace the most, they have no reason to threaten or invade others.

Third, China adopts an independent and peaceful foreign policy that holds high the banner of peace, development and cooperation. China holds that the world has entered into a new era of peace, cooperation and development. This era is featured by closer bonds among countries in politics, economy and security with greater interdependence.

We advocate multi-polarity in the world and democracy in international relations. All countries, big or small, rich or poor, strong or weak, are all equal members of the international community. Disputes should be solved peacefully through dialogue and consultations. We respect diversity of different civilizations. We are in favor of wide collection of development modes. We wish to see harmonious coexistence among all civilizations and development modes. Countries should learn from each other in competition and comparison, and achieve common progress through seeking consensus while preserving differences.

In world affairs, we act in the fundamental interests of the Chinese and world people. We make our own decisions and policies based on the merits of each case. China does not form alliance with any power or group of powers. We will not join any military blocs, nor will we engage in arms race. And China will not carry out military expansion.

China wishes to continue its policy of comprehensive reform and opening up on the basis of the five principles of mutual respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity, mutual non-aggression, non-interference in each other's internal affairs, equality and mutual benefit, and peace coexistence. We will carry out wide-ranging trade, economic and technological cooperation and scientific and cultural exchanges, establish and develop friendly relations with all regions and countries. This will not only help our own development, but also promote common development of all countries.

China has proven, through its own deeds, to be a peace-loving country, a good friend and good partner in the international family of nations.

For example, in 1997 during the Asian financial crisis, China decided to stabilize the value of RMB for the common interests of Asian countries, and provided help to relevant countries within its capacity, thus playing a major role in successfully coping with the crisis by Asian countries. In 2004, right after the Indian Ocean Tsunami, the Chinese Government and people moved quickly in the disaster relief effort, the largest operation since the founding of New China. In October when Pakistan was hit by an earthquake, China was the first country to send a rescue team.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The Lehman College has shared a memorable experience with the United Nations. On March 25, 1946, exactly 60 years ago today, the first Security Council meeting in the US was held here. I would like to inform you that the Security Council just completed its the meeting yesterday. The Security Council is entrusted by the international community with the mandate of safeguarding world peace and security. And our three countries have made great contributions to ensuring that the sacred mandate is faithfully implemented.

My country attaches great importance to the United Nations. The United Nations is the most authoritative and universally represented inter-governmental organization. It is an organization for world peace and common development. After 60 years, the UN has both successes and lessons. In general, it has played an irreplaceable role in safeguarding world peace and promoting common development, ranging from mediating state-to-state conflicts to dispatching peacekeeping troops, from achieving Millennium Development Goals to conducting relief work for Indian Ocean Tsunami. We cannot imagine a world without the UN.

During the World Summit held last September in New York to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the United Nations, over 170 heads of states or governments attended the summit to discuss how to promote world peace and development. The summit adopted an outcome document, which emphasized that this planet is the shared home of all peoples in the world and the challenges and problems for human development call for joint efforts by all peoples in the world. After pointing out current threats to international security, the document stressed that no single country, no matter how powerful it is, can ensure that it is free from the harm of various threats only by its own strength. In order to build a world of lasting peace, common prosperity and harmony, all peoples need to join hands to strengthen mutual understanding, confidence and cooperation.

Starting from 1972, I have served for four different times with the permanent mission of China in New York, Geneva and Vienna. I felt and witnessed personally China's increasing participation and influence in the UN.

As a permanent member of the UN Security Council, China is fully aware of its responsibility in safeguarding world peace and stability. China abides by the purposes and principles of the Charter of the UN, actively participates in UN affairs, upholds the authority and role of UN and its Security Council, supports all the reforms of the United Nations and engages in extensive international cooperation in the field of counter-terrorism, arms control, peacekeeping, development, human rights, international law and environment.

The outcome document of the world summit also called on the United Nations to engage in reforms. We have so far achieved two of them. At the end of last year we created the Peace Building Commission. On March 15, the General Assembly adopted a resolution and decided to set up the Human Rights Council in order to further promote human rights and fundamental freedoms the world over. China made great efforts and contributions in achieving the agreement among member states. The United Nations reform process is still moving ahead and China is ready to participate actively and lend her assistance, in order to strengthen the efficiency, effectiveness and the accountability of the United Nations.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

To conclude and to sum up, the development of China is not a threat to the world. I wish to quote President HU Jintao's statement during his visit to UK to finish my presentation. He said, "China has chosen and will stick to the path of peaceful development, China's development is a peaceful, open and cooperative development. This path is the only way for China to enhance its national strength and people's well-being. China will unswervingly move on this path of peaceful development and join other peoples in the world to promote the lofty cause of peace and development."

Thank all for your patience and attention.


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