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Vice Foreign Minister Fu Ying's Remarks in Hong kong on July 11 (full text)

2011-07-12 16:36

China's Relationship with the West and the Role of Hong Kong

By Fu Ying
Hong Kong Conference and Exhibition Center
11 July 2011

Thank you, Dr. Cheng Kar Shun.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Thank you for attending this dinner.

I've been in Hong Kong many times over the years. Every time I am very amazed by the vitality of the city. I still remember in the mid-1980s when I was studying in the UK, where people were talking what would happen to Hong Kong after its return to China. Many were worried. But now, Hong Kong is even more prosperous and still going strong. Its success after the return is acknowledged by the world.

When I was invited to speak here, I found it difficult to find what to talk about. Hong Kong is such a vibrant hub of information that it's very hard to talk about things you don't know already. So I think I'll share with you some observations from the point of view of a Chinese diplomat working mainly on Europe. That may give you an angle of the Chinese perspective.

Recently I've been to Europe a number of times. Most recently I travelled with Premier Wen Jiabao on his trip to Hungary, UK and then to Germany. The delegation was greeted with warm welcome and very high expectations for partnership everywhere we went.

We could see that probably the most difficult moment of the financial crisis is over. Germany is leading the recovery and Ireland is on its way up. Most of the governments have emphasized the need of reform, which is impressively becoming the slogan of the day.

But the general picture is still not very optimistic. In the first quarter of the year, the Eurozone grew by 0.8%. The US grew by less than 2%, which is less than expectation.

The other worrying factor is the inflationary pressure in emerging economies. It's also spreading to the developed world and is hurting consumption there.

In the eurozone, the most serious concern is the debt problem. When we were in Europe, the most heatedly discussed issue was Greece. The Greek parliament has adopted a new reform package and Greece will receive support from the EU. On the other side of the Atlantic, there are also discussions about the debt issue in the US, which we are also watching very closely.

Unemployment in Europe is serious. When visiting Britain, we had a lunch with MG factory workers. They talked about so many people losing jobs, not just in the city we were in, but also other British cities and other European countries as well. This has become a focus of public concern.

Many are asking questions. Why so many governments have made the mistake of over-borrowing? Why the welfare system, the pride of Europe, has led to over-spending?

We've noticed that governments in Europe and elsewhere are reflecting on the issues and working on reforms to overcome the difficulties.

Obviously it's not going to be easy to convince the people to come out of the comfortable life style into austerity. To find a balance between reforming and responding to people's need is not easy.

For China, it is important that the developed world recover and return to the track of healthy development. Because they are our very important partners and we are interdependent on each other. Without a world recovery, how could the Chinese economy continue on its healthy path? So we are watching very closely, expressing our support and doing what we can to support.

The other reason is that we are also confronted with the challenge to further improve our rule of law and build a better social security structure. The lessons and experiences of the developed world are important for us when we design our own path. That is the first observation.

The second observation is that there is a very strong desire in the West to have economic cooperation with China.

During the visit by Premier Wen Jiabao, we signed dozens of agreements with the three countries and the total value is over 20 billion dollars. There was a very good discussion in Hungary for example, about how to promote business cooperation, and China’s National Development Bank offered €1 billion as a special fund for loans.

In Britain we signed 12 agreements. There were discussions on intellectual property protection, which is often a concern on the British side. So the Chinese side suggested holding a special seminar in the latter half of the year in Britain to discuss IPR protection issues in China and increase the awareness of the progress China is making. As a matter of fact, there is a Chinese company filing lawsuit against a British company over IPR violation. It shows the progress. It is important to encourage more British companies to enter into cooperation with China.

In Germany, we had a strong dialogue, the first of its kind China has had with any country in the world. The Germans call it “joint cabinet dialogue”. 10 ministers and 4 vice ministers from the Chinese side and 16 from the German side, led by the Chinese Premier and the German Chancellor, sat down and engaged each other in a very warm discussion on what we are going to do in all these fields. The discussions were very deep and forward looking, about how the two strong economies can work together to be more competitive in the world. It was a very successful dialogue, showing not only the political resolution to work with each other, but also the economic interest in partnership.

The feeling is very strong for China and Europe to go beyond the simple relationship of selling and buying into more strategic cooperation, for example, research together and explore the world market together.

There is a lot of hope for closer partnership from Europe. The EU has a Europe 2020 strategy and China has this new Five Year Program. There is a lot of ground for individual EU members and the EU as a whole to discuss with China about wider and deeper cooperation along the line of the two strategies.

That is the positive side of our relationship with Europe and the West as a whole. But that is not to say that there are no difficulties or differences. The differences, in the meanwhile, may have become more evident and highlighted too. And that brings me to my third observation.

Sometimes our partners would have one hand stretching out for cooperation with China and the other hand trying to hit us from time to time. I want to mention a very old topic, “China's human rights”. It seems that whenever China's human rights is mentioned, China is wrong. It reminds us of the “tall hat” in the Cultural Revolution in the 1960s. If it's on your head, you are wrong for ever. There is no way you can justify yourself. The decision is made and you are wrong, period.

I was an interpreter for many years when I was younger, and human rights was a subject of discussions between China and the West already. I remember when I was accompanying a Western delegation to Shanghai, one of the delegation members said “Ms. Fu, you in China have no human rights. Look at Shanghai, it's a beautiful place, but you don't have the freedom to move to Shanghai.”

I didn't have the food coupons for Shanghai. Mine was for Beijing. So I couldn't move to Shanghai and a train ticket would have cost me my salary for a whole month. But after three decades, the freedom of movement is no longer a problem in China. Things have changed so much.

I want to mention here what a famous statesman said when criticizing China. It was something to the effect that only with improvement of human rights can a country be more prosperous, stable and successful.

I can agree with the statement. But look around the world at this moment, which country fit the three adjectives at the same time, "prosperous", "stable" and "successful"? The US? Britain? If there is one eligible country, China, including Hong Kong, is one. We fit the three adjectives, with confidence.

Wouldn’t it prove, following the logic, that China has made progress in human rights? But this topic is so difficult in our relations with the West as it is often very hard to get through with the conversations.

Having experienced many rounds of debate, I've come to the point of understanding that when the West discuss China's human rights, they have taken away its original meaning by shifting the concept away from human rights that we are still working on in China, which is to be found in the preamble of the UN Charter and the Universal Human Rights Declaration, for example, "to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women... to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom". Our understanding is that, human rights mainly includes, first and foremost, the fundamental rights of the people to life and development. However, when discussing China's human rights, many westerners have narrowed down the concept of human rights to one thing, the right of some people to subvert the Chinese government, or to change the political system in China. But that is against the law in China.

It seems that we don't have the same concept of human rights and we are not debating on the same issue. That's why it's difficult to get our message across during the dialogue and it’s so hard to have conversation in a very constructive manner.

China is committed to human rights improvement. We are not against it. We have made progress and we need to go further. There is still a long way to go though.

If you ask any Chinese, you’ll find that every group of people have their own concerns. It's the responsibility of the government and the Party to respond to the demand of the people and improve people's well-being.

I hope one day, the Western world would realize and understand where we are, where we came from and understand China for the sake of China.

I sometimes debate with European ambassadors in Beijing. They try to make the point that human rights is very important for Europeans because of their painful history of serious human rights violations in the past.

I respect their perspectives and people drawing lessons from their own history. But if you want to talk to China, you should also know the history we had, the bitter experience of being colonized, bullied and humiliated. That's why independence is so important a principle for us.

That doesn't mean human rights is not important. As I said, it is. We are committed to its improvement. But let's talk about human rights in a more accurate and comprehensive context. The socialist road China has chosen is a result of long and tortuous course of history and will be followed through.

This year is the 100 years anniversary of the 1911 Revolution and 90 years anniversary of the founding of the Communist Party of China. It's a moment we look back at our history and try to understand where we are and look into for the future.

It hasn't been easy for us to come to this stage. We have been on the right development course for the last three decades. That's not very long in our long history and it's very important for us to continue on the right course, not to make mistakes, or to be swayed out of the right course. President Hu Jintao said in his July 1st speech that we will not waiver, we will not tire and we will not “Zheteng”, which more or less means flip-flop, going three steps forward and then two steps backward.

Staying on our course is very important for us. We are making progress in building up China's democratic decision making. I have been back in China for 1.5 years after being abroad for 6 years. I have noticed people's lively participation in the government's decision making process.

In China, you find some major policies are published and implemented very smoothly and peacefully. That's because the public solicitation of opinions and thorough debates took place before the policy was made. A very recent example is that last month, the National People's Congress adopted an amendment that raised the personal income tax exemption threshold. It was meant to benefit medium and low income earners. The proposed rise by the government was from the existing 2,000 Yuan to 3,000 Yuan. There was a very heated debate on the Internet. Most thought that 3,000 was still not enough. So after listening to public opinions, the NPC, when adopting the proposal for a rise, brought the threshold further up to 3,500 Yuan. It is a good example how policies are made by listening to the people. Democratic decision making is very important to China in order to make sure that the policies are right and as few mistakes are made as possible.

The other concern I often hear from the Western world is what kind of a country China will become and what kind of a role it is going to play in the world.

Some interpretations of China’s intention sound as if China is going to threaten the world. For example, when we were in Europe during a recent trip, there was a media discussion about whether China is going to buy up the entire Europe. It is a bit over-estimating the ability of China. Besides, if we do buy it up, what are we going to do with Europe?

China has a fair share of its own problems and China has to battle its own problems and so does Europe. It’s up to the Europeans to come up with a solution to their own problems. We all need to work very hard to address our own challenges.

Recently, the Americans celebrated their Independence Day on 4 July. But some people find it uncomfortable that many of the fireworks and the stars and stripes are made in China. They think the US is over-dependent on China and it’s very dangerous.

I would like to argue with the Americans that you have more McDonald’s in China than in the US. Most of the advanced technologies we are using are developed in the US. Shouldn’t we Chinese be the first to worry?

In today’s globalized world, we are all very interdependent on each other. We cannot survive alone and should relax and be confident of ourselves and our partners and to work on the positive side together as equal partners.

The statement that power is shifting from the West to the East is something I couldn’t agree. You are not going to see the East taking over the in the areas where the West is moving out. We see a trend of diffusion of market, capital, technology and resources from the West to a wider world, especially the developing world. If only 1 billion or so people of the OECD countries were enjoying the benefits of modern life before, now 3 billion people and maybe more are coming in. Reforms and changes are needed to accommodate this new reality.

If you want to understand China, you have to understand how China sees the world and what China values the most.

In the early 1980s, China, led by Deng Xiaoping, made the judgment that the world was shifting from an era of revolution and war to a new era of peace and development. Since then, China has been focusing on economic development. US has played a very important role in the 1970s by approaching China and helping to open up the door for China to start engaging with the world. For three decades, China has stayed on the course of economic development, which we see as the “Shi”, or the main trend of the time.

If you look back at the history of the past 20, 30 years, there have been wars and conflicts shadowing this trend from time to time, but in the final analysis, you find the main trend is still economic development. The end of the Cold War made globalization possible, which in turn has given a strong boost to the main trend of economic development.

I recently discussed “Shi”, or main trend, with Dr. Henry Kissinger, who said “Shi” does not have an English equivalent. But he understood that the "Shi" Chinese refer to is the result of many factors working together and forming a trend so powerful that it’s like water falling down from the height and nothing can hold it back. In the Chinese political tradition, it is the leaders' responsibility to identify where the trend is and lead the people to move along the trend. His more professional interpretation of the concept echoes what we always say in China, "the overwhelming trend of the world."

An Asian scholar said that it is important for China to stay on its own track. If China were distracted out of the track and moved into the track of strategic competition, China's course of development would be different. I think he is right. China is not going to move out of the trend. If other countries want to move together along the trend, we can go together. If someone wants to proceed along other tracks, China is not going to play along.

That's why when visiting France last year, President Hu Jintao proposed that the 21st century should be one of peace, cooperation and development. This is a very important statement because if the world could make it, it will be the first century of peace, cooperation and development in modern times, since previous centuries were full of wars and conflicts.

If there are two keys to this new century, China and other developing countries may have one. We are ready and determined to go in this direction and continue our peaceful development.

The other key is in the hands of the developed world. We need both keys to unlock a future of cooperation. The coming years will be very important for the world. Probably we don’t have other options, and this is the only option available for us all. Is the West ready to take China and other developing countries as its equal partners? We are still waiting for an answer.

Hong Kong has always been a bridge between China and the West, and has grown prosperous in the process in the process. Since its return to China 14 years ago, the central government has firmly kept its commitments of "One Country, Two Systems”, Hong Kong People Administering Hong Kong and a High Degree of Autonomy by strictly following the Basic Law. The central government gives its full support to the SAR government in administration by law, developing the Hong Kong economy and improving the livelihood of the people. Measures such as CEPA have effectively promoted the shared prosperity of Hong Kong and the Mainland.

I still remember when Hong Kong was struck by the Asian Financial Crisis in the 1990s, Zhu Rongji offered support to Hong Kong with everything the Mainland had. This has always been the Mainland’s attitude towards Hong Kong.

You probably have noticed that Hong Kong and Macao have a dedicated chapter in 12th Five Year Program. It supports Hong Kong's development as offshore RMB Center and international asset management center, and the consolidation of its role as a trade center, shipping center and financial center with greater global influence.

The success of Hong Kong has proven the profound wisdom of "One Country, Two Systems". It is the result of the hard work of the Hong Kong people, relatively stable political environment and wide support from the international community.

For decades, Hong Kong has played the role of bridge between the Mainland and the world. Over a third of FDI on the mainland comes through Hong Kong.

Now, the Chinese economy is moving up the value chain and mainland businesses are extending their global outreach. China's outbound investment is expected to grow sharply and Hong Kong is in a position to ride this rising tide. The bottlenecks of mainland enterprises are information, expertise and talents, exactly where Hong Kong is strong. I hope Hong Kong can grasp this opportunity and help the Mainland and the West better understand each other and work with each other on a higher level.

The fact that Deng Xiaoping could design the solution of "One Country, Two Systems" shows his confidence in the people of Hong Kong. In today's world, even two countries with two systems find it hard to understand each other. You can well imagine how hard it is for one country with two systems. It’s a new experience for us and for Hong Kong as well.

The last 14 years of success tells us that continued success of “One Country, Two Systems” need the two systems of the Mainland and Hong Kong to understand each other, accommodate each other and be of each other's help as always.

For the international community, it is always important to remember that the two systems of the Mainland and Hong Kong operate within the boundary of one and the same country. Hong Kong is part of China.

There are many consulate generals and offices of international organizations in Hong Kong and many foreigners live here. Their role is important in communicating and building business relations between Hong Kong, the Mainland and other parts of the world.

We hope our international friends continue to respect China's sovereignty, respect the Basic Law and continue to make positive and constructive contribution to the prosperity of Hong Kong.

We have full confidence in the people of Hong Kong too. We are sure that though it’s a new experience, the people of Hong Kong will be able to find their right path.

We Chinese sometimes have different views and argue among ourselves. It happens in the family too. But we can always find a way out. So trust us.

Last but not least, I want to express appreciation to the Asia Society Hong Kong Center and the Better Hong Kong Foundation, the organizers of tonight’s dinner. I’m sure a better Hong Kong is our shared aspiration. I want to wish for a better Hong Kong, a better China and a better world.

Thank you.

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