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Ambassador Dai Qingli gave press briefing on July 1st speech by General Secretary Xi Jinping

(From Chinese Embassy in Bahamas)

On July 6th, ambassador Dai Qingli gave a press briefing for Bahamas media at the Chinese Embassy in Nassau. She presented in detail and shared her thoughts on the main points of the important speech made by General Secretary Xi Jinping at the ceremony marking the centenary of the Communist Party of China.

General Secretary Xi Jinping announced to the world that China has achieved on schedule its first centenary goal of fully building a moderately prosperous society in China by the centenary of the CPC on July 1st 2021, which is a major achievement for the country.

General Secretary Xi Jinping gave an overview of the great achievements made by the CPC in the past 100 years, from realizing national independence and liberation, carrying out a socialist revolution and development, to embarking on reform, opening-up and socialist modernization and bringing socialism with Chinese characteristics into the new era. These achievements have taken the country onto an irreversible historical process leading to national rejuvenation.

Based on this review of history, General Secretary Xi Jinping further pointed the direction for China's development going forward.

First, China will continue to adhere to the leadership of the CPC. Without the CPC, there would be no New China, and the rejuvenation of the Chinese nation would be beyond reach. The leadership of the CPC is the choice of history and the choice made by the people. It is the defining feature and biggest source of strength for socialism with Chinese characteristics.

Second, China will continue to follow a people-centered development approach. Political power comes from the people and people are the source of power. Maintaining stable governance means that we should always try to win hearts and minds of the people. No matter in revolution or development, the CPC has always represented the fundamental interests of the overwhelming majority of the Chinese people. Any attempt to divide and set the CPC apart from the people will never succeed.

Third, China will continue to adhere to and develop socialism with Chinese characteristics. Going our own way is a historical conclusion the CPC has drawn from its one-hundred years of history. Socialism with Chinese characteristics is the right way forward for China in achieving national rejuvenation. It is neither a reproduction of Marxist orthodoxy nor an imitation of other socialist or capitalist countries.

Fourth, China will continue to promote the building of a community with a shared future for humankind. General Secretary Xi emphasized that aggression and hegemony is not in the DNA of the Chinese nation. China will always go down the path of peaceful development and continue to promote world peace, contribute to global development, and uphold the international order.

China will continue to promote high quality development of belt and road cooperation, bringing new opportunities to the world. China will join all the peace-loving countries and peoples to celebrate the common values of all humanity, namely, peace, development, fairness, justice, democracy and freedom.

Fifth, China will continue to pursue self-improvement and development of the CPC, which is a defining quality of the party. The CPC is good at reinventing itself by drawing lessons from its own experience. It has always maintained both discipline and vitality among its ranks. It emphasizes meritocracy and accountability and follows a zero-tolerance policy toward corruption. This makes the CPC always capable and ready to play its leadership role in the development of the country.

General secretary Xi concluded by saying that now the CPC is leading the Chinese people to rise to another major test, that is, the test to fulfil the second centenary goal of achieving full socialist modernization by the centenary of the people's republic in 2049. He urged all party members to join in this endeavor and bring even greater glory to the party.

With this briefing, ambassador Dai took questions from the floor. The Q&A session runs as follows:

Nassau Guardian: You quoted President Xi Jinping as saying that democracy and freedom are common values of humanity. Does this mean China will follow the western demand for democracy in your country? Or are you referring to something different?

Dai Qingli: I'm glad you noted that President Xi Jinping emphasized in his speech that peace, development, fairness, justice, democracy and freedom are the common values for all humanity.

Yet we must make our views clear that while democracy is a universal value, western-style democracy is not.

If we look at the history of Western countries, their democracy evolved for hundreds of years, and was based on mature institutions such as market economy, rule of law, an educated and supposedly rational electorate, and a more or less open media. Yet, it was only in the year 1918 and 1920 that women in the UK and US respectively got the right to vote.

But somehow the West seems to think that what has developed in their countries for hundreds of years can be simply transplanted and can hit the ground running in developing countries around the world.

These developing countries are each unique; they have their own cultural, historical and religious background and different ways of life. And they may not have fully functioning institutions like the West.

The West should reflect on its record of spreading their conception of democracy in the past decades. In fact, it is hard to think of even two or three success stories in the transplanting of Western style democracy.

We believe each country should find its own way and try to integrate the universal value of democracy with its own particular national conditions and find the best way of governance.

How should we judge the quality of a country's democracy? Certainly not by the procedures or by whether it has all the trappings of a Western democratic system, but by its capacity for governance, by whether the country in question actually delivers good governance for the people. That's the most important thing.

As General Secretary Xi Jinping said this morning in the Political Parties Summit hosted by the CPC Central Committee, there shouldn't be just a uniform way of democracy; there are multiple ways of realizing democracy, and all countries and peoples have the right to choose their own development road and model of democracy.

As for China, we will continue to develop socialist democracy in our own country, and we are not going to export our system to other countries, because we are unique and we still face numerous challenges in our way ahead. At the end of the day, it is up to the people of any country to judge whether their country is democratic or not.

ZNS: The relations between the United States and China have been strained for some time under the Trump administration. I know there has been a back-and-forth trade war with the United States imposing tariffs. Is China looking to repair that relationship with the Biden administration?

Dai Qingli: Many people in the world would agree that the China-US relationship is the single most consequential bilateral relationship for the 21st century. As for China, we have every intention to have good relations with the United States.

As President Xi Jinping commented, we have a thousand reasons to deliver a good China-US relationship, and not a single reason to mismanage this relationship. The Chinese side is committed to promoting its relations with the US on the basis of coordination, cooperation and stability. And we want a relationship of no conflict, no confrontation, and of mutual respect and mutually beneficial cooperation.

That is why we engaged with the US even during the trade tensions, and we tried very hard to conduct negotiations with the US finally leading to a trade agreement.

As far as I can see, the biggest problem confronting this relationship is the strategic mis-perception and misjudgment by some people in the US who see China as a major competitor. They see China as someone who tries to replace the US as the number one leader in the Asia-Pacific. That's a very misguided view of what China tries to do.

As you can see from President Xi's speech, none of the points in his speech refer to China's readiness to take over the world, or to be a leader in the world. I think what keeps Chinese leaders awake at night is not how to seek hegemony in the Asia-Pacific or the world, but rather how to deliver better living standards for our people.

Some people say there is a law in international relations, that is, whichever country comes up to around two thirds of the US GDP, the US would consider that country as an enemy or competitor. Last year, China's economy reached 70% of that of the US. So probably out of habitual ways of thinking, some in the US consider China as a major competitor. That's truly unfortunate.

As President Xi said, there would be no Thucydides trap, if the two countries choose not to fall into it. Strategic competition between China and the US is not any historical inevitability. It is up to the political leadership of the two countries as well as people of all walks of life to try to make China-US relationship work, and not to allow this important relationship to go poorly in the world, as that would make the lives of so many countries much more difficult.

Tribune: The CPC is the only ruling party in China for more than 70 years. As we know, any ruling party has its own problems, for example it may become complacent and make mistakes, and there may be corruption. What institutions are there in place to ensure that the Party maintains its vitality and is always ready for its leading role?

Dai Qingli: The Party may be a hundred year's old, yet it remains in top form. A source of strength for the CPC is its ability to constantly improve and reinvent itself. That is why it grew from more than 50 members at its founding to more than 95 million in 100 years.

It has a tremendously attractive mandate, that is, to pursue happiness for the people and rejuvenation for the Chinese nation. And it has lofty objectives of realizing full socialist modernization by the centenary of the people's republic in 2049. With the CPC, people always have something good to fight for.

Even Western media outlets would admit that the CPC is ideologically agile. It successfully adapted Marxism to new conditions and new tasks across different stages of its development.

The CPC values meritocracy. It can always produce high caliber leaders. People get promoted solely on the strength of their record. Leaders can only be promoted to senior positions when they develop an impressive record of excellence and performance, and a wealth of experience in governing the country. So people feel comfortable putting the affairs of the country into the hands of such capable leaders. And the party can also attract smart young people to its ranks.

The party also has a good training system for its officials, the party school system. All the officials in the Party can get trained in different stages of their career.

Equally importantly, the Party enforces discipline and accountability among its ranks and it follows zero-tolerance against corruption. During the pandemic, large numbers of officials were subjected to disciplinary action across the country for dereliction of duties.

All this makes the CPC always ready and capable of dealing with any new challenges for the country.

Eyewitness News: China has provided support to The Bahamas in terms of technical and medical supplies. Are you sending more supplies, medical supplies or vaccines from China?

Dai Qingli: We have every intention to provide more help to The Bahamas. We have so far provided five batches of medical supplies to this country. And we are in the process of purchasing and shipping another batch of medical supplies. We will try our best to make sure that these shipments arrive safely and as early as possible in your country.

Nassau Guardian: We all know that China has developed into the second largest economy in the world, and a lot of credit has gone to the CPC. But what happens if the economy slows, would this affect the legitimacy of the Party? Would the government run into trouble?

Dai Qingli: As General Secretary Xi Jinping emphasized in his speech, political power comes from the people and the people are the source of power. He went on to say maintaining power for the CPC means continuing to win the hearts and minds of the Chinese people.

Now you know why the CPC always works so hard, because every day it has to prove to the Chinese people it is worthy of their trust and support.

But many western commentators do not understand the real relationship between the party and the people. They think the only source of legitimacy of the CPC comes from its performance in delivering economic growth. Their logic is, if growth slows, then people will rise up against the government and put in place Western style democracy. So they have been waiting for and even wishing for the next crisis in China for many years.

That is why some of them always come up with dramatic predictions about the coming collapse of China, or the implosion of China's financial system or hard landing of the economy. All these predictions have been proven untrue, simply as this is just wishful thinking.

The relationship between the party and the people is not a marriage of convenience that breaks up easily when things go poorly. It is a bond made of flesh and blood that was forged way back in the revolutionary years. And the people have stood by the CPC even in the most difficult moments in its history.

And the CPC always put the interests of the people front and center. After the founding of the People's Republic, one of the first things the CPC did was to distribute agricultural land for free to 300 million peasants in the country.

The party lifted more than 800 million people out of poverty in 40 years. It provided universal health care coverage to its entire population.

Although the people have all kinds of complaints against the party and government, as is natural with any country, yet they are always hopeful and they see the CPC as the solution rather than the problem for any challenge China faces.

According to a survey done by Harvard Kennedy School the level of satisfaction in the performance of the CPC and government increased from 86% in 2003 to 93% in 2016. These are figures Western commentators should look at closely. If they continue to wait for the next crisis in China, then they would continue to be disappointed.

Nassau Guardian: What are some of the things that China hopes to accomplish in the next five or so years?

Dai Qingli: We've been in discussion with Bahamian colleagues on this. Since my arrival in March, I've had the opportunity of calling on the Most Honorable Prime Minister, and many members of his cabinet. We discussed the areas we should focus on in the next stage of China-Bahamas cooperation. Such discussion is still ongoing. Hopefully, we can narrow down our focus to a number of priority areas, and come up with an action plan to build on these areas of cooperation. And I hope to enter into more detailed discussion with the Bahamas government as early as possible.

So far as my plans are concerned. Politically, I hope to have even better political relations between the two countries, particularly more exchanges of high level visits and contacts, which were disrupted by the pandemic. And in economic and trade relations, we want to see more visible progress, and more concrete projects between the two countries, and that's still being discussed.

Equally importantly, I'd like to see more people-to-people exchanges and stronger cross-cultural understanding between the two countries. For example, we want to see more students coming to China to study and we want to see mutual visits between our young people, women, people with disabilities, artists and performers, and also media exchanges which are very important. We hope you will find early opportunities to visit China. I'm sure the China you will see with your own eyes will be different from what you have seen through other channels. There are many areas we can work on. I look forward to continuing this discussion with both the government and friends from different walks of life in this country.

Eyewitness News: Just picking up on some things you said in terms of the relations between the two countries. Are there any other strategies right now developed, especially with our tourism just rebounding, to get more Chinese travelers to come to The Bahamas? Can you also speak to educational opportunities, and grants and study programs available to Bahamians to learn and live in China?

Dai Qingli: I fully understand the importance of the tourism sector for the overall economy and for people's livelihood in this country. We are committed to developing closer tourism cooperation. As things stand, the number of Chinese visitors coming to The Bahamas each year before the pandemic is only a fraction of the number of Chinese people who visit overseas every year, and also a small fraction of the number of visitors The Bahamas receives every year.

We have a lot to work on in the tourism sector. We do hope we can turn China into a growth market for Bahamas tourism, as there are around 145 million Chinese people making visits to foreign countries every year. And we have 300,000 Chinese students in the US. These people can potentially be visitors to The Bahamas. But we do need to overcome some more challenging aspects.

For example, people have to get transit visas in order to come to The Bahamas either from Europe or from the US. And airlift is also challenging. It's a long way away. We need more policy dialogue between the two governments in terms of how to develop the tourism sector. We need more direct dialogue between airline companies and tourist operators. And we need better promotion strategies for The Bahamas in China.

Nassau Guardian: Are there discussions about perhaps having direct flights from Beijing or Shanghai or any other major Chinese cities?

Dai Qingli: There have been discussions along those lines, but you can't fly directly. It's too long. We explored different routes and different possibilities. The crux of the matter lies in passenger traffic. We have to have people actually traveling in order to support these flights. So we need to make The Bahamas even more attractive for Chinese visitors. There are possibilities of making The Bahamas a specialty tourism market for high-end Chinese travelers, such as for weddings, anniversaries, ecotourism, and for bird watchers, snorkeling lovers and so on. We need to work just a bit harder.

You also asked about grant and study possibilities. Hopefully we can resume scholarships this year. Normally we have different grant possibilities from Ministry of Education in China, Ministry of Commerce, and potentially also from different provinces. If you have candidates you can recommend to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in The Bahamas, and we will be happy to assist.

Tribune: Last week, we were excited to have some discussions ongoing on Chinese vaccines. I just wanted to ask if we were able to get any details as to whether we would accept vaccines from the Chinese government?

Dai Qingli: I don't have anything specific to share with you on this topic. I'm sure the Bahamas government has a well-considered plan to ensure vaccination in this country. But if I were you, I would be more worried about vaccine hesitancy in this country. We need to encourage people in The Bahamas to get vaccinated. That's the most important thing. Even now we don't have effective medicines for this COVID-19 virus. The vaccines are our best hope and best protection against the virus. Hopefully eligible people will consider getting vaccinated.

Nassau Guardian: President Joe Biden made announcement about giving vaccines to The Bahamas and other nations in order to have an upper hand over Russia and China who are doing similar things. Do you believe that the US is using vaccine diplomacy to assert its dominance globally, particularly in the Caribbean?

Dai Qingli: Vaccines are to protect people; they are not a geopolitical tool or anything like that. I cannot speak to what the US is having on their mind. But what I can say is that for China, we never considered vaccines a political tool with which to get influence over other countries. Saving lives and livelihoods have always been the top priority for China in this fight against the virus.

That's why even as we race to vaccinate our own people, we have been sharing 480 million doses with nearly 100 countries. That makes China the biggest vaccine provider to date to developing countries. And we have always called on developed countries like the United States and European countries to share their vaccines with the people in the developing countries and share them as soon as possible. We are glad they made the commitment. The challenge is for vaccines to be actually delivered to different countries and to be shot in the arms of the local people. Because with one more day of delay, there could be more infections, hospitalizations.

All countries should work together in a coordinated global action to increase the vaccine accessibility and affordability in developing countries. And China will continue to do our share in this endeavor.

Nassau Guardian: Over the years, sometimes the US has sought to raise the issue of China's presence in the Bahamas, and Chinese companies bringing development to The Bahamas and helping to get jobs. What are your thoughts on them constantly pointing the finger at China?

Dai Qingli: We always think about the best interests of The Bahamas. We think the Bahamas should be entirely able to develop relations with China and with all its neighbors at the same time. We do not see that these different relationships as inherently conflictual with each other, and they shouldn't be.

For China, we would never want to force The Bahamas to take sides or to choose between any two countries. But at the same time, we want to maintain normal exchanges with the Bahamas. We don't want this normal relationship to be disrupted or disturbed by any third party. Our relationship with The Bahamas is not directed at any foreign country in the first place. And we do not see it as serving any geopolitical purpose on the part of China.

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