Friday, June 11, 2010

Peace, Development and Cooperation: Themes of China's Foreign Policy

Speech by H.E. Ambassador Liu Xiaoming at the University of Oxford [2010/06/11]

The Rt Hon Lord Patten of Barnes,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

I would like to thank the Chancellor for his kind invitation to speak at this prestigious university. Oxford can boast, not only being the oldest institution of higher learning in the English-speaking world, but has produced in its 800 years,

26 British prime ministers, 47 Nobel laureates and our host Lord Patten.

According to an interesting discovery made by a columnist with Evening Standard, Oxford graduates will mention something about their Oxford roots within 11 minutes of starting a conversation. That may be a slight exaggeration; yet having studied at Oxford must be a life long source of pride to you all.

China's association with Oxford dates back to 1687, when a Chinese scholar Shen Fuzong came to Oxford. He assisted in cataloguing the Chinese books in the Bodleian Library. More than 200 years later, quite a few Chinese scholars have come to study or teach here in Oxford. Chen Yinque, Qian Zhongshu, and Lv Shuxiang, along with many others, also went on to become famous back in China.

Today, over 2,000 Chinese have graduated from Oxford, and 732 are studying here as we speak, making China the 2nd largest source of overseas students for Oxford. The diversity of the student population here is truly impressive. We feel very much at home here in Oxford. In addition, I was delighted to hear that Oxford has developed a successful partnership with Peking University and I do hope that such mutually beneficial educational and academic links between Oxford and the Chinese universities will continue to flourish.

Over the years, Oxford has also been a leading institution in the UK and Europe for Chinese studies. With your China Centre being set up in 2008, I sincerely hope that Oxford will continue to be at the forefront, in helping the UK, Europe and the rest of the world to know and understand more about China.

Today, I have been asked to talk about China's foreign policy. As there has been a great deal of interest, discussion and even debate about Chinese foreign policy in recent months.

How can I characterise China's foreign policy? My analysis is that China's foreign policy is all about pursuing the path of peaceful development, through an open-minded global approach based on mutual benefit, and by actively participating in the addressing of global issues, to build a harmonious world of lasting peace and common prosperity. What do we mean by a harmonious world? It is not a world free of problems or conflicts, nor a world of uniformity, but rather a world of peaceful coexistence of countries, who cooperate in solving problems despite their diversity. In short, the themes of China's foreign policy boil down to Peace, Development and Cooperation.

Firstly, China's foreign policy in the context of its developing country status, aims first and foremost to promote its development.

Some in the world are not sure about China being a developing country, pointing to the rising strengths in its economy, science and technology, along with defence and soft power. So, with its GDP now ranking 3rd with the potential of rising to the 2nd, they tend to describe China as a global power.

While this is flattering, and China has gone through a huge transformation in the past 30 years, China is still lagging behind in many areas. Let me give you some examples:

· According to the IMF, China's per capita GDP was $3,678 in 2009, ranking behind Albania to be the 100th in the world.

· Out of a population of 1.3 billion, 700 million or over half live in rural areas, which is much higher than in developed countries; and 150 million people still living on under a dollar a day, the poverty line set by UN.

· Serious disparities also exist between rural and urban areas as well as between regions in China. Per capita, the GDP of eastern China is at least 3 times higher than that of western China. As I used to be an assistant Governor of Gansu, a western province, I know the per capita GDP there was merely $1,280.

· With R&D input accounting for only 1.45% of the total GDP in 2008, we are lower than the 2% threshold expected for countries with a reasonable innovative capacity.

This is why development is the primary objective for China, and its foreign policy is largely aimed at fostering a peaceful, stable and cooperative external environment which will support its internal development efforts.

Secondly, peace and harmony lie at the centre of China's foreign policy.

Throughout its 5000-year culture, China has always treasured peace and benevolence. There are many teachings that reflect this, such as "peace comes first", "running the country with harmony" and "treat thy neighbour with kindness". Six centuries ago, Admiral Zheng He led the world's strongest fleet on 7 expeditions into the western seas as far as the horn of Africa. He brought with him goods for trade and culture, but never occupied an inch of foreign land.

China went through a lot in the 100 years before the founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949. With 6 major wars of foreign aggression and 343 unequal treaties being imposed on China, the experience has taught us to value peace and equality even more. As Confucius told us "Don't do to others what you don't want others to do to you". This is a moral principle for every Chinese in his daily life, and is an important principle in China's foreign policy.

Thirdly, China's foreign policy is very much influenced by its close interdependence with the rest of the world.

In the age of globalisation, China's development would not have been possible without the world and the world would not be as prosperous and stable without China. Closing its doors has long been a thing of the past. China's strong growth has become indispensable to the global economy. For instance, fluctuations in the Chinese real estate market could impact the worldwide price of iron ore; or the economic belt tightening in European countries could reduce orders for Chinese manufactured products.

As Charles Dickens once wrote, "It was the best of times. It was the worst of times". Our world has made unparalleled progress in standards of living and in science and technology, yet it is also plagued by new scourges: such as terrorism, financial instability and environmental challenges, to mention just a few. These challenges by their very nature defy single country solutions. Cooperation has become an imperative for us all.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Winston Churchill once said, "The price of greatness is responsibility". As I will illustrate, China is actively fulfilling its responsibilities consistent with its strength and capacity, to uphold world peace and promote common development.

· China is committed to peaceful and cooperative solutions to conflicts and hotspot issues, and is the largest contributor of peacekeepers amongst the P-5 nation, with 10,000 peacekeepers sent on 24 UN missions so far. Unfortunately as we know even peacekeeping has its dangers and eight Chinese peacekeepers lost their lives in the Haiti earthquake last January.

· China is also committed to non-proliferation, and has acceded to all international treaties on non-proliferation and is a member of many relevant international organisations. It has cooperated with other countries in multilateral export control regimes, and is a strong advocate for the Six-Party Talks on the denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula. As an active player in the P5+1 talks on the Iranian nuclear issue, China supports the dual-track approach and diplomatic efforts.

· China is now the biggest contributor to world economic growth. According to the World Bank, 30% of global growth this year may come from China and China has worked hard to promote coordinated actions by major economies against the global financial crisis and pledged to buy up to $50 billion in IMF bonds.

· China is also actively supporting international efforts to alleviate poverty and achieve the UN's Millennium Development Goals., by providing other developing countries, including many in Africa, with 20 billion pounds in assistance and cancelation of debts by 49 heavily indebted poor countries (HIPCs) and least developed countries (LDCs).

I have a close personal bond to Africa, because as young diplomat my first posting was to Zambia. And I still remember vividly the enthusiastic celebrations of the local people when the Tanzania-Zambia railway became operational.

· China is very serious about addressing climate change. Although developing countries are not subject to mandatory targets under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), China has pledged to reduce its carbon intensity by 40-45% compared to its 2005 level by 2020. This is a pledge that is not predicated on the efforts of other countries.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

China sees the UK as an important partner in its process of peaceful development. The two countries enjoy strong economic ties and there is still a huge potential for cooperation in trade and investment, education, science and technology, as well as in low-carbon projects. Our relationship is increasingly becoming global and strategic in nature, as our two countries advocate multilateralism and have overlapping positions and interests in major global issues. We both work hard to boost world economic growth and reform of the international economic and financial systems. We both support free trade and the nuclear non-proliferation regime. Further development of our relationship is in the interest of our two countries, but it also serves peace, stability and prosperity of the world.

Since I arrived in the UK as the new Chinese Ambassador a little over 3 months ago, I have frequently been asked about my mission and priorities. Well, I can sum these up in one word: "IDEA". With the;

"I" standing for interests. We need to expand our common interests and make the areas of our cooperation larger both bilaterally and multilaterally.

"D" standing for dialogue. We need to step up dialogue at all levels, especially through high-level visits, and by using mechanisms such as the Economic and Financial Dialogue and the Strategic Dialogue.

"E" standing for exploration. We need to explore new areas of cooperation, not least by identifying new projects in cutting-edge areas such as low-carbon and green technology.

"A" standing for accommodation. We need to enhance mutual understanding and respect each other's concerns and culture. China and the UK will not see eye to eye on everything, but it is important for us to listen to and respect each other, to ensure we appreciate and accommodate the other's concerns.

I am heartened by the good start to our relations with the new British government. Prime Minister David Cameron talked on the telephone to Premier Wen Jiabao as soon as he took office; Foreign Secretary William Hague has had two telephone conversations with our Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi and Chancellor George Osborne has met with Vice Premier Wang Qishan just last week in Beijing. Both sides have expressed a commitment to further expanding and upgrading our relations.

The ongoing World Expo in Shanghai has also offered both countries an opportunity to showcase their skills and imagination, as well as increasing understanding between our two peoples by facilitating business, technological and cultural cooperation. The UK national pavilion, which has been nicknamed dandelion by Chinese internet users, is receiving 53 thousand visitors a day and more than 80 million website hits. And the business events built around the Expo have already led to Chinese investment in 25 British projects.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It has been a real pleasure to talk to you, future leaders of the next generation. China-UK relations lie in your hands. I do hope you will visit China, work and trade with China. In his book entitled What Next? Surviving the 21st Century, Lord Patten paints an optimistic future of our world. He believes that we live in a world that is capable of "rationality, creativity, generosity and kindness". So let me end on this note of optimism. I am confident that by working together, we will build a better relationship between our two countries and a more harmonious world for all.