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Keynote Speech by H.E. Ambassador Liu Xiaoming at the Oxford and Cambridge Club: China is Firmly Committed to Peaceful Development and Win-Win Cooperation
Oxford and Cambridge Club, 8 January 2019
2019/01/09

Chairman Joanna Tudor-Blakeway,

Ladies and Gentlemen:

Good evening!

It is a real delight to join you at the Oxford and Cambridge Club.

Oxford and Cambridge are the two universities that I have visited most frequently since becoming the Chinese Ambassador to the UK. But this is my first visit to the Oxford and Cambridge Club. And I was told that I am the first Chinese Ambassador to speak at the Club. So today's event is very special and significant. Therefore, I have decided to make my very first speech of 2019 at your club, the home of outstanding alumni from both these two world-renowned universities.

2019 is an important year for China. It marks the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China. The past 70 years have seen China going through profound changes and growing from "the sick man of East Asia" ridden with poverty and weakness to the second largest economy in the world. This has been a miracle in the history of human development.

For people here in Britain, China is no longer a "far away land". China is right here before your eyes. It is in your newspapers every day. And more and more people feel closely connected with what is going on in China.

So what does China's development mean to the UK? Is it an opportunity, a challenge or a threat? To answer this question, one must first try to understand China, and to know where it has come from and where it is going in the future.

The key to understanding China is to understand that China's success of the past 70 years is attributed to its development path that suits China's national conditions. This path is known as socialism with Chinese characteristics. It has four salient features, which can be summarised as four P's.

The first P stands for "Party". The Communist Party of China is the backbone of the nation.

For a big country with nearly 1.4 billion people, there is no precedence or text book to follow on its way to development. The only way forward is through trial and error.

Since modern times, China has made numerous trials and errors. From the peasant uprisings known as the Taiping Rebellion and Boxer Rebellion to the Westernisation Movement, from the Hundred Day's Reform to the Revolution of 1911, generations of Chinese sought unsuccessfully to free the country from devastation and dismemberment, and to save the people from destitution and displacement.

It is under the leadership of the Communist Party of China that the nations has achieved independence and grown prosperous and strong. The Communist Party of China is the choice of history and the choice of the Chinese people.

When the Soviet Union disintegrated in early 1990s, some people in the West reckoned that "the days for the Communist Party of China are numbered" and forecast the "End of History". Their predictions have been proven wrong and the reason lies in their lack of understanding about the Communist Party of China.

Indeed, the Party had stumbles, falls and even wrong turns along the way, but it has the courage to admit its mistakes, make corrections and continue to seek truth. It has kept renewing itself in order to stay abreast with the times. And it has maintained close links with the Chinese people. These qualities have enabled the Communist Party of China to lead the Chinese people in overcoming the difficulties and achieving one success after another.

The second P stands for "progress". Economic progress is the central task.

For China, the past 70 years have been an ongoing exploration of and experiment with socialism, in which we have sought ever-deeper understanding of it and added new dimensions to it.

In 1978, China embarked on the great journey of reform and opening up after a thorough review of both domestic experience and overseas practice in reform and development. The focus of the nation was shifted from "class struggle" to "economic development".

In the past 40 years, China has kept emancipating and developing the productive forces, and achieved tremendous progress:

  • China's GDP has reached 12 trillion US dollars.
  • It has been growing at an average annual rate of 9.5%, which is much higher than the 2.9% concurrent rate of the world economy.
  • Its contribution to global GDP has increased from 2% forty years ago to 15.2% today.

China is now the world's second largest economy,

largest manufacturer,

biggest trader in goods,

second biggest consumer of goods,

No. 2 destination for foreign investment,

and No. 1 in foreign exchange reserve for many years in a row.

Now let me come to the third P, which stands for "people".

President Xi Jinping has given the best explanation of this point. He said, "The aspirations of the people to live a better life must always be the focus of our efforts." The people and their wellbeing have always been the ultimate goal of all our efforts to achieve development.

In the past 70 years, China had grown from a low-income country that could barely provide food and clothing to its people to a middle-income country enjoying moderate prosperity.

  • 740 million people are lifted out of poverty;
  • The middle-income population totaled more than 300 million;
  • The world's largest social security system is established, covering old-age pension, health care, basic allowances and welfare housing;
  • And the average life expectancy had gone up from 67.8 in 1981 to 76.7 in 2017.

The fourth P stands for "peace". Peaceful development is China's basic national policy.

China is committed to an independent foreign policy of peace and stayed on the path of peaceful development. China needs a peaceful and tranquil international environment for its development, and its development in turn helps maintain world peace.

In recent years, China has been a partner in the international response to almost all regional and international hotspot issues. China has contributed its wisdom and proposed its solutions.

  • At the beginning of 2019, China overtook Japan to become the second largest contributor to the United Nations regular budget, increasing its contribution from 7.9% to 12%.
  • China is the second largest contributor to the UN peacekeeping budget and the largest contributor among the P5 of peacekeeping personnel. A total of 37,000 Chinese military and police officers have served or are still serving in various UN missions.
  • In the Gulf of Aden and off the Coast of Somalia, the Chinese Navy has carried out escort missions for ten consecutive years, ensuring the safe passage of more than 6,000 ships, including British merchant ships.

Ladies and Gentlemen:

Despite our enormous achievements, we are clearly aware that China is still a developing country, and the largest one in the world. We still face daunting tasks in our development.

First, China's development is inadequate and at a low level in per-capita terms.

China's per capita GDP is only one seventh of that of the United States and one fourth of the UK, and ranks behind more than 60 other countries in the world. In human development index, China is just about managing to join the club of top 100.

At home, there are still 30 million Chinese living in poverty, more than 80 million people with disabilities, over 200 million pensioners in need of care, and about 15 million new workforces in need of a job every year.

Second, China's development is imbalanced, with huge disparities between different regions.

Let me give you a comparison between the eastern and western regions: the GDP of Guangdong province in the coastal region is the same as the GDP of Spain, the 14th largest economy in the world; but the western region, which covers 72% of China's land area and is home to 27% of China's population, only contributes 20% of the national economy and accounts for 7% of the country's foreign trade and investment.

I once served as Assistant Governor of Gansu, one of the poor provinces in China's western region. I have been to more than 40 of the over 80 counties in that Province, and I know from personal experience the daunting task of poverty alleviation that Gansu faces. As we speak, Gansu is still working hard to "ensure adequate food and clothing for its people".

Third, sustainability remains a tough issue in China's development.

  • China's overall productivity remains low.
  • The structure of productive forces needs rational adjustment.
  • The shift away from capital-driven and resource-intensive growth model is yet to be completed.
  • The capacity for scientific and technological innovation falls short.
  • As a result, China's manufacturing and trade are large but not strong.
  • Exports are more labour-intensive while imports are more value-added, and service trade is huge deficit.
  • In other areas, such as culture, defence, science, technology and modern social governance, upgrading is badly needed.

These are some of the difficulties and challenges we face.

As President Xi Jinping pointed out, going ahead, the difficulties and risks facing China's development will become more and more severe, but without progress we will fall behind, so we must press on. Under the leadership of the Communist Party of China, we have the confidence and capability to overcome the difficulties and create a brighter future.

As China is going forward, what role is China going to play in the world? I would like to use four B's to answer this question.

First, China will be a "booster" for world economic growth.

The problems in China's development are "growing pains", which will be addressed as China continues to develop.

One year ago, at the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China, three goals were set for China's development in the years to come, namely:

  • Complete the building of a moderately prosperous society by 2020;
  • Realise socialist modernisation by 2035;
  • And build China into a great modern socialist country that is prosperous, strong, democratic, culturally advanced, harmonious and beautiful by the middle of this century.

To achieve these goals, China will continue to deepen reform and open up wider to the world. President Xi said in his New Year message, "China's reforms will never stop, and its doors will only open even wider". This means that China's development will continue to provide strong impetus for world economic growth.

In recent years, China has been contributing more than 30% to world economic growth. More and more Chinese are trading, investing, studying or holidaying abroad. As of 2017, there were more than 30,000 Chinese companies, about one million Chinese contract workers and 1.37 million Chinese students all over the world.

A recent demonstration of China's resolve to share its development benefits with the world is the first China International Import Expo held last November. This was the first-ever national-level Expo dedicated solely to import.

In the coming 15 years, China will strive to realise socialist modernisation. And in this process, China plans to import 24 trillion dollars of goods and open up a 2-trillion-dollar market for foreign direct investment. China is already the largest trading partner of more than 120 countries and regions. I believe that this figure will become bigger in the next 15 years.

Second, China will be a "builder" of a community with a shared future for mankind.

China's success is attributable to a peaceful international environment. Going forward, China will still need a stable international environment to achieve greater success.

The world is undergoing profound changes unseen in a century:

  • Unilateralism and protectionism are raging;
  • Instabilities and uncertainties are rising;
  • Regional hotspot issues keep cropping up;
  • Non-traditional security threats such as terrorism, cyber risks, pandemics and climate change continue to spread.

These are the common challenges to human society. No country could address these challenges alone. Nor could anyone hide behind closed doors or retreat into isolation.

Therefore, China calls on all countries in the world to join hands. Together, we can

  • Safeguard world peace and promote common development;
  • Shape a new type of international relations featuring mutual respect, fairness, justice and win-win cooperation;
  • And build a community with a shared future for mankind.

Third, China will be a "backer" of the existing international order.

The relationship between China and the world has seen historic changes as a result of China's vigorous integration with the existing international system. China has joined almost all the important inter-governmental organisations in the world and has signed more than 300 international conventions. It is playing an increasingly important role in the global governance system.

The world has come to an important crossroads. The existing international order is facing severe challenges. China has not lost its way. China will not falter. China is looking forward, not backward, by firmly advocating free trade and opposing protectionism. China is upholding the multilateral regime with the UN at its core. China is safeguarding the multilateral trade system based on the WTO.

Of course, the existing international order is not perfect. We know that all too well, and that's why we support reforms in the relevant international institutions and multilateral organisations. But we cannot agree with certain countries' cherry-picking international rules at will.

Fourth, China will promote "BRI" as an important platform for win-win cooperation between all countries.

BRI stands for the Belt and Road Initiative. For China, proposing BRI is a natural step as its economy enters a new stage. It helps address China's own problems of imbalanced and unsustainable development. It is also an important measure in China's new round of opening up.

BRI follows the principles of extensive consultation, joint contribution and shared benefits. These principles are in line with China's foreign policy which advocates peaceful development and win-win cooperation. BRI is an important effort in building a community with a shared future for mankind.

In the past five years since it was proposed, BRI has been warmly received around the world. It is now the world's most popular public goods and largest platform for cooperation. More than 150 countries and international organisations have signed agreements with China on BRI cooperation.

In 2019, China will aim for higher goals in building BRI. We will do our best to make the second Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation a success. We will also push for progress in a number of key projects. These will ensure higher quality and higher standards at a higher level in BRI development.

Ladies and Gentlemen:

I hope from the above four P's and four B's, you will see that the Chinese people are peace-loving people. China is a country that is committed to peaceful development. China wants to embrace the world and wishes to make friends with all countries. We hope that the world will respond in the same spirit.

I am pleased to see that there is a broad consensus in Britain that China's development is an opportunity for the UK. I am also pleased that here in Britain, China enjoys a higher favourability rating than in most other major Western countries.

To those who insist on calling China's development a threat, and even clamouring for a "new cold war", I would say that they are going against the trend of the times. For such a mind set, there could be no better description than this western saying, which goes, "If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail."

This reminds me of a famous saying by Dr. Sun Yat-sen, which goes, "The trend of the times moves on like a mighty river. It is our choice to go along and prosper, or go against it and perish". Now we are in the 21st century, faced with the profound changes in the world. Countries must go along with the historic trend by remaining open and inclusive, and engaging in win-win cooperation, seize the historic opportunities for reform, and achieve progress for all mankind.

Oxford and Cambridge, as world-renowned, prestigious institutions, have outstanding alumni all over the world. I sincerely hope that the Oxford and Cambridge Club will play a positive role in helping the world understand China. I also hope that you will bring the people of our two countries along to seize the historic opportunities, work together to write a new chapter of the China-UK "Golden Era" and contribute to building a community with a shared future for mankind.

Thank you!

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