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China Platform: To Understand a Real China
2011-11-27 03:17

Distinguished Victor Paul Van Cauwenberge,

Distinguished Commissioner Karel De Gucht,

Dear friends,

The year 2011 marks the 40th anniversary of the establishment of China-Belgium diplomatic ties. It is also China-EU Year of Youth. Last month, Prince Philippe led a 500-member commercial delegation to China and achieved fruitful results. He met with Vice President Xi Jinping and Vice Premier Wang Qishan. The two sides signed over 40 cooperation documents. Following these important and joyful events, today, Gent University is holding this activity to celebrate the fifth anniversarty of the establishment of "China Platform". I thank you for your efforts and feel delighted to have this opportunity to exchanges ideas with our young friends.

Gent University boasts a time-honored history and a reputation in Belgium and beyond. Since its establishement, "China Platform" has made major contributions to better exchanges and cooperation in the field of education between the two countries. Gent University has established cooperative relations with 36 renowned universities in Mainland China and Taiwan. It is the only examination site of HSK. In the 2011 Chinese Bridge: Chinese Proficiency Competition for World College Students. A student from the Chinese Department of Gent University won the third prize. Here, on behalf of the Chinese Embassy, I'd like to extend highese regards and warmese congratulations to all the teachers and students of Gent University. Hopefully, we can continue to work together to build Gent University into an important platform to deepen mutual undertanding between China and Belgium.

Thirty years ago, I was sitting in the lecture rooms of Wuhan University, which as cooperative relations with Gent University, my heart filled with curiocity and expectation. You are luckier than I was, because you live at the center of Europe and in an era of globalization. You have all sorts of accesses to the outside world. During the past 6 month since I came here, not a single day has passed without some local media report about China. This shows that Belgium is paying attention to China and is willing to get to know China. However, I also find some reports inconsistent with facts, which can be confusing and misleading. Therefore, today, i'm happy to ask you to join me to take a look at China, see where it came from and where it is heading towards.

To understand China, I believe there are at least three aspects to consider.

First, from historical perspective, China was once a prosperous and powerful country, but suffered terrible ordeals in recent centuries. In China's history of 5000 years, the Chinese people have created a brilliant civilization and made significant contributions to the evolution of humanity. China used to take a leading postion in world economy. Until the early 19th century, China's GDP represented about one third of global GDP. However, after the Opium War in 1840, China was gradually reduced to a semi-colonial and semi-feudal society, which was placed at the mercy of foreign powers. Its territory was partitioned and its people were enslaved. In The Adventures of Tintin, The Blue Lotus Charpter tells a story of the China in the 1930s. The author Hergé painted this dark time in China, during which opium has paralyzed the Chinese people mentally and physically. The Blue Lotus is the name of an opium den. At that time, the corrupted Chinese government collided with foreign invaders, plunging the Chinese people into deep troubles. China's productivity was so low that it had to import everything including matches and nails. Over 90% of Chinese were illiterate, and averge life expectancy was only 35.

Second, from contemporary perspective, China has achieved remarkable economic success, but remains a developing country. In 1949, the founding of New China has opened a new era in its history. Since then and especially since the implementation of the policy of reform and opening up 30 years ago, China has experienced a radical change marked by significant strengthening of its national strength and significantly improved living conditions of its people, unfolding a beautiful epic of modernization. In 2010, the total economic volume in China rose to second place in the world and its share in the world economy rose from 1.8% to 9.3%.

The material basis of China's modernization is consolidated. In 2010, food production reached 546 million tons, creating a record high. Steel production amounted to 627 million tons and production of automotive vehicles stood at 18.27 million . The production output of major agricultural and industrial products ranks number one in the world. The high-speed rail network has exceeded 8,400 kilometers and installed capacity reached 960 million kilowatts, making China top one in the world. The network of highways reached 74,000 kilometers, the second largest in the world.

In his masterpiece Fuir, Jean-Philippe Toussaint, a contemporary Belgian author, inspired by his trip to China, described vividly the changes, evolution and dynamism of China in the early 21st century. Under his pen, the contrast between the skyscrapers of Pudong New District and the classical European architecture in Shanghai Bund and contrast between the solemn Forbidden City between and the bustling streets of Beijing spells an unique charm of China.

As you may have noticed, the figures above are all overall volume. China has 1.34 billion people. Any insignificant problem multiplied by 1.3 billion will become a big problem, and any astronomical figure divided by 1.3 billion will be reduced to a tiny number. When I see the statistics calculated per capita in China, I feel enormous pressure and responsibility. In 2010, China per capita GDP was about 4400 dollars,which ranks one hundredth place in the world, and equal to only one tenth of that of Belgium. China exports per capita was 1160 dollars, representing less than one thirtieth of that of Belgium. As defined by the UN poverty line of one dollar a day per person, China has 150 million poor people, 15 times more than the total population of Belgium. Each year 12 million new job seekers emerge in China, more than the total population of Belgium. In light of these realities, China will remain a developing country for a long time to come.

Third, from the perspective of long-term development, despite the daunting challenges that China faces in seeking development, China will advance with giant strides towards modernization, which is the modernization of 20% of the world population. This is a very long historical process, in which, difficulties and problems, whatever their size, are unprecedented in today's world and few in the history of human beings. China is marked by the uneven development between urban and rural areas and between different regions. Per capita GDP in the province of Guizhou is less than one eighth of that of Shanghai. China's economic growth is restricted by its lack of resources and deteriorating environment. China has to feed 20% of the world population with only 7.9% of global arable land and 6.5% of the world's fresh water. China is at the lower end of the industrial chain in the international division of labor, and China's exports are mainly labor-intensive and resources-intensive products, thus profits are low. In order to buy an Airbus A380, China must export 800 million shirts. And a Barbie doll made in China only brings Chinese companies 0.4 dollars of profit, while transnational companies can earn dozens of dollars through their patent, design and marketing.

Dear friends,

China is aware of the fact that in this era of globalization, no country can develop in isolation. On September 6, 2011, the State Council Information Office released the white paper on China's peaceful development, which characterises China's development as "scientific development, independent development, open development, peaceful development, cooperative development and common development. " This white paper solemnly renewed China's oath to the world that it will unswervingly pursue the path of peaceful development, and work to preserve world peace and promoting common prosperity of all countries of the world.

China is a staunch advocate of world peace, and a peace-loving nation that seeks harmony since ancient times. In its external exchanges, China always follows the principles of "to agree to disagree" and "primacy of harmony", and has created great stories such as "Silk Road", "Zheng He famous navigation overseas".

China actively contributes to world peace. It has sent about 21,000 people to 30 UN peacekeeping missions, the largest among the permanent members of the UN Security Council. China has successively sent 13 batches of peacekeeping troops to the DRC. China has taken an active part in international cooperation in anti-terrorism and nonproliferation, provided humanitarian aid and sent rescue teams to countries hit by severe natural disasters, and dispatched escorting fleets to the Gulf of Aden and waters off Somalia in order to safeguard the security of international navigation and fight against piracy. China has joined in more than 100 intergovernmental organizations and signed more than 300 international treaties. It has become an active participant in the construction of an international structure, and has played a constructive role in addressing international and regional hot issues.

China is the engine and the stabilizer of world economic growth. The total volume of China's economy continues to grow, and the contribution rate of China's economy to global economic growth increases massively. In recent years, China has contributed an average of more than 10% of global economic growth. In 1997, the Asian financial crisis led to a dramatic devaluation of the currencies of neighboring countries and regions. China has maintained basic stability in the RMB exchange rate, contributing to the stability and development of the regional economy. Since the international financial crisis of 2008, China has actively participated in the G20 efforts to build a mechanism for global economic governance, pressed ahead the reform of the international financial system, and sent large procurement missions abroad to help countries in trouble. As a Chinese saying goes, "A friend in need is a friend indeed." After the outbreak of the European debt crisis, China has repeatedly affirmed its confidence in the euro, and provided tremendous support. On August 25, during his meeting with French President Sarkozy, Chinese President Hu Jintao said China would like to see the European economy to remain stable and will continue to consider Europe as one of its major investment markets. On July 16, during his visit to Germany, Premier Wen Jiabao pointed out that as a responsible investor in the long run, China, with its abundant foreign exchange reserves, always apply the principle of diversification. China has lent its support to European countries hit by the debt crisis, which demonstrates not only the friendship between China and Europe, but also the need of mutual benefit. Despite the spread of the crisis, China has bought government bonds of Spain and Greece to help the European countries overcome this crisis within its capability. President Hu Jintao pointed out at the recent G20 Summit in Cannes that the G20 must continue to demonstrate the spirit of standing together in times of adversity and pursuing win-win cooperation. President Hu Jintao also made five proposals on behalf the Chinese Government. First, ensure growth while paying attention to balance. Second, pursue win-win outcome through cooperation. Third, improve governance in the course of reform. Fourth, strive for progress through innovation.Fifth, promote common prosperity through development. At the same time, though dark clouds of the crisis still lingers and the global economic recovery is yet instable, China continues to reform the RMB exchange rate mechanism. By the end of 2010, the revaluation of the RMB against the dollar was already 24.97%. Since 2011, China has further accelerated the revaluation, and strengthened flexibility of the exchange rate, which reflects its efforts to promote the balance of the global economy.

China is a partner who seeks win-win. Since joining the WTO in 2001, China has honored its commitments, reduced the total tariff level from 15.3% to 9.8%, and eliminated most of its non-tariff measures. Each year, China imports an average of 750-billion-dollars worth of goods, and created more than 14 million jobs for countries and regions. During the last ten years, foreign-funded enterprises in China have repatriated 261.7 billion USD of profits, an increase of 30% on yearly basis. Among the world top 500 companies, over 480 have developed their business in China. From 2000 to 2010, China's overseas direct investment in non-financial sectors increased from one billion dollars to 59 billion dollars, which gave a strong impetus to economic development in the countries concerned. In 2009, the Chinese companies abroad have paid taxes of 10.6 billion dollars and employed 439,000 local residents.

China actively assumes international responsibility. China earnestly implements the UN Millennium Development Goals, and is the only country that has managed to halve the number of poverty ahead of schedule. China also provides foreign aid within its capability. By the end of 2009, China has provided 256.3 billion RMB (about 40 billion dollars) to 161 countries and over 30 international and regional organizations. In addition, China has canceled in whole or in part, 380 debts of 50 heavily indebted poor countries and least developed countries, helped to train 120,000 people in developing countries, sent 21,000 people in medical workers and almost 10 000 teachers abroad, and promised to grant zero-tariff treatment to 97% export from least developed countries that have established diplomatic relations with it. Regarding food security, China had, by the end of 2010, provided 4.3 billion yuan in food aid through bilateral channels. To help African countries cope with the severe drought and food crisis, China has announced 533.2 million yuan in emergency food aid to the affected countries. In the field of infrastructure, China had, by the end of 2010, completed 632 infrastructure projects in other developing countries. Between 2010 and 2012, China will provide 10 billion US dollars in lending of a preferential nature to Africa, the bulk of which will go to infrastructural development. Between 2011 and 2015, China will build 200 infrastructural projects in clean energy and environmental protection in other developing countries.

Dear friends,

Mr. Jean Monnet, an important architect of Euorpean integration has once spent three years in China, and yet believes one should never jumps to conclusion about China. Indeed, China is too big and too complex for anyone to judge. Even the Chinese people dare not say they fully understands their country. Given the limited time today, I can only give you a basic outline. To understand China in a comprehensive way, it is up to our young friends to participate, witness, study and discover. I hope that you will take Gent University as a platform to make your due contributions to deepening China-Belgium and China-EU relations.

Thank you!

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