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Ambassador Liao Liqiang's Remarks at Belgian Royal Higher Institute for Defense
2014-06-09 23:30

Dear Colonel Madame Faut,

Dear Chief of Defense, General Van Caenlenberge,

Dear generals,

Ladies and Gentlemen, dear friends,

Good afternoon!

Today, I feel deeply honored to speak at Belgian Royal Higher Institute for Defense which has a history of nearly 150 years.

Colonel Faut suggested that I should talk about China's foreign policy. An ancient Chinese philosopher Mencius once said: "For friends, what is precious is mutual understanding". I would like to ask you, how many of you have been to China? If you have, please raise your hands.

Well, thank you. As it is said, seeing is believing, I hope that after listening to my speech today, you will make a decision to go to China to have your personal experience, then my speech will be considered successful.

I. What kind of country is China?

To understand China's foreign policy, one needs to understand what a country China is. I hope my presentation will help you to observe, study and understand China more clearly.

Napoleon once said that the policies of all powers are inherent in their geography. Let's take a look at China’s geography.

First, China has the world's most complex geopolitical environment. China has more neighbors than other countries in the world. China has 20 neighbors, including 14 neighbors on land and 6 neighbors across the sea. In contrast, Germany has 10, India has 7, and United States has 4.

China has the world's longest land border line which runs up to more than 22,000 km, and mainland coastline of over 18,000 km.

Among China's neighbors, there are big countries like Russia and India, and small countries like Laos and Bhutan. Among world's top 11 most populated countries which has a population of over 100 million, 5 of them are China’s neighbors. And China itself has 1.3 billion people. So the total population of the region adds up to more than 3 billion, accounting for almost half the world's population, making the region the world's most densely populated areas.

Not only does China have many neighbors, it is also surrounded by several nuclear states. To the east, there are US-Japan alliance and US-ROK alliance. To the south, there are US-Philippine alliance, US-Thailand alliance and US-Australia alliance.

Second, China has gone through many vicissitudes.

For several thousand years before the industrial revolution, China had been leading the world in economic, technological and cultural development. However, feudal rulers of the 18th and 19th centuries closed the door of China in boastful ignorance, and China was since left behind in the trend of development and subdued to a semi-colonial and semi-feudal society. As a result of incessant foreign invasions thereafter, China experienced great social turmoil and its people had to lead a life of extreme destitution.

China paid a huge price. For example, "Treaty of Shimonoseki" signed after Sino-Japanese War in 1894 alone cost China more than 200 million taels of silver, equivalent to three years of the Qing government revenue.

Nevertheless, the memory of foreign invasion and bullying has never been erased from the minds of the Chinese people, and that explains why we cherish so dear the life we lead today. The Chinese people want peace; we do not want war. This is the reason why China follows an independent foreign policy of peace. China is committed to non-interference in other countries’ internal affairs, and China will not allow others to interfere in its own affairs. This is the position we have upheld in the past. It is what we will continue to uphold in the future.

Third, China is a socialist country with Chinese characteristics.

In 1911, the revolution led by Dr. Sun Yat-sen overthrew the autocratic monarchy that had ruled China for several thousand years. But once the old system was gone, where China would go became the question.

The Chinese people then started exploring long and hard for a path that would suit China’s national conditions. They experimented with constitutional monarchy, imperial restoration, parliamentarism, multi-party system and presidential government, yet nothing really worked.

Finally, China took on the path of socialism. Admittedly, in the process of building socialism, we have had successful experience and also made mistakes. We have even suffered serious setbacks. After the “reform and opening-up” was launched under the leadership of Mr. Deng Xiaoping, we have, acting in line with China’s national conditions and the trend of the times, explored and blazed a trail of development and established socialism with Chinese characteristics. Our aim is to build a socialist market economy, democracy, an advanced culture, a harmonious society and a sound eco-system, uphold social equity and justice, promote all-round development of the people, pursue peaceful development, complete the building of a moderately prosperous society in all respects and eventually achieve modernization and prosperity for all.

President Xi Jinping once said, “Only the wearer of a shoe will know whether or not that shoe fits his foot.” Whether the path a country takes towards development is suitable or not, only the people of that country have the right to decide. The uniqueness of China’s cultural tradition, history and circumstances determines that China needs to follow a development path that suits its own reality. In fact, we have found such a path and achieved success along this path.

Fourth, China is a country undergoing profound changes.

Over the past 30 years of reform and opening up, China keeps an annual average economic growth rate at 9.8%. China’s GDP has risen to number two in the world. China’s per capita GDP increased by 16 times within 35 years. More than 200 million Chinese people are lifted out of poverty. China has become the world's largest exporter and second largest manufacturer.

Chinese society is becoming more open and dynamic, which can be best illustrated by the development of the Internet. In a short period of 20 years, the number of Internet users in China has grown to 600 million, and the number of mobile phone internet users increased to 500 million.

China has more than 400 million blogs. The number of social network site users is nearly 300 million, and nearly 300 million people use We Chat. The number keeps growing rapidly. More and more Chinese people are used to working, shopping, dating and taking leisure online. And a number of Internet users express their opinions on forums and blogs.

China’s high -speed railway reflects the "China Speed". Within only 10 years of development, China’s high-speed railway now has 11,000 kilometers of operation mileage, and 12,000 km is under construction, which is the largest scale in the world. China also has the world's first commercially operated maglev line in Shanghai.

Fifth, China remains a developing country.

China has made historic progress in development. It is now the second largest economy in the world. It has achieved in several decades what took developed countries several centuries to achieve. This is, without doubt, a proud achievement for a country whose population exceeds 1.3 billion.

But as an old Chinese saying goes, only family members can fully appreciate the complexities and difficulties within the family. As China has such a big population, any small problem in China can grow into a huge one, if multiplied by 1.3 billion; any big achievement can become too tiny to notice once divided by the same 1.3 billion.

Let me share a few examples.

-- The large size of the Chinese economy, when divided by 1.3 billion, sends China to around the 80th place in terms of per capita GDP, that is a bit over 6600 dollars. While Belgium’s per capita GDP stands at 45000 dollars,which is 6 times larger。

-- The number of Chinese citizens aged 60 or older has exceeded 200 million, equivalent to the sum of the entire European population aged 60 or older.

-- China has a large rural labor force. The number of migrant workers is more than 260 million, which equals to half of the EU population.

--More than 85 million Chinese people are with disabilities, equivalent to the population of Germany;

-- and more than 200 million Chinese people are still living under the poverty line set by the World Bank, and that is roughly the population of France, Germany and the UK combined.

Therefore, to make the lives of the 1.3 billion Chinese people more comfortable requires still arduous efforts for years to come. Economic development remains the top priority for China, and we still need to work on that basis to achieve social progress in all areas.

II. What is China’s Foreign Policy?

Once you see what kind of country China is, it will not be difficult to understand its foreign policy.

China pursues an independent foreign policy of peace. China is firmly committed to the path of peaceful development and the win-win strategy of opening-up. It seeks to develop friendly relations and cooperation with other countries on the basis of the Five Principles of Peaceful Co-existence.

The major task for China’s diplomacy is to actively serve domestic development, and strengthen friendly relations with all countries in the world in order to create a more enabling external environment for domestic development.

First, we will improve and grow our relations with developed countries by expanding areas of cooperation and properly addressing differences with them; and we will strive to establish a new type of relations of long-term stability and sound growth with other major countries.

This new model of major-country relations is characterized as being one of no conflict and confrontation, mutual respect and win-win cooperation.

China-US relations. China and US strive to develop a new model of major-country relations.

Politically, there are over 90 mechanisms for dialogue and cooperation between the two countries, including the Strategic and Economic Dialogues and the High-level Consultation on People-to-people Exchange. Moreover, there are 41 pairs of sister province/state and 201 pairs of sister city relationships between China and the United States.

Economically, bilateral trade exceeded half a trillion dollars. Two-way investment exceeded 100 billion dollars. China and the United States are each other's second largest trading partner. China is the largest source of import and third largest export market of the United States.

In terms of people-to-people exchanges, in 2013, nearly four million Chinese and Americans visited the other country. Everyday, over ten thousand Chinese and Americans fly across the Pacific Ocean for mutual visits, and it is hard to keep a record of many more Chinese and Americans who interact with each other through the Internet and mobile phones.

Internationally, the two countries maintain close consultation and dialogue on global challenges such as the international financial crisis, climate change, energy security and food security as well as hot-spot issues such as the Korean nuclear issue, the Iranian nuclear issue and Syria, and the two countries have played an important role in addressing these challenges and issues.

Given differences in political system, level of development, history and cultural tradition, it is only natural for the two countries to have disagreement and differences. By respecting each other's core interests and major concerns, building trust through dialogue and consultation, and seeking common ground while narrowing differences, we can keep the bilateral relations from being adversely affected by differences.

China-Russia relations. China and Russia have established comprehensive strategic partnership of coordination

Politically, Russian President Putin visited China last month, and the two heads of state together signed the China-Russia Joint Statement on a New Stage of Comprehensive Strategic Partnership of Coordination and witnessed the signing of several cooperation documents covering energy, electric power, aviation, communication, cooperation among local governments and other fields.

Economically, bilateral trade volume reached nearly $ 90 billion in spite of international financial crisis. China has been Russia's largest trading partner for four years in a row. The two sides will strive to achieve $ 100 billion in bilateral trade by 2015.

Internationally, the two countries maintain close consultation and collaboration on major international and regional issues such as UN Security Council reform, international financial system reform, DPRK nuclear issue, the Iranian nuclear issue and Syria. In particular, the two countries jointly contribute to convoy of Syria chemical weapons, and seeking of a political solution to the Iranian nuclear issue.

China-EU relations. President Xi Jinping said that, China being the largest developing country and the EU being the largest union of developed countries in the world, China and Europe are “two major forces” to safeguard world peace. As two major economies in the world, China and the EU are "two major markets" to promote common development, As major birthplace of Eastern and Western cultures, China and Europe are "two major civilizations" to promote human progress.

With over 30 years of development, relations between China and Europe have now reached an unprecedented level, both in depth and in breadth, despite our differences in ideology and social system.

Politically, our relations have gone through three stages -from constructive partnership to comprehensive partnership and then to today's comprehensive strategic partnership. On the economic and trade front, the volume of trade between China and Europe has increased 100 times in 30 years. In 2013, bilateral trade reached 559.1 billion dollars. China-EU cooperation now covers more than 60 sectors and the two sides have maintained good consultation and coordination on UN reform, the Iranian nuclear issue, the Middle East, Africa and other international issues.

China-EU cooperation will make the world a safer, more balance and better place.

Second, we will continue to promote friendship and partnership with our neighbors. China’s neighboring policy is to consolidate friendly relations and deepen mutually beneficial cooperation with neighbors, and ensure that China's development will bring more benefits to our neighbors.

China has been interacting with its neighbors for thousands of years. Going forward, we will more actively practice the guideline of "amity, sincerity, mutual benefit and inclusiveness". We will help our neighboring countries and peoples benefit more from China's reform and opening. We will help them better appreciate China's commitment to peaceful development.

As for China's territorial and maritime disputes with some countries, China would like to carry out equal-footed consultation and negotiation and properly handle them by peaceful means on the basis of respecting historical facts and international law. There will not be any change to this position. As a matter of fact, China has completely resolved, through friendly consultation, issues of land boundary with 12 out of its 14 neighboring countries. On issues of territory and sovereignty, China's position is firm and clear. We will not take anything that isn't ours, but we will defend every inch of territory that belongs to us.

Not long ago, the Fourth Summit of the Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia (CICA) was held in Shanghai. As the hosting country, China advocates common, comprehensive, cooperative and sustainable security in Asia. Common security means respecting and ensuring the security of each and every country. Comprehensive security means upholding security in both traditional and non-traditional fields. Cooperative security means promoting the security of both individual countries and the region as a whole through dialogue and cooperation. Sustainable security means that we need to focus on both development and security so that security would be durable.

Security must be universal. We cannot just have the security of one or some countries while leaving the rest insecure, still less should one seek the so-called absolute security of itself at the expense of the security of others. Otherwise, just as a oriental proverb aptly puts it, "One who tries to blow out other's oil lamp will get his beard on fire."

China works to push forward the Six-Party Talks on DPRK nuclear issue and supports peace and reconstruction in Afghanistan, actively participates in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, CICA, APEC, the Iranian nuclear talks and other multilateral mechanisms. China actively works on China-ASEAN Free Trade Area and China-Japan-ROK Free Trade Area, China will work with other countries to speed up the development of an economic belt along the Silk Road and a 21st Century maritime silk road, and hopes that the Asian infrastructure investment bank could be launched at an early date. All these efforts are made in order to promote cooperation and security in the region.

Third, we will increase unity and cooperation with other developing countries, work with them to uphold the legitimate rights and interests of developing countries and support efforts to increase their representation and voice in international affairs. China will remain a reliable friend and sincere partner of other developing countries.

Here I would like to focus on China-Africa relations, because Africa is the continent with the highest concentration of developing countries.

Today is not the first day that China goes to Africa. Half a century ago, during his visit to 10 African countries, the late Premier Zhou Enlai proposed the five principles for China's relations with African and Arab countries and the eight principles for China's economic aid and technical assistance to other countries. Over the past five decades, Chinese and African people have helped each other and fostered an unbreakable bond of friendship.

Premier Li Keqiang visited African last month and quoted a poet during the trip, "You may have forgotten the person whom you laughed with; but you will never forget the one whom you wept with."

In the 1960s and 70s, to support the cause of national liberation in southern Africa and smash the blockade imposed by the apartheid regime, the Chinese people assisted the construction of the Tazara Railway against great odds. Sixty-five fine sons and daughters of China gave their lives for the construction of the railway and were laid to rest on the African continent.

In the same vein, when China's lawful seat was restored in the UN, our African brothers burst into tears of happiness, celebrating this as a great victory of developing countries. Such is the history of our common struggle for a common destiny.

In 2013, China-Africa trade reached US$210.2 billion, registering an increase of more than 2,000 times over the 1960 figure. For five years in a row, China has been Africa's largest trading partner. China's FDI in Africa has grown from zero to over US$25 billion in accumulative terms, delivering tangible benefits to both the Chinese and African peoples.

After President Xi Jinping’s visit to Africa last year, Premier Li Keqiang proposed a cooperation framework consisting of four principles, six cooperation projects and one platform during his visit to Africa this year. Four principles being, to treat each other with full sincerity and as complete equals; to enhance solidarity and mutual trust; to jointly pursue inclusive development; and to innovate on practical cooperation. Six cooperation projects being, industrial cooperation projects, financial cooperation projects, poverty reduction projects, ecological and environmental protection projects, cultural and people-to-people exchanges, peace and security. One Forum is China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC). We need to continue to improve this mechanism to upgrade China-Africa relations.

Premier Li announces that in the next stage, we may scale up our trade both quantitatively and qualitatively to reach the goal of increasing the volume of China-Africa trade and China's direct investment in Africa to US$400 billion and US$100 billion respectively.

China has decided to provide an additional US$10 billion credit line to African countries for mutually agreed projects, raising the total amount of promised credit to US$30 billion. We will also put another US$2 billion into the China-Africa Development Fund to raise it to US$5 billion.

To better protect Africa's wildlife, the Chinese government has decided to provide a grant of US$10 million in support of closer technical cooperation and experience sharing between China and African countries, We are ready to share our experience with African countries on poverty reduction, and strengthen people-to-people exchanges.

In particular, China sincerely hopes to see Africa diversify its cooperation partners, welcomes greater international input into Africa, and is ready to carry out cooperation schemes in Africa involving third parties.

Fourth, we will actively participate in multilateral affairs, support the United Nations, G20, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, BRICS and other multilateral organizations in playing an active role in international affairs, and work to make the international order and system more just and equitable.

China has made important contribution to the stable development of the world economy. Since its entry into the WTO in 2001, China has imported goods worth nearly US$750 billion every year, and created over 14 million jobs for those exporting countries and regions.

In 1997 when the Asian financial crisis caused a dramatic devaluation of currencies in countries and regions close to it, China succeeded in keeping the RMB exchange rate basically stable, contributing to regional economic stability and development. Since the international financial crisis erupted in 2008, China has taken an active part in the G20's efforts to build a global economic governance mechanism, promoted the reform of the international financial system, got involved in multi-country macroeconomic policy coordination, and participated in international trade financing schemes and financial cooperation. It has sent large overseas purchasing missions and helped countries in difficulties.

China conscientiously meets the Millennium Development Goals of the United Nations, and is the only country in the world that has halved the number of people living in poverty ahead of schedule. In addition, China provides assistance to other countries and regions as its capacity permits. By the end of 2009, China had given assistance worth RMB 256.3 billion to 161 countries and over 30 international and regional organizations, reduced and canceled 380 debts incurred by 50 heavily indebted poor countries and least-developed countries, trained 120,000 people for other developing countries, and sent 21,000 medical personnel and nearly 10,000 teachers abroad to help other countries.

China encourages the least-developed countries to expand exports to China and has pledged zero tariff treatment to over 95% of the exports to China by all the least-developed countries which have diplomatic relations with China.

China is the only nuclear-weapon country that has publicly stated that it will not be the first to use nuclear weapons, or use or threaten to use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear-weapon states or nuclear-weapon-free zones.

China has dispatched about 21,000 personnel on 30 UN peacekeeping missions, which is the highest number among the permanent members of the UN Security Council.

China takes an active part in international cooperation in anti-terrorism and nonproliferation. It provides humanitarian aid and dispatches rescue teams to countries hit by severe natural disasters and deploys naval escort fleets to combat piracy in the Gulf of Aden and off the coast of Somalia.

China is a member of over 100 intergovernmental international organizations, a party to over 300 international conventions, and an active participant in building the international system.

China is the first developing country to formulate and implement the National Climate Change Program. It is also one of the countries which have made the greatest efforts in energy saving and emission reduction and which have made the fastest progress in developing new and renewable energy sources in recent years.

Belgian troops participated in the United Nations demining mission in Lebanon and made outstanding contributions which are universally recognized. Chinese troops also took part in the mission. Since 2006, on request the United Nations, China has dispatched to Lebanon 12 batches of peacekeeping engineering unit and 11 batches of peacekeeping medical team, altogether 3100 peacekeeping troops. Chinese peacekeepers have successfully completed tasks assigned by the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL). In particular, China worked together with Belgium and other countries along the "Blue Line" and kept a "zero casualty" record.

Since 2003, China has dispatched 17 batches of peacekeepers to Congo (DRC). In addition to the peacekeeping mission, Chinese troops also helped build infrastructure including roads and bridges. China also helped build local hospitals to offer health care to local population and peacekeepers from other countries.

III. What is China’s Defense Policy?

It is China's unshakable national commitment and strategic choice to take the road of peaceful development. China unswervingly pursues an independent foreign policy of peace and a national defense policy that is defensive in nature. China opposes any form of hegemonism or power politics, and does not interfere in the internal affairs of other countries. China will never seek hegemony or behave in a hegemonic manner, nor will it engage in military expansion. China advocates a new security concept featuring mutual trust, mutual benefit, equality and coordination, and pursues comprehensive security, common security and cooperative security.

I believe you all have heard of a classic Chinese military book named Sun Tzu's Military Rules,the more popular translation is The Art of War.

The opening line of The Art of War is:“The military matter is of vital importance to the State. It is a matter of life and death, a road either to safety or to ruin. Hence it is a subject of inquiry, which can on no account be neglected.” Sun Tzu continued:“Thus the highest form of generalship is to balk the enemy’s plan. The next best is to prevent the junction of the enemy’s forces. The next in order is to attack the enemy’s army in the field. And the worst policy of all is to besiege walled cities.”The Art of War stands out from other military theory books. The reason is the stress on the cautious use of force and to avoid war.

China’s Defense modernisation doesn’t target or threaten any one. China has no interest or intention to engage in any arms race. China’s Defense building never exceeds the need for national security.And China’s Defense spending has always been reasonable and proportionate to the challenges we face.

China has the largest population and third largest land area in the world, with 22,000 kilometers of border line and 18,000 km of coastline. China has not yet achieved reunification of the country. Compared with other countries, China's security environment is relatively more complex, and China's military spending is not high.

In 2013, China's defense budget was about $ 132 billion dollars, while the United States has a defense budget of $ 552.1 billion. China's military spending is only 1/4 of the United States, while China's population is four times that of the United States.

China's annual military spending per capita is only $ 101, while it is 1780 dollars in the US and 400 dollars in Japan. China’s military spending per capita is equivalent to only 5.6% that of US and 25% that of Japan. In terms of military expenditure per solider, China is $ 57,000, while the US adds up to $ 400,000, seven times that of China. Japan is over $ 200,000, 3.6 times that of China. Even Belgium which experienced several years of disarmament, its military expenditure per solider is over 100,000 dollars, twice that of China.

In terms of military spending as percentage of GDP, the world average is 3%. It is 4% in the United States, and only 1.6% in China. In terms of military expenditure as percentage of public spending, the world average is around 15%, whereas China is only 6%, declining by 11 percentage points from 1979. These two indicators of China are lower than that of India, ROK and many other Asian countries.

In essence, The Art of War talks about avoiding war and going to war with caution. But, this prudent approach does not mean fear or cowardice. On the major issues concerning the principles of China's sovereignty and territorial integrity, we will not stir up troubles, but will never be afraid of troubles. We will be persistent and firm to safeguard the just and legitimate rights of China. The thrust of Chinese Defense strategy is very clear. China has the deterrence and wisdom to avoid war. But if needed, China has the courage and capability to win through fighting.

To sum up

I have just elaborated on China's relations with developed countries, neighboring countries, developing countries, China's multilateral diplomacy and national defense policy. I know it is not easy for you to take such big chunk of information in one hour. So, I will try to sum everything up into one sentence, one phrase and one word which will help you grasp the essence.

In one sentence, "China will unswervingly follow the path of peaceful development, and firmly pursue the independent foreign policy of peace."

In one phrase, China’s foreign policy is about "peaceful development."

In one word, it is all about "peace". So as long as you remember the word "peace", my speech half done.

IV. Conclusion

Dear generals,

Ladies and gentlemen, dear friends,

A couple of months ago, Chinese President Xi Jinping made ​​an historic state visit to Belgium . The two countries issued a "Joint Declaration", deciding to establish an all-round friendly cooperative partnership.

Belgium is China's sixth largest trading partner in the EU, and China is Belgium's second largest trading partner outside the EU. In 2013, in spite of unfavorable external environment, bilateral trade reached $ 25.4 billion, which is third best in record.

China is Belgium’s largest investment destination in Asia. More than a third of the Belgian companies enjoy 20% of annual profit growth. According to incomplete statistics, China’s non-financial investment to Belgium stands $ 700 million, bringing considerable economic and social benefits for the local community.

This year, a pair of lovely Chinese pandas Xinghui and Haohao have come to settle in Belgium. They are envoys of peace and friendship, as well as symbol of great sincerity and friendly feelings from the Chinese Government and people towards the people of Belgium.

Today, the Chinese people are endeavoring to realize the Chinese dream of the great renewal of the Chinese nation. The Chinese dream is about the pursuit of peace, the quest for happiness and contributing to the common good of the world.

I truly hope that China and Belgium, as well as EU will increase mutual understanding and extend mutual assistance in the pursuit of our respective dreams.

Thank you.

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