A Joint Response to the Big Change of the World and a Joint Effort to Build a Community with a Shared Future

--- Speech at the luncheon of the Seventh World Peace Forum
Beijing, July 2018

By Le Yucheng 

It gives me great pleasure to join so many friends, old and new, at the seventh World Peace Forum to discuss the way forward for the noble cause of global peace and development. With your experience,knowledge and wisdom as visionary statesmen, strategists and leading academics on international studies, I have full confidence that we will have a highly productive forum this year.

As a diplomat, I often discuss international issues with visiting political figures and academics, and find such exchanges of ideas informing and inspiring.

My recent discovery is that as “black swan” and “gray rhino” incidents happen all too often, words like “uncertain”, “unstable” and “unpredictable” have become most used in characterizing our world today. It feels like we do not know the planet where we live any more, when populism, protectionism and unilateralism resurge worldwide, when free trade and economic globalization encounter strong headwinds, and when regional flashpoints, terrorism and issues like refugees and migration flare up one after another. Living in such a world, people cannot help but feel worried and disoriented, at a loss about where the future lies.

We have once again come to a crossroads of history. In the sweeping arc of human history, the critical moments of choice are but a few. Now is a moment of truth: do we raise or lower the drawbridge, do we walk alone or join hands, do we take a “beggar-thy-neighbor” or win-win approach? When facing a fluid situation, it is all the more imperative that we stay clear-eyed about the underlying trend, maintain strategic focus and resist misguided policies. In a word, we must make the right choice that meets the call of our times.

The truth is, amidst the shifting dynamics in the international landscape, peace, development and win-win cooperation remain the growing call of the times, and the trend toward a multipolar world and economic globalization is unstoppable. Our world has become a global village where our interests and futures are closely entwined. Protectionism could not protect and unilateralism would lead to nowhere. In a globalized economy, no one can break apart the global industrial chain or the closely linked interests among countries. In a world of growing interdependence, the practice of hegemony or pursuit of one’s interests at the expense of others’ would not succeed but boomerang on oneself.

Where is the world heading? What kind of world should we shape? In answering these questions, Chinese President Xi Jinping put forward the initiative of jointly building a community with a shared future for mankind and an open, inclusive, clean and beautiful world that enjoys lasting peace, universal security and common prosperity.

This initiative is not an empty slogan, nor an illusionary utopia. It is a blueprint President Xi drew up for mankind’s future based on a keen understanding of history and the trend of times, in line with the long-term and shared interests of mankind. It is China’s proposal to the international community in response to the major changes in today’s world.

This proposal is inspired by the global vision and the commitment to peace and harmony inherent in Chinese civilization. It builds on China’s philosophies of peace emphasizing peaceful coexistence, peaceful development and a harmonious world. It meets the need of our times and the trend of the world, and responds to the common aspiration for peace and development of people worldwide. The proposal has hence received high recognition and acclaim from the international community, and shown strong vigor and vitality. We are confident that with the concerted efforts of the global community, the vision of building such a community for mankind will be translated into reality.

This year marks the 40th anniversary of China’s reform and opening-up policy. Time is the ultimate arbiter of any endeavor. The transformative change and tremendous progress taking place in this country in the past four decades show that China has stood this ultimate test. I see no need to enumerate China’s achievements here. I just wish to emphasize that these achievements are neither stolen from others nor bestowed upon us. Instead, they are created by our hard-working people with their own hands. China’s opening-up is no “joke” but a miracle in the modern world.

In its forty years of reform and opening-up, China has not only achieved its own development, but also contributed to global wellbeing to the best of its ability. You may recall how hard China worked to shore up its currency in the raging times of the Asian financial crisis, and how China stuck together with its neighbors in face of the difficulties, making a major contribution to easing the crisis.

In the aftermath of the global financial crisis, China scaled up its financial contributions to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and extended a helping hand to countries in distress. With its solid and stable growth, China, together with other emerging market economies, bolstered the hope of a global economic recovery. Since then, China has contributed no less than 30 percent to global growth on average each year.

As an active participant in international humanitarian assistance, China does its best to help whenever and wherever needed. When the Ebola epidemic hit West Africa in 2015, the Chinese government initiated a massive program of humanitarian assistance, the largest of its kind in the history of New China.

Hence came what was seen in the affected region: when others scrambled to leave, Chinese medical workers numbering over 1,000 rushed to help at the risk of their own lives.

Among the foreign ministers of major countries, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi was the first to visit the region.

Emergency humanitarian aid worth 750 million RMB yuan was provided and much needed medical supplies were flown in from China.

In fact, the last Ebola patient in Liberia was saved and cured in the local Chinese treatment center.

Today’s China is the largest trading partner of over 130 countries, the fastest growing major export market and one of the most popular investment destinations.

Estimates suggest that in the coming five years, China will import US$8 trillion of goods, attract US$600 billion of foreign investment and invest US$750 billion overseas.

China now has a 300-million-strong middle income group. The figure may well surge to 400 million, 500 million and even more in just a few years. That will undoubtedly make China the biggest market in the world, a market with better access, greater capacity and stronger consumer demand.

Some of the major opening-up steps President Xi Jinping announced at the Boao Forum for Asia have already been delivered; the rest are in the pipeline. Tariffs on 1,500 types of consumer goods have been lowered considerably. The import tariff on automobiles has been cut from 25 percent to 15 percent. And the tariff on 28 types of anti-cancer drugs were eliminated starting from last May.

The revised negative list for foreign investment released late last month substantially eased market access restrictions for foreign investors. The foreign ownership limits in 22 sectors including automobiles, shipping and aircraft have been lifted. I have read in the news that some world-class companies are planning to act quickly to reap the benefit. I wish to encourage the business community to seize the opportunity and invest more in China.

A few numbers about China I saw yesterday may be of interest to you. On an average day in this country, some 80,000 automobiles are sold; over 80 million packages are handled and delivered; movies are shown on 220,000 cinema screens, 4,200 high-speed trains are running, and more than 400,000 tons of grains are consumed.

These figures are what happens in just one day, yet they speak volumes for the enormous business opportunities in China. With such a huge market, China will remain a source of growth, stability and vitality for the global economy.

I recognize that not everyone is happy with China’s investment environment and some may be quite critical about it. To them I wish to say that the Chinese government is committed to improving the investment environment and has undertaken tremendous efforts in the past forty years of reform and opening-up toward better market access, administrative streamlining and clean governance.

Yes, there is still room for improvement, but it should also be noted that China has been the largest recipient of foreign investment among developing countries, with more FDI inflow than any other country but the US last year. In the first half of this year, foreign investors registered nearly 30,000 new companies in China, showing a 96.6 percent increase year on year. Capital won’t flow to a market with an unattractive investment environment and poor profit prospects.

Some complain that they have been shortchanged by China’s unfair trading practices. To these people, I wish to point out that China was a latecomer to global trade: we did not make the rules, RMB is not the main settlement currency for transactions, and we were obliged to accept the WTO accession terms. If anybody is to be accused of unfair trading practices, China should be the last one.

Forty years ago, China’s foreign trade was merely US$20.6 billion. In 2017, trade in goods alone amounted to US$4.1 trillion. It is mutual benefit, not hard selling that has made such an enormous surge possible. No businessmen are foolish enough to have lived with loss-making deals for forty years.

Still some accuse China of so-called “intellectual property theft” through multiple means. This accusation too has no leg to stand on. To these people, let me say China is rock-firm in protecting intellectual property rights (IPR) and has been strengthening IPR enforcement.

China paid US$28.6 billion for intellectual property use last year and recently revised the Trademark Law and Law Against Unfair Competition to further strengthen IPR protection.

In China’s foreign investment regulations, there is no mandatory requirement on technology transfer. Those who repeatedly accuse the Chinese government of forced technology transfer have never presented a specific case, not even one, to substantiate their allegation. As for the technologies obtained through commercial cooperation, they are the outcome of voluntary deals between market entities, and have nothing to do with forced technology transfer.

Here I wish to draw your attention to the fact that despite its growing economy, China remains the world’s largest developing country, and still lags notably behind the advanced Western countries.

China’s economy may have become the second largest in the world, yet its per capita GDP still ranks the 71st globally. Some 30 million people still live below the poverty line, 15 million urban jobs need to be added every year, and there are 87 million people with disabilities.

These are the basic conditions in China. China’s status as a developing country is something one cannot ignore before one makes demands on China. For instance, it would be unrealistic to demand absolute reciprocity in market access between China and developed countries, just as it would be most unfair to put boxers of separate weight classes in the same game or cars of different engine power in the same race.

The past four decades of reform and opening-up has been an extraordinary journey of advancing with the rest of the world. China achieved its development by opening-up and with the support of the world, and China has been taking concrete steps to give back by sharing its development opportunities. People from all countries are welcome to get on board the express train of China’s development. The first China International Import Expo to be held this November will once again demonstrate China’s resolve to further open up. President Xi Jinping emphasized that China’s door will not be closed and will only open even wider. This is our solemn commitment to the international community, and we Chinese believe in keeping one’s word with results-oriented actions.

The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is a concrete and momentous step by China to expand opening-up and external cooperation. With the launch of a large number of cooperation projects in less than five years, the BRI is being turned from vision into reality through concrete actions. A strong momentum of global collaboration for BRI development is emerging. We have signed BRI cooperation agreements with over ninety countries and organizations, institutionalized our industrial cooperation with more than thirty countries, and a new landscape of China’s opening-up led by the BRI is taking shape.

The BRI is a great undertaking that inspires great actions. The Initiative has produced bumper “early harvests”. Here let me share with you several examples.

The first example happened in the central Asian country of Uzbekistan. Out of its 30 million people, one third live in the Andijan region. Travel to Tashkent, its capital, had long been a headache for the government and local people as one had to either drive four or five days across mountain passes or transit through a third country by train. This longstanding problem was resolved when Chinese construction workers came and helped build a railway tunnel in just 900 days despite the hostile natural conditions. It is the first and so far the longest rail tunnel in central Asia. Now people in Andijan can get to Tashkent in just two hours. They hailed the Belt and Road Initiative and applauded the Chinese workers for making the journey so much easier for them.

The second example happened in Kenya, Africa. A journey from its biggest port city Mombasa to its capital Nairobi used to take over ten hours. Yet since the opening of a railway line China helped build in May 2017, the trip has been cut to five hours. The railway has carried 1.3 million passengers, and has so far this year transported 600,000 tons of cargo, equivalent to 45,000 TEUs. As an important “early-harvest” deliverable under the BRI, the railway has brought convenience to the lives of the Kenyan people and added impetus to the local economic development.

The third example is about another central Asian country, Tajikistan. Despite being a large cotton producer, the country could only process 10 percent of its output. Yet thanks to a textile joint venture it set up with China several years ago, which is the largest enterprise of its kind in central Asia, Tajikistan’s cotton processing rate rose to 40 percent. The joint venture sells over nine tenths of the 100 percent cotton yarn it produces to foreign markets, becomes the country’s biggest source of foreign currency earnings, and creates some 4,000 jobs. It now provides a reliable driving force for local economic growth.

Just as there are a thousand Hamlets in a thousand people’s eyes, it is only natural that people may have different views about the Belt and Road Initiative. Yet more and more people have come to the view that the BRI is not a debt trap, nor a predatory quest for resources. Still less is it designed to create a closed bloc or sphere of influence. Instead, it is an initiative for peace, cooperation and openness, a platform for China to work with other countries to promote development, meet challenges and advance prosperity under the principle of pursuing friendship and upholding justice.

Many of you have been following China’s development and know China’s foreign policy well. As a career diplomat born in the 1960s who served in Russia, the United States, Kazakhstan and India, I have experienced many significant developments in China’s diplomacy since the 80s. I witnessed the historic shifts in China’s relations with the rest of the world and the growth of China’s friendship and cooperation with other countries. The Chinese diplomats of my generation have direct and strong feelings about the momentous journey of China’s engagement with the world in these tumultuous three decades.

In my posting in Moscow between the late 80s and early 90s, I witnessed the breakup of the Soviet Union, the end of the Cold War, and the smooth transition of China’s relations with Russia. China successfully resolved the boundary issues left from history with Russia and several other former Soviet Union countries, making the 7,600-kilometer boundary a bond of peace and cooperation. China-Russia relations have enjoyed steady growth and developed into a comprehensive strategic partnership of coordination, contributing significantly to global peace and strategic stability. President Putin’s visit to China last month, the first after his re-election, marked a new start for China-Russia relations in the new era. Under the guidance of the Presidents of the two countries, the China-Russia relationship is at its best in history, and sets a fine example for developing a new type of relations between major countries.

Twenty years ago at the turn of the century, I was sent to work at our permanent mission to the UN in New York, and had the opportunity to observe close-up China’s relations with the United States and major European countries.

China believes that as permanent members of the UN Security Council and the world’s two largest economies, China and the United States have broad and important common interests. Both countries stand to gain from cooperation and lose from confrontation. Regrettably, the United States recently went ahead to start a trade war, which has harmed Chinese interests, undermined the global economy and created obstacles for China-US cooperation. China was forced to take countermeasures to safeguard its national interests and the multilateral trading regime. We hate to see such a situation, and we urge the US side to come back to reason and stop acting in a way that hurts others and brings no good to itself. President Xi Jinping has time and again stressed that for China and the US, cooperation is the only right choice, and the pursuit of win-win outcomes is the only path to a better future. This points the right direction for China-US relations, and we must stay firmly on this right course.

There are broad common interests between China and European countries. I have just returned from Premier Li Keqiang’s visit to Europe and was deeply impressed by the strong wish China and Europe share for enhancing cooperation to meet common challenges.

China attaches high importance to the EU’s strategic status and role, and firmly supports the European integration process. It has been suggested that China has shown more support for the integration process than some European countries. The 20th China-EU Summit will be held in Beijing on Monday. I believe it will bring new impetus and vitality for China-Europe cooperation.
As Chinese Ambassador to Kazakhstan and India in the past five years, I witnessed the remarkable progress in China’s neighborhood diplomacy, and have some observations about it.  

In a spirit of amity, sincerity, mutual benefit and inclusiveness, China has followed the principle of building friendships and partnerships with neighboring countries, and become a good neighbor, friend and partner that the neighboring countries feel they can trust.  
Over the past twenty-six years since China established diplomatic ties with the central Asian countries, the two sides have lived side by side in harmony and jointly tackled difficulties like close brothers. In the early days after independence, the central Asian countries suffered hard from terrorism and extremism and were deeply troubled by conflicts, turmoil and poverty. As I remember, the first Chinese Ambassador to Tajikistan had to travel in an armored vehicle across battlefields to present his credentials. When I talked about this with former US Deputy Secretary of State Bill Burns recently, he said the then US Ambassador may have traveled in the same vehicle to present his credentials. Now conflicts have become history in the central Asian countries, and their people enjoy social stability and a happy life. One certain thing is that China played its positive part in helping make this happen.

Based on the settlement of the boundary issues and confidence-building measures along border areas, China, Russia and relevant central Asian countries established the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). Seventeen years since its birth, the SCO has grown into a model for regional cooperation with rising international influence. Cooperation under the SCO, which used to focus on the security and economic fields, has now expanded to cover people-to-people exchange and external engagement. At the recent Qingdao Summit, President Xi Jinping called for joint efforts to uphold the Shanghai Spirit and build an SCO community with a shared future. This call, warmly welcomed and endorsed by all participants, became the key political consensus of the summit and provides fresh impetus to the sustained growth of the SCO.

China and India are each other’s biggest neighbors and the world’s two largest developing countries. A friendly and cooperative China-India relationship is a major contribution to global stability. Despite our differences over the boundary question, not a single shot was fired at the border for over half a century. During my ambassadorship in India, China opened a new border port, through which Indian pilgrims can visit Mount Kailash and Lake Mansarover in China’s Tibet Autonomous Region by air-conditioned coaches traveling at 100 kilometers per hour. Leaders of the two countries held an informal summit in Wuhan this year, marking a new starting point for the relationship. The two sides agreed to advance all-round cooperation, forge a closer partnership for development, and properly handle and manage differences. The sound interaction between the “dragon” and the “elephant” has shown the world the new prospects in China-India relations.

In my diplomatic career stretching thirty-plus years, I have visited many developing countries across Asia, Africa and Latin America. Relations with other developing countries have been the foundation of China’s overall diplomacy. Guided by the principle of upholding justice while pursuing shared interests and the principle of sincerity, real results, affinity and good faith put forward by President Xi Jinping, China has been committed to strengthening unity and cooperation with other developing countries. As the largest developing country, China never fails to speak up for fellow developing countries and is always their reliable and true friend. A ministerial meeting of the China-CELAC Forum was successfully held early this year. Just a few days ago, a ministerial meeting of the China-Arab States Cooperation Forum was concluded. This September, we will hold the Beijing Summit of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation. All these mechanisms have strongly boosted the friendship and cooperation between China and other developing countries.

Multilateralism should be upheld and upgraded and global governance improved. The high need of doing so was impressed upon me from my experience at the UN and from attending major multilateral events in recent years like the G20 Summit, the APEC Economic Leaders’ Meeting and the BRICS Summit.
On 11 September 2001, I witnessed in New York the massive havoc and untold grief terrorism brought on the American people. That memory is still fresh today. If there is any silver lining in this tragic event, it is that it led to stronger international cooperation against terrorism. China has been an active supporter and participant in this global effort and stands firmly against terrorism in all forms.

On global economic governance, the G20, from its Washington Summit to the Hangzhou Summit, has evolved into the widely-recognized premier platform for global economic governance. Following the principle of pursuing shared benefits through consultation and collaboration, China has played an active part in the reform and development of the global governance system, and worked to contribute Chinese ideas and resources to its reform and improvement.

China is steadfast in opposing any form of protectionism and unilateralism and in upholding multilateralism, free trade and the rules-based multilateral trading regime, and has worked toward a more open, inclusive, balanced economic globalization that benefits all.
China has been actively involved in the efforts to resolve such hotspots as the Korean nuclear issue, the Iranian nuclear issue, the Syrian issue and the Afghanistan issue, exploring solutions with Chinese characteristics. China has become a major contributor to UN peacekeeping missions.

The Korean Peninsula is now seeing a positive momentum with lowered tensions and significant progress in the denuclearization process. All parties concerned need to seize this opportunity and work toward the same goal. Positive steps are called for to meet the DPRK’s legitimate security concerns and establish a peace mechanism on the peninsula.

The Iranian nuclear issue is now at a crossroads after American withdrawal. At the just-concluded Foreign Ministers’ Meeting in Vienna, State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi called for unity and cooperation among the parties concerned to safeguard the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) and the rights and interests the parties enjoy under the agreement. China is ready to work with all parties concerned to move the situation in a positive direction.

An old Chinese adage says, one could get an idea of a leopard from seeing a spot on its body. As a diplomat born in the 1960s, I have outlined in broad strokes China’s foreign policy and diplomatic endeavors in recent decades based on my limited experiences.
A strong thread weaving through it all is China’s commitment to peaceful development and win-win cooperation. This is our unwavering principle and pursuit. Whatever progress it makes in its development, China will always strive to maintain world peace, promote global development and uphold the international order.

In his recent book Hit Fresh, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella calls for an open, pioneering and forward-looking mindset. His ideas gave me much food for thought. Our world is going through unprecedented changes and adjustments, and today’s China is at a historical stage where the timeframes of its two centenary goals converge. In such an age of opportunities and challenges, we cannot afford to be stuck with outdated mentalities, attempt to reverse the wheel of history, or to relapse into the jungle rule whereby the strong prey upon the weak. Therefore, guided by the vision of building a community with a shared future, we must “hit refresh” and constantly upgrade the “operating system” of global governance to jointly usher in a brighter future for mankind.

 Le Yucheng is Vice Foreign Minister of China.