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China's Perception of Itself and The World--Remarks at the Luncheon of Asia-Pacific Ambassadors
2010/10/27

China's Perception of Itself and The World

--Remarks at the Luncheon of Asia-Pacific Ambassadors

October 27th, 2010

Dear Colleagues,

Welcome to this Luncheon of Asia-Pacific Ambassadors at the Chinese Embassy. You might have an interest to know how China perceives itself and the world. I would like to take this opportunity to share my views with you.

First of all, how does China perceive itself?

In 1799, Emperor Qianlong died. At that time, China accounted for 28.7% of the world's total economic volume. There were 10 cities in the world that had population over half a million. Six of them were in China. We could say that China used to be a world power.

150 years later, the People's Republic of China was founded, with only 27 USD of per capita GDP. That was far behind the average 44 USD of Asia and 57 USD of India. The average life expectancy of Chinese people was only 35. People were starving. We could say that China was the largest and poorest country in the world.

Since 1949, China has gone through 61 years of arduous journey. China's economic volume has jumped up to the second largest in the world. China's per capita GDP has reached 4000 USD. China feeds 20% of world's population with a mere 7% of the world's total arable land. The average life expectancy of Chinese people has exceeded 70. China has basically solved the problem of illiteracy. There are 6 million Chinese students graduating from universities and colleges every year. Manned spacecraft, super computers, high-speed railways and hybrid rice represent China's technological achievements. China has become one of big countries that have seen the fastest growth.

So how do we look at today's China? Simply put, China is a big developing country, but not a world power. Why is that? Here are some examples:

First, low per capita GDP level. China's per capita GDP ranks only around 100th in the world, similar to countries like Albania and Algeria, while the world's average per capita GDP has reached 9000 USD.

Second, low labor efficiency. In 2007, China's GDP surpassed Germany. In 2010, China's GDP has overtaken Japan. China has a population of 1.3 billion. When calculated by labor efficiency, however, one German worker is equal to 16 Chinese workers and 10 Chinese workers can be equivalent to a single Japanese worker.

Third, low degree of urbanization. The world's average level of urbanization is 50%. China has only reached 46% while developed countries have gone beyond 75%.

Fourth, not so modern industrial structure. China's agriculture accounts for 11% of GDP while developed countries have less than 5%. 49% of China's GDP is attributed to industry, while the figures in developed countries are less then 30%. China's service industry accounts for 40% of GDP while that of the developed countries is over 70%.

Fifth, a large poverty population. Although China has managed to pull more than 200 million people out of poverty successfully, the poverty population in China today still remains at a scale of 150 million according to the standard of the World Bank (1.25 USD per day per person).

Sixth, high employment pressure. Every year, the Chinese Government has to provide jobs for over 20 million people. There will be 400 million rural Chinese people flooding into the cities and towns to work and live in the near future. This will add even greater pressure on employment.

Dear colleagues, there are more than 190 countries and regions in the world. Among them, only about 30 countries have managed to become developed countries through 300 years of efforts. Many developed countries accomplished their modernization by plundering human and natural resources from colonies. China has a population of 1.3 billion. It's more than the total amount of all the developed countries. To accomplish modernization in China is an arduous task with limited time. We could neither plunder human and natural resources from colonies, nor adopt the "polluting first, cleaning up later" policy of industrialized countries. That's why the Chinese Government has stated in its "Twelfth Five Year Plan" to change the mode of economic development by taking the path of green economy in order to realize scientific development. China's road to modernization is long and arduous. It requires the unremitting efforts of more than a dozen generations of Chinese people. Maybe in the near future, China's GDP will outpace that of the U.S. However, when judged by per capita level and a comprehensive standard of modernized countries, China still remains a developing country for a very long time.

Secondly, how does China perceive the world?

It's apparent that we see two historic phases during the 65 years since World War II ended. The first phase is from 1945 to 1990, in which we experienced the confrontation of the two blocs led by the U.S. and the former Soviet Union. The world was in Cold War. The second phase is from 1991 to 2010. This phase is categorized by the fact that the world is heading for a relative stability with economic globalization and political muti-polariztion as the trend.

The current world situation presents the following main features:

1. The financial crisis has had huge impact on traditional development models. This financial crisis triggered by the U.S. has not only led to worldwide financial and economic crisis, causing huge losses, but also prompted governments to seriously think about their own economic development strategies. The leading free market development model with features of high consumption, low savings, stressing on virtual economy, neglecting the real economy, and without serious financial regulations can not be sustained. Every country is seeking its road of sustainable development.

2. The international relations have witnessed profound changes. Since the beginning of the new century, the fast development of the emerging countries like the "BRICs" has brought great changes to traditional international relations. The international status and influence of the emerging powers are constantly on the rise. The international relations have been pushed towards a more equitable and rational direction. Besides, regional and international organizations and conferences such as G20, APEC, EU, ASEAN and Climate Change Conference are increasingly replacing bilateral mechanisms and thus a new and crucial multilateral stage is being developed, where major international issues are deliberated and managed.

3. The international systems and mechanisms are undergoing reforms. The financial crisis has revealed that the current international economic and financial systems and mechanisms, which were established after the Second World War, have failed to adapt to new needs of world development. A consensus has been reached by both developing and developed countries that the current international economic and financial systems and mechanisms have to be reformed. To do so, certain countries' cheese will be cut and some of the vested interests will inevitably be touched. Therefore, this task will be rather difficult to carry out.

4. Jeopardizing factors to world security are on a rise. The U.S. and its allies have been fighting in two wars that have inflicted enormous human and financial losses as well as heavy casualties. Yet the terrorist activities have become even more active. In countries like the U.S., the U.K. and Germany, terrorist activities are even beginning to localize. The tension between Muslim countries and countries like the U.S. has not really eased much. Meanwhile, factors like pirates, natural disasters, infectious diseases, climate change, environmental pollution and degradation etc. are all threatening the very safety of mankind.

5. Development models and concepts are being diversified. Besides the development models of the U.S. and Europe, people around the world also see the Indian model, the Brazilian model and the Chinese model. Last year, a British journalist said, "30 years ago, we said that only capitalism can save China. Now, we say only China can save capitalism." I don't really agree with this judgement. But it is proved that the development models and concepts are diversified and each one of them might be successful.

So, what would China say to the changing world? It could be summarized as the followings:

1. Politically, relationships between and among countries should be based on mutual respect and equal consultations, and thus we can jointly promote the democratization of international relations. If developed countries continue to act as both players and referees in the game of "international affairs", they will soon be out of date and won't get support from the majority of countries.

2. Economically, countries should base their economic relations on mutual cooperation and complementarity, and thus we can jointly build the world economy towards a more balanced and winning-for-all development. Some countries often try to shirk their own financial and trade responsibilities and shift the blame onto others. This mentality of "patient prescribing for doctors" can neither win popular support nor address their own domestic economic problems.

3. Culturally, countries should learn from each other, seek common ground, respect the diversity of world cultures, and thus we can jointly promote prosperity and progress of human civilization. Referring to the religious beliefs and cultures that are non-Christian as being not ours and suppressing them is not only a denial on common human culture and civilization, but also the root of tensions in certain regions of the world.

4. In terms of security, countries should enhance mutual trust, strengthen cooperation, adhere to the peaceful settlement of international disputes, and thus we can jointly safeguard world peace. The idea of putting itself under absolute protection while aiming at the others with its missiles can neither protect world security nor increase its own sense of security.

In a word, China is committed to a "harmonious world".

Dear colleagues, when a country that has 1/5th of the world's total population rapidly takes the road of modernization and makes remarkable achievements during a rather short period of time, it is evident how enormous its influence to the world is. It's quite normal for people to have sorts of misunderstanding and doubt. In history, some of the modern developed countries used to force their way into China with guns and knives and established colonies and concessions. This also reflects the history of how they built up their fortune. As an old Chinese saying goes: "Don't do to others what you wouldn't like them do to you." The Chinese people, having suffered from aggression and enslavement by foreign powers, will never adopt the old route of aggression as traditional powers did when they were on the rise. China will adhere to an unprecedented road of peaceful development and make its due contribution to safeguarding world peace and promoting human development.

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