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Address by Ambassador Li Baodong at the United Nations Women's International Forum (full text)


Put China in Perspective



Distinguished Mrs. Hamidon,

Ladies and gentlemen,

At the outset, I would like to thank Mrs. Hamidon for her gracious invitation, which gives me the opportunity and privilege to make a keynote speech at the Women's International Forum.

In China, women are regarded as "holding up half the sky", and wives are masters of their families. When we talk about gender equality in China, what we actually mean is to improve men's status in the society, especially their status in family.

Mrs. Hamidon assigned me a very interesting topic: "Is China an Enigma?" Enigma is usually translated into "mi" in Chinese. "Mi" also means riddle in China. Riddle has been a popular game and a major entertainment for Chinese people for thousands of years. Many children grow up and learn about the world through this joyful game.

So today, I would rather think of China as a riddle, instead of an "enigma", and tell you China stories.

When I was little, my biggest dream was to become a telephone operator. At that time, telephone was a rarity in China. For me, it was really a fascinating thing and it's cool to talk over the phone with many people, even those from faraway places. My mother, however, told me that telephone operators' job was usually for ladies, so I could be a receptionist. As a receptionist, I would also have the opportunity to meet with many people, and learn about many new things. She told me that so long as I worked hard, I would make a good receptionist in a big hotel and become the pride of our family. Fifty years have passed since then. I find that my work as a diplomat is actually serving as a receptionist for our country. I am a receptionist for China.

It's been almost a year since I started my service in the UN. I have the opportunity to meet with many friends, especially many young people. I love communicating with young people. They are full of vigor and vitality. They are our future and hope. I am deeply impressed by their strong desire to know everything about China. I always do what I can to answer their questions and tell them China stories.

Today, to address the topic assigned by Mrs. Hamidon, I would focus on a few questions that I am often asked by young people. I hope my talk will help you have a better understanding of China.

Ladies and gentlemen,

The first question I want to answer is:"What kind of country is China?"

A Chinese saying goes that "a dog won't leave his master because he is poor, and a son never blames his mother for not having a beautiful face". I think this is the feeling that everybody should have toward his motherland. China is my motherland. I am very proud of my country.

China is an ancient country with a history of about 5,000 years. Over these 5,000 years, a lot have happened in China. The Chinese nation has gone through too many hardships and sufferings. But I always hold that hardships and sufferings, in a sense, are a valuable asset to a person, to a nation and to a country.

In the wake of the devastating earthquake in China in 2008, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao visited the quake area. In a classroom of a makeshift tent school there, Premier Wen wrote a sentence on the blackboard. It said, "Hardships serve only to revitalize a nation". This is a brilliant summary of the Chinese history. It embodies the spirit of tenacity of the Chinese nation.

The 5,000-year history of China is an epic in which the Chinese people face up to all kinds of difficulties and challenges and forge ahead courageously. The 5,000-year Chinese history and civilization have fostered a national spirit and value that run in the blood of every Chinese people.

We value high moral standards and family ties, respect the elderly, and care for the young. We are nice, sincere and honest toward everybody. We stress modesty and keep a low profile, believing deeds speak louder than words. We refrain from blowing the horn about our achievements or hyping things up. We prepare for the worst scenario in times of safety, advocate thrift, and disapprove of complacency and waste. Broad-minded and tolerant to others, we discredit revenge and haggling over trivial things. We pursue fairness and justice, and never seek benefits at the expense of others or stab others in the back.

These virtues of the Chinese people are also reflected in the way we deal with people from other countries. Since ancient times, the Chinese have always regarded it as their own task to bring benefits to people all over the world. We value peace, kindness and good relations with our neighbors. We do not do to others what we do not want others to do to us. We have thousands upon thousands of books with case studies based on China's experience in its 5,000 years of history on how to run a country, but the Chinese never meddle in the internal affairs of other countries, or lecture others on how to handle their own business. We are compassionate and friendly, but we also have principles and never trade away our principles.

As I have just said, China has a history of 5,000 years. But China is also a young country. Why do I say so? As I see it, no matter how old a person is, so long as he is eager to take on responsibilities and put his ideas into practice, he will be young at heart. The same is true for a country. Countries may differ in their stages of development. But so long as a country is ready to innovate and explore new ways for development, it will have a bright future.

The ongoing reform and opening up program in China is the most epoch-making event in Chinese history. It is also a great project that touches the soul of our country, the nation and every individual Chinese. It embarked China on a path of development suited to its national conditions. In as short as three decades, sea changes have taken place in China. And more importantly, it has filled the Chinese people with the hope for a better future, the confidence in what China has achieved, and the appreciation for all the help, support and understanding from the rest of the world.

Ladies and gentlemen,

The second question I am going to address is: "How to view China's development? Will China's development continue?"

Now everyone in the world says that China is rich. This is both true and untrue. Over the past 30 years, the Chinese economy has grown at a fast pace of almost 10% each year. China is now the second largest economy in the world and boasts the largest foreign exchange reserves. It has lifted hundreds of millions of people out of poverty. This is a remarkable achievement in human history. We Chinese are very proud of what we have done.

I would like to emphasize that China's wealth is not a windfall. It is earned and saved bit by bit, through hard work, good management and frugality.

This year we have a very cold winter, but there is a heat wave about China in the world. More and more people are learning Chinese. During Security Council negotiations, my assistants and I dare not talk in Chinese, because it is very likely that a colleague from another delegation may cut in and point out, in fluent Chinese, the grammar mistakes in the English version of the Chinese draft.

In spite of China's development, there is no denying that China has a population of 1.3 billion. No matter how huge the wealth is, it becomes insignificant when divided by 1.3 billion. And no matter how small a problem is, multiplied by1.3 billion, it will be a gigantic problem.

China's per capita GDP ranks 104th in the world. It is a mere one-thirteenth of that of America, and about Japan's 1960s level.Some 10 million Chinese have no access to electricity. China still has a long, long way to go before it becomes a developed country. It will take the efforts of generations and generations to accomplish our mission.

Will China continue to develop? My answer is yes. China's development is like rowing upstream. If we do not forge ahead, we will surely lose ground. Every year, China gains about ten million new population, equal to the total population of Switzerland. How to provide food and clothes to these people? It all depends on development.

Every year, more than 24 million Chinese join the rank of working-age population. Not long ago, a 45 billion dollar contract was signed by China and the US.But this contract only created a little over 200,000 new jobs for America. To get all the people waiting for jobs in China employed, how much money does the Chinese government have to spend? You can do the math.

The number of Chinese people with handicaps is 82 million, the same as the total population in Germany. Last year alone, 430 million Chinese were struck by various natural disasters. How much does that cost for the relief work of the government?

In addition, just like people in the US and other parts of the world, Chinese have their own "China dream". They dream of good life, houses, cars, traveling abroad, giving their kids the best education. All these hinge on development of our country.

People may ask, now that China has been growing rapidly for 30 years, is there still potential and space for further growth? My answer is a resounding yes. People are familiar with big cities in China, like Beijing, Shanghai and Shenzhen. They are so developed. But most of China's rural areas are underdeveloped. It takes at least several decades for these areas to reach the level of Beijing and other big cities in China.

China has started to implement its 12th-Five-Year plan since the beginning of this year. One of the main strategic objectives is to urbanize the rural areas.That is to say, we will make sure that China's 700 million rural dwellers can have hot water bath, own electric appliances, live in high-rise buildings, enjoy more convenient transportation and have access to better social welfare. This means China will need more concrete, electricity and energy. This also means China will build more roads in the next five years, and there will be more McDonald's and IKEA stores on the roadside. We hope to see more and more products from across the world to come to China.

Over the past ten years, Chinese products have helped American consumers save over 600 billion dollars, and the Chinese economy has helped to create 14 million jobs in America. By the same token, China's development in the next ten years will bring about limitless business potential and important opportunities for all countries.

Continuous growth of China will consume more energy. Some people may ask, "Will that be too much for the world to bear?" As a matter of fact, the Chinese government has realized the problem and puts great emphasis on the issue. We are going all out to develop renewable sources of energy, clean energy and new energy. China is one of the world leaders in utilizing wind power and solar power. More money will be put into this endeavor in the future.

It is fair to say that the greatest contribution China can make to world peace and development is to manage its own affairs well and save the world from trouble. This will also benefit other countries and produce a win-win result. This is easy to understand, but such an easy logic is often forgotten by some people.

In New York, I find more and more Chinese flocking to the Fifth Avenue for shopping sprees. In Woodbury outlet, most of the big buyers, carrying huge suitcases to hold their stuff, are Chinese. I guess Mayor Bloomberg and people in New York would welcome this.

I often encourage my colleagues to do more shopping and help reduce the trade deficit between China and the US.I am not only a receptionist for China, but also a salesman for New York. I will continue to advertise for New York free of charge. I will encourage those Chinese who visit New York to spend more in the city.

Ladies and gentlemen,

The third question I would like to answer is: "How do Chinese people view the world?"

The exchanges and understanding between people are mutual, so are the contacts and communications between countries.

The 5,000-year-long history of China is also a history of exchanges between China and the world. China had a brilliant past, and has suffered declines. China's reading of the world and its contacts with the world have also undergone a process dotted with twists and turns.

The traditional Chinese culture always stresses harmony without uniformity. Mountains, deserts and oceans have never stopped the Chinese nation from learning from other countries and introducing its own technologies and civilization to the world. In the long course of history, we learnt mathematics from the Arabs, religion from India, and astronomy and geography from Europe.

During most of the time in its history, China was the most powerful and prosperous country in the world. In the Tang Dynasty, China's GDP accounted for 58% of the world total. At the end of the 18 `" century, China still contributed to nearly 30% of the world GDP.

When the world ushered in modern times, as industrialization in Europe picked up speed, China declined rapidly. When the Brooklyn Bridge in New York was completed in 1883, China didn't even have a steel factory in the modern sense. In 1909, China designed and built its first railway, almost 100 years later than Great Britain. Such decline made it hard for the Chinese to adapt to what was happening in the world.

In 1840, the Western powers opened up China's door with guns and canons. This marked China's first full contact with the world in contemporary history. Unfortunately, the first thing the West did was to dump evil opium to the Chinese market. This is a very painful memory.

During the one hundred years following this, the Western powers once and again compelled the Chinese government, by use of force, to sign unequal treaties, cede territory, pay fines, and relinquish its sovereignty. The West even launched wars of aggression against China. The eight-year-long war against the Japanese aggression in particular, was among the hardest fought wars China had experienced. China won the final victory, but that was at an extremely painful price. The Chinese people know full well that "whoever falls behind will get beaten".

In 1949, the People's Republic of China was founded. For the first time in modern history, through almost a hundred years of hard struggle, China won its independence, sovereignty and dignity. Regrettably, however, due to the outbreak of the Cold War and ideological confrontation between the two camps, the Western countries once again adopted a policy of isolation and containment to China for nearly 30 years. China again missed the chance to integrate into the world, and missed several golden periods of fast economic growth in the world. But every coin has two sides. The policy of the Western countries prompted China to embark firmly on the path of developing through hard work and self-reliance. This laid a solid foundation for China's development in later years. At that time, the world was a strange place for most Chinese.

Since Mr. Deng Xiaoping initiated the reform and opening up program in China in 1978, China's relations with the rest of the world entered a new phase. While sticking to hard work and self-reliance, China started to engage and cooperate vigorously with other countries. We seize the opportunity brought about by the tide of globalization, and strive to integrate into the world as an equal and responsible member of the international community.

Thirty years ago, it was a big event and a rare opportunity for a Chinese to go to America. Today, however, 110 flights come back and forth between China and the US each week, and every year some three million of their people exchange visits. The Pacific Ocean looks narrow.

The Chinese are embracing the world with our arms wide open. We are yearning to know more about the world, and hope to have close exchanges and face-to-face dialogue with countries and people from all over the world.

Ladies and gentlemen,

For you, China may be a far-away country. For some of you, China may remain an enigma.

But whenever I see a salesman walking fast through the Times Square, or a New Jersey farmer harvesting on his farm, a picture comes to my mind about a taxi driver in Beijing or a fruit farmer in China's rural areas. Basically, they are all human beings.

On the other side of the earth, 1.3 billion Chinese people are working hard for a better life. They have a dream that is the same as the people in the United States. They share your happiness and concerns.The slogan for the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing was "one world, one dream". This is also the Chinese people's view and expectation of the world.

These are the China stories that I would like to share with you. This is the real China. China is a peace-loving country. China's development means opportunities for countries around the world, and the Chinese people are your reliable friends and partners.

Thank you. Now I am ready to take your questions.

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