Contributed by China’s Ambassador to New Zealand, Madame Wu Xi
This year marks the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China. Seventy years is a short period considering China’s 5,000 years of history, let alone the history of broader human development. Yet in that time, the transformation China has made is nothing less than extraordinary. The world has witnessed a new China emerging, becoming more prosperous and stronger.
Seventy years ago, the picture was very different. China and its people were seriously impoverished following a century of war, chaos and instability. The country’s industrial and agricultural bases were weak, and the economy was near collapse. The Chinese people faced insurmountable difficulties just to survive day to day and to get ahead.
Over the seven decades that followed, through self-reliance and hard work, the country has been rebuilt, and new possibilities, opportunities and horizons have opened. Here are four key examples:
First, China’s economic strength has grown exponentially. Between 1952 and 2018, the country’s GDP jumped from 30.5 billion USD to 13 trillion USD, a 174 fold increase, coupled with an annual average growth rate of 8.1 per cent. According to the World Bank, at market exchange rates China’s economy in 2018 was worth US$13.6 trillion, ranking second in the world.
China’s foreign trade has also increased significantly. Since the country began the process of reform and opening up in 1978, foreign investment into China has grown substantially, and China has become a highly attractive destination for global investment. In 2013, China became the world’s largest trader in goods. China has also become the world’s largest manufacturer, second-largest consumer of commodities, second-largest recipient of foreign direct investment, and largest holder of foreign exchange reserves.
Second, living standards in China have improved significantly. The Chinese people have experienced historic progress from abject poverty to having access to adequate food and clothing and achieving moderate prosperity. Over the past four decades, China has lifted more than 850 million people out of poverty – 70% of all people lifted out of poverty globally over the same period. Average life expectancy has increased from 35 years to around 77 years, an important contribution to human development in itself.
From 1949 to 2018, China’s per capita gross national income increased 135 times, from roughly 70 USD to almost 10,000 USD. In the early 1960s, owning a watch, a bicycle and a radio was considered a marker of wealth and social status for Chinese families. By the 1980s, this has changed to owning a TV, refrigerator and washing machine. Today, a decent car and a cosy apartment have become the preconditions for marriage.
Third, China’s national unity is stronger.We have successfully implemented “One Country, Two Systems” for Hong Kong and Macau, making major progress toward the peaceful reunification of the country. We will continue to implement the principles of “One Country, Two Systems”, “Hong Kong people administering Hong Kong”, “Macao people administering Macao” and maintaining a high degree of autonomy.
China will act in strict accordance with the Constitution and the Basic Laws. As President Xi Jinping noted in his speech at the Reception in Celebration of the 70th Anniversary of the Founding of the People’s Republic of China, “We are confident that with the full backing of the motherland and the concerted efforts of our fellow Chinese in Hong Kong and Macao who love the motherland as well as their communities, Hong Kong and Macao will prosper and progress alongside the mainland and embrace an even brighter future”.
With regard to Taiwan we will uphold the One China principle and the “1992 Consensus”, promote the peaceful development of relations across the Taiwan Strait, and deepen cross-Strait economic and cultural exchanges and cooperation for the benefit of people on both sides. The complete reunification of the motherland is an inevitable trend. It is what the greater national interests entail and what all Chinese people aspire for.
Fourth, China’s international position has greatly improved. In 1971, China regained its seat in the United Nations and began to play a more proactive role in international affairs. In 2001, the country joined the World Trade Organization and began to engage more extensively and deeply in international economic and trade exchanges and cooperation. China now has diplomatic relations with 180 countries, has established 110 partnerships of various types, is actively making friends in the international community and is building a global community with shared future for mankind. The Belt and Road Initiative, proposed by China in 2012 and since included in numerous UN resolutions, has gained extensive recognition and continues to draw a favourable response from the international community.
As a permanent member of the UN Security Council, China has also taken its responsibility seriously for maintaining international peace and stability, actively engaging in reform and development of the global governance system, promoting dialogue and consultation as the only approach to solving issues in regional hotspots and taking constructive steps in these areas.
None of these achievements have happened by chance. They are the results of the strong leadership of the communist party of China, of the hard work, vision and courage of the Chinese people. The driver behind China’s development is our adherence to the model of development suited to China’s national conditions which is socialism with Chinese characteristics, to the fundamental policy of reform and opening up, and to a development philosophy centred around people.
Is China a threat?
With the rapid increase of China’s comprehensive national strength and international influence, some people have concerns that China will invariably seek hegemony, and have created a theoretical framework that posits China as a threat. This theory is grounded in a deep-rooted bias, cognitive misunderstanding, and deliberate distortions from vested interests. The fact is that national prosperity, rejuvenation and people’s happiness are dreams shared by the people of China as well as people in countries the world over. Ultimately, China’s development is an opportunity for the world. Here are three reasons why:
First, China has been and will continue to be the main stabilising force and driver of the world economy. A prosperous and stable China is in itself a huge contribution to the world. China has fed almost 20% of the world population, with less than 10% of the world’s arable land. 70% of the world’s total population lifted out of poverty are in China. We are also one of the first countries to have met the UN Millennium Development Goals. Contributing over 30% to global growth for many years in a row, China is widely acknowledged as one of the major engines of global economic growth.
China’s contribution to the global economy is an example to the world that openness leads to progress for all nations while protectionism leaves nations behind. For this reason, China will continue to stand for multilateralism and free trade and will expand opening-up to promote further high-quality development. A more open China will bring with it more opportunities, and make even greater contributions to the world.
Second, further opening up will create more opportunities for all countries to share the benefits of China’s development.China has the most promising consumer market in the world. With a population of nearly 1.4 billion and a middle-income group of 400 million, China’s market is also the world’s largest. The sustained and healthy development of China’s economy has created extensive demand in many fields and provided an important engine for economic development. In the coming 15 years, China’s imports of goods and services are expected to exceed 30 trillion USD and 10 trillion USD respectively.
Chinese enterprises also actively participate in international competition and cooperation, carry out extensive global trade and investment activities, and contribute to the economic growth of host countries and the expansion of local employment. There are many examples here in New Zealand of these mutual benefits, across different sectors and regions. With China opening ever wider to the world, more and more Chinese enterprises will invest abroad, and more Chinese will study, work and travel abroad.
Third, China will continue to generate public good for the international community. Together with our partners, we will build a high-quality Belt and Road. This initiative is based on the principles of extensive consultation, joint contribution and shared benefits, and is guided by the Silk Road spirit of peace, cooperation, openness, inclusiveness, mutual learning and mutual benefit. With a focus on policy coordination, connectivity of infrastructure, unimpeded trade, financial integration and closer people-to-people ties, it has already transformed from ideas into action, vision into reality, and a conceptual framework into tangible and well-regarded outputs.
On the overseas aid front, China has actively provided assistance to countries in need. As a developing country itself, China identifies and empathises with other developing countries in terms of the poverty and suffering they experience, providing them with assistance within its capacity. China also extends financial, technical, personnel and intellectual assistance to developing countries without strings attached. We do this to help them strengthen their capacity for independent development, make a greater contribution to promoting their economic and social development and people’s wellbeing, and to achieve the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
As a founding member of the United Nations, we will work with other countries to build a new type of international relations and a community with a shared future for mankind. Looking at the international environment today, we can see it is not a peaceful place. Unilateralism and protectionism are posing major threats to the international order. At a time when the future of the world is at stake, China has never been and will never be an onlooker. We will be resolute in upholding the stature and role of the United Nations, the international system underpinned by the UN, and the international order anchored by international law.
China and New Zealand
China and New Zealand share extensive common interests in promoting peace, stability and development. It is by following the principles of mutual respect, equality and mutual benefit that the China-New Zealand relationship has achieved concrete and valuable outcomes, and brought tangible benefits to our peoples.
Our friendship demonstrates to the world that differences in size, social systems and cultural traditions need not stand in the way of good and growing bilateral ties. So long as countries treat each other as equals, and view each other’s development as opportunities rather than challenges, they can always find common ground and work together despite differences.
China stands ready to work with New Zealand to further promote and consolidate the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership to bring tangible benefits to our two peoples, and to safeguard the international regime and multilateral trading system for a more peaceful, secure and prosperous world.