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Changing China in a Changing World-Speech at the University of Kent

Fu Ying 2008-3-7

Thank you, Professor Julia Goodfellow

Sheriff Mrs. Gillian Reuby


Professor Groom

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am overwhelmed today to come back and speak to you here in this place.

I can't believe that 20 years have passed since our study here, since Professor Groom was marking my thesis. I still remember the long winter nights in Parkwood and the anxiety before the deadline of handing in theses.

My one year study in Kent was tough but rewarding. The emphasis on methodology and the intensive training in research have turned a very important page in my life and in my career.

In my 20 years as a diplomat, I survived many tough negotiations. I do owe in no small measure my ability to adapt, to learn and to achieve to my good training in Kent.

So I want to take this opportunity to express my sincere thanks to the University and to its dedicated teaching staff. And I do hope that everybody who has an opportunity to study in this great school will value the learning hours. Though sometimes painful, what one learns here will turn into one's life-long asset.

The topic for me today is Changing China in a Changing World.

Dr. Kissinger said that the world is experiencing the greatest change in over a hundred years. He also said that the most important change of today is the changes occurring in China.

Last week, ITV covered the opening of Terminal 3 of Beijing Airport which is twice the size of Terminal 5 of Heathrow, and it mentioned that the new terminal in China was completed in less than 4 years whereas the latter took 20 years and the design took 5 years. But I will tell you that the Beijing Terminal was designed by a British company Arup. So they probably work faster in China.

My generation in China is the best witness of the changes in China.

When I came to Kent in 1985, China was recovering from near economic bankruptcy. 250 million people were living in poverty at that time.

I was among the very few lucky ones to study in Kent, in the UK and I was sharing a Commonwealth Scholarship with another student. I had only 70 pounds for a month after paying the boarding. That was for food and books.

But now there are 60,000 Chinese students in the UK, most of them sponsored by their parents. And I noticed that my daughter does not hesitate to spend 70 pounds in a day.

It's not surprising after the disposable income of China's urban residents increased by 30 times.

China has enjoyed the fastest economic and trade growth for over 2 decades. In the past 5 years, the GDP of China grew by 60%, now ranking the fourth in the world, with 3.4 trillion US$. If the US Dollar continues to depreciate, the figure will grow even faster. The strongest growth area in China is manufacturing.

China is the biggest producer of 958 products, more than Germany and the US.

A tourist visiting abroad trying to find souvenirs for the relatives needs to be very careful or he or she may well have bought made-in-China.

Last year China made 8 million cars and China took half of the world's order for ship making.

The country is also quickly bringing quality examination and control in line with world standards and is building the intellectual property protection regime.

The most important change for us is the improvement of living standard.

In 1991, I had my first telephone set up in my home after queuing for 2 years. Now it's very rare to come across a Chinese without a mobile phone. Altogether in China, there are 990 million telephones including 630 million mobiles. It's a huge market and the service is excellent.

Last year I was taking a holiday in China and got a call from Australia where I used to be Ambassador. The caller couldn't believe I was on the stone of a snow mountain 4000 meter high and in Australia from Sydney to Canberra at least half of the way one has to go without having mobile phone signal.

Life style in China is also fast changing. 30 years ago, a photo shop became very popular in Shanghai for having a suit jacket hanging at the window with a tag saying: you can borrow this for a photo. And it was a big lure when everybody is in blue jacket.

Now, Shanghai can compete with any fashionable city in the world.

Made-in-China products brought great benefit to the world. Not only are the developed countries able to keep inflation down in the past decade, people in Africa are also enjoying many consumer goods from China which they otherwise could not afford.

This year marks the 30th anniversary of China's reform and opening to the outside world. The world is seeing in China a grown power and both expectation and concerns about China are growing.

One question that often comes up when I speak in UK is that, would China become more and more assertive and would it try to impose on others as it is growing stronger?

Before coming to Kent, I found there is an interesting debate on the website of Daily Telegraph under the title 'Is the west right to fear China?' Among the people who join the debate, many are saying yes and many are saying no.

But in China when I speak, especially when I spoke in universities, the questions raised were the other way around.

Many asked why the western world does not want to see China making progress and why there are always people who try to make us look monstrous.

According to a poll in Europe, 80% of the people see China as No II in the world, second only to the US.

There was a similar internet poll in China. The internet users we call netizens. And internet users in China are 200 million, more than 70% of them are under the age of 27. And in this poll, 80% of the Chinese believe China is far from being a power and it is confronted with many challenges.

Deng Xiaoping said many years ago that China is a country big and small, strong and weak at the same time. And this is still very true of China today.

Maybe the world tends to see the stronger part of China more and the Chinese tend to see the smaller side of China.

But most of the Chinese do not believe the economic changes are enough to rank China at the level of developed nations in the world. When I had meetings with my ambassador colleagues, I found that very few accept the word 'power' for China. The common identification of China is a big developing country.

It is because the per capita GDP in China is still low, ranking behind 100 countries in the world. For example, it is only 1/18 of that of UK.

There are still 20 million people in China living under the Chinese poverty line. And the figure will grow to 135 million by UN standard.

Even in the cities, the prosperity is fragile. You might have noticed the photos shown before I started the speech. They were taken in February during the snow crises.

About 2 weeks before the Chinese New Year, severe weather hit most of Southern part of China.

It was a time when 200 million Chinese were heading home for the New Year. They are migrant workers and students. According to Chinese tradition, everybody has to be at the dinner table of Mum and Dad at Chinese New Year's eve.

And because of the snow, the power grids which were not designed for such severe weather fell and the transportation network broke down. The crisis management scheme was slow to react. Tens of millions of people got stranded on the road, in railway stations and at the airports.

2.5 million soldiers and workers were rushed in to help and the President and the Premier went to the disaster areas. The Premier took a plane. He was in the air even before knowing where to land.

There were lots of moving stories. People were helping each other. There was a student who rode a bicycle for 7 days before arriving home and on the way, he was often offered hot soup and warm lets. There were a couple who couldn't get home on the date of the wedding which they had planned for years. So they had the wedding in a bus attended by everybody in the bus and everybody in the other buses.

Singapore newspaper commented that the crises brought out the best in the Chinese people.

Now it's the time to review the lessons.

And there is definitely greater awareness on the importance of environmental protection and energy saving and crisis management.

This revelation is only a window to many of the challenges the country is facing.

When President Hu Jintao met President Bush the second time and had a second conversation. President Hu Jintao spent a long time listing all those problems he faced in China, including for example, there has to be 20 million new jobs created every year to meet the demands. There are 200 million migrant workers whose wives and children need to be taken care of, even in his community in China, there are as big as 60 million people. After the conversation, President Bush commented, he said when does that guy sleep. The conversation certainly increased the knowledge the US President has on China and cemented their personal relationship.

China's population is about three times the OECD countries put together. And China is developing in a much shorter period of time. So with the speed and the scale, its industrialization is bound to be more difficult than for all those countries that went ahead of us.

At the 17th Party Congress, President Hu Jintao gave a long list of the challenges and difficult problems in China. I'm not going to bore you with the details, but I think generally speaking, they could be classified into 2 groups: one is the development problem, the other is social problems emerging in development.

For development, the biggest challenge is energy and environment. Though China meets 90 % of its energy needs on its own, the per unit GDP energy cost is much higher, almost 5 times of that of EU.

With 5.5% of the world's GDP, China is consuming 15% of the world's resources.

Of the 20 most polluted cities in the world, 16 are found in China. And 70% of the rivers in China are polluted to some degree.

With clear awareness of the problem, the President spoke at the 17th Party Congress. He said we have been talking about growing with speed and quality. Now I am going to change the order of the two words and I am going to place quality before speed. And in Chinese political language, that is scientific approach of development which really means balanced development.

Binding targets are set to reduce the energy consumption by 20% per GDP unit. There are stricter environmental rules for new projects.

Provinces are not allowed to expand before seriously addressing the problems of low energy efficiency and pollution.

On the social front, the most important concern is the lagging behind of the huge rural population in sharing the reform profit.

Some drastic measures have been taken in China in recent years. Most important is that the agriculture tax, which has a history of thousands of years in China, was abolished in 2006. It's one of the historical watershed in the thousands years of Chinese history. The dynasties were always brought down by farmers' revolts because of too high taxation. Now China has abolished the agriculture tax. It's a turning point of China from agrarian state to industrial country.

Rural school fees are exempted and cooperative medical care schemes introduced in the rural areas.

The slogan in China now is to build a Harmonious society. The word Harmony is loaded with history and political philosophy. If you see the first word, it is a mouth with a plant, meaning every mouth should be fed. The other word contains a part which means everybody and a part which means speaking. This word suggests that everyone should have a say. That is a slogan in China for the government nowadays.

On Wednesday the National People's congress opened in Beijing. Well before the conference, an online program was launched under the title Questions to the Premier.

Over 1.5 million people logged on to send their opinions, questions, complaints and suggestions, many of which are candid and some with sharp criticism.

Top on the list are price rise, then public health and housing.

The Premier made a 2-hour speech to report on the work of the government in the past 5 years, and policy for the coming term. It was televised alive. He responded to most of the concerns.

The point I am trying to making is that, China, for a long time to come, will be focusing on solving domestic problems and we think that's a great help to the world in itself.

That does not mean that China should shirk its growing international responsibilities. From my experience, China has certainly become more active and more involved in world affairs.

In 1992 I went to Cambodia as the first Chinese civilian Peace-keeper.

Now we have sent 9,000 peace-keepers all over the world, including 300 to Darfur. Half of them are already in Darfur.

I remember in 2002 when Collin Powell, the former US Secretary of state came to Beijing asking China to host talks on the Korean Nuclear issue, we first agreed to host a 3-party talks to which I was leading the Chinese delegation and then the 6-party talks. I remembered the main challenge for us is the lack of trust between the Koreans and Americans.

Every time we were in the white house or in the sate department, the American side kept on saying that they couldn't trust the Koreans and they gave us a long list of reasons. It's the Koreans who did not fulfill the commitment they made.

But every time we were in Pyongyang, they gave us another long list to prove that the US never stuck to its end of the bargain.

I remembered there was a meeting in the state department with Secretary Powell. He was a very big man. He linked forward towards the Chinese Head of Delegation, a vice Minster. He said, you were there, you saw Kim Jong-il, you looked into his eyes, can I ask you, do you think he can be trusted?

And the Chinese Vice Minister was shorter, he leaned back laughed for a few seconds and said that you know Secretary, it's the same question Kim Jong-il asked me. The lack of trust was such a big barrier and to mediate between the two was very difficult. And many Chinese asked why we should bother if they do not want to talk. And I asked myself a lot when I was very tired and frustrated. I think it was in 2003 on the Christmas eve, I was in a car heading for Pyongyang on a bumpy road. When we crossed the border, I called Jim Kelly. You know where he was? he was in Hawaii on the beach. I thought it was unfair. And in China, the scholars debated the rationale of our intervention.

Consensus gradually reached in China after realizing that with 1200 km of common border and 2 million ethnic Koreans living across the border from the DPRK and at a time when new economic scheme was being carried out in the northeastern part of China, we really needed peace at that border area. So it was important that we do not allow proliferation and it's important to see the problem solved through peaceful means. That's what supported us to proceed in mediation and finally brought the talks together.

China's successful role in the Korean negotiations opened a new page for China in an area it is not familiar with. But it does not mean that China will from now on interfere with every international hot issue.

China has its own principles about intervening in world affairs. For example, we believe all disputes should be solved through dialogue. We disagree with military intervention.

One of the reasons we succeeded in bringing the Koreans and the US together is because we went to US and said you think you have 2 choices, one is armed solution, the other one negotiation. If you want to negotiate, we are with you, and we will help. We went to the Koreans and said the same thing: if you have nuclear weapons, every relationship finishes here, and if you want to negotiate, we are with you and we will help. And finally that is a pass that overlapped for them.

We also believe that all outside intervention should have the consent of the sovereign government concerned. Any international involvement has to be endorsed by the UN before execution. We also think that China should never do things beyond its ability and never stretch too far.

At this moment, the biggest excitement in China is the Olympics.

The whole world, the whole country is anxiously waiting for the 8th minute of 8th hour of the 8th day of the 8th month of 2008. Chinese is obsessed with the number 8 because it means prosperity in Cantonese.

Everybody in China is trying to learn some English. A country woman would be able to say 'hello', 'sorry', maybe 'bye-bye'.

I can't deny that there is a bit of annoyance when voices are heard calling for China to solve all kinds of problems in the world just because China is hosting a world sports event.

But I guess that's the price a country has to pay for being under the limelight and being able to enjoy the glamour of this great world event.

For China, the most important thing is to offer good services to the athletes and the people who are coming to Beijing for the Olympics.

And the Olympic Torch will run through London on the 6th of April. I'm invited to run part of it. I hope you will come to enjoy the event.

Now let me turn to China-Britain relations.

When I was appointed to London, one of my predecessors told me that this is a very leisurely post, you could read lots of books.

But having been here for almost a year I found it's not true. The bilateral relations are never so warm and active.

Our trade is growing at a speed of 29% last year and investment and financial services are turning into new areas of growth too.

Cultural exchanges are also growing strongly. A program called China Now opened last February with 800 business and cultural events through out the county.

Next week V and A is launching China Design Now Exhibition with the work of over a hundred Chinese designers.

The attraction of this exhibition is that, it will reflect the struggle of the young modern generation in China trying to find a direction amidst the clashes between the old and new, the past and present, the Chinese and the western which rapid changes in China inevitably bring.

I hope exchanges of this type will help the world understand China today.

Education is identified as one of the priorities in China-UK relations.

Currently 18, 000 Chinese students come to Britain every year and 15, 000 return to China. Most of them can find jobs which means the education here is very good.

There are totally over 1 million Chinese students in the whole world and the number will continue to grow.

There is a great potential I think to increase the UK share if better services and information are provided.

For example, universities in the two countries are encouraged to recognize each other's degrees and credits which will make it easier for student exchanges.

Britain has long been interested in Chinese culture and I was very impressed with many of the senior China-hands. But I do hope that this tradition will continue among the younger generation.

Recently we had a book open for volunteers for the Beijing Olympics. About 350 applications came from Britain. But when we started calling them, only 5% of them could speak a bit of Chinese which a volunteer will need.

To facilitate Chinese language learning, 11 Confucius schools opened in Britain in addition to many more Chinese language centers.

I have personally initiated a scholarship to Kent for a student to come to study in China and I hope he could enroll this August.

The two governments have also initiated a 2-year youth exchange program for 400 young people to visit each other.

We hope that this kind of program will encourage more young people to understand and visit each other.

Britain is also one of our most active partners in joint science research. 5500 joint theses had been produced in 5 years. And the target Mr. Brown set when he came to China is to double it in the next 5 years.

Climate change is an area of focus. Scientists and universities in the two countries are encouraged to have joint research and cooperation programs on eco-city development, clean energy and carbon capturing, etc., using the 8 billion pounds of British Fund for Climate Change.

Another area of cooperation we discussed with Kent University was for the training of accountants. In China, there are at least 80,000 accountants who need to be retrained for China to be able to accept international standard for accountancy. When I was asked how many would like to come here, I said how many you can take. If I say 1,000 I will scare you away. But if we send only 1,000 abroad, it will take us 8 years to train all of them. China will start sending accountants for training all over the world and I hope Kent will tap that opportunity.

For us, we hope more people will come to China to assist in English learning. The many international teachers active in the countryside have gained great popularity in China.

To conclude, I want to say that I am very lucky to be the Chinese Ambassador at a time when our relations are full of opportunities and possibilities.

I do not mean there are no differences. There are from time to time difficulties and differences. For me it's like climbing a mountain, I need to watch the steps and keep my eyes on the road.

But I am confident that the scene on the top of the mountain is definitely going to be more beautiful.

I will work very hard with my colleagues in this country to expand our cooperation in all fields for the benefit of our two peoples.

Thank you!