On May 7th, 2008, Li Shenming, vice-president of Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS) and accompanying members of the delegation held an informal discussion with members of the Young Fabian Group, the British Fabian Society's youth arm in the Chinese Embassy in the UK. The meeting was joined by 10 members of the Young Fabian Group including Madeleine Moon, a Labour MP and member of the All-China Parliamentary Group, Mark Rusling, Chair of the Young Fabian Group and Dan Whittle, the international Liaison Officer.
Ambassador Fu Ying first welcomed MP Madeleine Moon and members of the Young Fabian Group to the embassy. She said that recently, some distorted and biased reports by the western media on Tibet and the Beijing Olympic torch relay have hurt the feelings of the Chinese people and jeopardized the image of western media among the Chinese people. While it is true that China has its achievements as well as problems in its development and is not afraid of criticism from others, unfounded accusation and vicious slander will by no means be accepted. Negative mutual perceptions between the general public in China and the West will inevitably affect the relations between the two sides. She hopes that both sides can enhance mutual understanding though candid dialogues and exchanges.
Moon stated that dialogue is always the best way to promote mutual understanding since the real situations can only be made clear through dialogue. However, risks are also involved in the process of conducting dialogues. Therefore, efforts made by the Embassy to hold the discussion deserve special appreciation. Indeed, there are some problems in the reports of western media on China. It is inadequate or sometimes even misleading for one to evaluate and understand China solely through the news coverage. An immense communication gap exists between China and Britain, which underlines the need of the British side to understand a modern and real China. The Chinese should also know more about the western media culture. The concern of the western media lies primarily in attracting attention and creating sensation. Nevertheless, sensational news stories can only last for a limited period of time and the public memory of the news coverage is often short-term. "Today's newspaper turns waste paper tomorrow." It is not surprising that some people make irresponsible remarks towards China by making use of the Olympic Games. Britain may also be criticized when London Olympic Games is staged in 2012. The point is that China need not be bothered by these criticisms or misled by these media. The UK media can not represent UK and the public in the western countries, most westerners still have a favorable impression of China. Many of them will go to China to watch the Beijing Olympic Games and attend the Shanghai Expo. The Chinese side shall continue the exchanges and conversation with the public in the western countries. If the experience of Britain is anything to go by, an effective communication is only possible by starting to tackle more difficult problems at first and solve easier ones afterwards.
Moon said that achievements of China in its development should not be underestimated. The achievements made by China during the last three decades are comparable to what Europe has achieved in 200 years. China's development will exert great influence on the world. However, the West often thinks of China's human rights issues first whenever talking about China. She said that the British media is not quite objective and fair in covering Tibetan issue as she has been to Tibet in person and witnessed the great economic and social progress in Tibet, but the issue of religious freedom is indeed a concern of the West. A review of the European history shows that the earlier wars are mainly triggered by religious problems. European countries then draw a lesson from the bitter experience and separate religion from politics, bringing peace to Europe. As far as China is concerned, it is important to understand that the freedom of religious belief for the general public does not conflict with their allegiance to the government and the country.
Vice-president Li Shenming said that sincere and candid exchanges and communication is invaluable and can go beyond national boundary, ethnic group, race and religion. China is not a religious country, but the policy of freedom of religious belief is implemented. Religious believers enjoy the right to participate in political affairs and decision-making process. However, it does not mean that one is allowed to mix up church and state. For many years, the central government has invested heavily to promote economic and social development in Tibet and made great efforts to protect traditional Tibetan culture and religion. It can not be denied by anyone without prejudice that the work and achievements of the central government are widely acknowledged by common Tibetan people. A small number of people will not succeed in their attempt to subvert Chinese political system on the pretext of religious freedom. Any country will not brook division or pressure by religious problem. This has nothing to do with the issue of religious belief.
Zhang Yuyan, director of Institute of Asia-Pacific Studies of CASS said that many Chinese young people find it difficult to understand why the torch relay has been disrupted in the West. Some of them even believe that the West has no right to lecture China on the issue of democracy and human rights since they invaded China in the modern times. Of course, Chinese people will not forget the humiliation in history, but they will also observe the belief of "do not do to others as you would not have them do to you". The East and the West have different history, culture and social tradition and discrepancies in the understanding of democracy, human rights, freedom and other concepts. A case in point is that it is difficult to find Chinese equivalence to some English words during translation. It means that communication and understanding between the East and the West is especially needed. In addition, the prerequisite of communication and understanding is mutual respect. The West should not impose their understanding of the above-mentioned concepts on China.
Rusling and Whittle said that the main challenge facing Britain is the problem pertaining to the ability of economic development and adaptation to changes. At present, 1% of the world population owns 57% of the total wealth, which is unfair and unsustainable. China and Britain can join hands in contributing to poverty reduction and realization of social fairness and justice. China has scored remarkable achievement in terms of poverty reduction and provided much assistance to the international efforts in this respect. Others should learn from China's experience in poverty reduction and development. Meanwhile, many people are worried that China might export its development model.
According to Li Shenming, the problem of poverty reduction can only be solved from the perspective of distribution. In the terms of economics, distribution of profits has three means: distribution according to work, redistribution through tax and other means and charity. If poverty reduction is perceived only as charity, the problem can not be solved thoroughly. The three means should be jointly utilized with distribution according to work as the primary means. This is the successful experience of China. China's model for poverty reduction and economic development is designed to comply with its national conditions, and every country should choose a development path suited to its own national condition. It may not be feasible to blindly copy other countries' models. China has no intention whatsoever to export its own development model.
Li Shenming said that China, Britain and the world at large are confronted with challenges posed by globalization and internationalization. Economic globalization goes a long way towards promoting global development while generating greater gap between rich and poor. People with production materials reap excessive profits brought about by economic globalization and development. However, others may not fully enjoy the benefits. This will cause serious social problems within one country and more acute conflicts between the South and the North in the global context. Rapid development of modern technologies like internet facilitates exchanges and communication among people and makes the world more flat, but at the same time, transfer of wealth bypassing the link of production becomes more rapid and convenient, which increases global economic and financial risks. Meeting the new challenges calls for joint efforts and cooperation of people around the world.
Moon expressed her admiration towards the high efficiency Beijing displays in preparing the Olympic Games. In her opinion, the Olympic Games offer a good opportunity for China to integrate into the world as well as for the world to know China better. Beijing Olympic Games obtain widespread support of the general public in China. In contrast, the British government faces pressure from the public on the question of government budget for Olympic Games. The public is unwilling to spend too much money but they also want the work to be done. The government sometimes dare not do the thing it must do for fear of distorted reports by media. As a result, some polices and ideas can not become reality. Therefore, 2012 London Olympic Games may become the most economical games ever. The whole world shoulders a responsibility to help China render a successful Olympic Games and share the joy brought by the Games. To the host country, it is important to impart to the world the information of enjoying sports together and enhancing mutual understanding.
Rusling said that although the Fabian Society belongs to the left-wing, its members mainly belong to middle class. The Labour Party stands for a positive role of the state in social development, but New Labour is significantly different from traditional Labour Party in that New Labour does not support nationalization and is skeptical about the role of non-governmental organizations such as charity organization in social development. Labour Party does not have an ultimate goal in terms of ideology. Its administrative goal is to build a mixed economy, eradicate poverty and realize social fairness and justice. As for administrative means, emphasis is laid on secondary distribution means such as tax.
A British young man asked about the relationship between socialism with Chinese characteristics and traditional theory of Marxism. Hou Huiqin, deputy director of Academy of Marxism of CASS said that building socialism with Chinese characteristics is a strategic choice of the Communist Party of China in compliance with the requirements of the times and the national conditions, but socialism with Chinese characteristics is the production of localized Marxism in China. Only by sticking to Marxism, can problems be solved in a way that goes with the trend of world civilization. Only by adding new substance to Marxism, can modern China solve its problems during its development.
Members of the Young Fabian Group said that the discussion yielded positive results and made them understand China better. They hoped that more opportunities of candid communication like this would be made available to the young people of both countries. Li Shenming suggested that a communication mechanism on a regular basis be established between the Youth Foundation under CASS and the Young Fabian Group so as to boost mutual understanding among young people. Rusling echoed the proposal on behalf of the Young Fabian Group.
The Fabian Society is a peripheral think tank of Labour Party in Britain. Founded in 1884 in London, it boosts political discussion through publishing books, holding conferences etc and provides theoretical and ideological support to center-left statesmen in Britain. The Fabian Society holds that it is necessary to conduct research about the actual social situation, solve problems by democratic, progressive and mild means through election and casting vote and make the state a tool for advancing reform and generating social benefits. All the successive Prime Ministers of Labour Party are members of the Fabian Society.
The Young Fabian Group was established in 1960. It is an organization for members of the Fabian society 31 years of age or younger. At present, it has over 1200 members from all walks of life in Britain.