On 17 February Ambassador Fu Ying delivered a speech at the lunch hosted by the Foreign Correspondents' Club. Over 50 journalists from Japan, Argentina, Spain, Egypt, Pakistan and Taiwan region who were posted in UK attended.
Fu Ying introduced China's economic situation which was followed closely by people present. She said that the world financial crisis had a rather severe impact on China's economy. Its GDP was over 10% in the first half of last year but fell to 6.8% in the fourth quarter, which was rare for many years. Downward pressure on economy became intensified. Some enterprises had more difficulty in operation. Unemployment of peasant workers and newly graduated students was salient.
Fu Ying introduced the package that the Government took to ease the crisis and promote economic growth and said that some economic index began to show sign of improvement with the implementation of these measures. However, time was needed for the economy to go out of the slump. But overall economic situation in the first half of 2009 would be rather difficult.
Fu Ying introduced the consensus that Premier Wen Jiabao reached with his British and EU counterparts during his visit not long ago and the purchase delegation that China sent to the UK.
Fu Ying said that in the past year there were some problems and clashes in China-UK relations. The reasons were multiple. Lack of understanding, difference in ideology added to the sense of distance between the two sides. China knows not enough about the rest of the world (especially western countries), yet the latter knows even less about China. Bookstores in China are packed with books on the Western countries, including original copies in English, whilst there is little literature written by Chinese about China on the shelves in UK bookstores and libraries. Premier Wen Jiabao gave a digital library to the University of Cambridge as a gift in order for UK students and scholars to better understand China and research China in a fuller and more objective fashion. The news media play a pivotal role in promoting mutual understanding between China and the rest of the world. It is hoped that their objective and balanced coverage will pave the way for their communication.
Upon conclusion of the speech, Fu Ying answered over ten questions from journalists of different countries. Asked about the expectations for the G20 Summit to be held in London, Fu Ying noted that given the high expectations of the international community for the London Summit, the Summit must send out a positive message that countries will work and weather the difficulties together. The Chinese side is of the view that protectionist practices that pass the buck to one's neighbours is not the desirable approach and hopes that the Summit will contribute to freer trade. The Chinese side also counts on the Summit taking concrete steps to expand the representation of emerging economies in international financial institutions and beefing up regulation of cross border financial activities.
Fu Ying also noted that some argue that China must play a greater role in easing the impact of the crisis as China has nearly USD 2 trillion in foreign reserves. However, China remains a developing country with a per capita GDP only 1/16 of the UK's, ranking China close to the 100th place in the world. And in per capita terms its foreign reserves are not high either. China is also confronted with a raft of challenges such as imbalances in development and widening wealth gaps. China's sustained economic development is not only in China's own interest, but also conducive to the stability and recovery of the world economy. Perhaps China cannot save the world but China must do well in its own affairs. At the same time, China will continue to play a positive and constructive role in tackling with the crisis.
When asked about whether or not dispatching naval vessels to the seas off Somali reflects China's intention to expand its naval forces, Fu Ying gave a briefing about the efforts of the Chinese navy in cracking down on the pirates, protecting fishing vessels and cooperating with other countries' navies. She referred to Premier Wen Jiabao's speech at the University of Cambridge in emphasizing that the paradigm of power leading to hegemony does not apply to China. China aims to be a county that seeks peace, learns from and stands ready to work with others and is committed to helping build a world of harmony.
With vast territories, a huge population and five thousand years of uninterrupted civilization, China, even at the apex of its power, did not seek to expand into and willfully encroach upon other countries. To the contrary, China suffered immensely from aggression and expansion by Western powers in its modern history. In both ancient and contemporary times, the top concern for China has been to feed and clothe its people and give them a higher standard of living. In the future China will not seek hegemony when it grows stronger. Of course, with growing strength, China has realized that ever move on its part would have an impact on the world. It needs to work hard to promote mutual understanding and trust with the outside world so that its relations with the rest of the world may move on a sound track.
Fu Ying also answered questions relating to such issues as the reform of China's banking system, Middle East, China-US relations, human rights and Tibet. The journalists were impressed with Fu Ying's profound yet clear and convincing remarks and found the event a rewarding experience.