Ambassador Fu began by taking the audience back to China's one hundred years of Olympic journey. She said that back in 1908 when London hosted the Games, China was still a semi-colonialist and semi-feudalist country suffering from widespread poverty and social turmoil. Some young people then were asking when the Games could come to China. One hundred years later, after generations of consistent efforts, China finally succeeded in hosting the Beijing Olympic Games. While the world was amazed by the success this Games has achieved, none could have imagined the tremendous efforts that the 1.3 billion Chinese people have made to fulfill the dream of their ancestors.
Fu said that the Beijing Olympics has left China a big legacy and brought it closer to the world. After the Olympics, China is increasingly recognized as a power. As the financial crisis expands, some countries even see China as the second economic power next to the US, which ought to play a bigger role. However, for the Chinese people, China is still a developing country and our own development issues are what really matter. There is quite a big gap between the self-perception of the Chinese public and the expectation from the outside.
In the words of Deng Xiaoping, the chief architect of China's reform program, China is big and small, strong and weak. This still applies to China today. While the outside world sees its strong and powerful side, the Chinese people see its small and weak side.
Fu said that the financial crisis has taken a heavy hit on the US and UK, and not a small one on China. Impacts to China come largely from trade. In the past decades, China's exports kept an annual growth of 15-20%. In the first quarter of this year, however, it was down by nearly 20%, triggering an economic slowdown from 9% to around 6%. "Wei Ji" (crisis) in Chinese is composed of Wei (crisis) and Ji (opportunity). Therefore, what really matters is to turn the crisis into an opportunity. The Chinese government has enforced the stimulus package, which includes a 4 trillion investment within the next two years to expand domestic demand and facilitate economic growth.
In conclusion, Fu quoted Confucius "At fifteen, I set my mind on learning". She urged the students to know the diversity of China and perceive it in an objective and open way, which will help them in their future interactions with China.
After the speech, Fu answered more than 10 questions raised by the students. Some asked if China would continue to focus on domestic economic development and while doing that, what sort of role would China expect itself to play in the world. Fu answered that China would stay focused on economic development for a long period of time in order to give the people a better life. In the past 30 years, 250 million Chinese were lifted out of poverty. But there are still 25 million living in poverty. By UN standard (below $1 per person per day), China still has 130 million poor people. Therefore, economic development remains the biggest priority. On the international stage, China will continue to be a responsible participant, playing its due role in international affairs and avoiding any interference into other countries' internal affairs.
On the question of news freedom, Fu said there is a misunderstanding among foreign friends in that China has no media or speech freedom. Guardian even claimed that its website was shut down in China, which I later found out was not true. The Chinese Constitution protects the freedom of speech and publication for the Chinese citizens. Now in China 316 million people have access to the internet, the biggest in the world. In addition, there are over 2 million Chinese websites, 350 TV channels and over 9,000 magazines. All offer good platforms for diverse and active interaction and intensive media competition. Indeed our media industry is still in its development stage. Given that China's industrialization was 200 years behind that of the UK and its economy was still in the initial stage of development, China is in a crucial stage of industrialization and urbanization. Therefore, in this process, we are required to balance the relationship between reform, development and stability. Social stability and harmony is the precondition and guarantee. Websites of cults like Falungong are naturally illegal. Websites with porno or/and violence contents are naturally subject to sanction, as they are poisonous to the young people.
On the question of what impacts East-West cultural differences might have on China's interaction with the West, Fu said that China does not know enough of the world, but the West knows even less of China. For instance, in the bookstores in China, there are many books on Western countries, including original copies in English. But in bookstores and libraries here, there are hardly any books written by Chinese on China. The "Digital Library", an e-book database, presented by Premier Wen to Cambridge University during his visit early this year is precisely intended to give the students and public here a better knowledge about China.
Fu Ying also answered questions on China-UK relationship, Afghanistan, Korean Peninsula, China's foreign reserve and Tibet.
Discussion was intensive and lively, mixed with appreciating smiles and warm applause. Students found Ambassador's speech and answers clear and convincing, and very rewarding to their knowledge of China. After the discussion, Ambassador Fu presented to the students China Facts and Figures 2008, China Picture, Chinese Culture and Sceneries in China and other books as gifts.
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Eton College is one of the best-known private boy schools in the UK. Funded in 1440 by Henry IV, it is known across the world for being "the cradle of elites" and its "gentleman culture". It turned out a large pool of celebrities, including 20 British Prime Ministers, the poet Shelley and economist Keynes. It is also where Princes William and Harry received their education. Among its 250 graduates every year, around 70% were admitted by world-leading universities.