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Is China a Power?-Ambassador Fu Ying's Speech at Oxford University
2009/05/18

At the invitation of the Oxford Union, Ambassador Fu Ying delivered a speech entitled Is China a Power? at the University of Oxford. Among the audience were around 200 Oxford Union members and university faculties. As a world famous debating society, the Union frequently invites politicians and celebrities from around the world to speak and attend discussions. This is the first time that it invites a Chinese government representative to be the speaker since its founding in 1823.

Fu began by raising the topic "Is China a power". She said that the splendid fireworks of the Beijing Olympics in 2008 are seen as marking China's ascendance into world power status. An international consensus is emerging that China is a world power and is moving from the margin to the center of world politics. There is therefore a lot of scrutiny about the rights and wrongs in China and fear that as it grows stronger, it could impose its will on others. The response of the Chinese people is very different. A survey shows that 80% of them see China still as a developing country and other countries are simply"HuYou" ("忽悠"means sweeping China off its feet) China .

Fu said that this perceptional difference was due to the basic fact that China is both "big and small, strong and weak". People outside China tend to see the big and strong aspects of China, while the Chinese people inside China are more aware of its weaknesses and challenges. She continued with a comparison of statistics between China and UK and concluded that although China exceeds UK in terms of GDP, international commodity trade and foreign reserve, it is still far behind UK in per capita GDP, service trade, competitiveness of the banking industry and living standards. There are still many challenges and difficulties ahead.

Fu continued to say that the Chinese people is committed to developing China into a country with prosperity, democracy and rule of law and a country that works for peace and cooperation in the world. The Chinese pursuit of prosperity is to enable everyone to have a roof over the head, every child in school, the sick having access to medical care and the elderly taken care of. That is now within grasp.

Fu pointed out that someone in the world tend to over-estimate the economic progress in China and overlook China's progress in political reform and socialist democratic development. She then listed progress made in the legislation of the National People's Congress, democratization of government decision-making and grass-root democracy. She emphasized that the country is still in the reform process and that the fact that the President used the term democracy about 60 times in the report at the 16th Party Congress precisely shows the commitment to democracy in the Party and the government.

Fu said that on the international front, the role China wants to play is to encourage dialogue and cooperation rather than imposing our own will on others, or interfering into other countries' internal affairs. The financial crisis brought home the fact that China and the world having growing integration of interests. China is ready to enhance its cooperation with the rest of the world.

In conclusion, Fu said that "I firmly believe that, China, a country with 1.3 billion smart, hard working and happy people, is destined to be a strong country in the world. But China will not become a hegemon." "China's diplomatic objective is to promote peace and cooperation in the world, in which China can continue to prosper and its people can achieve better life."

After the speech, Ambassador Fu answered questions on the ideological difference between the East and the West, whether China will claim hegemony, China's non-interference principle and its relations with Africa, climate change, and views on Dalai Lama.

On the question of why would China be an exception since all the powers in history claimed hegemony. Fu said hegemony was neither part of China's culture and tradition, nor its immediate and long-term interest. China has never been a country that enjoyed war. The essence of Chinese culture opposes aggression and hegemony, advocating that "do not do onto others what you will not do onto yourself." The Chinese people were victims of aggression and bullying, and will never agree to make their own country one of hegemony. The development and power of China today was not achieved through war. Rather, it was achieved through equitable trade and cooperation with the rest of the world. Hegemony is definitely not an approach that best meets China's interests. What is needed instead is to promote international peace and cooperation and cultivate a sound external environment for China's growth.

On the question of whether China's support for UN sanctions on North Korean nuclear issue, Darfur and Iranian nuclear issue and its involvement in peacekeeping missions indicates any change in its non-interference principle and what is China's standard in getting involved in international affairs, Fu answered that non-interference into other countries' internal affairs has always been a fundamental principle of China's diplomatic policy. A primary reason is that China holds that no country is authorized to impose its will on others. China is actively involved in resolving international hot issues on the condition that the sovereignty and integrity of countries concerned are fully respected and the solution lies in the hands of their own people. China will not get involved in certain activities and play active and constructive role, unless they are agreed by countries concerned, based on international consensus and under UN authorization.

Ambassador Fu's remark was warmly welcomed by Oxford students. Her lively lecture, clear and easy-to-follow style was both persuasive and thought-provoking, and helped them know China better.

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