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Home > Embassy News > 2011
Speech by Minister Qin Gang At the China Forum At the Labour Party Conference
The BT Convention Centre, Liverpool, 26 September 2011
2011/09/29

Friends from the Labour Party,

Welcome to the third China Forum the Chinese Embassy has hosted on the fringe of your Party Conference.

I am glad to be here in the place of Ambassador Liu Xiaoming, who is now in London for the China-UK Strategic Dialogue.

This is my third posting to Britain since I joined the Chinese Foreign Service. The difference this time around is that everyone here seems to be talking about China, China as a rising global power. The questions many ask are “What development path will China take?”; “What does China’s development mean to the world?”

Historically the rise of powers is associated with two words: “colonialism” and “hegemony”.

“Colonialism” and “hegemony” are similar in the sense that they both represent a self-centred, exclusive and non-peaceful way of development, driven by a desire to monopolize resources and market through forceful domination. And both are products of an old world order.

Looking to the future, what would be the defining feature of China’s development?

China has come up with a new idea and a new path, a path of peaceful development.

What is peaceful development?

It means that China will develop itself in a peaceful environment and will contribute more to world peace as it gets stronger. China will both rely on itself for development and learn from the rest of the world.

For China, peaceful development means seeking progress and harmony at home and cooperation and peace abroad. Our ultimate objective is to deliver a better life for the Chinese people and contribute to the progress of mankind.

Peaceful development is China’s strategic choice for realizing modernization and prosperity. It’s a new path, a clean break from zero-sum politics, cold war mentality and hegemony. It’s an important contribution to the human civilization.

Admittedly, some have doubts about China’s “peaceful development”, mainly for the following three reasons.

First, some argue that peaceful development is empty talk, inconsistent with established patterns of history.

They would point to previous powers in history, which sought military expansion and domination of natural resources and world markets. Why should China be an exception?

I think three factors would support “China exceptionalism”. First, peaceful development is in line with Chinese history and culture. The Chinese people believe in peace and harmony. And expansion has never been part of the Chinese culture.

Second, China suffered a century of invasion by imperial powers. We will not do to others what we don’t want done to ourselves. The last thing we would do is to impose our own suffering upon others.

Third, we live in a new era of peace and development. The trend toward multipolarity and globalization is irresistible. Countries are more interdependent than ever before. Sharing benefits of development and managing challenges together has become a prevailing trend.

By contrast, seeking narrow self-interest at the cost of others can no longer work. That’s why we are confident that China’s peaceful development will break this “iron law” of history.

Second, some contend that peaceful development is only an expedient.

These people believe that China is keeping a low profile only to bide its time. Peaceful development is merely a cover for China, which is waiting to flex its muscle.

This logic is self-contradictory. If peaceful development is the path toward prosperity, then why should China change course and take a riskier approach once it gets stronger?

The fact is, China today remains a developing country. It has 20 percent of the world’s population, but less than 8 percent of the world’s arable land and 6.5 percent of the world’s fresh water. China’s per capita GDP was only 4,400 dollars in 2010. That’s behind 100 other countries.

China faces a range of challenges, big urban-rural divide and regional disparities, acute imbalances in socio-economic development, and growing strains on resources and the environment. We know we still have mountains to climb.

For a long time to come, China will remain a developing country. Our modernization effort requires peace and stability at home as well as cooperation and friendship abroad.

Even when China gets stronger, peace will remain the foundation of our development. We have no reason to deviate from this path.

What we have learnt from the past decades is this: we must not waver, must not lose sight of our goal, must not stand still, and must not backpedal.

We are convinced that China and the world will be better served by China’s peaceful development. This will be the path to a more prosperous China and a more stable world. We are ready for China’s peaceful development to be tested by history.

Third, some doubt whether China can match its words with actions.

Critics say that China’s talk of peaceful development has not been borne out by practice. To them, China is getting assertive to its neighbors on the South China Sea issue. They see the development of aircraft carrier, stealth fighter and other advanced weaponry by China as dangerous for peace.

The idea of peaceful development is deeply rooted in China’s domestic and foreign policy. Back in the early days of the People’s Republic, China made clear its independent and peaceful foreign policy and its commitment to the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence.

62 years on, China is a consistent practitioner of these policies and principles. We take all of other countries as equals and seek to build friendship with as many countries as possible.

Today, peaceful development has become the most important principle guiding China’s foreign policy and actions.

I must point out that peaceful development is neither pacifism nor appeasement. Peaceful development is a new vision about how security can be achieved. It calls for mutual trust, mutual benefit, equality and coordination. The best way to get there is through consultation and dialogue to reduce differences, defuse tension and avoid the use and threat of force.

At the same time, peaceful development also requires China to uphold our sovereignty, territorial integrity, security and development interests. A country without effective national defense can not ensure its security and development, still less can it contribute to world peace and stability.

China remains devoted to peaceful resolution of international disputes. We don’t seek to be a hegemon or carve out our own sphere of influence in the region. Our military posture is defensive, as is our defense modernization necessary and rational. The world has nothing to fear from a rising China.

China needs understanding, support and cooperation from the world as it pursues peaceful development.

China has the confidence, patience and determination to let facts speak for itself. Time will tell that China’s peaceful development is a path that fits in well with China’s needs and is for the common good of the world.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The Labour Party has made significant contribution to China-UK relations in recent years. Under the Labour government, our partnership has flourished and reached a historic high in the past decade and more. Together, our two countries created conditions for Hong Kong’s smooth handover, set up a comprehensive strategic partnership, deepened cooperation across the board and strengthened dialogue and coordination in world affairs. All these laid a rock solid foundation for our relations to move further ahead in the years to come.

This has been possible thanks to the Labour Party’s perception of China as an opportunity for Britain, not a threat. You understand that China is a responsible and constructive member of the international system.

We hope that the Labour Party will build on this proud tradition to contribute even more to stronger China-UK relations. You are well-positioned to be a leader in encouraging an objective and rational understanding of China among the British people and help build understanding and support for China’s peaceful development. This will strengthen the foundations for the China-UK partnership in the future.

Thank you!

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