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Home > China-UK Events > 2008
CPPCC Vice Chairman Tung Chee Hwa Addresses Chatham House
2008/09/10

On 19 June, Vice Chairman of the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Consultative Conference Tung Chee Hwa delivered the speech titled China’s Road to Modernity in the Royal Institute of International Affairs (Chatham House). The lecture was chaired by Member of the House of Lords and Chairman of the Hong Kong Society Baroness Dunn, and attended by Charge d’Affaires Zhang Lirong and 180 dignitaries from various walks of life in UK.

Recalling the years he spend in Britain as a student, Vice Chairman Tung said he loved his country profoundly and had the opportunity to develop an in-depth knowledge of China, first as a businessman, then as Chief Executive of the Hong Kong SAR, and currently as Vice Chairman of the CPPCC.

The year 2008, said Tung, marks the 30th anniversary of China’s reform and opening-up. 30 years ago, Deng Xiaoping, with remarkable courage and wisdom, launched reform and opening-up to find a new path for the country, which changed the destiny of over a billion people and put China on a trajectory toward modern statehood. Over the past 30 years, the change in China has been nothing but remarkable. China’s economy has gone from the verge of utter collapse to becoming the world’s fourth largest. 1.3 billion Chinese people have moved from abject poverty to a very much improved livelihood. Chinese society has gone from being closed to being open. Of particular note is the unprecedented expansion of individual freedom – freedom of thought, freedom of movement, and freedom to pursue economic opportunity. Never in the history of mankind, has there been such great achievement involving such a large number of people over such a short period of time. Today, the Chinese people are looking forward to the future with confidence. At the same time, however, China is also faced with challenges as a result of the enormous changes of the past 30 years, e.g., the unbalanced nature of economic growth, the disparity between rich and poor, between urban and rural populations, and between coastal and inland regions, environmental challenges and excessive consumption of energy and raw materials.

Tung said, as to the course of development for China in the future, critical decisions were made by the Chinese leadership in 17th National Congress of the CPC, 2007 – building on its success over the past 30 years, China will further deepen reform and opening to the world. Economic development must be balanced and sustainable. Rural area income must be raised, and innovation and technology must be further emphasized as the economy restructures. The central government will need to be even more responsive to the needs of the people in providing better public services in general, and education, health care and social security in particular.

On human rights, democracy and the rule of law in China, Tung said, China has developed what we call electoral democracy and consultative democracy. Electoral democracy is embodied in the country’s highest authoritative institution – the National People’s Congress where members are elected directly and indirectly from across the nation. Consultative democracy is embodied in the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference where those who are the best and most experienced from different spectra of the society are appointed as members. In the 30 years of reform and opening-up, China has been committed to developing and improving democracy. The legal system is in better shape. The government’s work is being made more transparent. Formulation of policy and enactment of legislation are made only after wide consultation with different sectors of society. The internet and press have become important channels of communication between the government and the people. “Putting People First” and “Governing for the People” have become the guiding principle for the government in its day-to-day work, which was clearly demonstrated in the aftermath of the earthquake in Sichuan.

Tung stressed that it will take some time for China, a developing country, to achieve the goal of human rights, democracy and the rule of law. China has a different historical and cultural tradition from the west. It cannot just copy system of democracy of the west but will have to find a path of its own. If the world looks at human rights and democracy of China by feature stories and fixed image on photos, it will find things are not so satisfactory. But if it reads China by motion pictures across the span of 30 years, it will find tremendous progress China has made in human rights and democracy. A lot more needs to be done to change culture, tradition and behavior of the society from its long feudalistic past. But China’s rule of law will continue to improve with time.

On China’s foreign policy, Tung said, the past 30 years of China’s reform and opening-up has also been 30 years in which China has become more and more integrated into the international community. From the very beginning of the founding of PRC, China has been pursuing a foreign policy of peace and development. Today, this policy has not changed. Moreover, as further reforms and opens-up, China’s destiny becomes increasingly integrated with the world at large. China will play a more active role in international affairs by participating in multilateral organizations. China is ready and willing to live with other countries in harmony. China has so much to be done at home and has no interest in playing balance of power in international affairs. It stands for international cooperation in addressing energy security, climate change, food security and other international challenges. China is ready for this and is willing to actively participate, together with the international community, in tackling these challenges.

Tung updated the developments in China-UK relations, noting that the comprehensive strategic partnership has put the relationship of the two countries unto a higher and new level. But, for the relationship really to blossom, the two countries need to understand each other a great deal more so that they can be an important force for change and a force for good to the world.

At the end of the lecture, Tung answered questions on Tibet, Taiwan and religion. The audience, responding to his lecture with warm applause, agreed the lecture was brief and simple in language, and was helpful for a better understanding of China.

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