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Home > China-UK Events > 2008
China's Development and Progress Through Reform and Opening-up
2008/11/21

Speech at the International Forum of Contemporary Chinese Studies

State Councilor Liu Yandong

University of Nottingham, 20 November 2008

Chancellor Yang Fujia,

Vice Chancellor Greenaway,

Sir David Brewer,

Distinguished Guests,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Dear Friends,

It is a great pleasure for me to attend the IFCCS. I wish to extend my cordial greetings and best wishes to the distinguished participants and faculty members and students of Nottingham University and thank all of you for your contribution to the friendship and cooperation between China and the United Kingdom.

Twenty-five years ago, I came to the UK for the first time as head of a youth delegation. I still remembered it was in April, one of the best months of the year with beautiful flowers everywhere. Although years have passed, the friendship of the British young people toward the Chinese young people left me a lasting memory. Coming back to the UK after 25 years, I felt for myself how the understanding and friendship between our two peoples have grown. Our cooperation in various fields is expanding and our bilateral relations are showing a sound momentum. The UK Government and people gave us generous help in the form of financial assistance and materials, and also a medical team after the Wenchuan earthquake. Our Olympic connection has also made our ties stronger.

Under a complicated and volatile international situation, China and the UK are faced with more and more common challenges. Our common interests and cooperation opportunities are also increasing. I feel deeply that a vibrant China-UK relationship and a strong comprehensive strategic partnership will benefit our peoples and world peace and human progress.

The main purpose of my visit is to understand the latest developments in education, science and technology in the UK, and expand our cooperation in these fields. In the past three days we were warmly welcomed by political, educational and scientific leaders of Britain and three agreements were signed in education and science and technology. China-Britain cooperation in these areas enjoys a solid foundation and broad prospects. We hope and we are confident that University of Nottingham's cooperation with China will achieve greater success and set a good example for collaborative education between the two countries. The Chinese Government has decided to formulate a mid-to-long term educational reform and development program up to 2020. We welcome ideas and suggestions from other countries, including the United Kingdom.

This seminar is timely and important. An ancient Chinese saying goes, "Mutual understanding is the key to human relationship." As asked by Mr. Yang Fujia, I will talk to you about China today.

This is the 30th year of reform and opening-up. In the past 30 years, China has been transformed, which can be seen in the following three areas.

First, the Chinese economy was put on a track of sustained and rapid growth. China has maintained an average annul growth rate of 9.8% in the past 30 years. China's GDP rose from 1% to 5% of the world's total, its fiscal revenue increased 44 fold and it is the fourth largest economy. Such achievement has come as a result of years of hard work by the Chinese people.

Second, China has emerged from seclusion and opened itself up to the world. In the past 30 years, China's foreign trade increased 104 fold. Its share in the world trade has increased from less than 1% to around 8%. China contributes more than 12% to the growth of global trade and is now the 3rd largest trading country. There are more people-to-people exchanges. Outbound visits in 2007 exceeded 35 million. China today has closer links with the world in political, economic, cultural, security and other fields than ever before. The Chinese people and people of the world have got to know each other better through these contacts.

Third, the Chinese people have moved out of poverty towards a moderately prosperous life. In the past 30 years, the per capita income of urban and rural residents has both increased 30 times. The poor population is reduced from 250 million to 15 million. The Chinese people enjoy much higher quality of living but also more opportunities to better their lives.

This year, the Chinese people have experienced both great joy and terrible pain. The whole nation was united as one to fight the earthquake and help the affected people. Less than three months after the earthquake, China successfully hosted the 29th Olympic and 13th Paralympic Games and achieved the goal of "Two Game, Equal Splendor". China has also been affected by the global financial crisis. The Chinese Government has acted swiftly by adopting a package of 10 measures with a total investment of 4 trillion RMB yuan to expand domestic demand and promote steady growth. We have also worked to promote global financial and economic stability. All these achievements are attributable to greater national strength and the courage to improve ourselves through reform and the confidence of the Chinese people in taking our destiny into our own hands. This courage and confidence will be the fountain of strength as we move forward into the future.

Above all, the greatest success in the past 30 years was that Chinese leaders such as Deng Xiaoping, Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao have led the people in embarking on a path of developing socialism with Chinese characteristics. It is a path that will lead 1.3 billion people to greater prosperity, democracy and harmony on the basis of the wisdom and strength of the Chinese people. In summary, five principles have been crucial to our success.

First, put development first and push for reform in all fields. China's problems can only be effectively addressed through development, stimulating the vitality of the society and building a socialist market economy. Reform in China started in the rural area. The adoption of household contract system enabled farmers, or 70% of China's population, to get out of poverty and enjoy a better life. While keeping public ownership as the mainstay, we also encourage parallel development of other forms of ownership and tap into new growth areas. The state-owned economy is flourishing. The non-public sectors are also dynamic drivers of wealth and job creation. Reforms in other areas were also undertaken with notable results.

Second, accelerate development through opening-up and actively address globalization. China's opening up got wider and deeper over the years. For example, there are now more than 280,000 foreign-invested companies in China with a total investment of 770 billion US dollars. Almost all the top 500 companies in the world have investment in China. Similarly, overseas investment by Chinese companies is also rising. Opening-up benefitted China in financial, technological, managerial terms and in human resources, accelerated industrialization and modernization, and raised the quality of growth. China's rapid development has also provided opportunities for its trading partners across the world. China is now the 3rd largest import market in the world and the largest in Asia. China's average annual import volume has been 560 billion dollars since 2001, creating around 10 million jobs for its trading partners. Managing our own affairs well and maintaining stable growth benefits not only the Chinese people but also people of the world.

Third, develop socialist democracy and the rule of law. In the past 30 years, while pursuing economic reforms, we have promoted socialist democracy with Chinese characteristics actively and prudently in light of our national conditions. In particular, we worked to improve the 4 major political institutions, namely people's congresses, multi-party cooperation and political consultation under the leadership of the Communist Party of China, ethnic regional autonomy and grassroots autonomy. The rule of law was also vigorously applied. In the past 30 years, the National People's Congress promulgated 380 laws, the central government 1,100 administrative regulations and local authorities 7,700 local regulations. In particular, the National People's Congress made 5 amendments to the Constitution, including on respect for and protection of human rights, protection of lawful private property and adherence to the multi-party cooperation system. We try to combine democracy through election and democracy through consultation and to facilitate political participation by members of all parties, ethnic groups and social groups by respecting the will of the majority as expressed through voting and at the same time taking in views of the minority through consultation. Under the multi-party cooperation system, the Communist Party is the ruling party. The other 8 political parties participate in state affairs. Among the 730,000 members of the other 8 parties, more than half are elected as deputies of people's congress and people's political consultative conference at different levels and many are government officials. In this government, the minister of science and technology and the minister of health are a member of a non-communist party and a person without party affiliations respectively. On major policy decisions and important appointments, the ruling party and the other parties will have full consultation and exercise mutual supervision. This system is supported by the people and improved through practice. We follow the principle of ethnic equality. There are 55 ethnic minorities in China, accounting for 8.4% of the population. There are 5 autonomous regions, 30 autonomous prefectures and 121 autonomous counties, covering 64% of the land area of the country. Through legislation and law enforcement, the government provides comprehensive protection of the culture, language, religion and development of ethnic minorities. In the past 30 years, the annual economic growth rate in the ethnic autonomous areas averaged 11.6% and more than 12% in the Tibet Autonomous Region, higher than the national average of 9.8%. We have been strengthening grassroots democracy and established and implemented direct election system in 610,000 villages and 80,000 urban communities. People can exercise their right as citizens through wide and vigorous participation. This has provided a guarantee for China's development.

Fourth, strengthen social programs and promote social harmony. Putting people first is a core value of the Chinese Government, which is committed to improving people's well-being and achieving comprehensive development. To narrow the gap in income and between regions, we try to ensure that the results of reform and development are shared by all the people. We give top priority to improving living standards, promoting social equity and building a harmonious society. We try to provide jobs and housing for the people. In the past 30 years, 370 millions jobs have been created in total. Over 200 million rural workers were transferred to non-agricultural sectors. The per capita housing in urban and rural areas increased 4.4 and 2.9 times respectively. In recent years, through affordable and low-rent housing system and accelerating the renovation of old buildings, we have made housing affordable to more low-and-middle income people. We are also accelerating educational, health, cultural, sports, environmental and other social programs and building a social security system that covers all. Compulsory education has been implemented in both rural and urban areas across the country. Free text books and subsidies are provided to rural students. 730 million farmers have participated in the voluntary medical cooperative scheme supported by the government. Even farmers with very low income in remote areas have basic financial support for medical treatment. Life expectancy of the Chinese people was raised from 35 years in 1949 to 73 years now. The basic pension system, basic medical care and subsistence allowance system which cover both urban and rural areas are being improved as a priority task. There have also been much progress in culture and sports. Environmental protection is receiving wider attention. Sustainable use of resources and environmental protection is the consensus among governments at different levels and the whole society is now working towards this goal.

Fifth, follow the road of peaceful development and cooperate to build a harmonious world. China is committed to the independent foreign policy of peace. In international affairs, we stand for mutually beneficial and win-win development whereby countries work together to tackle challenges, share fruits of development and achieve common prosperity. We believe in respect for cultural diversity and exchange and mutual learning among different civilizations. We support a new security concept featuring mutual trust, mutual benefit, equality and coordination. We are in favor of a world order that is just and fair, under which all countries, big or small, rich or poor, strong or weak, are equal. China's development will by no means hurt the interests of other countries. China will never seek hegemony even as it gets stronger. We believe it important to rise above differences in ideology, social system, history and culture to develop friendly relations among all countries and make concerted efforts to promote world peace and human progress.

Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen, Friends,

We are clearly aware that China remains a developing country confronted with the challenges of a large population, weak foundation and low level of productivity. There is still a long way to go to realize modernization and the objective of a prosperous society for 1.3 billion people by 2020. Standing at a new historical starting point, we will continue to apply the experience we gained in the past and follow a path of scientific development based on peaceful, harmonious and coordinated development.

Scientific development means that development is the first priority. We must coordinate urban rural and regional development and build a resource conserving and environmental friendly society and achieve people-oriented development.

Harmonious development means that democracy and rule of law will be strengthened, so will social equity and justice. And all the people will have access to education, employment, medical care, old age pension and housing.

Peaceful development means that China will hold high the banner of peace, development and cooperation, seeking to develop itself in a peaceful environment and safeguarding world peace through its own development. We are ready to work with people of other countries for a harmonious world of lasting peace and common prosperity.

Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen, Friends,

In the long history of human development, people of countries across the world have never before found their destinies so closely linked and their cultures so mutually enriching. As the theme song of the Beijing Olympic Games goes, "You and me, heart to heart, we are family forever". Let us join hands to work for an even better future for mankind.

In conclusion, I wish the people of China and the United Kingdom harmony, happiness and lasting friendship.

Thank you.

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