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China: A Country Never Stops Improving Itself--Remarks by Consul General Zhao Weiping at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
2015/04/22

(April 8, 2015)

Vice Provost Mabokela,

Faculty and Students,

        It's my great pleasure to visit your prestigious University, the UIUC again at the kind invitation of Chancellor Wise. I'm honored to have the opportunity of discussing with you on China-related matters. First, I wish to thank every one of you for taking time to attend this event.

       I always admire the glorious history of the UIUC, which has produced so many great scientists, engineers, government leaders and entrepreneurs as well as other talents. The UIUC is special to me, because it has always been a champion in receiving Chinese students and promoting China-US educational exchanges.

       The fast growing number of Chinese students in America was not only the result of China's economic development which has enhanced ordinary Chinese families' financial capacities, but also a reflection of the Chinese people's enthusiasm in learning from other countries as China further integrates itself into the global community as well as a good indication of the depth of China-US relations and the closeness of the two peoples.

       Just as China is eager to learn about the world, the world has also shown great interest in knowing China. In the era of internet, there is no shortage of information about China. However, many Westerners still often ask the question: what a country China is like.

       If you ask me to characterize China in one sentence, I will say, China is a country that never stops improving itself.

       China's reform and opening-up in the past three decades was exactly such a process of improving itself. In such a relatively short period of time, China lifted more than 600 million people out of poverty and realized the transition from a nearly-collapsed economy in late 1970s to the current world's second largest economy of enormous vitality.

       Remarkable progress has also been achieved in China's political, social, cultural and other undertakings. As a result, the Chinese people are enjoying the highest living standards and level of human rights in history.

       Proud of its past achievements, China clearly knows the challenges confronting its social and economic development today and the importance of constantly improving itself through reforms.

       China's economy is suffering from a complicated combination of huge downward pressure, unbalanced economic structure, overcapacity of production in certain industrial sectors, environmental degradation, real estate bubbles in some areas of the country and rising local government debts etc. Cases of corruption and social injustice are seen from time to time.

       Inspired by the "Chinese dream", which was initiated by President Xi Jinping, the Chinese government and people meet with those challenges squarely.

       At the end of 2013, the Chinese government announced more than 330 reform items in the political, economic and social fields. Last year, the Chinese government adopted the historic decision to comprehensively advance the rule of law in China. As you may have noticed, China has also launched unprecedented campaign in fighting corruption of various forms.

       Our goal for economic reform is to fully mobilize all the positive elements favorable to economic development and achieve a long-term sustainable growth. Reform measures have been and will continue to be taken to rationalize the relationship between the government and the market so as to let the market play the decisive role in the economy and the government perform its functions better.

       To be specific, ambitious reforms are being carried out in transforming government functions and improving the fiscal, financial, tax, income distribution systems and management model of investment. Pilot free trade zones have been established in four major Chinese cities and provinces, namely Shanghai, Tianjin, Guangdong and Fujian to test new measures of deepening reforms and accelerating opening-up, which will in due time be duplicated and promoted in other parts of China.

       In line with its reform strategy, China is now focusing more on improving the quality of the economy rather than seeking high growth speed. We aim to keep our economic growth rate within a proper range. The upper limit is to prevent inflation running high while the lower limit is to ensure steady growth and employment. Over the past three years, the set goal of the annual GDP growth was around 7.5%. The targeted GDP rate this year is around 7% based on feasibility and actual needs.

       Recently, some economists tossed up again the theory of so-called "China's Collapse". They held such a false belief because they have neglected the whole picture of China's economy and over-emphasized the negative side.

       Actually, the current slowdown of China's economic growth is to some extent the result of the deliberate policy choice of the Chinese government. The slowdown is manageable. There will be a bottom line. The Chinese government has the capability to prevent the economy from slipping out of control. As Premier Li Keqiang said several weeks ago, the government still have a host of policy instruments at its disposal.

       China's economy has entered a stage of "New Normal" as officially announced by the Chinese government. We have to look at the Chinese economy from a new perspective, if we want to acquire an accurate understanding of its current status and future direction. In my opinion,the current situation of China's economy is just like slightly releasing the accelerator to bring the speed down after your vehicle has traveled above the speed limit for a long time. It's neither a hard brake, nor a hard landing.

       China's self-improvement is of comprehensive nature, not confined to economic field only. Great efforts will continue to be made in improving democracy, rule of law and human rights.

       We are determined to build a law-abiding government. A power list for government will be introduced and the government will not enjoy any power which is not included in the list. A new system will be set up to examine the legitimacy of major government decision-making. A lifelong liability accounting system will be established to hold government officials accountable for wrong decisions.

       We are also determined to guarantee judicial justice. A mechanism which can ensure independent and impartial exercise of judicial power will be established. Circuit courts of the Supreme People's Court will be set up to handle major cross-administrative-region cases. The reform of litigation system will be conducted to let court trials play a central role in the verdict of a case. A legal system based on the principles of determining a crime according to law, the presumption of innocence and the exclusion of illegal evidences will be strengthened.

       It is for sure that as the measures of comprehensively advancing the rule of law in China are gradually implemented, the socialist democracy with Chinese characteristics will be enhanced and the human rights of the Chinese people will be better guaranteed. China will as always learn from the successful experiences of foreign countries in terms of the national governance.

       Just like turning a giant ship on the sea, it is never easy for China, the most populous country in the world, to make self-improving efforts, which requires courage, resolve and wisdom. However, China will never give up its efforts in this regard. There will be no turning back for an arrow shot.

       A self-improving China will have positive implications on the world.

       The past three decades have proved that China's development is in the interests of the world. China's contribution to the global economic growth has been widely recognized,especially with its important role in helping the world recover from the financial crisis in 2008.

       Regarding the international political and security issues, China has always been adopting a responsible attitude and actively cooperating with other countries in anti-terrorism and preventing the spread of weapons of mass destruction. As the largest contributor of UN peacekeepers among the five permanent members of the Security Council, China has made direct contribution to the peace and stability in countries like Mali, Liberia and South Sudan. China is now working hard to help promote the process of peace, reconciliation and reconstruction in Afghanistan. It's fair to say none of the wars or conflicts in today's world is caused by China.

       A self-improving China has not and will not pose a threat to the world. The purpose of our development is to rejuvenate the Chinese nation and ensure a better life for the Chinese people. As President Xi Jinping pointed out, the aspiration of the Chinese people for a good life is exactly the goal the Chinese government should work for. The rejuvenation of the Chinese nation will certainly put China in a better position to safeguard its sovereignty and national interests, but it doesn't mean in any way that China will seek hegemony and challenge or threaten other countries once it becomes stronger. Still less, China has a long way to go in its national development and is more enthusiastic than many other countries in maintaining a long-term peaceful and stable international environment.

       Western scholars or media commentators always referred to maritime disputes between China and its neighboring countries as examples of the so-called China's aggressiveness. As a matter of fact, none of the disputes in recent years over either the Diaoyu Islands or the islands in the South China Sea was started by the Chinese side.

       In 2012, the Japanese government took such a step of the so-called "nationalization" of the Diaoyu islands in an obvious attempt to legalize the territories Japan illegally snapped from China in history. It was only natural for China to react to this with strong opposition.

       Regarding the South China Sea issue,as early as in the 1930s, the then Chinese government had already officially listed the islands of the South China Sea as part of the Chinese territory. After the founding of the People's Republic of China, the Chinese government issued the Statement on the Territorial Sea in 1958, reaffirming its sovereignty over the islands. It was only since the 1970s that some neighboring countries put forth their claims over the islands in the South China Sea. They illegally occupied some of the islands and conducted a large scale oil drilling in the region in spite of China's strong opposition.

       China always stands for the principle of "shelving disputes and seeking joint development" on the issue of the South China Sea and is firmly committed to solving relevant disputes with countries directly concerned through negotiation and consultation. China has been exercising restraint, but some other countries did just the opposite.

       China will never give up its commitment to the path of peaceful development. Just like any other country, China has the right to safeguard its own sovereignty, territorial integrity and development rights. It's totally wrong to describe China's protection of its legitimate interests as "expansionism".

       A self-improving China will continue to make contribution to global development and prosperity. Two latest examples are China's initiatives of establishing the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) and building a Silk Road economic belt and a 21st century maritime Silk Road, or to be brief,the Belt and Road Initiative.

       The AIIB is designed as an inter-governmental multilateral development agency with the aim to provide financial support for the infrastructure building in Asia and promote the infrastructure connectivity and economic integration in Asia as well as enhance China's cooperation with other Asian countries.

       The Belt and Road Initiative aims to promote the connectivity of Asian, European and African continents and their adjacent seas, establish and strengthen partnerships among the countries along the Belt and Road and realize diversified, independent, balanced and sustainable development in these countries.

       As President Xi recently pointed out, "the Belt and Road and the AIIB are both open initiatives. We welcome all countries along the routes and in Asia, as well as our friends and partners around the world, to take an active part in these endeavors." China obviously hopes to achieve its own development and prosperity through promoting common development for all the countries.

       A self-improving China will also bring huge opportunities for the development of China-US relations.

       I am really confused sometimes when US media question China's intention on the US. From our perspective, China's intention is quite clear: we want to build a new model of major-country relations with the US featuring "no conflict or confrontation", "mutual respect" and "win-win cooperation". We don't have any other hidden agenda at all.

       The assumption that a rising power like China will definitely come to conflicts with the established one like the US is a sheer reflection of Cold War mentality and totally outdated.

       Our two countries are so intertwined economically that we can hardly be separated from each other. Last year, our bilateral trade volume reached 555 billion US dollars according to the statistics by the Chinese side and 590 billion US dollars by the US statistics. Four million people traveled between our two countries.

       Our two countries also share huge common interests on many international and regional issues. The world would be a better place so long as our two countries cooperate with each other, otherwise there could only be more problems.

       Due to different cultures and national conditions, our two countries don't see eye to eye on many issues and even have serious differences sometimes. However, both sides have more than ever realized the importance of managing and controlling differences.

       Our two countries have maintained frequent contacts between our leaders, established sophisticated mechanisms for bilateral communication at various levels and even strengthened trust-building measures between the two military who didn't have much exchange in the past. There are many reasons to be optimistic about the future of China-US relations.

       In the coming September, President Xi Jinping will pay a state visit to the US at the invitation of President Obama, which will surely lead to bigger progress of the new model of major-country relations between China and the US. I believe with our joint efforts,China-US relations will enjoy further development and better benefit the two peoples and the world.

       Thank you.

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