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Speech by Consul General Hong Lei at Illinois General Assembly
2018/05/29

Consul General Hong Lei, introduced by Senate President Cullerton, delivers a speech at the Illinois Senate

Honorable Majority Leader Currie(President Cullerton),

Honorable Representatives(Senators),

Good afternoon.

It is such an honor to visit the Illinois General Assembly and meet with all representatives (senators). As Consul General of the People’s Republic of China in Chicago, my primary task is to promote exchanges and cooperation between Illinois and other Midwest States with China and enhance mutual understanding and friendship between our people. China-Illinois partnership has made new headway since the new century, with bilateral trade volume, investment and people-to-people exchanges achieving historic new high. In 2016, Illinois’ trade with China exceeded 36 billion US dollars. China has remained the second largest trading partner and third largest export market of Illinois. Accumulated investment by Chinese companies in Illinois has reached 4.2 billion US dollars, creating over 5,100 jobs for the state. Illinois companies like Boeing, ADM and Caterpillar all achieve great performance in China. China has become important strategic market for them. There are over 18,000 Chinese students studying in universities in Illinois, and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign alone has more than 5,000 Chinese students on campus. Chinese students have become the largest international students group for Illinois universities.

These achievements are attributable to the concerted efforts by people from both China and Illinois, as well as the contribution from State representatives (senators) like all of you. The cooperation outcomes between China and Illinois are stellar example of the great potentials and the huge common interests between China and the US, highlighting the possibility and significance of strengthening coordination and cooperation between our two countries.

Ladies and gentlemen,

In the past 39 years since China and the US established diplomatic relations, thanks to the concerted efforts by China’s successive leaderships and US governments led by Democrats and Republicans, as well as the support from legislative bodies of our two countries, China-US relationship has made historic progress and grown into the most important bilateral relationship in the world.

In 1979, the official exchanges between China and the United States were numbered. Today, the high-level exchanges between China and the United States are close and the dialogue mechanism is smooth. Since the new US administration took office, the two countries have set up four high-level dialogue mechanisms on diplomacy and security, comprehensive economy, law enforcement and cyber security, and social, cultural and people-to-people exchanges, to incubate cooperation, promote communication and properly handle differences.

In 1979, bilateral trade between China and the US was only $ 2.45 billion, and direct investment between us was zero. In 2017, Sino-US two-way trade volume of goods amounted to nearly $ 636 billion, and bilateral service trade volume reached $ 75 billion. China and the US are each other’s largest trading partner, and China is the third largest export market of the United State. In 2017, bilateral two-way investment amounted to $ 213 billion, with Chinese companies’ investment in the US surpass those made by US companies in China for the third year.

In 1979, less than 10,000 people from China and the US visited the other country. In 2017, nearly 6 million people from the two countries traveled across the Pacific Ocean. Up to now, the two countries have forged 47 paris of sister province/state relations and 215 pairs of sister city relations. 330,000 Chinese students study in universities in the United States, accounting for one third of America’s foreign students and becoming the largest group of international students in the US.

It is fair to say that the common interests of China and the US far outweigh our differences. China-US cooperation is good for global stability and prosperity, and also in line with the expectations of our two peoples and the world.

As we speak, China-US relations have come to another crucial junction. The two countries should draw on the historical experience of bilateral relationship and sustain sound and continuous development of bilateral ties. To achieve this, we have the following proposals:

First, stay committed to the right choice of forging strategic partnership, not rivalry. It is only natural that there will be competition between the two big countries like China and the US. But such competition is not knocking each other down in a boxing game. It is the competition that two runners in a race have as they run to their respective goals. China and the US will realize our own development in this process, and become more competitive and ready for cooperation.

Second, stay committed to the strategic direction of enhancing mutual trust, not suspicion. China seeks development only to improve itself rather than overpower the US. China has no intention to replace the US leadership. China is willing to join hands with the US to safeguard the international order with the UN at its core. China and the US should view each other’s strategic intention in a holistic, objective and reasonable approach and avoid misconception and misjudgment.

Third, stay committed to the way of mutual respect. It is only natural that China and the US don’t see eye to eye on every issue. The key is to respect each other’s core interests and major concerns. The sound and steady development of China-US relations will be at stake if its political foundation is undercut. We hope that the US side can handle the Taiwan question with prudence, which bears upon China’s sovereignty and national feeling. This is red line that can never be crossed.

Fourth, stay committed to the path of increasing common interests, not unilateral protectionist measures. Being each other’s largest trading partner, China and the US will have differences from time to time. What is most important is to increase common interests, expand trade, enhance mutual investment, stipulate better policies, create a more favorable environment and resolve differences through dialogue.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Since the founding of the People’s Republic of China and reform and opening-up in particular, China made great strides in development. China has developed itself into the second largest economy in the world and lift over 700 million Chinese people living under the UN poverty line out of poverty, equivalent to over 70% of the poverty alleviation population in the whole world. The 1.3 billion Chinese people has risen above material scarcity, lived a moderately prosperous life. However, China is still the largest developing country in the world, development remains the preliminary task of China, and we will continuously commit ourselves to improving people’s livelihood and realizing common prosperity. To achieve this goal, the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China convened last year proposes an action plan and a blue print for China’s development in the new era in two stages. In the first stage from 2020 to 2035, we will build on the foundation created by the moderately prosperous society with a further 15 years of hard work to see that socialist modernization is basically realized. In the second stage from 2035 to the middle of the 21st century, we will develop China into a great modern socialist country that is prosperous, strong, democratic, culturally advanced, harmonious, and beautiful, and reach the level of the moderately developed countries.

This year marks the 40th anniversary of China’s reform and opening-up, a policy that has fundamentally changed China and the world as well. China is committed to the basic national policy of opening up and pursuing development through opening up. China’s door of opening-up will not be closed and will only open even wider. Looking ahead, China will significantly broaden market access, create a more attractive investment environment, increase intellectual property rights protection, take the initiative to increase import, and encourage credible and competitive Chinese companies to invest overseas in an orderly manner.

In the next 15 years, China is expected to import $24 trillion worth of goods and invest $200 million overseas. In November this year, China will host the first International Import Expo in Shanghai, so that foreign companies could promote their products directly to Chinese market. In the next 5 years, Chinese people will make 700 million overseas visits. By 2050, China will become a country with our GDP reaching $43 trillion, bringing an even larger market, more investment, more diverse products and more cooperation opportunities to other countries. A China that is committed to win-win cooperation will create more development opportunities to the world.

Ladies and gentlemen,

We are willing to join hands with the Illinois state legislators to contribute more positive energy to enhance the mutual understanding of the people, promote exchanges and cooperation between Illinois and China, and deliver more benefits to both peoples.

Thank you.

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