Speech by H.E. Wang Yi
State Councilor and Minister of Foreign Affairs of
The People’s Republic of China
At the French Institute of International Relations
Paris, 30 August 2020
Executive Chairman Thierry de Montbrial,
It is such a pleasure to come back to Europe. In the past six months, the world was swept up in an unexpected coronavirus epidemic. The disease has held up a mirror to a complex international scene where heartwarming acts of partnership and collaboration such as those between China and Europe are juxtaposed with the undertows of blame games, unilateralism and bullying.
Yet, what is even more alarming than the coronavirus is a political virus that is stoking hatred and confrontation. Politicizing and attaching a geographical label to the epidemic, and even stigmatizing a specific country will not solve one’s own problems. It will only erode international solidarity and cooperation.
Like Europe, China is one of the oldest and most respected civilizations in the world. As President Xi Jinping said, realizing national rejuvenation has been the greatest dream of the Chinese nation since modern times. Only nations that once achieved greatness could appreciate the meaning of rejuvenation. Only peoples that survived so many trials and tribulations would yearn for rejuvenation.
What China’s rejuvenation is about is achieving the prosperity of the country, revitalization of the nation and happiness of the people. It is about bringing the Chinese civilization back to the forefront of human progress and starting a new era of openness and integration with the world.
The assertion that China’s rejuvenation is to remake or conquer the world only reveals a lack of knowledge about Chinese history and the Chinese civilization.
Aggression never flows in the veins of the Chinese nation. For a long time in history, China was one of the world’s most powerful countries, yet it never sought expansion or global dominance.
Among the traditional tenets of the Chinese civilization are phrases such as the “paramount importance of peace” , “seeking harmony without uniformity”, “fostering amity with one’s neighbors” and “promoting harmony among all nations”, to name a few.
Commitment to peace and harmony is deeply rooted in the mindset of the Chinese. It has also been the cultural inspiration behind China’s active pursuit of a community with a shared future for mankind.
The Chinese civilization has a proud history stretching uninterrupted for several millennia, a rare achievement among the mega civilizations in the world. Today’s China has creatively adapted its ancient civilization to seek new progress. Led by the Communist Party of China (CPC), the Chinese people have forged ahead against all odds, and embarked on a successful path of development leading toward national rejuvenation. It is the path of socialism with Chinese characteristics.
Following this path, China has achieved leapfrog development and seen continued rise of its comprehensive national strength. Once an impoverished country, China has grown into the world’s second largest economy.
Once a shortage economy, China has developed into a manufacturing giant, the only one equipped with a complete range of industries.
Once a semi-colonial country subjected to repeated aggression, China has emerged as a major country with a permanent seat at the UN Security Council.
Following this path, we the Chinese people have mastered our own fate and enjoyed a better life. In the past seven decades, more than 850 million Chinese people were lifted out of poverty; average life expectancy more than doubled from 35 to 77 years; the nearly 1.4 billion Chinese people have made a historic leap from destitution to subsistence and to a life of moderate prosperity. A report by Boston Consulting Group on citizen welfare found that China jumped 25 spots in the last decade, the most impressive advance among the 152 countries polled globally.
Under the leadership of the CPC, the Chinese people are on course to complete the building of a moderately prosperous society in all respects and win a decisive victory against poverty this year. This means that China will eliminate absolute poverty for the first time in its history and meet the UN Sustainable Development Goals on poverty ten years ahead of schedule.
China owes its development achievements, first and foremost, to the hard work, wisdom and courage of the Chinese people. It has also benefited from a peaceful and amicable international environment and win-win cooperation with the rest of the world. At the same time, China’s development has not only benefited its own people, but also the whole world.
China has all along been a promoter of world peace, injecting positive energy into the evolving international architecture. Soon after the founding of the People’s Republic, China adopted an independent foreign policy of peace. We incorporated “to safeguard world peace” into our first constitution, making China the first country in the world to make such a weighty commitment.
Over the past seven decades, China has never provoked a war or conflict, and has never occupied an inch of others’ land.
Today, China is the second largest contributor to the UN regular budget and the peacekeeping budget, and has sent more peacekeepers to UN missions than any other permanent member of the Security Council. We are involved in the settlement of all the major international and regional hotspot issues.
China has all along been a defender of the international order, bringing stability to the global governance system. China has joined almost all the universal inter-governmental organizations and acceded to more than 500 international conventions. We have taken an active part in the reform and development of the global governance system. We have resolutely upheld the international system centered around the United Nations, the international order based on international law, and the multilateral trading regime represented by the WTO.
China has all along been a facilitator of globalization, making major contributions to building an open world. Today, China is one of the most open economies in the world. As of 2019, overall tariffs were brought down to less than 7.5 percent, lower than most countries in the world.
We have kept expanding market access. For two years running, China has been among the major economies that have made the biggest improvement in their business environment. We are the number one trading partner for 130-plus countries and regions and one of the most important markets for multinational companies.
In view of the new developments in globalization seven years ago, President Xi Jinping put forward the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) for international cooperation. Since then, we have signed cooperation documents with 138 countries. Trade in goods with partner countries has exceeded US$7.8 trillion, and direct investment surpassed US$110 billion, providing a strong boost to local employment and social and economic development.
In the first half of this year, China’s investment in BRI countries increased by 19.4 percent. China-Europe railway express, dubbed as “steel camel fleets”, ran 5,122 cargo trips, up by 36 percent year on year. Bringing hope wherever it goes, the railway express has played an important role in maintaining smooth logistics and stable supplies between China, Europe and other BRI partners under the COVID-19 situation.
China has all along been a contributor to world development, providing sustained driving force for global growth. In the past four decades since reform and opening-up, China has been one of the fastest growing economies in the world, contributing over 30 percent to global growth for the past ten-plus years and over 70 percent to global poverty reduction. In both the 1997 Asian financial crisis and the 2008 global financial crisis, China weathered the storms with its well-calibrated policies and solid economic fundamentals and served as a major engine driving regional and global economic recovery.
Over the past few months, in the face of the pandemic, China launched a global campaign of emergency humanitarian assistance at a scale unseen in the history of the People’s Republic. China has provided timely medical supplies assistance to over 150 countries and international organizations in response to their needs. We have organized thematic video conferences between Chinese health experts and their counterparts in more than 180 countries. We have sent 33 medical teams to 31 countries badly in need.
These telling facts and figures all serve to show that the development path chosen by the Chinese people meets the aspirations of the 1.4 billion Chinese people and conforms with the trend of peace and development of our times. It is a path that serves the interests of not only China but also the entire world. Since it has been proven right, we have every reason to keep following this path.
Despite the serious impact of COVID-19, the Chinese economy has stayed strong and demonstrated a robust momentum of recovery, great resilience and enormous potential. China’s GDP expanded by 3.2 percent in the second quarter, back into positive territory, making China the first economy to register positive growth. IMF forecasts put China as one of the few countries that will maintain positive growth in 2020.
According to a latest survey, 99.1 percent of foreign companies in China will continue to invest and operate in China, and 89 percent of the surveyed EU businesses said they are not considering moving their industrial chains out of China. China remains one of the top three investment destinations for most European companies. All of these are, in a sense, a vote of confidence in China’s development.
Given the evolving global environment, we have set out the goal of fostering a new, dual-cycle development architecture with the domestic cycle as the mainstay and with domestic and international development reinforcing each other. Such a development structure draws from the strengths of China’s mega-sized market and the huge potential of domestic demand.
China will further tap into its domestic demand, expand opening-up and share more of its development dividends with the rest of the world. We hope our recovery and development will fuel common recovery and development of the world.
China will stay committed to peaceful development. China is not the former Soviet Union, still less will it or can it be another United States. No matter how developed China becomes, it will never seek hegemony or expansion. What China pursues is a new model of state-to-state relations featuring dialogue and partnership, not confrontation or alliance. We hope to forge broader partnerships and further expand our circle of friendship in the world.
China will stay committed to open development. China will not shut its door to the outside world, but only open it wider. We will further lower tariffs, shorten the negative list for foreign investment, ease market access, and make market rules more transparent and the business environment more attractive. We will upgrade our open economy and pursue openness and cooperation in all directions, at all levels and in all forms to create more opportunities for the world.
China will stay committed to cooperative development. China’s development has benefited from cooperation with other countries. We will continue to strengthen coordination and cooperation with other major countries, increase friendship with our neighbors and enhance solidarity and cooperation with other developing countries. We will work closely with all countries to pursue greater security, better development and meet common challenges together.
China will stay committed to win-win development. China is against the zero-sum or winner-takes-all approach of development. We will never go down the beaten path of grabbing others’ resources or sacrificing others’ interests. We believe that global governance should be based on consultation, cooperation and shared benefits. By following a win-win strategy of opening-up, we will make the pie of cooperation bigger and pursue common development with all countries.
China is committed to inclusive development. We respect the right of other peoples to choose their own development path. We do not seek to export our system or model of development, nor are we interested in ideological confrontation. We will continue to take concrete actions to protect the diversity of civilizations and promote exchanges and mutual learning between development models.
The world is undergoing changes unseen in a century, accelerated by the sudden onslaught of COVID-19. Faced with changes and a pandemic unseen in a century, humanity needs to once again make a crucial choice, a choice between progress and regression, between solidarity and division, and between openness and seclusion.
In modern history, the progress of human civilization had been halted several times by radical forces. What we are seeing now is that some are again maneuvering to draw a new Iron Curtain, erect another Berlin Wall, and start a second Cold War.
The China-US relationship is in its most testing time since the establishment of diplomatic relations. It has come to this stage because some hardliners in the US have gone to great lengths to portray China as a major rival. They have resorted to every possible means to suppress China’s development. They have also been stoking ideological confrontation internationally, and publicly coercing countries into choosing sides, trying to drag China-US relations into confrontation and conflict, and hijack other countries onto their chariot of major-country rivalry. These acts are threatening to push the world as we know it to the brink of turmoil and division.
The tide of history always moves forward. No attempt to turn it back will find support, nor will it last. At this crossroads in human history, China and Europe should and must keep in mind our responsibilities for mankind’s future and the fundamental interests of our people. We must say no to hatred and confrontation. We must stand firm on the right side of history. Together, China and Europe can bring more stability to this complex and fluid world.
First, we need to resolutely safeguard peace and development and oppose global divisions. As a responsible major country, China firmly opposes any schemes to create a new Cold War, and will not allow any force to deny the right of the Chinese people and people around the world to pursue development and a better life. China hopes to join hands with Europe to send a strong message of our times, a message for solidarity and against division, for progress and against regression, for peace and development and against conflict or confrontation.
Second, we need to firmly uphold multilateralism and oppose unilateral acts of bullying. No matter how the international landscape may evolve, China will always stand firmly for multilateralism, and advocate extensive consultation, joint contribution and shared benefits in global governance. China regards the European Union as a major force for a multi-polar world. We are prepared to work with the EU to uphold the effectiveness and authority of the multilateral system, promote fairness and justice and maintain the international order.
Third, we need to further expand mutually beneficial cooperation and oppose seclusion and decoupling. With China deeply interconnected with the world, decoupling from China means decoupling from development opportunities and from the most dynamic market. As two major economies in the world, China and Europe must stay committed to free trade, safeguard the stability of global industrial and supply chains, and play a key role in promoting development and prosperity in the post-COVID-19 world.
Fourth, we need to join hands to tackle global challenges and oppose the beggar-thy-neighbor approach. Humanity has never faced more frequent and unpredictable risks. Climate change, cyber security, terrorism, transnational crimes and other non-traditional security issues pose real threats to the world. Challenges of a global scale, such as COVID-19, could still emerge in the future. China and Europe need to set an example of advancing global governance by jointly strengthening the UN’s coordinating role in international affairs. We need to reject the practices of putting one’s own country first at the expense of others. We need to jointly build a community with a shared future for mankind.
This year marks the 45th anniversary of China-EU diplomatic relations. The development of our relations over the past 45 years tells us that there is no fundamental conflict of interests between China and the EU; our cooperation far outweighs competition, and there are far more areas of common understanding than disagreements. Despite the difference in social systems, China and the EU are meant to be comprehensive strategic partners, not systemic rivals.
Over the 45 years, an important experience we have gained is: China and the EU are entirely able to enhance trust through dialogues on an equal footing, achieve win-win outcomes through mutually beneficial cooperation, properly address differences through constructive communications, and jointly tackle global challenges through stronger coordination.
President Xi Jinping pointed out that China and Europe are two major forces, two big markets and two great civilizations. What we stand for, what we oppose and what we work together on can make a difference for the world.
At this crucial moment of fighting COVID-19 and pursuing post-COVID-19 recovery, China and Europe should strengthen solidarity and cooperation. We should press the “continue button” to resume dialogue and cooperation across the board and act as twin engines of the world economy, to inject strong impetus to international solidarity and cooperation. To that end, I propose that we develop our partnership in the following four areas.
First, we need to build an anti-COVID-19 partnership, and promote cooperation on post-COVID-19 economic recovery. Nothing matters more than containing the virus and saving lives. China and the EU should strengthen cooperation on the development and production of vaccines, medicines and testing kits and support the WHO, Gavi and other international institutions in playing their roles.
Second, we need to enhance our investment partnership, and work for win-win results. China and the EU should take a cooperative approach in the negotiations on the bilateral investment agreement, find a solution to the outstanding issues as early as possible, and conclude a comprehensive, balanced and high-standard agreement within this year. On that basis, the two sides need to conduct a joint feasibility study at an early date to kick-start the FTA process.
China and the EU should also strengthen coordination on macro-economic policies, and conclude the China-EU 2025 Strategic Agenda for Cooperation as early as possible, to provide an institutional framework for all-round dialogue and cooperation.
Third, we need to foster a green and digital partnership, and create new growth areas of China-EU cooperation. We should deepen cooperation in such areas as environmental technology, circular economy, clean energy, and sustainable finance to develop a China-EU green partnership.
We should strengthen cooperation in areas like information and communications technology, artificial intelligence, e-commerce, big data, and cloud computing to forge a China-EU digital partnership, and make joint contributions to global standards and rules in the digital domain.
Fourth, we need to deepen our international partnership, and work closer in multilateral affairs. We should further strengthen dialogue and cooperation on climate change, biodiversity and sustainable development, and work together to tackle global challenges.
We should also jointly uphold the JCPOA, promote political settlement of regional and international hotspot issues, strengthen third-party cooperation with Africa, and contribute more to a safer and more sustainable world.