Explaining and integrating China in the world

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1 Explaining and integrating China in the world On January 11, 2009, Ambassador WU Jianmin was invited to be guest of honour at the online "Special column on the China-Europa Forum - China Live Broadcasting Room". The dialogue took place on the website Oeeee.com with some of the site s 30,000 readers. Extracts: Mr. Wu Jianmin, Deputy Director of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the CPPCC, former President of the China Foreign Affairs University and President of Honour of the International Bureau of Exhibitions, is one of the founders of the China-Europa Forum. He was translator for Mao Zedong, Zhou Enlai and Chen Yi, and previously served as Ambassador to the Netherlands, Switzerland and France. He is one of the most prominent diplomats in China. Two historical stages: War of independence, reform and opening-up Two themes: Struggle against aggression, peaceful development Wu Jianmin: The Oeeee website has drawn on an excellent theme: "explaining China to the world and integrating China in the world ". Looking back at the last century, relations between China and the rest of the world have changed radically since the Opium War. In the words of President Hu Jintao, historical changes have taken place in relations between China and the rest of the world. We used to be rebels in the eyes of the rest of the world. The West oppressed us, something which we struggled to resist. Today China is independent and the Chinese people have risen. 1

2 What has changed in the relationship between China and the rest of the world? In the 20 th century the world was in a state of war for a long period of time. Chinese people rose up in revolutions. People of the world rose up in revolutions. All over the world war broke out. Two world wars in particular brought great suffering to mankind. This era has now largely passed. Since the 1970s and 1980s the world has moved into a new era. The first person who brought changes to China was Deng Xiaoping. When receiving foreign visitors in the early 1980s he exclaimed that the world was dealing with two major issues: peace and development, both of which had come to replace war and revolution. Opening up and maintaining peace with the world have become China's vital foreign policies. Based on the opening-up policy, China now manages to achieve modernisation. Because China has opened up to the world, foreign investment and management expertise have been brought in. Foreign investors have entered China and Chinese have gone abroad. We have achieved mutual benefits and created a win-win situation. Why should we explain China to the world? Because China has been on the rise. In the past it made tremendous contributions to mankind but then lagged behind. In 1820 China s GDP was one third of global GDP. However, in the start of the opening-up policy - China s GDP was only 1% in a free-falling decline. Today China s GDP has climbed to 6% globally based on peaceful development. Three phrases to summarise China's foreign relations Web reader: What do you think about China's foreign policy in this new era? Wu Jianmin: I think that China's foreign relations in this new era have changed greatly. Looking back at the last three decades I would summarise the changes in three phrases: first, great changes in situation; second, extensive adjustment in policies; third, significant development in foreign relations. 1. Great changes in situation: In the past we used to be rebels. Now we are collaborators, engaged in the world order. The world order needs reform, in which we shall participate. 2. Extensive adjustment in policies: Which can be understood from three different angles. First, our earlier strategic target has changed from mere survival as a sovereign republic to peaceful development. Second, the dominant theme has changed. We now advocate seeking common ground while shelving differences. We should find common interests and maximise mutual benefits. Third, struggle has turned into peace. We should move from battle to cooperation. 3. Significant development in foreign relations: Since October 25, 1971, all of the legitimate rights of the People's Republic of China have been restored in the United Nations, adding to China s establishment of diplomatic relations with more than 170 countries. 2

3 The path of development of China comes upon thorny problems; it needs the understanding of the world We should not underestimate the difficulties that China has encountered over time. Why do I say that? First of all, when judging China people are used to comparing it with large countries in a phase when they are on the rise. Over history, large Western countries in this phase interfered with other countries and benefited at the expense of others. Unavoidably people cast doubts on China's rise because very few people in the world really understand China. Second, people regard China as a stereotype of the former Soviet Union. Scholars from the USA, Europe and Japan claimed that as soon as the Soviet Union gained prominence it started to invade and expand. The former Soviet Union developed under the leadership of the Communist Party. So does China. Why then wouldn t a strong China become aggressive and invasive? In the process of its rise, the former Soviet Union sought hegemony and hence damaged the reputation of the Communist Party. Third, China, with a population of 1.3 billion people, has been on a rise which is unprecedented in the history of humanity, Such a rise inevitably has repercussions for the current state of interests of various countries and there would certainly be an impact. All three reasons above show that China's rise will take place on a thorny path. Moving ever forward we will meet a great many difficulties and so will encounter a lot of misunderstanding, prejudice and fallacy, which can hardly be dissipated over a short period of time. For instance, the "China threat" theory is a common view shared by the West and other countries. I feel that this fallacy is destined to continue to accompany China's rise. Channels of explaining China to the world: government officials, enterprises and citizens Under such circumstances it is of great importance to explain China to the world and make it clear that China will always be determined to uphold two strategic principles: peaceful development and opening-up based on mutual benefits and common interests. I believe that in this process of explaining, leaders from the government can play a key role. Yet it is not enough. I think that all leaders from local governments are able to explain China to the world in their development of foreign relations. Second, mass organisations and businesses can also play a useful role. Comprehension of a country is often not abstract but founded on concrete observation. People would gain good comprehension of a country from observing the behaviour of a company or administrative group. They would listen to what these say and observe how they act. If the latter also present their interests based on mutual benefits and interests, people would start to believe that China 3

4 as a nation acts according to what it says. The chances of misunderstanding and prejudice would be greatly diminished. In the process of explaining China to the world, citizens can play a very significant role. Western culture has held a dominant position in the world for a long time. Westerners have gradually come to criticise others from their own stance of righteousness, leading to groundless accusations against China. This phenomenon will continue to appear. China has been on the rise, which creates uneasiness. China s behaviour is of essential importance in this process. When I explained China to the world, I kept to the facts. People can come to China to have a look with their own eyes: tremendous progress has been made. However, we still face a lot of difficulties, just as all countries have their own problems. They understand you better when you explain the truth of the facts and see that you are trustworthy. We must be rational. I have the impression that some web readers easily let themselves be overcome by their emotions. Young people often react impulsively and behave assertively. I hope that they can guide their behaviour little by little according to reason and act more rationally. Resolve discrepancies between China and France, China and Europe by way of dialogue Web reader: Nicolas Sarkozy wants to meet the Dalai Lama. China took a hard line in showing Europe its determination to safeguard state sovereignty. What do you think about Sino-French relations? Wu Jianmin: 27 January will be the 45 th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the People's Republic of China and France. The France of President Charles De Gaulle was the first large Western country to establish relations with China. Sino-French relations have since made great progress. When the two countries set up the relationship in 1964 neither could foresee such development. Cooperation between both countries in the areas of politics, the economy, science and education has made great strides. At present some friction appears in Sino-French relations. President Sarkozy wanted to meet the Dalai Lama. I don t know why President Sarkozy made such an announcement only three weeks before the China-Europe Summit. Inevitably it provoked anger from the Chinese people. Relations between two countries and among people require mutual respect. We Chinese people were victims of oppression by others. We treasure sovereignty a great deal. President Sarkozy s decision has been highly offensive to the Chinese people. More than 100,000 web readers have expressed their anger and disapproval of his decision. Under such circumstances it is difficult to hold the China-Europe Summit as scheduled. Sino-French relations were afflicted to a certain extent. Yet I am not pessimistic about the future of the Sino-French relations. To judge relations between two countries we need to consider both their common interests and divergences as to discover any fundamental conflicts. 4

5 First of all, the common interests of China and France can be further exploited. The two economies are strongly complementary. Second, both have a lot in common in cultural appreciation. The Chinese people very much like French culture, which represents the West. French people also love Chinese culture. Third, with regard to international politics both countries have reacted strongly against unilateralism and supported multilateralism since the end of the Cold War. There is no fundamental conflict between China and France or between China and Europe. As both parties keep to different phases of development and differences in culture, tradition and history, divergences are unavoidable. Divergences do exist now and will continue to exist in the future. These divergences will be resolved through dialogue on the basis of equality. Web readers: China has put off the China-Europe Summit. What impact will this have on the China-Europe relationship? Wu Jianmin: The summit has been postponed, not cancelled. Through dialogue between the two parties the Summit will take place at an appropriate time. First, Europe is still very important on the diplomatic chess-board of China and there is a great potential for development in China-European relations. Development will be take place on the basis of equality and mutual respect involving respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity. Second, both need to attach great importance to more vital matters, such as the current economic and financial crisis which has affected Europe and China. It is vital for both to unite in coping with this major crisis rather than being disturbed by other matters. Third, the search for the right solution is required when divergences appear. How to enhance understanding between Chinese and European societies Web reader: You are expert on world affairs. How do you explain the world to China? How do you play the role of world citizen by having only one Chinese identity in the society-to-society dialogue of the China-Europa Forum for enhancing dialogue and promoting exchange of knowledge and experience? As one of the core founders of the China-Europa Forum, how do you look at the role the Forum plays in the development of Sino-European relations? Wu Jianmin: I have been involved in diplomatic affairs for a long time. By observing the world and China, I note that China's development could not have been successful without the world, and without China the world cannot maintain stability or obtain prosperity. Consequently, when we consider existing problems we must have a world vision not only the vision of China. In the process of global change both parties need to reinforce their relationships. In particular, in this time of financial and economical crisis, Sino-European relations need to move forward. China-Europa Forum: A much needed way to enhance dialogue between Chinese and European societies Wu Jianmin: The world has been changing, a change without precedent in hundreds of years. The centre of the world has been shifting from the Atlantic to the Pacific region as a result of 5

6 Asia's rise. In this process, Europe's central position over several centuries has been shifting away. At this time it is very important to deal properly with relations between China and Europe. In this context some European personalities, including former French Prime Minister Michel Rocard and Mr Georges Berthoin, one of the "founding fathers of Europe", contacted me to discuss about how Sino-European relations should evolve. We all noted that the most important point of good relationships is based on good mutual comprehension. There is no doubt that good understanding among governments and leaders is important. So is understanding and good communication between the citizens and academics of different societies of utmost importance. This is why when they decided to create the China-Europa Forum and the dialogue I accepted it. I believe that the China-Europa Forum can contribute to reinforcing mutual comprehension, because China and Europe will not be able to exploit the full potential of their cooperation without mutual comprehension being deepened and reinforced. 6

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