The ICAS Lectures


China's Role for World Peace and Prosperity:
Challenges and Outlook

Ruan Zongze

ICAS Winter Symposium
Humanity, Peace and Security
February 13, 2008 1:00 PM -- 5:30 PM
United States House of Representatives Rayburn Office Building Room B 318
Capitol Hill, Washington DC 20515

Institute for Corean-American Studies, Inc.

965 Clover Court, Blue Bell, PA 19422


Biographic Sketch & Links: Ruan Zongze

China's Role for World Peace and Prosperity:
Challenges and Outlook

Dr. Ruan Zongze
Minister Counselor, Embassy of PRC in the USA

It is truly my great honor to be invited to speak here at this ICAS Winter Symposium. I am asked to make a presentation on China's role for world peace and prosperity. I deeply appreciate your interest and fairly generous time allocated for me.

It is a special date today. The organizer of this Symposium, I suppose, particularly chose February 13 to highlight ICAS's long term interest in one of the most important issues concerning the peace and stability in the Northeast Asia. Exactly one year ago today the six-party talk which involves China, DPRK, US, ROK, Japan and Russia, reached an important historic agreement. The February 2007 agreement, under which DPRK would shut down its main reactor at Yongbyon in return for aid and US removal of DPRK from its list of state sponsors of terrorism, was a breakthrough, thanks to the flexibility and sensible strategic judgment demonstrated by the parties concerned. One year later, we are now again at a new critical time to make fresh efforts to realize a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula.

Ever since the nuclear crisis on the Korea Peninsula broke out in 2002, China has been working hard along with several other countries to address the issue by diplomatic means. Beijing has been the venue for several round of six-party talk. The multilateral talks, though ups and downs, are widely recognized as the right approach. China's active involvement with the talks in the past couple of years is a testimony of its role for world peace and prosperity. Among other things, 2008, the Year of the Rat--symbol of prosperity, is of particular significance for China. It marks the 30th anniversary of China's reform and opening up. Beijing will host the 29th Summer Olympic Games starting on August 8 and the Paralympics on September 6. All this will certainly put China in the spotlight of the world. Understandably, the rest of the world has held its breath to see which way China goes. There are numerous discussions about China's economic, political, social and military development, along with analysis and debates about the implications for its neighbors, for the United States as well as for the world. In addition, there are some concerns about the challenges China faces in social and economic life like the rich-poor gap, inflation etc.How does China insert itself into the World? What are the changes concerning China's relations with the rest of the world? What is the driving force behind China's foreign policy? What are the future orientation and challenges? My modest effort here is to offer some of my observations for these critical questions.

1. What are the changes?

"Historic changes have occurred in the relations between contemporary China and the rest of the world, resulting in ever closer interconnection between China's future and destiny and those of the world," according to Hu Jintao's report at 17th Party Congress in October 2007. It clearly stated that the changing nature of the international environment we face-end of Cold war, the diffusion of power, globalization- all make the present world rather different from the one we used to familiarize with. 30 years is neither long nor short, but it speaks volumes for China rapid and fundamental transformation. Three decades has transformed the most populous nation into the globe's third-largest economy. At the end of 1978, the Third Plenary Session of the 11th CPC Central Committee was held in Beijing, starting an era of reform and opening up. The session adopted the policy of reform and opening up and shifted the work of the party and state from "class struggle" to economic modernization. Since the late 1970s, China has scored brilliant achievements in its economy and society that have attracted worldwide attention, successfully blazed the trail of socialism with Chinese characteristics, and made significant contributions to world development and prosperity. The diver for China's modernization is to improve people's livelihood. China is the largest developing country in the world, and developing its economy and eliminating poverty will, for a long time to come, remain the central tasks for the Chinese government and the Chinese people. Never before has China been so closely bound up with the rest of the world as it is today. The Chinese government works to advance both the fundamental interests of the Chinese people and the common interests of the peoples of the rest of the world. China's blueprint for 2020 is to ensure the realization of the goal of building a moderately prosperous society in an all-round way. Today Chins is in new phase of world integration. It is true that China cannot develop in isolation from the rest of the world, nor can the world enjoy prosperity and stability without China. The Chinese people will continue to work tirelessly with the people of other countries to bring about a better future for humanity.

2. Scientific outlook of development

Scientific outlook of development (SOD) involves some fundamental elements. First, the development should be reconfigured to put people first. To do so, we should pursue development in the basic interests of the people. We should satisfying the ever-growing material and cultural demands of the people, guarantee the people's economic, political and cultural rights and interests. Second, it needs to change the focus from economic growth to economic development. Economic growth stresses the quantity of economic output, while economic development focuses more on the improvement of structures and other matters of quality. To put it simply, now it is the time to shift from merely pushing up GDP to optimizing the economic structure, increasing efficiency and improve social welfare. Third, it requires China to create an innovative and sustainable development pattern. China is a country with a large population and at a relatively low level of development, and its economic development has long been constrained by the scarcity of per capita resources and it will continue to be so for a long time. However, there is a strong demand for enhancing the country's capacity for independent innovation. Guided by the SOD, Beijing is accelerating its development of a modern energy industry, taking resource conservation and environmental protection as two basic state policies, giving prominence to building a resource-conserving and environment-friendly society in the course of its industrialization and modernization, striving to enhance its capability for sustainable development and making China an innovative country. Though China's energy consumption is growing rapidly, its per-capita energy consumption level is still fairly low -- only about three-fourths of the world's average. The figures for China's per-capita oil consumption and imports account for only one half and one quarter of the world's average, respectively, far below the level of the developed countries. However, the Outline of the 11th Five-Year Program( 2006-2010) for National Economic and Social Development of China projects that the per-unit GDP energy consumption by 2010 will have decreased by 20 percent compared to 2005, and the total amount of major pollutants discharged will have been reduced by 10 percent. Climate change is a major global issue of common concern to the international community. As noted by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the largest share of historical and current global emissions of greenhouse gases has originated from developed countries, while per capita emissions in developing countries are relatively low and the share of global emissions originating from developing countries will grow to meet their social and development needs. According to the UNFCCC, the Parties to the Convention shall protect the climate system on the basis of equity and in accordance with their common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities, and accordingly, the developed country Parties shall take the lead in combating climate change. China attaches great importance to climate change. The strategic goal of China to respond to climate change is to
  • make significant achievements in controlling greenhouse gas emissions,
  • enhance the capability of continuous adaptation to climate change,
  • promote climate change related science, technology and R&D to a new level,
  • raise public awareness,
  • further strengthen the institutions and mechanisms.
Yet, China faces challenges such as capacity building, which needs for technology transfer and international cooperation and also raising public awareness.

3. Harmonious world

Committed to peace, development and cooperation, China pursues a road of peaceful development, and endeavors to build, together with other countries, a harmonious world of enduring peace and common prosperity. The concept of a "harmonious world" was put forward by Chinese president Hu Jintao at the UN's 60th anniversary summit in 2005. Hu said: "Multilateralism, mutually beneficial cooperation and the spirit of inclusiveness should be upheld to realize common security, prosperity, and to build a world where all civilizations coexist harmoniously and accommodate each other." President Hu pointed out that the inevitability that China would develop peacefully was based on its national circumstances, historical and cultural tradition and world development trends.

At the end of 2005, the Chinese government for the first time issued a white paper on peaceful development. "Harmony" was described as the building of a peaceful and prosperous world as the ultimate goal of China's development.

During a national meeting on foreign affairs in August 2006, the government vowed to create a sound international environment and favorable external conditions for the country's development and to contribute to the construction of a harmonious world.

There is a long philosophical tradition in this vision. Thousands of years ago, Chinese carved the character "He", which means harmony and peace, on tortoise shells, and philosopher Confucius (551 B.C. to 479 B.C.) expounded the philosophical concept of "harmony without uniformity", meaning a world is full of differences and contradictions, but the righteous man should balance them and achieve harmony.

Harmony is a reflection of the Chinese people's ethical principles and a basic element of China's modern diplomacy. China unswervingly pursues an independent foreign policy of peace, advocates handling international affairs in light of the fundamental interests of the Chinese and other people of the world, and refrains from forming alliances with any big power or any group of countries. China holds that conflicts and disputes among countries should be solved in a peaceful way through consultation.

China's aspiration for harmonious ties with others is demonstrated in its substantial engagement in world affairs and conflict resolution. The country has actively participated in United Nations peacekeeping operations. At present, about 1,600 Chinese personnel are serving in ten countries, including Sudan, Lebanon, and Liberia. China has indeed become a global partner to address many issues from international hot spots such as nuclear issue on the Korean Peninsula to Darfur, also to fight against global warming and environment protection. To boost the development of African nations, China adopted a series of measures and will provide aid initiatives worth more than10 billion U.S. dollars over the next three years. Also, China offered aid and funds to countries hit by natural disasters. China's commitment to a wider array of multilateral institutions is actually an essential instrument to integrate China into the world system. The transformation in Chinese strategic thinking that took place after the reform and opening up is an manifestation that China can best pursue its interest with a functioning international system that facilitates cooperation of world politics. There is a belief that international institutions and multilateralism can help create a sense of security and win-win growth. In part China's national interests have unprecedented integrated into the world of globalization. In recent years, China not only attended the 8+5 dialogues, but also hosted Beijing summit of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization summits as well as China-ASEAN Summit. To put it more specifically, China is committed to developing friendship and cooperation with all other countries on the basis of the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence. For developed countries, we will continue to strengthen strategic dialogue, enhance mutual trust, deepen cooperation and properly manage differences to promote long-term, stable and sound development of bilateral relations. China's relationship status with the United States has upgraded from "stakeholder" to "constructive cooperator" as the two nations face common interests and challenges. China-Russia strategic cooperation relations has been ushered into a new level, and China and EU established all-around partnership relations

For our neighboring countries, we will continue to follow the foreign policy of friendship and partnership, strengthen good-neighborly relations and practical cooperation with them, and energetically engage in regional cooperation in order to jointly create a peaceful, stable regional environment featuring equality, mutual trust and win-win cooperation. China has signed boundary treaties or agreements with most of its neighbors.

After five years of deadlock, relations between China and Japan have finally begun to thaw. The two sides rejuvenated Sino-Japanese partnership by pledging to establish mutual beneficial strategic relations in the new era. Chinese President Hu Jintao will visit Japan this spring, which will be the first visit by a Chinese President to Japan in a decade. After all, both China and Japan are vital source of maintaining peace and prosperity of Asia.

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's visit to Beijing in the middle of January 2008 is another step in boosting Sino-Indian Strategic and Cooperative Partnership. During Singh's visit, the two sides agreed to increase bilateral trade from $40 billion by the year 2010 to $60 billion. China is now India's second largest trading partner. China and India share more and more common interests in advancing social and economic development.

For other developing countries, we will continue to increase solidarity and cooperation with them, cement traditional friendship, expand practical cooperation, provide assistance to them within our ability, and uphold the legitimate demands and common interests of developing countries.

4. Conclusion

It has been recognized that the world war is remote since the collapse of the Cold war. The international balance of power is changing in favor of the maintenance of world peace. Pursuit of peace, development and cooperation has become an irresistible trend of the times. But the last decade or so has remained us this world is far from tranquil. Terrorist attack, extremist threat, local conflicts and hotspot issues keep emerging, the North-South gap is widening and traditional and nontraditional threats to security are intertwined, the roller coaster of financial market, global warming, nuclear proliferation etc made it self-evident. All this poses difficulties and challenges to world peace and development.

I am not a prognosticator, but there are reasons to believe that harmony, the ancient Chinese philosophical concept reflected in modern diplomacy, will guide China to achieve stability and prosperity and play a positive role in shaping a new international political and economic order. China will continue to take an active part in multilateral affairs, assume its due international obligations, play a constructive role, and contribute to the world's peace and prosperity.

Above all, China's development and achievement is a tremendous inspiration for the world.

Thank you very much.

This page last updated 2/20/2008 jdb

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