CHINA'S TODAY AND ITS RELATIONS WITH LIBERIA
--A Speech by
H.E. Mr. Zhou Yuxiao, Chinese Ambassador to Liberia
at the workshop organized by the Liberia-China Friendship Organization
on April 26, 2008
Distinguished members of the Liberia-China Friendship Organization (LICFO)
Ladies and gentlemen,
Friends from the media,
I am so happy and delighted to see so many friends of China in Liberia and it is indeed my great honor and pleasure to address and dialogue with the respected members of LICFO. I wish the event a full success. And I also wish to take this opportunity to commend the members and particularly the leadership of the LICFO for its efforts and work to promote friendship and mutual understanding between the Chinese and Liberian peoples. At the same time, I would like to assure LICFO my support in the years to come.
Dear friends and colleagues, my speech covers two aspects, namely basic information about China today and the current China-Liberia relations.
I. Basic Information about China
As you all know, China is so big and so complex. There is so much happening there and there are so many ways or angles to look at China. To make things easy for you to understand and for me to present, I am going to talk about China with 4 Ps, namely population, progress, problems and policies which, I believe, are the basics for anyone who really wishes to know about China.
Let me talk about the Chinese population first as it has enormous implications for China and for the world as well. China’s population is as big as 1.3 billion. It might never occur to most of you that it is 1.5 times as big as the total population in the whole African continent. On top of that, it is still growing at a rate of one percent every year, even with the well-implemented one-child-per-couple-policy in place. In other words, China still produces an additional population of 10 million a year, roughly an equivalent of 3 Liberian populations. You can imagine how difficult it is for China to provide such a huge population with adequate jobs, food, shelter, clothing and other social services. As Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao once said: “Any small problem multiplied by 1.3 billion will end up being a very big one, and a very big aggregate divided by 1.3 billion will come to a very tiny figure".
In this globalizing world, if anything big happens in China, it will certainly affect the people within its boundary and beyond. Even in a small country like Liberia, a UN force of 15,000 strong were initially needed to keep peace after the civil war and the seemingly large foreign aid can not meaningfully facilitate the reconstruction and development in this country. If anything bad happens in China at national scale, like famine, mismanagement or internal conflict, no foreign forces can save China. Any foreign aid will be no more than a drop of water in a sea and no UN force will be strong enough to keep peace in China. Only China can help itself. Having realized the enormous difficulties and challenges brought by its huge population, the Chinese government and people have devoted all their efforts and energy to social stability and economic development with one mind and one heart, so as to steadily improve the livelihood of the Chinese people. We have managed not to allow ourselves to be distracted from this sacred path in the last three decades.
Ladies and gentlemen,
This year is of special significance to China as it marks the 30th anniversary of China’ reform and opening-up program which was initiated by our late leader Deng Xiaoping in 1978. Now let me show you some of theprogress that has been made by China in the last 30 years. I can say with pride that earth-shaking changes have taken place in China and that China’s reform efforts and hard work has been paid off. These changes can be summarized in the following three areas: First, China has changed from a closed or semi-closed society to one that is widely open for cooperation with all countries in the world regardless their size, ideology and political system; Second, its economic management has made historic transition from a highly centralized planned economy to a robust socialist market economy; Third, people’s life has changed from dire material shortage and poverty to abundance of consumer goods and to a relatively well-to-do life in all aspects.
As a result, the Chinese economy has registered an impressive annual growth rate of 9.6% during the last 30 years. Its total economic scale has risen to the fourth largest in the world. Its GDP share in the world economy rose from 1% in 1978 to above 5% in 2007. It contributes roughly 10% of the GDP growth of the world. Its GDP per capita has reached 2,500 US dollars. People’s disposable income has increased more than 20 times. Its poverty population has reduced by 250 million. Its foreign trade volume has increase by 9,000 times. Its share of global trade jumped from less than 1% in 1978 to about 8% in 2007. China has attracted over 780 billion US dollars of foreign direct investment. What is most gratifying to notice is that China has managed to support 22% of world’s total population with only 6 and 9% of world’s water resources and arable land respectively.
In 2007, China’s growth rate jumped to 11.4% to reach 3.4 trillion US dollars. With total foreign trade volume stood at 2.17 trillion US dollars, China was the third largest trading nation in the world. It attracted 74.8 billion US dollars of foreign direct investment, only next to the United States. Its foreign exchange reserve reached 1.52 trillion US dollars. Its grain output reached 501.5 million tons.
Good progress has been made in efforts to make China more innovative and progressive in the last 30 years. Manned space flights and first moon exploration project have been successfully carried out. Free compulsory education has been made available to all rural students. Basic frameworks for a public health system and system of basic medical services both in urban and rural areas have been put in place. Progress has been made in developing democracy and the legal system and in enhancing law-based governance. Greater efforts have been made to safeguard people’s rights and interests and ensure social fairness and justice. Now, full preparations have been made to host a successful Olympic Games in Beijing in forthcoming August.
People often ask me: “What is the secret behind China’s fast development”. Well, I do not know if there is any secret. But I do know that political and social stability, reform and opening-up, strong and responsive leadership, common goal, hardworking, discipline are some of the factors that contributed to the progress and achievements in China.
What I have said above is only one side of a coin. Let me also reveal some of the crucialproblemsChina is faced with. China has not been carried away by its relatively quick development. We are fully aware that China remains a developing country faced with a lot of difficulties and challenges. A big population, low productivity, unbalanced regional development remains the basic features of China’s national conditions. China still ranks behind the 100th place in terms GDP per capita which is as little as 2,500 US dollars, so much lower than the GDP per capita in many of the African countries. More than 23 million people in China’s rural areas still live in poverty. China needs to provide jobs for close to 24 million people every year. More than 100 million surplus rural labor force needs to be transferred to other sectors. Over 60 million people with disabilities need care and assistance. Its economic structure needs to be further readjusted. Its high rate of dependence on foreign trade makes its economy vulnerable. Its huge foreign exchange reserve is yet to be opportunely managed. Its shortage of natural resources conditions its sustainable development. Its sacred national reunification cause is yet to be realized. Greater expectations are placed on China by the outside world. China has long way to go before it achieves modernization, obtains prosperity and assumes expected international responsibilities.
Now let me brief you on the major policiescurrently pursued by China. China has been doing fine for the last 30 years. But we can not afford to stop where we are. To facilitate continued progress, some important policy guide lines have been formulated and implemented by the Chinese government.
The first is to improve governance by building a harmonious society. To achieve this, the government has been emphasizing the principle of “putting people first”, which is the essence of China’s good governance. Some practical policy measures have also been worked out, namely to maintain a rapid, coordinated and healthy economic development; to expand socialist democracy; to rule the country by law; to fight against corruption, to strengthen moral and ethics building; to safeguard social equity and justice; to enhance creativity and innovation; to correctly handle the internal conflicts of interests among the people and strike a better balance between stability, reform and development.
The second is to take a scientific approach to development. Quick development in the past has also caused some social and economic dislocations and problems which may, if not addressed properly, hinder China’s future development. Therefore, scientific development approach is called for. This new concept is very rich in content. The “five balances” that have been pursued by the Chinese government partially reflect the concept. The five balances are balanced development between urban and rural areas; between different regions; between economy and society; between man and nature and between domestic development and opening wider to the outside world, This means that China will endeavor to build a new socialist countryside by giving top priority to rural and agricultural development, change the pattern of economic growth by emphasizing quality rather than quantity, build a resource-conserving and environment-friendly society, strengthen capacity for independent innovation, expand domestic market, reduce export and make more overseas investments and etc.
The third is to pursue peaceful development. In essence, it means that China seeks to develop itself by working to sustain a peaceful international environment and promotes world peace through its own development. China mainly relies on its own strength, reform and innovation to achieve development. At the same time, it remains open to the outside world. China conducts exchanges and cooperation with other countries on the basis of equality and mutual benefit in order to achieve win-win outcome and common development. China believes that peaceful development is the only way leading to the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation. China respects the right of other people to independently choose their development path. It does not interfere in other countries’ internal affairs, nor does it try to impose its own will on others. China stands ready to resolve any problems arising from its interactions with others through consultations. China follows a defense policy that is defensive in nature. China will never seek hegemony or expansion even if it’s developed. In one word, China is committed to build a harmonious world. China’s pursuit of the path of peaceful development is determined by China’s history and cultural traditions, by China’s need for development and by the global trends.
In fact, these policies are a continuation and advancement of the past 30 years of reform and opening up. They constitute not only a national development strategy adopted by the Chinese government, but also a reflection of the mainstream cultural thoughts and values in the Chinese society today.
II. China-Liberia Relations
Dear friends, standing in front of so many high calibred personages who are dedicated to bilateral friendship, I feel duty bound to report to you on what China has been doing in promoting bilateral ties. With the join efforts made by both sides, the China-Liberia relations have grown rapidly since the resumption of diplomatic ties in 2003. Satisfactory progress has been witnessed in our bilateral cooperation in the political, economic, agricultural, health, educational and military fields.
In the political field, leaders from both sides have attached great importance to our bilateral relations. We have supported each other on issues that are vital to our national interests. The transitional and the current Liberian government has firmly committed itself to one China policy since 2003. The immediate past and current Legislature each passed a resolution reaffirming its one China stance. What I wish to mention in particular is that the LICFO has organized many activities and issued many statements supporting China’s position on various issues. All those are highly appreciated by the Chinese government and people. Likewise, the Chinese government has firmly supported Liberia on matters of strategic significance to Liberia, such as deployment and prolonged stay of UN peace-keeping forces in Liberia, cancellation of its huge external debts and assistance to its national reconstruction.
The regular high-level visits have played a very positive role in promoting friendship, mutual understanding and political trust between our two countries. The visit to China by President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf in November 2006 and the return visit to Liberia in February 2007 did not only resulted in the signing of many documents on bilateral cooperation, but also set the guidelines for a new type of strategic partnership between our two countries. I am proud to say that China was the first big country to send its President to visit Liberia at time when others believed that it was not safe to do so. China is also the first country to build its new Embassy in Monrovia. These moves are clear indications of China’s trust and confidence in Liberia and China’s sincerity to engage Liberia as an equal partner.
Although China is a developing country itself, it has tried its best to provide some humble assistance to Liberia in recent years. The major China-aided projects are spread across the sections.
In the economic field, China has taken the lead to write off Liberia’s bilateral debt to China. It supported Liberia’s debt relief at IMF by agreeing to allow its share of funds held in the IMF’s First Special Contingency Account and Deferred Charges Account to be used for Liberia’s arrears clearance. China has granted the privilege of duty-free importation of Liberia originated goods of more than 440 items. This preferential arrangement which came into force on July 1, 2007 is yet to be fully taped by the Liberian side. China rebuilt the SKD stadium and partially rehabilitated the office building of the Ministry of Foreign affairs. 6 LBS FM radio stations and transmission towers are currently being built or rebuilt with grant from China. When completed next year, the FM programs broadcasted from Monrovia will be heard by the people almost all over the country. By then, people in Liberia will also be able to listen to FM programs broadcasted by China Radio International. You must have all noticed that Chico (China Henan International Corporation) has ben doing the road rehabilitation in Monrovia which is funded by the World Bank. Although this is not a China aided project, it reflects the fact that Chinese companies are responsive to the urgent need of the Liberian people. The benefit and convenience brought by Chico’s work is self explanatory.
In the health field, China has sent a 9-member medical team to JFK Medical Center to provide medical services to the Liberian people for the last three years and a dormitory building has been built for the team. It means that this aid program will continue in the future. China also set up a Malaria Prevention and Treatment Centre in JFK and training of local doctors and lab technicians is now being carried out by 4 Chinese experts. The trainees will be able to treat malarial patients with medicines from China. It provided Liberia with medicines on number occasions as emergent measures in past few years. China is also to build a hospital with 100 beds and modern equipment in Tappita and it could be the best hospital in Liberia when completed next year.
In the agricultural field, China donated farming tools to Liberian farmers after the war. There are 5 Chinese agricultural experts in BWI doing teaching and training. They have been here for three years. We are to build an Agricultural Technology Demonstration Centre in CARI, Gbarnga County. When completed next year, large number of farmers can be trained there on crop growing with emphasis on hybrid-rice cultivation. With a view to improve food security in Liberia, the Center will be encouraged to engage in large scale commercial farming. Yesterday, I got a letter from the Agricultural Minister requesting for a special tailored training course to be held in China for 14 agro technicians for a period of 4 months. We are working on that as a matter of urgency.
In the education and training fields, we are now building the Fendall Campus in the University of Liberia with a cost of a little more than 20 million US dollars. We are going to renovate three Laboratories for civil engineering, soil testing and computer science in University of Liberia. In addition, we are to build three high schools, two in Montserrado County and one in Bomi County. There are 5 bamboo and rattan weaving Chinese artisans here in Liberia. They are teaching the unemployed young people on how to make bamboo and rattan products with readily available resources in their backyard. We have invited about 500 Liberians to be trained in various disciplines on short term basis in China in the last few years. 53 Liberian students are now studying at Chinese universities under full scholarship from the Chinese government. Another 21 scholarship students are going to China to pursue their university studies in August.
In the military field, there are 558 Chinese peacekeepers in Liberia providing transport, engineering and medical services under the blue helmets. In addition to that, there are 10 Chinese peace-keeping policemen here in Monrovia and some other cities. This is the largest peace-keeping contingent China has ever sent to UN peace-keeping operations in the world. It clearly demonstrates the importance the Chinese government attaches to the peace and stability in Liberia. To facilitate the accommodation of the newly trained Liberian armed forces, China is currently building an army barracks in Gbarnga, Bong County, which can house 700 soldiers. Over the past few years, China has also provided some equipment and military training for the Liberian army and security force.
All these aid projects have been given serious attention and strong support by the Liberian government, which facilitates their smooth implementation and progress. We are very grateful for all that.
As you can see from my above introduction, China-Liberian relations are characterized by political equality, mutual trust and win-win and people-oriented cooperation. In this globalizing and interdependent world, no country can survive and develop in isolation. China needs Liberia as much as Liberia needs China. Both sides have benefited from this good relationship. China is satisfied with this relationship and I am confident that the Liberia side feels the same. Facts have proven that the choice made by the Liberian government to normalize and develop its ties with China, a Permanent Member of the Security Council of the UN, is strategically correct and wise. We should continue to cherish and nurture this important relationship which did not come easily.
If you listened carefully, you would have noticed that much of our bilateral economic activities are centering on aid projects. I call it “walking on one leg”. It can be regarded as a normal scenario in the wake of a civil war, but it should not last too long. Foreign aid can help a country to tide over a difficulty, but can not help a country to get prosperous and modernized, as foreign aid can only come in millions. But foreign investment can come in billions if investment climate is favorable. It can facilitate an economic take off for a country according to the Chinese experience. The 780 billion US dollars of foreign direct investment in China in the last 30 years has played a major role in China’s quick economic development. This convinces me that we should “walk on two legs” in developing our bilateral economic relations, so that we can walk faster and steadier or even run. That is to say, while continuing to try my best to slice a piece as large as possible from the cake of Chinese official development aid for Liberia, I shall do my utmost to encourage Chinese investment in Liberia. To put it in my predecessor’s words, fish-giving and fishnet-knitting should be equally emphasized.
As you may know, on November 4, 2006, at the Beijing Summit of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation, Chinese President Hu Jintao announced the eight policy measures to forge a new type of China-Africa strategic partnership. According to the third measure, a China-Africa Development Fund was set up in June 2007 to encourage and support Chinese enterprises to invest in Africa. Its asset will eventually reach 5 billion US dollars from its initial fund of 1 billion US dollars.
I was so pleased, inspired and encouraged to hear the excellent speech at the above-mentioned Summit, in which President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf said: “Although destroyed and weakened by years of conflict, Liberia does not come to the table seeking a handout. We do not ask for assistance based on humanitarian grounds. We bring to the table the potential for substantial returns in the exploration of our natural resources. We bring to the table a desire for strategic partnership based upon mutuality in interest and benefits.”
It was in response to her convincing call that a delegation from the China-African Development Fund came to visit Liberia from April 19th to 23rd, 2008 to assess the investment environment. It seriously explored possibilities of making investment in agriculture, hydro power, mining, special economic zone and etc which are the prioritized areas in Liberia’s post conflict reconstruction. It is expected that the visit will represent a milestone in our bilateral economic relations and that more and more Chinese entrepreneurs will come to invest in Liberia.
I have noticed with great joy that Liberia has made visible and tangible progress in the past few years. Peace has taken its roots. National reconciliation is being realized. Economic reconstruction is gaining momentum. Roads are being built or rehabilitated. Liberia's huge external debt is being cancelled. The streets are brighter in the evening and more and more cars are on the move. People's life is being improved gradually. Liberia is very rich in natural resources. Its people cherish peace and development more than anyone else. I am fully convinced that the Liberian government and people under the leadership of President Sirleaf will achieve their set objectives of national rejuvenation by overcoming all difficulties on their way forward.
At the same time, I also know fully well that it is by no means an easy task to rebuild the texture of a society that is devastated by war. It is definitely an uphill journey. As an English saying goes, “A friend in need is a friend indeed”. China will continue to give its affordable assistance and unreservedly share with the Liberian side its experiences in maintaining social stability, carrying out reform, developing agriculture, expanding industry, setting up special economic zone, fostering entrepreneurial spirit and etc.
As the Chinese Ambassador to Liberia, I wish to tell you loudly that I regard it as my paramount duty to work closely together with all of you who are devoted to Liberia-China friendship to bring our strategic partnership and mutually beneficial cooperation to a higher level during my tenure of duty in this promising nation.
Thank you for attention and patience and I am ready to answer your questions.