A Changing China in a Changing World

Article excerpt

It gives me great pleasure to come to Munich at the beginning of the new year to attend the Munich Security Conference and exchange views with you on major issues concerning world peace and security.

Looking back at the first decade of the 2lst century, I am convinced that the enormous and profound changes the world has experienced will leave indelible imprints in the long annals of human history. And China is without doubt an important part of the changing landscape. When I read newspapers or watch television these days, I see stories about China almost every day. Many people ask: how will China, a country ever growing and developing, interact with the rest of the world? And what role will China play on the international stage? Let me therefore begin my speech with China.

We celebrated the 6Oth anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China a few months ago. In these 60 years, we have found a new development path through long and hard exploration. The past 30 years, in particular, have witnessed tremendous achievements in China, thanks to the policy of reform and opening up. China's GDP has been growing at an average annual rate of nearly 10% and 235 million people have been lifted out of poverty. China has achieved three historic transitions: from a highly centralized planned economy to a dynamic socialist market economy, from a closed or semi-closed society to a fully open one, and from a state of mutual estrangement with the rest of the world to one of dose interactions.

But on the other hand, China still faces many difficulties, and we in China arc most keenly aware of our weaknesses and challenges. China's per capita GDP has just exceeded 3,000 US dollars, ranking the lO4th in the world. Uneven development remains a prominent problem. Big cities like Beijing and Shanghai can in no way represent the whole of China, and many rural and remote areas are still very poor. One hundred and thirty-five million people are living on less than one dollar a day and 10 million have no access to electricity.

China is a developing country and it will take the strenuous efforts of several and even a dozen generations before China can truly achieve modernization. To enable the 1.3 billion people to live a comfortable life, we must focus all our time and energy on development. We will seek a peaceful international environment to develop ourselves and at the same time contribute to the cause of world peace through our own development. This is a strategy choice that China has made. It is a choice rooted in China's own interests as well as the long-term interests of the whole world.

A more developed China is an opportunity rather than a threat to the world. History is the best teacher and keeps a fair record of the paths that all countries have travelled. "Harmony without sameness" has been a much cherished value of the Chinese people since ancient times.

The argument that a strong nation is bound to seek hegemony finds no supporting case in China's history and goes against the will of the Chinese people. China today is committed to a path of peaceful development. We pursue a defence policy that is defensive in nature and a nuclear strategy solely for self-defence. We adhere to the policy of no-first-use of nuclear weapons at any time and under any circumstance, and we have made the unequivocal commitment that we will unconditionally not use or threaten to use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear-weapon states and nuclear-weapon-free zones. China's military development has a clear purpose, that is, to maintain national security and unity and ensure smooth economic and social development.

China has always maintained that all countries, big or small, strong or weak, rich or poor, arc equal members of the international community and must respect one another and treat one another with equality. China's diplomacy is guided by this principle. …