See China in the Light of Her Development
Speech at the University of Cambridge
中华人民共和国国务院总理 温家宝 2009年2月2日
Wen Jiabao Premier of the State Council of the People's Republic of China, 2 February 2009
Vice Chancellor Alison Richard, Ladies and Gentlemen,
It gives me great pleasure to come to Cambridge, a world-renowned university that I have long wanted to visit. Cambridge has produced many great scientists and thinkers Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin and Francis Bacon, to name but a few, and made important contribution to the progress of human civilization. This year marks the 800th anniversary of the university. Please accept my warm congratulations.
This is my fourth visit to your country. Despite the great distance between China and Britain, the friendly exchanges between our peoples have been on the rise. The successful resolution of the question of Hong Kong and fruitful cooperation between our two countries in areas such as economy, trade, culture, education, science and technology have cemented the foundation of our comprehensive strategic partnership. Here, I wish to pay high tribute to all those who have been working tirelessly to promote friendly ties between our two countries.
The title of my speech today is "See China in the Light of Her Development".
My beloved motherland is a country both old and young.
She is old, because she is a big Oriental country with a civilization stretching back several thousand years. With diligence and wisdom, the Chinese nation created a splendid civilization and made significant contributions to the progress of humanity.
She is young, because the People's Republic is just 60 years old, and the country began reform and opening-up only 30 years ago. The Chinese people established the New China after unremitting struggles and ultimately found a development path suited to China's national conditions through painstaking efforts. This is the path of socialism with Chinese characteristics. Following this path, our ancient civilization has been rejuvenated.
The key element of China's reform and opening-up is to free people's mind and the most fundamental and significant component is institutional innovation. Through economic reform, we have built a socialist market economy, where the market plays a primary role in allocating resources under government macro-regulation. We have carried out political reform, promoted democracy and improved the legal system. People are the masters of the country. We run the country according to law and endeavor to build a socialist country under the rule of law.
The essence of China's reform and opening-up is to put people first and meet their ever growing material and cultural needs through releasing and developing productive forces. It aims to give everyone equal opportunities for all-round development. It aims to protect the democratic rights of the people and promote stability, harmony and prosperity across the land. And it aims to safeguard the dignity and freedom of everyone so that he or she may pursue happiness with ingenuity and hard work.
Over the past three decades, more than 200 million Chinese have been lifted out of poverty, the average life expectancy has increased by 5 years, and the 83 million people with disabilities in China have received special care from the government and the society. All this points to the tremendous efforts China has made to protect human rights. We have introduced free nine-year compulsory education throughout the country, established the cooperative medical system in the rural areas and improved the social safety net. The age-old dream of the Chinese nation is being turned into reality a dream to see the young educated, the sick treated and the old cared for.
I want to quote from a Tang Dynasty poem to describe what is happening in China, "From shore to shore it is wide at high tide, and before fair wind a sail is lifting." The Chinese people are working hard to modernize their country. This is a great practice in a large developing country both ancient and new. The Chinese people, with destiny in their own hands, are full of confidence in their future.
My beloved motherland is a country that stood numerous vicissitudes but never gave up.
Earlier in my career, I worked in northwest China for many years. There, in the boundless desert, grows a rare variety of tree called euphrates poplar. Rooted over 50 meters down the ground, they thrive in hostile environments, defying droughts, sandstorms and salinization. They are known as the "hero tree", because a euphrates poplar can live for a thousand years. Even after it dies, it stands upright for a thousand years, and even after it falls, it stays intact for another thousand years. I like euphrates poplar because they symbolize the resilience of the Chinese nation.
Over the millennia, the Chinese nation has weathered numerous disasters, both natural and man-made, surmounted all kinds of difficulties and challenges, and made her way to where she proudly stands today. The long sufferings have only made her a nation of fortitude and perseverance. The experience of the Chinese nation attests to a truth: what a nation loses in times of disaster will be made up for by her progress.
I am reminded of the experience that I had in Wenchuan, Sichuan Province after the devastating earthquake there last May. That earthquake shocked the whole world. It flattened Beichuan Middle School and claimed many young lives. But only 10 days after the earthquake, when I went there for the second time, I had before my eyes new classrooms built on debris by local villagers with planks. Once again, the campus echoed with the sound of students reading aloud. I wrote down 4 Chinese characters on the blackboard, meaning "A country will emerge stronger from adversities." I have been to Wenchuan seven times since the earthquake and witnessed countless touching scenes like this. I am deeply moved by the unyielding spirit of my people. This great national spirit is the source of strength which has enabled the Chinese nation to emerge from all the hardships stronger than before.
With hard work over the past half century and more, China has achieved great progress. Its total economic output is now one of the largest in the world. However, we remain a developing country and we are keenly aware of the big gap that we have with the developed countries. There has been no fundamental change in our basic national condition: a big population, weak economic foundation and uneven development. China's per capita GDP ranks behind 100 countries in the world and is only about 1/18 that of Britain. Those of you who have been to China as tourists must have seen the modern cities, but our rural areas are still quite backward.
To basically achieve modernization by the middle of this century, we must accomplish three major tasks: first, achieve industrialization, which Europe has long completed, while keeping abreast of the latest trends of the scientific and technological revolution; second, promote economic growth while ensuring social equity and justice; and third, pursue sustainable development at home while accepting our share of international responsibilities. The journey ahead will be long and arduous, but no amount of difficulty will stop the Chinese people from marching forward. Through persistent efforts, we will reach our goal.
My beloved motherland is a country that values her traditions while opening her arms to the outside world.
The traditional Chinese culture is rich, extensive and profound. Harmony, the supreme value cherished in ancient China, lies at the heart of the Chinese culture. The Book of History, an ancient classic in China for example, advocates amity among people and friendly exchanges among nations.
The Chinese cultural tradition values peace as the most precious. This has nurtured the broad mind of the Chinese nation. The Chinese nation is generous and tolerant, just as Mother Earth cares for all living things. She is in constant pursuit of justice, just as the eternal movement of the Universe.
In the 15th century, the famous Chinese navigator Zheng He led seven maritime expeditions to the Western Seas and reached over 30countries. He took with him Chinese tea, silk and porcelain and helped local people fight pirates as he sailed along. He was truly a messenger of love and friendship.
The argument that a big power is bound to seek hegemony does not apply to China. Seeking hegemony goes against China's cultural tradition as well as the will of the Chinese people. China's development harms no one and threatens no one. We shall be a peace-loving country, a country that is eager to learn from and cooperate with others. We are committed to building a harmonious world.
Different countries and nations need to respect, tolerate and learn from each other's culture. Today, 300 million Chinese are learning English and over one million of our young people are studying abroad. The cultures and arts of various parts of the world are featured daily on China's television, radio and print media. Had we not learned from others through exchanges and enriched ourselves by drawing on others' experience, we would not have enjoyed today's prosperity and progress.
In the 21st century, economic globalization and the information network have linked us all together. Different cultures live together and influence each other. No culture can flourish in isolation. How much a country or a nation contributes to the culture of humanity is increasingly determined by her ability to absorb foreign cultures and renew herself. That is why China will remain open and receptive, value her own traditions while drawing on others' successful experience, and achieve economic prosperity and social progress in a civilized and harmonious way.