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China's Place in the World
Consul General Jin Zhijian’s speech at the U3A Course, Dunedin, 1 March, 2016


Mr Paul Fawcett,

Ladies and gentlemen

Good morning

The topic I’m going to talk about today is “China’s place in the world”. This is a broad topic with an array of contents to talk about. So I would take a shortcut to share my views on five areas with you today: Philosophy, foreign affairs, economy, military and governance.

First, Confucianism has extensive and far-reaching influences in the world. The founder of Confucianism was Confucius, who lived at the end of the war-torn Spring and Autumn period (770-476 B.C.). The contents of Confucianism are profound, and it focuses on “ren”, “yi”, “li”, “zhi”, “xin” and other morals.

“Ren” - the quality of benevolence, advocates for rulers to show sympathy towards the needs of people and be against tyranny. Confucius believed in order to achieve benevolent love, one had to follow faithfulness and forgiveness and the requirement of not to do unto others what you do not want others do unto you.

“Yi” - the act of justice is the responsibility of all human beings. One needs to deal reasonably of the interests between people. For Confucius, justice is a right or wrong standard and a guideline for dealing with interpersonal relationships.

“Li” - Propriety was the norm in ancient societies, and the collective term for rules and rituals, both an external form and an inner guide. Confucius believed that the fundamental moral values were propriety, thus he focused more on the inner guidance of “Li”.

“Zhi” - wisdom. When Confucius spoke about wisdom, he always revolved it around the quality of benevolence as the core. Confucius would not talk about any wisdom in contrary to benevolence,

“Xin” - integrity. In Confucius’ opinion, a person who lost faith would not have a foothold in society, let alone to be considered a real man. Integrity is not only a moral principle, it is also regarded as a path leading to wealth, a road leading to friendship and a way leading to good governance.

In the past 2000 years, Confucianism has been accepted by almost every dynasty in Chinese history, and has integrated deeply into all aspects of life in the Chinese society. And it has become the most important philosophical system for Southeast Asian countries and Chinese people across the world.

I would like to point out that benevolence, righteousness, propriety, wisdom and integrity are all requirements to one self, it can also be understood as a reflection of altruism. The late Singapore prime minister Lee Kuan Yew believed that the collectivism over the individualism is an integral part of the long and rich history of Confucianism. We are all closely intertwined and we are increasingly becoming a community of common destiny. This is an important concept in traditional Chinese culture and a powerful guarantee for China and the world to develop in a peaceful environment. This is to be further reflected in China’s foreign policy which I will talk about next.

Secondly, China’s diplomacy plays a unique role in the world.

As early as the Tang Dynasty, more than 70 countries exchanged envoys and established friendly relations with it. The capital city of Chang’an was gathered with envoys, traders and students from various countries. Zheng He, the famous navigator of Ming Dynasty, led seven maritime expeditions to the Western oceans and even arrived Kenya. Zheng He did not press any territorial claims, instead he brought gifts and invited the locals to visit China. But since then, China began its closed-door policy until the doors were blast open by gun ships from Western countries.

Since the founding of the new China, China has comprehensively promoted its independent and peaceful foreign policy, its international influence growing day by day. In 1950s, China proposed the five principles of peaceful coexistence. President Xi Jinping recently proposed to build new international relations based on win-win cooperation as the core concept, and the construction of “community of common destiny”. These ideas responded to China’s proposition to build what sort of state relations and China’s pursuit to construct what kind of world, carrying China’s sublime ideas and relentless pursuit to create a beautiful world - which makes me think back to Confucianism. China’s foreign policy profoundly embodies the spirit of benevolence, righteousness, propriety, wisdom and integrity.

Looking back at 2015, China has acted as a responsible major power. China played an important leading role by working closely with the United States and other countries to achieve important results at the Paris Climate Conference. China is deeply involved in the Iranian nuclear negotiations, thus making it possible to reach a comprehensive agreement. China worked hard to mediate domestic reconciliation in South Sudan, which was broadly welcomed. China raised the proposal on achieving political settlement of the Syrian issue and joined relevant international mediation in an objective and balanced way. Together with Pakistan and with US participation, China have brought the Afghanistan government and Taliban to peace talks, thus ushering Afghan peace process into a new stage.

Here I would like to briefly talk about China-US relations. China is an emerging power, but its rise is different from that of any other big powers. As China becomes the world’s second largest economy, many continue to render to the Thucydides Trap, believing that an emerging power is bound to challenge an established power. Hence war is inevitable. This is the doom scenario of power politics. Some even use the Anglo-German relations before World War 1 to describe the current China-US relations, believing there will be a war. History is not science, the so called ‘iron law’ does not exist. The purpose of recording history is to warn later generations from repeating previous mistakes. China and the United States agreed to build a new model of major-country relationship with “No conflict or confrontation” as the prerequisite, “Mutual respect” as the basic principle and “Win-win cooperation” as the only way to turn the vision into a reality. This is not only in the benefits of China and USA, but also in the benefits of the whole world.

Thirdly, China’s economic growth an important driving force to promote world economic development.

China once was the world’s number 1 economic power. Song Dynasty’s GDP accounted for 80% of the world’s GDP and the early stages of Qing Dynasty’s GDP accounted for 30% of the world’s. However, at the peak of the Qing Dynasty was the turning point in fate for China. Since 1842 and the following 100 years, China has suffered hundreds of aggression, paid hundreds of millions of silver as war indemnity, the indirect economic losses cannot be calculated. China’s economy fell into an abyss.

After the founding of the new China in 1949, especially since the reform and opening up in 1978, China’s national strength has achieved a historical leap, becoming the world’s largest trade body, the second largest economy and the third largest foreign investor. China has only spent a few decades to once again position itself among the world’s top economic powers.

In 2015, despite downward pressure at home and abroad, the Chinese economy still grew by 6.9%, leading the world and contributing to 25% of global growth. China has thus remained an indisputable main engine driving the world economy.

China initiated the establishment of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) and the BRICS New Development Bank, the very first multilateral financial institutions established by developing countries.

With the principle of engaging in extensive consultation, making joint contribution and sharing benefits, China launched the implementation plan of the Silk Road Economic Belt and the Maritime Silk Road for the 21st Century. In 2015, China signed Belt and Road cooperation agreements with more than 20 countries, thus creating new hope and new prospect for and instilled dynamism in the Eurasian and global economy. China successfully included the RMB into the IMF's SDR currency basket. The inclusion marked the international status of a currency of developing countries, boosted international community's confidence in China's economy and will enhance the current international monetary and financial system and make it more balanced.

At the end of 2015, China introduced its 13th five-year plan which proposed innovation, coordination, green economy, continued opening-up and inclusive development as the five development concepts. The Chinese government has the determination and ability to maintain medium to high speed economic growth and prospects for China’s economic development are still very good.

Fourthly, China’s defense policy made an important contribution to world peace.

China has no external aggression gene in itself. China was the world’s largest economy in 18 of the past 20 centuries, but China very rarely initiated war against others. Among all those victorious countries during World War 2, since 1990 only China has not initiated or involved in any military conflicts.

China’s famous military book Art of War was finished more than 2000 years ago. It has been widely spread and acclaimed by many strategists and even considered a “magic weapon” in business management. But the foothold of the Art of War is “No war” or “Cautious war”. Ultimate excellence lies not in winning every battle, but in defeating the enemy without ever fighting. History tells us that peaceful development is the right way. All attempts to seek power through force and hegemony are against historical trend and bound to fail. China always adopts a defensive national defense policy and active defense military strategy. No matter when, China will never seek hegemony, never engage in expansion but will work together with all countries to build new international relations based on the core concept of win-win cooperation.

Speaking of this, I would like to brief you on China’s military spending and the South China Sea issue.

In 2015, China’s defense budget was estimated to be around US$100 billion, an increase of 10% compared to 2014, but still well below the US spending budget of US$600 billion. From 2001 to 2013, the world’s major countries’ military spending share of GDP averaged 2.5% with the US at 4%, China only 1.3% where China’s GDP is much less than the US.

China's sovereignty and rights and interests in the South China Sea were established over a long course of history and have ample historical and legal basis. Beginning in the 1970s, some other countries claimed sovereignty over islands and reefs of China's Nansha Islands and illegally occupied dozens of them. Furthermore, with the establishment of the modern law of the sea regime came the issue of overlapping maritime jurisdictions. The Chinese government firmly opposes illegal occupations of China's territory. Yet in the larger interest of peace and stability in the South China Sea, the Chinese government has exercised enormous restraint and remained committed to settling disputes through direct negotiation and consultation with the countries concerned.

The South China Sea provides major shipping lanes for China's trade and imports of energy. To ensure the freedom and safety of navigation in the South China Sea is of vital importance to China. Over the years, there has never been any issue with freedom of navigation in the South China Sea, nor would such an issue come up in the future.

China's construction activities on the Nansha islands and reefs are entirely within her sovereignty. It does not affect or target any particular country. Such construction activities are aimed to strengthen the functions of some islands and reefs in providing multiple and integrated services. Besides meeting necessary defense needs, it is more geared to serve civilian purposes. Rather than affecting freedom of navigation, it will only contribute to joint responses to maritime challenges and to safety of navigation in the South China Sea.

Fifthly, China’s governance provides rich experiences to the course of human history.

Every country has its own characteristics. China’s biggest feature is that it’s a collection of contradictions. China is both ancient and young - it has 5000 years of history yet its real integration into the world is only about 30 years. China is both rich and poor, being the world’s second largest economy but its global ranking of per capita GDP is only around 80 with 70 million people still living in poverty. China urgently needs reform but must be cautious at the same time. It is currently experiencing the most challenging stage of the reform. Although there is an urgent need to complete many things, China must be careful with a step-by-step method.

In the 5000 years of Chinese history, China has accumulated rich experiences in governance, both at the times of peace and prosperity, as well as at the times of war and turmoil. China has inherited the essence of its traditional culture and let it flourish and creatively implemented a number of major unprecedented initiatives. In terms of economy, China combines socialism with market economy. In terms of political system, China implements one party ruling with many parties participating. In terms of legislation, China implements the system of People’s Congress and political consultation. In terms of national unity, China implements the “one country, two systems” for Hong Kong and Macau. In a country with such a huge population, land and a low starting point, it has not been easy to make such decisions and the achievements of today’s social and economic developments was no easy feat.

Every country has its own history, tradition and cultural heritage, therefore it is inevitable that its path of development has its own characteristics. The governance system is closely related to its historical heritage, culture and traditions. The good governance is the theme of our era for every country. To achieve the good governance and the modernization of governance systems, we must absorb and draw on the favorable achievements of human civilization. However, we could not simply copy the political philosophy and system models of other countries, but to proceed from our own actual conditions and move forward creatively.

Ladies and gentlemen,

How to determine the place of China in today’s world, it is a difficult question to answer. If we have to summarize, then there are three points. First, China is a big power in terms of population, land area and economic scale, this is undeniable. Second, China is still a developing country, faced with low per capita income, uneven economic development, unbalanced economic structure, environmental pollution along with many other difficulties and challenges. And last but not least, China as an emerging power is committed to maintaining world peace, this has been widely recognized by more and more people.

These are some of my knowledge and understanding and I hope they have helped everyone here further understand China. Thank you all!

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