China's Strategic Interest in Asia Pacific---Speech by Ambassador Huang Huikang at the Malaysian Armed Forces Defense College Diners' Club(10 August 2015)
Honorable Dato' Sabri Bin Zali, First Admiral, Commandant of the Malaysian Armed Forces Defense College,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Good Evening and Selamat Petang!
It is my great pleasure and honor to speak at this club and I'd like to take this opportunity to extend my warmest congratulations to all of the participants of the defense course on strategic studies and international relations for your successful completion of your wonderful course and being awarded with a master degree.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Former President of France General De Gaulle once said, going to the moon is not very far. The greatest distance we have to cover is still between us. It is true, although man has landed the moon, yet states still suffer from a "deficit of trust". I do believe that a good and cooperative relationship between states must be based on the mutual understanding and trust. An ancient Chinese saying says that for friend, what is precious is mutual understanding and for mutual understanding, what is precious is knowing the heart. So, as China's Ambassador to Malaysia, I have paid much attention to the "connecting the heart of the people" through more dialogue and interaction with different circle of the people. Since I arrived at KL one and half years ago, I have actively taken part in a number of public events such as China-Malaysia week of islamic culture exchange, Ambassadors forum of Malay University, World Business Ethics Forum, ISLI's Asia Economic Summit and World Halad Conference, and shared my views with participants on various topics.
Today Dato' Sabri suggested me to talk about China's strategic interest in Asia pacific. For a better understanding, I think I should start with a highlight of current international situation and a brief introduction of China and its new diplomatic thinking and practice.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The world today is undergoing profound and complex changes. The global trends toward multi-polarity and economic globalization are deepening. Cultural diversity is increasing, and an information society is fast emerging. We have seen an even stronger appeal for peace and more vigorous support for change in the international community. World economy has recovered slowly from 2008 international financial crisis. Changes of regional landscapes have picked up speed. And international balance of power is moving toward greater equilibrium. At the same time, traditional and non-traditional security issues are interwoven with cyber security, climate change and other global challenges becoming a lot more salient. Living in such an era of adjustment, transformation and innovation, the only way for all countries to seize the opportunity and find the way to a better future is to be highly adaptive and keep pace with time by promoting peace, development, cooperation and harmony and pursing a win-win and all-win progress rather than following the old notion of zero-sum game or "the winner takers all".
Since 1949, the founding of P.R.C and in particular since 1978, starting to carry out the policy of reform and opening up, great and earth-shaking historical changes have taken place in China. China has succeeded in embarking upon a development path suited to its national conditions, and has been rising, and I have to say, peacefully rising. China will never pose any threat to others.
As you know, China is a country with a land territory of over 9.6 million square kilometers, a population of over 1.36 billion and an ancient civilization with more than 5000 years' written history, rich culture and fine tradition. China is also a dynamic economy with the fastest growing and biggest potential market opening to the outside world. In the past 37 years from 1978 to 2014, while pressing ahead with reform and opening up, China's productive force and overall national strength have been constantly enhanced. The Chinese people as a whole have made a historical leap from subsistence to modest prosperity. In this period, China's economy grow by an average annual rate of over 9 %, with it GDP, foreign trade and foreign exchange reserves jumping from US$ 147.3 billion, 20.6 billion and 167 million to over US$ 10.38 trillion, 4.3 trillion and 3.843 trillion respectively. China now is the world second largest economy and the largest trading nation. It is worth mentioning that, 15 years ago, China's GDP was less than half of Japan's. However, 10 years later, 2010, China exceeded Japan and become the second largest economy in the world and you can image that in the next 10 years. Last year, China's GDP was more than two times of Japan's, US$ 10.38 trillion of China and US$ 4.61 trillion of Japan. You can image what will happen in the next ten years.
China has created and maintained many "ranking first" records. China has topped the heavy industrial output of pig iron, coal, raw steel, shipbuilding, automobile, cement, electrolytic aluminums, as well as the production of cell-phone, integrated circuit, footwear, and household appliances such as TV-set, refrigerator and air conditioner. Meanwhile, China's foreign trade volume, science and technology human resources and internet users have ranked the first in the world. Furthermore, China is the largest consumption economy in the world. The consumption of five basic commodities, food, meat, coal and steel in China has exceeded that in the United States of America. Shortly, in several decades, China has gone through the development process, for which developed countries has taken hundreds of years. It is a miracle in the history of human development.
Last year, China's per capital GDP was only US$ 7,485, ranking No.80 or so in the world. I have to say, however, China is still a developing country and is facing grave challenges, such as low per capital GDP, more than 150 million people are still living below the UN poverty line, over population, weak economic foundation, undeveloped productivity, highly uneven development, and fairly sharp contradiction between the country's ecological environment and natural resources on one hand and its economic and social development on the other hand. To make China's modernization drive a complete success and deliver a prosperous life for all the Chinese people still require a long and uphill battle. This is China's fundamental conditions and reality, which also answer the question why China upholds a path of peacefully development. Developing the economy and improving the quality of people's lives remains the central task of the country.
The Chinese government and people have already set a clear goal for the first half of 21st century, namely, to complete the building of a moderately prosperous society in all respects when CPC celebrates its centenary in 2021, and to turn China into modern socialist country that is prosperous, strong, democratic, culturally advanced and harmonious when P.R.C marks its centennial in 2049, known for short as "Chinese Dream" and "Two Centenary Goals".
With China's development, the size of its market and its overseas investment will grow even larger and faster, and still more Chinese will travel to the other parts of the world for sightseeing, business and visit. In the coming five years, China will import commodities worth US$ 10 trillion, invest over US$ 500 billion abroad, and send about 500 million tourists overseas. China's economy will integrate still more closely with the world's economy, giving rise to new type of partnership featured by mutual benefit, mutual complement and mutual assistance. China's development contributes to the peace and stability in the world. Actually, a stable and prosperous China is in itself an important contribution to peace and stability in the world.
In the years to come, China will continue to take economic development as its top priority, aim ourselves to the all-round development of man, and follow a development path characterized by high productivity, affluent life and sound eco-system by properly balancing urban and rural development, development among regions, economic and social development, development of man and nature, and domestic development and opening up to the outside world.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Any country's diplomacy is to serve the overall national strategy of the country. Under the leadership of President Xi, China has put forth a series of new concepts, taken new measures and demonstrated a new look in the country's diplomacy. Such diplomacy, showing greater global prospective and being more enterprising and innovative under the new circumstances, has opened up a new vista of friendly cooperation between China and other countries.
We have become more determined in pursuing the path of peaceful development. China's diplomacy has long been based on "Five Principles of Peaceful Co-existence". As President Xi pointed out that China will unswervingly pursue peaceful development, promote common development, uphold the multilateral trading system and participate in global economic governance. Over the last two years, Chinese leaders have travelled extensively to Asia, Africa, Latin America, Europe and North America where they met and contacted over 100 foreign leaders, and invited leaders from several dozen countries to visit China. We have reached several hundred cooperation agreements with various countries and concluded free trade agreements with Iceland and Switzerland, Australia and ROK etc. China's peaceful development has been translated into tangible benefits. China stands ready to work with other countries and keep making our due contribution to this end.
We have made greater efforts to build major-country relationships that are healthy and stable. China has the determination and confidence to blaze a new path of major-country relationship, based on peaceful co-existence and sound interaction through joint efforts with the relevant countries. President Xi and President Obama met twice,they reached the important agreement on building a new model of major-country relationship between China and the United States featuring non-conflict, non-confrontation, mutual respect and win-win cooperation, and pointed out the direction for the long-term development of bilateral relations. President Xi made Russia the destination of his first overseas trip after becoming China's head of state and has since met President Putin quite a few times, indicating the high level and extraordinary nature of China-Russia comprehensive strategic partnership of coordination. China-EU high-level exchanges have set off a new upsurge, blessing China-Europe relations with new opportunities of development.
We have made neighborhood diplomacy higher on the priority list of China's diplomacy. "Close neighbors are better than distant relations". This is a simple truth that the Chinese people got to know in ancient time. Last year, the CPC Central Committee convened for the first time ever a neighborhood diplomacy work conference in the history of New China. It reaffirmed such neighborhood policy objectives as amity, security and common prosperity with the neighboring countries and required that the principles of amity, sincerity, mutual benefit and inclusiveness be embodied in China's interactions with the neighboring countries. Within a short period, we have conducted high-level exchanges with almost all neighboring countries, put forward a series of important cooperation initiatives such as the Silk Road Economic Belt, the 21st century Maritime Silk Road, and the Asian infrastructure investment bank, and worked with the ASEAN to launch the consultation on a Code of Conduct in the South China Sea within the framework of implementing the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea, thus bringing China's relations with neighboring countries into a new stage of deepened friendship, good neighborliness and all-round cooperation.
We have consolidated our traditional friendship with other developing countries in a more extensive fashion. Developing countries are the cornerstone of China's diplomacy. By including Africa on the itinerary of his first overseas visit after becoming president, President Xi set the precedent. President Xi, Premier Li and other Chinese leaders used multilateral occasions to meet individually with leaders of several dozen developing countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America, which shows the profound goodwill China cherishes towards other developing countries. We stand that in our relations with developing countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America, China should have a right approach on morality and interests, attaching greater importance to morality, sincerely helping developing countries to realize independent development, building a community of shared destiny with them and striving to increase the representation and say of the developing world in international affairs. For those countries long friendly to China but burdened with arduous development task, we would consider "giving more and taking less, or giving earlier and taking later", never seeking benefits at the expense of other countries.
Ladies and Gentlemen
China is an important member of Asia-Pacific family, being the biggest trade partner, the biggest export market and main source of investment for many counties in this region. Four in China's top five biggest trade partner come from this region. Over 15 million people traveled between China and ASEAN countries every year. There is a flight taking off every 12 minutes between China and Republic of Korea. We have become deeply interdependent upon each other and we have a strong strategic interest in this region.
Our vision for the Asia Pacific region is to work for the prosperity and progress of the region while following the trend of peace, development and mutually beneficial cooperation; to stay ahead of global development and make greater contribution to the well-being of mankind; to have more economic vibrancy, free trade and investment facilitation, better roads, and closer people-to-people exchanges.
Therefore, China's strategic interest in Asia Pacific mainly lies in four aspects:
First, enhance political mutual trust and maintain peace and stability in this region. Asia Pacific is a region of great diversity. Countries differ in size, wealth and strength. They vary in historical and cultural traditions as well as social systems, and have different security interests and aspirations. The only way to maintain peace and stability in this region is to refrain from interfering in other country's internal affairs, settle disputes through peaceful means and seek common development and prosperity with a win-win approach.
China is committed to the path of peaceful development, a commitment that is of immediate relevance for the Asia-Pacific. We do not seek dominance or sphere of influence in the region, nor do we intend to form military alliances or drive any country out of the Asia-Pacific. Instead, we are committed to solidarity and cooperation with other countries in pursuit of a new path of security for the region, which is built by all, shared by all, win-win for all and safeguarded by all.
Over the years, China has worked hard to deepen mutual understanding and trust with its neighbors. It has signed treaties of good-neighborliness and friendly cooperation with 8 countries respectively and is ready to do the same with other willing neighbors to codify shared commitment to peace and friendly cooperation. China has fully settled its land boundary issues with 12 out of its 14 neighbors. We have a special representative mechanism on the boundary dispute with India and our border negotiations with Bhutan are going smoothly.
China has steadily increased its military transparency and issued 9 defense white papers, including the recent white paper on China's military strategy, in response to domestic and foreign concerns regarding China's military development. China has taken the initiative to discuss with ASEAN countries on the setting up of bilateral defense hotlines as a crisis management measure. We resumed consultations with Japan on a maritime and air liaison mechanism, and are in the process of fleshing out the rules of behavior for the safety of air and maritime encounters with the United States. All this has taken our confidence building efforts with countries concerned to a higher level.
China will seek to resolve disputes with its neighbors over territory and maritime rights and interests peacefully through dialogue and negotiation and on the basis of respecting historical facts and international law. Disputes that cannot be solved for now are to be managed properly. We will work with the international community to uphold freedom of navigation and commerce that countries enjoy at sea, including the South China Sea, based on international law, and fulfills all international responsibilities and obligations as a main littoral state.
Regarding the South China Sea issue which has been a topic being raised on various occasions, I would like to stress: The situation in the South China Sea is stable on the whole, and there is no possibility of major conflicts. Some non-constructive words or deeds that attempt to exaggerate the disagreements, hype up confrontation and heat up tensions, do not conform to reality. There has not been a single case in which freedom of navigation in the South China Sea is impeded. China also has a stake in the freedom of navigation in the South China Sea. The majority of Chinese cargos are shipped through the South China Sea, so freedom of navigation in the South China Sea is equally important to China. This issue is not one between China and ASEAN, and thus shall not impact the bigger picture of cooperation between the two sides. China and ASEAN have set up mechanisms for the discussion on this issue including the Senior Officials' Meeting on the Implementation of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC) and the Joint Working Group on the consultation over the code of conduct (COC).
At the China-ASEAN Foreign Minister Meeting which was held last week in Kuala Lumpur, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi put forward a three-point initiative to uphold peace and stability in the South China Sea. States in the South China Sea region undertake to fully and effectively implement the DOC in its entirety, accelerate the consultations on a COC, and actively explore "preventive measures on managing risks at sea"; States outside the region undertake to support the above-mentioned efforts by states in the region, and refrain from taking moves that could raise tension and complicate the situation in the South China Sea; All states undertake to follow the international law in exercising and upholding the freedom of navigation and over-flight in the South China Sea. China and ASEAN have the enough ability to maintain peace and stability in here.
Second, explore economic potentiality and fulfill common development. The sustainable development is one of the most important keys for Asia Pacific countries to solve their political and security problems. Now the regional economy is facing a good momentum. We cannot allow disruption of our hard-won development opportunities. Nor can we allow exaggerated or even fabricated tensions to disturb our development.
The implementation of the land and maritime One Belt One Road initiatives have provided fresh opportunity for comprehensively deepening mutually beneficial cooperation among Asia-Pacific countries in business, investment, industrial, infrastructure and other fields. Strengthening international cooperation in production capacity-building and making good use of financial institutions like the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) and the One Belt One Road Fund will be a big part of this process.
Let me say a few more words about the one belt one road initiatives. The aim of these initiatives is to promote common development and shared prosperity along the routes, with a view to building a community of common destiny. And their implementation will follow a win-win approach featuring wide consultation, joint contribution and shared benefits. Countries in the Asia-Pacific are both natural partners in these initiatives and their direct beneficiaries. Today, we should work together to make the renewal of the ancient silk road a pathway towards lasting peace and cooperation that had eluded our forefathers.
Third, increase capability and respond to security challenges. Facing various challenges, Asia Pacific countries should insist on multilateralism, abide by the principle of consensus, build security structure and institutional arrangement step by step on the basis of non-interference of internal affairs and accommodate comfortability. In recent years, our region has conducted helpful practice such as the Conference on Interaction and Confidence-Building Measures in Asia (CICA), Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), Six Party Talks and ASEAN Regional Forum which play important roles for safeguarding regional security and laying solid foundation for future cooperative framework.
China attaches great importance on regional security cooperation and advocates a concept of common, comprehensive, cooperative and sustainable security in Asia Pacific. Common security means respecting and ensuring the security of each and every country. We cannot just have the security of one or some countries while leaving the rest insecure, still less should one seek the so-called absolute security of itself at the expense of the security of others. Comprehensive security means upholding security in both traditional and non-traditional fields. We should adopt a multi-pronged and holistic approach, and enhance regional security governance in a coordinated way. Cooperative security means promoting the security of both individual countries and the region as a whole through dialogue and cooperation. We should engage in sincere and in-depth dialogue and communication to increase strategic mutual trust, reduce misgivings, seek common ground while resolving differences and live in harmony with each other. Sustainable security means that we need to focus on both development and security so that security would be durable.
Fourth, tighten people to people bond to win public support. People are always carriers of friendship and social basis of close relations among countries. We hope to send more students to each other's countries and promote cooperation in jointly running schools. China has offered 10,000 government scholarships to the countries along the Belt and Road every year; we hope to enhance cooperation in and expand the scale of tourism and make it more convenient to apply for tourist visa; we hope to strengthen cooperation on health information sharing, the exchange of prevention and treatment technologies and the training of medical professionals, and improve our capability to jointly address public health emergencies; we hope to integrate existing resources to expand and advance practical cooperation on youth employment; we hope to give full play to the bridging role of communication between political parties and parliaments, and promote friendly exchanges between legislative bodies, major political parties and political organizations; we hope to carry out exchanges and cooperation among cities and to focus on promoting practical cooperation, particularly cultural and people-to-people exchanges; we hope to increase exchanges and cooperation between non-governmental organizations, organize public interest activities concerning education, health care, poverty reduction, biodiversity and ecological protection for the benefit of the general public, and improve the production and living conditions of poverty-stricken areas; we hope to enhance international exchanges and cooperation on culture and media, and leverage the positive role of the Internet and new media tools to foster harmonious and friendly cultural environment and public opinion.
Ladies and gentlemen,
This year marks the 70th anniversary of the end of the World's Anti-Fascist War and the victory of the Chinese People's War of Resistance against Japanese Aggression. China will join countries across the world in commemorating this unforgettable episode of history and opposing rhetoric and actions that glorify aggression, to make sure that war will not recur and peace will be everlasting.
The past 70 years has seen a much changed world and rapidly shifting international landscape and balance of power. No doubt, a fast-growing China is becoming an important factor for world development. Not surprisingly, China's foreign policy has attracted much international attention, and has given rise to various interpretation, speculation, and sometimes even misunderstanding.
Here I wish to say to you on record that China will always be a participant in the international order, not challenger; a facilitator, not trouble-maker; and a contributor, not a "free-rider". This was, is and will be the case in the future. As China continues to contribute to world peace and development, we hope the international community will also make the effort to learn more about China, and understand and support my country.
Let me reaffirm here that as a participant of and contributor to the global and regional order, a growing China would only mean greater strength for peace and more positive energy in the world. We are determined to break the so-called law of history that draws a simplistic equation between power and attempts to seek hegemony. We will unswervingly go down a new path of sharing peace and development with all other countries. We look forward to joining hands with all countries to embark on a new journey that will lead us to the successful attainment of this vision.