Stand on the right side of history and human progress
Remarks by Minister Tang Rui at International Virtual Conference “Regional Order and Global Transformations: Asia and China in the Changing Geopolitical Economy”
2021-12-09 20:48

The world is currently undergoing major changes unseen in a century: the COVID-19 pandemic still raging, a weak momentum in global economic recovery, and geopolitical competition re-emergence. Global challenges have become increasingly prominent as the world enters a new period of turbulence and adjustment.

Asia is also undergoing profound and complex changes. On the one hand, the world’s economic center of gravity is rapidly shifting to Asia Pacific, which has emerged as the driving force of the global economy and the new hub for development and cooperation. Asia’s GDP accounts for more than one third of the global total. East Asia has become the fastest growth region in the world and the largest contributor to global economic growth.

On the other hand, Asia is now at critical crossroads. Some country has made Asia its main battlefield for geopolitical competition by deploying massive political and military resources, stoking up ideological confrontation, promoting insulation and decoupling, and even attempting to provoke a “new cold war”. This will lead to nowhere but dragging regional countries into a quagmire of confrontation. Faced with such situation on the international and regional level, what will China’s choice be?

Two weeks ago, President Xi Jinping delivered an important speech at the Special Summit to Commemorate the 30th Anniversary of China-ASEAN Dialogue Relations. Five proposals have been raised on the future of China-ASEAN relations, which are jointly building a peaceful home, a safe and secure home, a prosperous home, a beautiful home as well as an amicable home. President Xi calls for a closer China and ASEAN community with a shared future and making our region and the world even more prosperous and beautiful. Peace, development and cooperation have always been our main objectives, which I believe are also common aspirations of the countries and peoples in the region.

Not long ago, the Communist Party of China (CPC) convened the sixth plenary session of its 19th Central Committee. The Plenum clearly points out that CPC has maintained a global vision and China champions opening up over isolation, pursues mutual benefit instead of zero-sum games, stands up for fairness and justice, and actively promotes the building of a community with a shared future for mankind.

China always upholds peaceful development. Peace is just as important as sunlight and air. We could not talk about stability and development without peace. For thousands of years, the Chinese nation has carried traits of “harmony is most precious” and “not doing to others what we do not desire ourselves” in its genes. In modern China, the phrase ‘adhere to the path of peaceful development’ has been written into the Constitution.

However strong it may grow, China will never seek hegemony, expansion or a sphere of influence. Since the founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1949, China has never provoked any war or conflict, nor invaded an inch of land belonging to other countries. Since Reform and Opening-up in 1978, China has reduced its armed forces size by more than 4 million personnel. Cumulatively, China has participated in nearly 30 United Nations (UN) peacekeeping operations with more than 50,000 peacekeepers deployed, which makes up the largest among the permanent members of the UN Security Council. As an active participant in major international and regional conflict resolutions, China has played a constructive role in resolving issues in the Korean Peninsula, Iran, Afghanistan, Myanmar, among others.

Even the closest family members quarrel sometimes. It is inevitable that disagreements and contradictions happen between countries. The key is to bridge differences through dialogue and resolve disputes through negotiation on the basis of equality and mutual respect. China is willing to work together with all parties to fully implement the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC) and forge ahead with the Code of Conduct in the South China Sea (COC) consultation process, in order to build the South China Sea into a sea of peace, friendship and cooperation.

China always upholds win-win cooperation. China’s development is a result of hard work of Chinese people, as well as friendly cooperation with countries all over the world. We have always opposed zero-sum game and winner-takes-all, and never plundered other countries’ resources or sacrificed their interests for our own development. On the contrary, we uphold principles of extensive consultation, joint contribution and shared benefits in global governance, and pursue a mutually beneficial, win-win strategy of opening-up. We want to make the cake of cooperation bigger to achieve common development.

China’s participation in global economic cooperation has brought tremendous benefits to the world. Since 2008, China’s contribution to global economic growth has exceeded 30% per year. Over the past 5 years, China’s total imports of goods surpassed 10 trillion US dollars, and now China has become the largest trading partner of 120 countries and regions.

The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), proposed by President Xi Jinping, has become the world’s widest, largest international cooperation platform and the most popular public goods. Latest statistics shows that 144 countries and 32 international organizations have signed BRI cooperation agreements. The BRI has borne tangible, visible fruit. In 2020, the value of trade in goods between China and BRI partners reached 1.35 trillion dollars. According to a World Bank report, the BRI is expected to lift 7.6 million people from extreme poverty and 32 million people from moderate poverty by the year 2030 all over the world. One of the latest achievement of BRI, the China-Laos Railway launched last week, is the first modern railway in Laos and set to become a path to prosperity and happiness.

China always upholds fairness and justice. As an ancient Chinese adage goes, “The greatest ideal is to create a world truly shared by all.” Fairness and justice have always been persisted by China in its diplomacy, and they are also guidance of China in managing relations between countries. To safeguard fairness and justice, true multilateralism must be practiced. China firmly upholds the international system with the UN at its core, the international order underpinned by international law and the basic norms of international relations based on the purposes and principles of the UN Charter. China has always taken a clear stand against hegemonism and power politics, while emphasizing the need to resolve disputes through consultation with each other instead of imposing unilateral sanctions, long-arm jurisdiction, or even resort to force at will. The law of jungle, talks of “clash of civilizations” and the superiority of one race over another must not return.

On major issues concerning the interests of all mankind, China has always taken a responsible attitude. In the face of a once-in-a-century pandemic, President Xi called for building a global community of health for all and announced making China's COVID-19 vaccines a global public good. In this regard, China has provided over 1.7 billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines to more than 100 countries and international organizations, and has embarked on joint production of vaccines with 16 countries including Malaysia that is on course for an annual production capacity of 700 million doses. ASEAN is an important destination of China’s vaccines with over 60% of vaccines received so far coming from China.

Facing the uncertainties of international development, President Xi proposed the Global Development Initiative (GDI) and called on the international community to accelerate the implementation of the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development to foster a more robust, greener, healthier global development, and to build a global community of development with a shared future.

In facing the increasingly severe challenges of climate change, President Xi announced that China will strive to achieve peak carbon emissions before 2030 and carbon neutrality by 2060. China will achieve this most significant reduction in carbon intensity. There will be no other country that is able to transition from carbon peak to carbon neutrality in such a short period of time.

China always upholds openness and inclusiveness. Opening up is the hallmark of contemporary China. President Xi has reiterated that “China's door will never be closed. It will only open still wider.” Through lower tariffs, shorter negative lists, more convenient market access, more transparent market rules and a more attractive business environment, China will create a higher-level open economy and provide the world with more opportunities. China will also deepen its international participation in cooperation such as green and low-carbon efforts, digital economy and so on. China will fully implement the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), and accelerate its admission into the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) and the Digital Economy Partnership Agreement (DEPA). China has always advocated safeguarding and perfecting the multilateral trading system with the World Trade Organization at its core, and maintaining stable and unimpeded global industrial and supply chains.

Inclusiveness has been deeply rooted in Chinese culture. Chinese people are firm believers of the philosophy of “harmony without uniformity” and “harmony begets new things”. We respect the development path chosen by the people of their respective countries as it is their right. We will not export systems or models, let alone engage in ideological confrontation. However, in spite of one’s desire for calm, trouble still brews. Today happens to be the first day of the so-called “Summit for Democracy”. The nature of the Summit is only to disrupt international order, and instigate confrontation and division under the cover of “democracy”.

What is democracy? Democracy is a common value of humanity and the right of the people in every country, rather than the prerogative of a few nations. As President Xi puts forward, “Democracy is not a decorative ornament, but an instrument for addressing the issues that concern the people. Whether a country is democratic depends on whether its people are truly the masters of the country.”

In China, Whole-Process People's Democracy has demonstrated its viability and strength with wide support from Chinese people, and has enabled China’s vigorous development. As to the actions of some so-called “beacon of democracy” country, everyone will make his or her own fair judgement.

The tides of time are moving forward. Faced with unprecedented changes and endless challenges on a global scale, China and Malaysia as well as other ASEAN countries should take on a responsible attitude towards mankind’s future and destiny, regional peace and stability. Let us stand on the right side of history and human progress, work together to build a closer China-ASEAN community with shared future, and make more contributions to regional stability and prosperity as well as human development progress.

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