Tung Chee Hwa
at East-West Center
11 February 2010
Good afternoon, President Morrison,
Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, Aloha,
I’m honored to be here at the renowned East-West Center. I would also like to thank you for arranging such fine weather and beautiful scenery. On this 50th anniversary of the founding of the East-West Center, please accept my warmest congratulations.
I was born in Shanghai in 1937. Many of you have probably visited Shanghai recently. Today, Shanghai is a great city: a dynamic city with endless opportunities; a city of dreams and a city of hope. But in 1937, it was a city of poverty, chaos and despair. It was a city ruled by a government that was corrupt and inept. It was where Western powers enjoyed extraterritorial rights. It was a city about to be occupied by the Japanese with the onset of the Second World War. So, from a very young age, I witnessed a chapter of colossal national tragedy unfolding before my very eyes.
In 1960, I arrived in the United States and for the next nine years, I made this country my home. I was married in the United States, I worked in the United States, and began building a family in the United States.
Although turbulent, America in the 60s was a time of hope and optimism. It was a time of political ferment. Under the backdrop of an escalating cold war overseas and racial strife at home, the civil rights movement and the new ideas of the baby-boom generation brought about irrevocable changes in American society. It was a time of great intellectual awakening, and I remember how all of this excited and fascinated me.
In 1969, I returned to Hong Kong as a businessman. In 1997, I took on a new and unique challenge, and was elected the 1st Chief Executive of Hong Kong upon her return to China.
Upon stepping down from being Chief Executive and taking up the role as Vice Chairman of the CPPCC, I decided to take on one more challenge in life. And that is to enhance US-China relations. China is my country, and I passionately want her to succeed. The United States was my home for nine years. I have great admiration for the American people. I believe the US-China relationship is the most important international relationship today.
Some scholars have claimed that the most historic event that took place in the second half of the 20th century was the rise of Asia. Some have predicted that the 21st century will be the “Asian century”. I dare not pass judgment on this prediction. But it’s undeniable that the Asian economy has grown enormously during the period. From being just one-tenth of the world economy to more than one-fourth today, it is playing an ever more important role on the world stage. It is remarkable that the East-West Center was able to foresee this development half a century ago by wisely setting up here and working to strengthen exchanges between the United States and the Asia Pacific region. Well, I take my hat off to you, because you have even nurtured America’s first Pacific president.
In my view, over the past half century, and particularly over the past 30 years, China was the country that has made the most remarkable progress in the Asia Pacific region. Last year, the People’s Republic of China celebrated its 60th anniversary. During those 60 years, China underwent whole-scale and earth-shaking transformations. Sixty years ago, the average life expectancy of the Chinese people was only 35 years, infant mortality rate was as high as 20 , and the illiteracy rate was 80 . There was little provision for education; practically no provision for medical care and social services. Infrastructure was non-existent. The national economy was bankrupt. The people suffered extreme misery and hardship. Years of inept and corrupt government, civil war, and foreign invasion brought about unimaginable suffering.
Sixty years on, China is now the world’s third largest economy. Average life expectancy has increased to 73 years, infant mortality rate has gone down to 1.2 , and the literacy rate has risen to 95 . China’s progress has been most spectacular since the policy of reform and opening up to the outside world was launched 30 years ago. With just one-tenth of the world’s arable land, China is feeding one-fifth of the world’s population. The standard of living of the Chinese people, including ethnic minorities, has risen dramatically. There has also been tremendous progress in the development of democracy and the rule of law. This has been made possible because of strong leadership and effective governance at the center. This has also been made possible by the sheer determination and efforts of the Chinese people. In the history of mankind, never have such a large number of people made such enormous progress in so short a period of time.
Ladies and gentlemen,
As China moves forward there is now concern that she will one day be a military threat to the United States. Let us be clear: China has neither the ability nor the intention to challenge the military might of the United States. To start with, China’s military expenditure is a small fraction of the United States’ expenditure. And she maintains no military bases overseas. Although the strength of China’s navy, army and air force is growing, its gap with the United States, in terms of quantity and quality is still very large, and the gap is growing, particularly taking into account the United States’ integrated deployment of land, sea, air, space and special operation forces. Indeed, today America’s military strength is equal to the sum total of all the other countries with strong militaries, and most of them are America’s allies anyway.
But today, China does need a military that is commensurate with her national defense purposes. After all, China has the world’s largest population, the third largest territory, the fourth longest coastline and shares borders with 14 countries. China wants to have a modern military to protect her sovereignty, territorial integrity, and the security of her maritime passages. This is what China is doing.
People ask the question, what about the future? Let us now take a look at China’s intentions. I feel that, even in the future, China will not threaten America’s interests or world peace. My judgment is based on the following reasons:
First, since the launch of her reform and open-door policy, China’s interests and that of the world have become more and more intertwined and mutually dependent. Therefore, for China’s own future, she requires a stable and peaceful international environment.
Second, throughout the 16th through 19th centuries, many countries that wanted to develop often waged war to conquer and colonize other countries in order to spread their sphere of influence, and secure overseas natural resources, labor and markets. That brought wealth to the conquering countries, but misery to others. Today, due to globalization, we can achieve a win-win situation through peaceful means, through trade and other kinds of civilized exchanges and mutual accommodation. This makes a country’s peaceful development possible and precludes the need to wage war.
Third, the Chinese people uphold peace. Putting harmony first and establishing good neighborliness are basic principles that the Chinese people have long adopted in handling relations among nations. Historically, whether it was the Silk Road or Admiral Zheng He’s voyages to the “West Seas”, China did not attempt to expand its territory even when its national strength was at its peak. When Admiral Zheng took his seven trips to the “West Seas” during the Ming dynasty, China had one-third of the world’s wealth and the world’s greatest navy. But the purpose of his fleet’s voyages was not to acquire territories or plunder wealth, but to promote friendship and trade. In the early 20th century, Japanese scholar Hidekata Watanabe noted that among the peoples of the world, the Chinese probably had the greatest desire for peace, and they rarely invaded other countries. Therefore, I believe China will not threaten other countries now; and even after it has become developed in the future, it will not seek hegemony nor threaten other countries.
In fact, not only is China’s development not a threat, but her development also offers opportunity for common prosperity. She is playing a bigger and bigger role in securing world peace and stability.
China has become more and more active in joining international organizations and participating in the international community. China is a member of almost all major international bodies – the United Nations, the World Trade Organization, the World Bank, the IMF, the World Health Organization, and etc. It is also party to major international conventions, including those on nuclear non-proliferation, human rights, and climate change. Through these international organizations and institutions, China is playing a role in safeguarding peace, and promoting international order and human progress. What’s worth noting is that China has made enormous progress to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases through improving energy intensity. China was amongst the first countries to respond in aid to the earthquake disaster in Haiti. And China has sent peace-keeping troops numbering 14,000 people, which are the largest among those sent by the five permanent member countries of the Security Council.
On security, China has long emphasized and supported efforts in international arms control, disarmament and non-proliferation, as well as strictly abided by international obligations. For example, China has all along pursued the policy of not using nuclear weapons first, and has promised not to use or threaten to use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear-weapon states or nuclear-weapon-free zones. Among countries possessing nuclear weapons in the world, China is the only one that has made such a promise. Last year, at the United Nations Security Council’s summit on nuclear non-proliferation and nuclear disarmament, President Hu Jintao proposed once again the complete prohibition and thorough destruction of nuclear weapons.
On the economic front, let us not forget that China’s economic advances have not only benefited herself, but also the rest of the world. China is an active promoter of free trade, actively supporting the Doha round of discussions, while, at the same time, entering into many bilateral trade pacts. The latest and most notable pact is the one between China and the ASEAN nations, which will bring more prosperity to almost 1.9 billion people. In the wake of the global financial crisis, China implemented its own domestic economic stimulus plan, and at the same time, did her best to provide necessary support to safeguard the stability of international financial markets and develop a new and much needed international financial architecture through her work within the G20.
Ladies and gentlemen,
You can see that China is not a threat. Instead, China is a real stakeholder for global peace, prosperity, progress and order. This is especially important because of the enormous common challenges that mankind faces today.
Indeed, the world we live in has entered a post-cold war era, in which ideological differences have given way to a whole new set of issues. If the 20th Century was shaped by the conflicts of great powers, the 21st Century will be shaped by how we, the human race, can successfully take on the challenges of energy security, climate change, food sufficiency and scarcity of natural resources, all of which are issues crucial to sustainable development and economic growth in the 21st Century. Beyond those challenges, the world continues to face the threat of nuclear weapons proliferation, transnational terrorism and localized conflicts. There is also an urgency to improve global efforts on epidemic prevention and drug trade eradication. There is a need for a common effort to bring about global financial stability and economic recovery. Fiscal responsibility must be restored, and global imbalances must be addressed.
Today, the world yearns for peace, security, stability and sustainable development. Indeed, never has the world been faced with so many transnational challenges coming together all at the same time. To successfully overcome these challenges, multilateral cooperation, particularly by the major powers, is critical. The United States is the most developed and strongest nation in the world. China is the most populated developing nation in the world. In the multilateral effort to overcome these challenges, a good and productive relationship between the United States and China is essential.
Within the Asian region alone, a great many issues, such as the de-nuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, the challenges of Afghanistan and Pakistan, and the continued growth of the economy in the region, require close cooperation between the United States and China.
China and the United States not only have a foundation for broad cooperation, but they also shoulder very important common responsibilities. Today, communication and interaction between the two countries have never been more frequent; mutually beneficial cooperation between them has never been more extensive; and the need for developing relations between them has never been so pressing.
I am pleased to see that since President Obama’s visit to China in November last year, a brand new opportunity for Sino-US relations has opened up. A joint statement that followed the summit meeting between President Obama and President Hu Jintao was very encouraging for those who wish to see the relationship moving forward. I would like to specifically quote a few passages from the joint statement as follows: “The two countries believe that to nurture and deepen bilateral strategic trust is essential to US-China relations in the new era.” “The United States reiterated that it welcomes a strong, prosperous and successful China that plays a greater role in world affairs.” “China welcomes the United States as an Asia Pacific nation that contributes to peace, stability and prosperity in the region.” “The two sides reiterated that they are committed to building a positive, cooperative and comprehensive U.S.-China relationship for the 21st century, and will take concrete actions to steadily build a partnership to address common challenges.” These words from the two leaders point a positive way forward for us.
I would like to draw special reference to the following quote: “The two countries believe that to nurture and deepen bilateral strategic trust is essential to US-China relations in the new era.”
I believe nurturing and deepening bilateral strategic trust is essential if the US-China relationship is to move up another rung in the ladder of cooperation. But this is not an easy undertaking. One is the largest developing nation in the world, while the other is the most powerful nation in the world. Their histories and cultures are different, and they are at different stages of development. Strategic mutual trust is about reaching a comprehensive and accurate understanding of each other’s path of development, strategic intention and foreign policy. Developing trust takes understanding, and developing understanding takes an active commitment to listening to and respecting each other’s goals and needs.
Frankly speaking, while the leaders of our two countries are developing a good understanding of each other, and while there is an increasing level of understanding between the officials of our two governments, views and perceptions of China in certain important quarters in America worry me. At least until very recently, US defense and national intelligence planning considered China as the greatest challenge to America’s interests, and placed China seemingly in an adversarial role to the United States. Such views, a product of the cold war, are not suited to the 21st century. Indeed, such views are an impediment toward building strategic trust.
Let us take military transparency as an example. While China’s strategic intent has always been an open book, Americans criticize China’s military for its lack of transparency. Well, this is understandable. China\\\'s tactical intent must remain a secret because of the adversarial position America creates for China. The outdated cold-war mentality that prevails in some quarters of the United States needs to change.
Building strategic mutual trust is indeed a difficult task. Eventually, it is about understanding and respecting each other’s core interests and major concerns.
What are the core interests of the United States? They are homeland security (fight against terrorism, prevent spread of nuclear weapons and cyber security) and economic security (financial market stability and economic recovery). The United States also has other areas of major concern such as climate change and energy security. Many of these interests and areas of concern coincide with China’s. For example, the fight against terrorism and the prevention of spread of nuclear weapons, the objectives of China and the United States are entirely the same; the two countries differ over the means of achieving those objectives. Greater policy coordination and cooperation in all these areas are important. Successful cooperation will not only be helpful to finding solutions to these areas of concern, but will also be helpful in building trust between the two countries.
What are China’s core interests? They are issues related to the integrity of its territory and sovereignty. Some people in the West do not understand why the Chinese people view this issue with such intense feelings. Let me try to explain. In China’s recent history, because of the government’s corruption and incompetence, because of foreign invasion, and the ambitions of warlords, the authority of the state became non-existent. As a result, the Chinese people lived in total misery, despair, humiliation and impoverishment for years and years. Indeed, the country was partly occupied and was in danger of being broken up; the existence of China as a nation state and her 5,000 year old civilization was put in danger. We do not wish to see this happen again.
So with regard to the issues of Taiwan and Tibet, the Chinese people have very intense feelings. Let me talk about Taiwan. While the United States recognizes one China, she continues to sell advanced weapons to Taiwan. This is particularly unhelpful, coming at a time when the relationship across the Taiwan Straits is moving in a positive direction, and hopes for peaceful unification are rising. The action of the US government encourages the Taiwan independence movement. This action affronts not only the Chinese government, but Chinese people everywhere. It creates strategic mistrust in Chinese people’s minds that “after all, the United States does not wish China well”.
Is it in the interests of the United States to sell weapons to Taiwan? I do not believe so. As the cross-straits relationship is moving forward, you need to be seen to encourage this forward movement, not to be putting brakes on it.
The issue of Taiwan is an unresolved issue for the Chinese people because of the civil war, which began long ago. It is also a product of the cold war. It is really time to give up the cold war mentality and build peace.
So much for talk about our core national interests. Let us now talk about the present.
What is heartening is that we are seeing more and more positive signs. The two presidents met bilaterally four times last year, culminating in the successful state visit of President Obama to Beijing. Last year, the governments of China and the United States raised the level of participation of their strategic dialogues. Some think tanks in the United States have proposed that the United States’ policy towards China should go beyond hedging. Last year, five retired senior military officers from China and five retired four-star generals from the United States were here in Hawaii to hold the “Sanya initiative” for the second time. The joint statement issued after the talks said that the (retired) American military leaders unanimously felt that the Taiwan Relations Act needs to be reviewed. I hope that through joint efforts by governments, civil societies, the exchange of visits by the people of both countries, and through successes in facing up to our common challenges, the voices of support for Sino-US relations will become louder and louder. Not only is China not a threat to America, it is a friend of America.
Unfortunately, recent events, including the effort to sell arms to Taiwan, the issue of Tibet, trade conflicts, the issue of the renminbi’s value, Google, the Iranian issue, and etc., have raised alarm bells as to the well-being of the US-China relationship. Indeed, bouts like these will impede whatever advances we are making in building strategic trust between the two nations. If you ask me for advice, I have two suggestions to make: the first is steady hands and cool heads to manage these issues. And second, do not make decisions on these issues based on political expediency, but take a long-term view of the need to build strategic trust between the two nations. There is too much at stake.
Building strategic mutual trust between China and the United States is a very difficult mission. This may be the hardest nut to crack in the history of mankind. But it’s worth our while to try every means to crack it. The reason is simple: we cannot afford to bear the consequences of China and the United States becoming enemies. For the sake of our next generation and the interests of the whole world, we must try our very best. This requires vision, wisdom and courage.
Ladies and gentlemen,
China pursues a policy of peace. Together with you and other countries in the world, China wants to share opportunities for development, deal with risks and challenges, and build a harmonious world marked by sustained peace and common prosperity. The ordinary people in China have their “Chinese dream”, just as ordinary Americans have their “American dream”. During the process of development, China has gradually found a development model suitable to the country, including a model of democracy that is a combination of electoral democracy and consultative democracy. China wants prosperity, peace and democracy, and to become a force for good in the world. China wants the United States to be a friend and to share with her the responsibility for human advancement. Having lived in America for 9 years and as a friend of Americans, I sincerely hope this will happen. We share enormous common interests. We have the same dreams. Let’s join together and build a better world for our children and grandchildren.
Hawaii has always been a bridge for exchanges between the East and the West. The East-West Center is a distinguished player in fostering such interflows. I hope that we can work together to build a friendly US-China relationship, a peaceful and prosperous Asia Pacific Region, and a harmonious world.
Thank you very much.