Remarks by Mr C H Tung
at West Point
on 12 April 2012
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Duty, Honour, and Country”, these words serve as beacon for outstanding young Americans like yourselves. These words also aspire young people who come to visit West Point from around the world to serve their own countries. As a young man in the 20s living in New York, I visited West Point a number of times. I was first attracted by curiosity, then by her scenic beauty and finally by those three words “Duty, Honour, and Country”. Much later I learned of the story of a gentleman named Ying Hsing Wen who, in 1909, became West Point’s first Chinese graduate. Apparently, after much heated debate, it took a Special Act of Congress to have him admitted. Wen, who was popular and did well here, went on to act as a military aide to Sun Yat-sen. Ying Hsing Wen’s granddaughter Harriet is here with us today, and she also happens to be my beloved sister-in-law.
I was a businessman for much of my life, but in 1997 I took on a new and unique challenge, and was elected the first Chief Executive of Hong Kong upon her return to China. After stepping down from that role and taking up a new job 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 many years. I have great admiration for the American people. And I believe that, given the many challenges the world faces, and given the enormous opportunities that both our countries can seize upon by working together, the US-China relationship is the most important international relationship today.
The fact is 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. Indeed, if the 20th Century was shaped by conflicts of the 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 critical to sustainable development and economic growth. 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. Four years since the global financial crisis of 08, there is still a need for common efforts to bring about global financial stability and economic recovery. Fiscal responsibility must be restored, and global imbalances must be addressed.
Indeed, never before 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 crucial. China and the United States not only have a foundation for broad cooperation, but they also shoulder very important common responsibilities.
Let me take this opportunity to talk to you about US-China relationship. 40 years ago, President Nixon visited Chairman Mao Zedong in Beijing, and the two leaders began a journey together for our future. Since then 8 United States presidents and 4 generations of Chinese leaders have devoted their wisdom, courage and energy to improve US-China relations. In these 40 years, despite ups and downs, the relationship between the two countries is on a whole moving steadily forward.
Where is the relationship today? Since President Obama become the president of the United States, the presidents of the United States and China have met each other 11 times. In the various meetings, President Obama had repeatedly stated that, “the United States welcomes a strong, prosperous and successful China that plays a greater role in world affairs.” President Hu had repeatedly stated that, “China welcomes the United States as an Asia Pacific nation that contributes to peace, stability and prosperity in the region.” They jointly stated that, “both countries would take concrete actions to steadily build a partnership to address common challenges.”
I would also like to draw special reference to the following statement they made: “The two countries believe that to nurture and deepen bilateral strategic trust is essential to US-China relations in the new era.”
Building strategic trust 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. In fact China does not know the US well, and the US understands China even less. This makes it difficult to build strategic trust. Therefore I hope to take this opportunity to talk to you about what is happening in China today.
What Has Been Happening in China
When the republic was founded in 1949, political institutions were just starting to be formed. People were hungry. There was little organized education, no health care and no means of social security. The country was bankrupt. Indeed, the Chinese people had endured a century of government mismanagement, political instability, constant civil war and warfare imposed by other countries.
The China of today is a very different place, particularly since Deng Xiaoping’s policy of reform and opening up 34 years ago. Since that time a market economy has been introduced, and modern physical infrastructure has been built. A free and compulsory 9-year education has been introduced for all school-aged children. Health care and social security have been made available. Above all, 1.3 billion people have moved from abject poverty to a much improved livelihood.
In these 34 years, a closed Chinese society has become open. Indeed, there has been an unprecedented expansion of individual freedoms – freedom of thought, and freedom to pursue economic opportunity.
China’s Unique Development Path
Many people, inside and outside China, have tried to understand how this has been achieved. Some point to visionary leadership and effective policy-making. Others point to China’s commitment to globalization and her pursuit of science and technology to improve her global competitiveness. These are indeed some of the reasons for success.
But, to me, the real reason for China’s success is because the Chinese people and her leaders have chosen a unique path of development that meets her needs.
How can we describe this development path? Economically, it is about reform and opening up, and it is about developing the right mix between the market economy and the planned economy. Politically, it is about developing China’s unique form of democracy that is consistent with her needs at her current stage of nation building. Internationally, it is about the continued pursuit of a policy of peaceful development around the world.
Economic Development Path
Let me elaborate further on these points. Economically, while much has been achieved, in the past 34 years, the unbalanced nature of growth has increased income disparity between the rich and the poor, between urban and rural populations, and between coastal and inland regions. This growth has also created huge environmental challenges. There is an urgent need to address climate change. New drivers of economic growth need to be developed.
In China’s 12th five-year plan, which is a plan of policy priorities and goals for the next five years, many initiatives were suggested to address these issues. By enforcing massive increases in minimum wages for workers, by improving farmers’ income, by designing a better social security network for farmers, and by an ambitious development plan for the Western region where economic development and incomes lag behind, China is not only reducing the wealth gap, but she is also creating conditions for increases in domestic spending.
The rural population, whose livelihood is agriculture, still accounts for around 50 of the total population, or about 650 million people. Massive urbanization therefore will continue. In the meantime, the need for rural areas to build infrastructure, to provide better education, social security and health care, and to introduce advanced technologies in farming are all pressing tasks being undertaken.
Given China’s burgeoning middle class, domestic consumption will become an important driver of the economy. Moreover, the service sector economy will be greatly expanded. Furthermore, by investment in leading-edge industries, such as renewable energy, new generation information technology, high-end equipment manufacturing, biotechnology and etc., China is restructuring her economy toward a more modern industrial base.
In sum, in addition to exports and fixed asset investment, domestic consumption, service sector economy expansion, continued urbanization, rural renewal and further industrialization will be the engines for growth and job creation for the future.
Political Development Path
Now, let me talk to you about the political aspect of China’s unique development path. Despite China’s success over the past 34 years, her challenges are enormous. China is a country with 20 of the world’s population, but only 7 of the world’s arable land, and is not rich in natural resources. She needs to create 12 million new jobs every year. With a per capita GDP of USD 5,500, ranking 90th in the world, she still needs to bring people out of poverty, and improve livelihoods on a massive scale, and in the shortest time possible. For this to be achieved, social stability is crucial. This is China’s challenge. China needs to develop a political development path consistent not only with her culture and history, but also with her current needs for nation building.
In developing democracy, China always puts people at the center of governance, with an emphasis on transparency, accountability, rule of law, and the protection of legal rights of all her citizens.
Development of China’s democracy is being institutionalized. Today democracy consists of what we call electoral democracy, as embodied in the National Peoples Congress, and consultative democracy, as embodied in the Chinese Peoples Political Consultative Conference (or, the CPPCC). These two organizations play an increasingly active role in making the voice of the people heard, in monitoring the work of the government, and in providing checks and balances to the government. The CPPCC has a particularly important function in building nationwide consensus before national policies are formulated, turned into law and implemented.
The decisive role of the Communist Party in leading China successfully forward needs to be recognized. In evolving from a revolutionary party to the governing party, the Party is becoming more democratic. Decisions are made collectively following extensive public consultation and debate. Term limits and retirement age are imposed on government officials. Appointments and promotions are based on merit, but will also take into account the views of the people.
This path of political development has been successful, and has received the support of the people. To be sure, there are many areas where improvement still needs to be made, such as government waste and corruption and the level of competence of local government officials. These needs are being tackled with priority.
Let me now say a few words about China’s pursuit of a path of peaceful development, a strategic choice made by China for the following reasons.
First, since the launch of her reform and open-door policy, it is increasingly recognized that China’s interests and that of the world have become more and more intertwined and mutually dependent. Therefore, for China’s own future, she needs a stable and peaceful international environment.
Second, during the age of colonialism, countries 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 those conquered. Today, due to globalization, we can achieve a win-win situation amongst nations through trade, commerce and investment. Indeed, prosperity is much better shared today around the world. China is therefore determined to pursue the path of peaceful development globally.
Third, the path of peaceful development is very much a part of Chinese culture, values and lessons of history. Throughout her history, renowned Chinese philosophers such as Laotse and Mencius, warned against war and the burden that would be inflicted in waging wars. Sun-Tsu, whose book on military theory, The Art of War, is a classical Chinese military treatise written 2,500 years ago, also stressed the importance of avoiding war, as the best option for a country. The famous British philosopher Bertrand Russell observed the consistent commitment to peace of China. 90 years ago, Russell wrote in his book, The Problem of China, “Although there have been many wars in China, the natural outlook of the Chinese is very pacifistic.”
The history, culture and values explain China’s choice of a peaceful path of development today. The following are key facts about China’s foreign and defense policies:
- China is committed to an independent foreign policy. China strongly adheres to the five principles of peaceful coexistence. (1. Mutual respect for each other’s territorial integrity and sovereignty, 2. Mutual non-aggression, 3. Mutual non-interference in each other’s internal affairs, 4. Equality and mutual benefits, 5. Peaceful Co-existence.) Central to China’s foreign policy is to build a peaceful world that provides shared prosperity for all.
- China will increasingly assume its fair share of global responsibility, while at the same time, seek to shape a friendly relationship with all her neighbors.
- China supports the centrality of the United Nations in matters affecting world peace and security. She is committed to addressing international disputes in a peaceful manner.
- China will not repeat the error of history, whereby power led to hegemony, and hegemony plunged the world into disaster and conflicts.
- China has peacefully addressed long-standing boundary issues with 12 of its neighbors on land. China is determined to find negotiated solutions to territorial and maritime disputes with neighboring countries, including the South-China Sea, East-China Sea and on the West Asia subcontinent.
You may ask why China is investing so much in her military. The fact is, her military expenditure, at approximately 1.5 of GDP is comparatively low by any standard. It should be noted that China has no overseas military bases. Indeed China’s military expenditure is defensive in nature, but China recognizes that in order to pursue peace, she needs deterrent to prevent war.
The economic, political and international relations development path has given us, as a nation, a way to move forward. I hope this information will be helpful to you in gaining greater understanding of China. Of course, the best way is still to come and see for yourselves.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Building strategic mutual trust is about reaching a comprehensive and accurate understanding of each other’s path of development, strategic intention and foreign policy, it is also about understanding each other’s history, culture and values. Developing trust takes understanding, and developing understanding takes an active commitment to listening to and respecting each other’s goals and needs.
To achieve this, exchanges and dialogues are very important. This is not only through dialogues between the officials of the two governments, although that is very important, but also the exchanges of people of the two countries at all levels. We should encourage two-way tourism; encourage two-way exchanges of arts, cultures and sports; encourage exchanges of visits of scholars and students; encourage engagement of think tanks; encourage exchange visits of legislators and their aids; encourage exchange visits of serving and retired military officials; encourage more trade, commerce and investment, and etc. The more we meet, the more we understand each other, the more we can create trust.
Building strategic trust between our two nations would take patience, resolve and persistence. But I am confident we will succeed. This is not only because of the good foundation people before us have already built, but because of the good will Chinese people and American people always have had for each other.
Seeing so many of you in uniform remind me of one special event during the Second World War when the US and China joined hands together to fight Japanese imperialism. This special event that is forever remembered by the Chinese people is the heroic efforts of the Flying Tigers flying over the Himalayas to keep open the supply of strategic goods in support of China’s war efforts against the Japanese on the Chinese mainland. To remember the 3,300 heroes who died, of which 2,200 are Americans, a special monument was erected in Kunming. In this way their sacrifice for the Chinese people will be forever remembered.
Ladies and Gentlemen, as Americans, you have a dream. It is the American dream. The dream of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” It is a dream deeply rooted in the American tradition. For centuries, people have come to this great country regardless of their race, social status or background, in the belief that opportunities for a better life are open to everyone. Success is within reach for those who have an open mind, a pair of diligent hands, and the belief that the next generation will fare better. Together, hard working people have built this great nation.
People in China today also have a dream. It is a dream for all of her citizens to rise above poverty, to live in dignity, to live in a society that is just and democratic, and to share in the growing economic prosperity. It is a dream of all her citizens to live in a country we can proudly call home, and a country that will be a force for peace and harmony for the world. It is a dream that was beyond anyone’s imagination until only very recently, but now a dream within reach of all her people.
In today’s China, millions of people are being lifted out of poverty every year. Millions of rural residents are migrating to cities to seek better opportunities, greater mobility and personal success. Millions of ethnic minorities are enjoying a better life. With hard work and intelligence, the Chinese people have changed their own destinies and the destiny of their country. In the pursuit of their goals, there are stories of joy and stories of tears. While not everything is perfect, the people of China have made gigantic strides in improving the livelihood for one-fifth of the world’s population. And many of them have turned their dreams into reality.
Your dream, our dream, it is fundamentally one dream – the dream for a better life in a peaceful and prosperous world for this generation and for generations to come.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am grateful for the opportunity to speak with the students of West Point today. You are the future leaders of America. I sincerely hope we can join together as bridge builders to improve mutual understanding and create trust to cement this important relationship.