|Speech by Ambassador Zhao Zhenyu at the University of West Indies|
Professor Diana Thorburn,
Boys & Girls, or rather Young Friends,
First of all, I wish to thank Prof. Thorburn for inviting me to address this class on the important issue of China – Caribbean relations.
The University of the Western Indies has been the powerhouse of many theories in the fields of political economy and international relations, producing a group of prominent politicians and academics without rival among institutions of comparable size in this region. In my eyes, this university of yours is also the cradle for cultivating Caribbean leaders. I am sure that you students must be very proud of having 7 alumni currently serving as Prime Ministers of Caribbean countries including P. J. Patterson. Maybe some day in the near future will see more national leaders coming out of this classroom.
I have been to your university quite a few times, last one being two weeks ago when I came to attend a reception in honor of university's partners. I am very glad to see a kind of partnership has been forged between China and your university. You may be aware that last year China donated to the university some multi-media equipment for the Chinese language teaching system. And at the request of the university, China will send here this year a Chinese language instructor, who will teach the Chinese culture and language in the university. On top of that, a group of professors from your university went to China last October for a visit as guests of China's Nanjing University. I have agreed with your Vice Chancellor Professor Nigel Harris the other day that we should schedule a meeting to discuss about further exchanges and interactions as partners.
So you can see that I have already had some contacts with your Chancellors and professors, but not with you students yet. That is why I am grateful to Diana for giving me this opportunity for the first time to have a face-to-face exchange with you.
I learned from your course description that China's rise to world power is one of the four topics for this course Contemporary Issues in International Relations. As you know, China's policy orientation has been a subject of interest for the international community and the "China factor" has become an important element for many countries when making policy options. So it would be helpful for you, as students studying international relations, to know more about China and its foreign policy. Here, I'd like to thank you all for your interest in China.
I was asked by Prof. Thorburn to make a presentation on China – Caribbean relations, a topic which I believe is very important, especially at a time when people in this region still have a fresh memory of the successful visit by H. E. Mr. Zeng Qinghong, Vice President of China to Jamaica and Trinidad & Tobago and the smooth launching of the first Ministerial Conference of the China-Caribbean Economic and Trade Cooperation Forum and the China-Caribbean Trade Fair in Kingston in early February this year.
The title of my presentation today is "China's Development and China-Caribbean Relations". I hope my presentation will give you a better understanding of China and China's policy towards this region.
I. China's History and Its Modern Development
Before I touch upon the topic of China-Caribbean relations, I'd like to give you a brief introduction of the Chinese history because, in order to understand China and its foreign policy, it is necessary to get to know some of its history and culture.
As you may know, China is a country with an ancient civilization of more than five thousand years. Far back in the times of remote antiquity, the Chinese people already started to create its splendid culture that has influenced the human development in countries far beyond the Chinese boundaries. China produced in its history many outstanding philosophers, thinkers, statesmen, strategists, scientists, writers and artists and left us with numerous volumes of literature. The scene of "contention of a hundred schools of thought" brought forth in the Spring and Autumn Period of Chinese history 2,500 years ago and the Warring States Period over 2,200 years ago and the emergence of various schools of thought and their exponents such as Lao Zi and Confucius about 2,400 years ago all occupy a very important position in the world history of philosophy. Ancient China made unique contributions to many areas of science including astronomy, calendric system, geography, mathematics, agriculture, medicine and the humanities. Particularly, China's four great inventions had once changed the face of the world. Has anyone of you ever heard of these four great inventions? They are paper-making, gunpowder, printing and compass.
I can give you another example. In the 15th Century, China's great navigator Zheng He commanded an enormous fleet to complete seven major maritime expeditions to the Pacific and Indian Oceans. His sea-faring was 87 years earlier than that of Columbus. What he did was quite different from those colonialists. He came for peace and cultural exchanges, not for colonization and exploitation. He taught the local people how to grow crops, use agricultural tolls, dig wells, prepare tea and even play Chinese chess.
China had been a world leader in science and technology for one thousand years until the 15th century. It would be impossible for a historian to envision a history of civilization without contributions made by the Chinese people.
However, in the early part of the 19th century, the Qing Dynasty, the last feudal dynasty in the Chinese history, declined rapidly. Many countries, including Britain, the United States, France, Russia and Japan forced the Qing government to sign various unequal treaties. China was gradually relegated to a semi-colonial, semi-feudal country. It was weak, and fell a prey to foreign invasion with lots of land annexed and its people plunged into an abyss of misery. The Chinese people fought tenaciously to change their miserable destiny. From the middle of the 19th century to that of the 20th century, the Chinese people went through setbacks and defeat in their struggles for emancipation, but they never yielded.
Finally, under the leadership of the Communist Party of China, the Chinese people won national independence and liberation and on October 1, 1949, the People's Republic of China was founded. From then on China started large-scale socialist construction and amazing achievements were made during this period. Unfortunately, due to some grave mistakes made by the then Chinese leaders, the "Great Cultural Revolution", which lasted for ten years from May 1966 to October 1976, made the country and its people suffer the most serious setbacks and losses since its founding. You may have read a novel entitled "Wild Swan", which did touch upon that part of the Chinese history although this book is considered in China as a failure to objectively portray a true picture of modern China.
In late 1978, under the leadership of Mr. Deng Xiaoping, the Chinese people launched the historical process of reform and opening-up and building a socialist society with Chinese characteristics. Over the past 26 years, the Chinese economy has maintained rapid growth, various social undertakings gained long-term development, social productivity and comprehensive national strength realized historical leap, and people's living standards generally reached the requirements of a well-off society. From 1978 to 2003, China's GDP increased from US$147.3 billion to over US$1.4 trillion, with an average annual growth rate of 9.4%. Its total foreign trade volume grew from US$20.6 billion to US$851.2 billion, with an average annual growth rate of 16.1%. And the poverty-stricken population in the rural area dropped from 250 million to about 30 million. In 2004, China is No. 6 in the world in terms of GDP (US$ 1.65 trillion), No. 2 in terms of foreign reserves (US$609 billion), No. 3 in terms of import (US$561 billion), and No. 4 in terms of export (US$593 billion).
In spite of the above widely acclaimed development achievements, we keep a sober mind that today China is faced with a variety of problems. The gap between urban and rural areas is large, natural resources are relatively scarce and unevenly dispersed, trend of ecological degradation has not been reversed once and for all, and coordinated development between regions, particularly between the east and west and between the south and north, has been unsteady for a long time. Problems of food, clothing, housing, transport, medical service, education, and various social services, have not been solved completely. The country has not been completely reunified although Hong Kong and Macao have successively returned to the motherland. This is the basic national conditions and a major challenge facing China when it strives to build a well-off society in an all-round way. China still has a long way to go to realize modernization and enable its entire people to live a well-off life.
To address various problems and realize modernization, the 1.3 billion Chinese people have no alternative but to unswervingly follow the road of peaceful development in a bid to create a long-term peaceful international environment for China's economic construction. In this connection, I would like to brief you on China's independent foreign policy of peace. It is only from this context that you will be able to understand better China's policy towards the Caribbean countries.
II. China's Independent Foreign Policy of Peace
Before we situate the Caribbean region in China's foreign policy, it would be helpful for us to have a look at the general picture of China's independent foreign policy of peace.
Since the People's Republic of China was founded in 1949, China has always, especially over the past 20 years or so, pursued an independent foreign policy of peace with the purpose of maintaining world peace and promoting common development. The basic goal of the policy, which features independence and peace, is to firmly safeguard the nation's independence, security and sovereignty, and adopt a positive attitude toward safeguarding world peace, in a bid to create a long-term peaceful international environment for China's economic development. Proceeding from the above general principles, China has put forward a series of specific policies, which can be summarized as follows:
1. Strengthening China's Relations with Its Surrounding Countries. An outstanding feature of China's diplomacy in the new period is to give prime priority to the building of a peaceful and secure surrounding environment for cooperation and prosperity. China has put forward the policy of "building good-neighborly relationship and partnership with its neighboring countries" and the policy of "creating an amicable, secure and prosperous neighborhood" aiming to safeguard peace and prosperity, enhance exchanges and cooperation, seeking mutual benefit and strive for common prosperity and development.
First, to Enhance Political Relations. China has appropriately solved boundary disputes left by history with most of the neighbors and peaceful negotiations are still under way with a few countries for resolving boundary issues. During Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao's visit to India earlier this month, the two sides signed an agreement on the political parameters and guiding principles for the settlement of the boundary question. The exchange of visits by high-ranking leaders between China and neighboring countries has witnessed a rapid increase over the past years, which has greatly enhanced their mutual understanding and consolidated and promoted their friendly cooperative relations. China and its neighbors have been coordinating their positions and supporting each other in the international arena. China's neighboring countries have adhered to the One China policy. At the same time, China has supported their just struggle for safeguarding national sovereignty and against superpower hegemonism. Apart from China's continued efforts to develop bilateral relations with its neighboring countries, China has also intensified its endeavor to strengthen the regional cooperation. China has built "strategic partnership relations" with many Asian neighbors.
Second, Forge Closer Economic and Trade Relations. Bilateral trade between China and Asian countries constitutes more than 55% of China's trade volume. In 2003, China's trade with Asian countries topped US$495.5 billion, an increase of 36.5% over the previous year.
Third, Increase Cultural, Tourism, Scientific and Technical Exchanges. China has signed with many neighboring countries cultural agreements and scientific and technological protocols as well as annual implementation plans. Asian countries have become the first destination for many Chinese tourists.
All these have pushed China's good-neighborly relationships with its surrounding countries forward in a comprehensive way.
2. Continuing to Improve China's Relations with the Major Powers in the World. The characteristics of the post-cold war relations among the major powers are mutual help and support, inter-dependence, competition, coordination and coexistence. It is the crucial task for China's diplomacy to improve, develop and stabilize its relations with the major powers and enable China to enjoy an advantageous position in the complicated and tortuous international situation.
Although there exists the fallacy of "China's threat" in the US administration, armed forces, congress and public opinion, China and the United States are each other's important economic and trading partners with increasing economic inter-dependence. The United States needs the understanding and support from China in international and regional affairs, including anti-terrorism war, non-proliferation and economic cooperation. And China and the United States have conducted necessary and fruitful coordination and cooperation.
Europe has shared much common ground with China in advocating multi-polarization and multi-lateralism. Therefore the bilateral relations between China and Europe have been growing in depth in an all-round way. China and Russia share extensive common interests, and hold basically identical positions in promoting the multi-polarization of the world, preserving the dominant role of the United Nations in international affairs and establishing a just and rational new international political and economic order. On the basis of their extensive cooperation, the two countries have established the strategic partnership between them.
3. Taking Relationship with Developing Countries as the Basic Foothold for China's Foreign Policy. Developing nations, whose population accounts for 90% of the world's total and which constitute 84% of United Nations member states, play an important role in international affairs, particularly in the process to build a just and rational new international political and economic order. Sharing the same historical experiences and shouldering the common task of developing their respective economies, China and other developing countries have always been true friends and partners, standing side by side in the international arena. China has conducted fruitful dialogues with some major developing countries including Brazil, India and South Africa. China has launched the China-Arab Cooperation Forum and the China-African Cooperation Forum. As an observer of the Assembly of Latin American Parliamentarians and a permanent observer of the Organization of American States, China has reached consensus with Latin American countries on the establishment of the China-Latin American Cooperation Forum. And, as you will recall, the 1st Ministerial Conference of the China-Caribbean Trade and Economic Cooperation Forum was successfully held in Kingston earlier this year. The prospect for developing the relations between China and other developing countries is broad and bright.
4. Active Participation in the Multilateral Activities. In the present world, multilateral diplomacy is an effective means for the international community to cope with various trans-national challenges through mutual coordination and close cooperation. China attaches importance to the unique role played by the United Nations in promoting the establishment of a just and rational new international political and economic order and works for the maintenance of the authority of the UN Security Council. China has, in accordance with the spirit of the basic purposes and principles of the UN Charter, actively participated in the UN activities in peacekeeping, arms-control, fight against terrorism, development, human rights, judicature and environment protection and in the activities of the various UN agencies. China has also actively participated in such international organizations as the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), the Asia-European Summit, the ASEAN and the ARF. It has supported and participated in the multilateral diplomatic activities initiated by Group 77, of which Jamaica is the chair.
With the implementation of the above-mention policies, China has successfully built up its image as a responsible major power. In the past few years, China has played an important role in dealing with the Asian financial crisis, the nuclear arms race in South Asia, the Kosovo crisis, the shock of the September 11th terrorist attacks, the Afghanistan war, the Iraq war and the nuclear issue on the Korean Peninsula and displayed its sincere, responsible, practical, flexible and open-minded style in diplomacy and its remarkable integrity of adhering to the principles and upholding justice as a socialist country.
III. China – Caribbean Relations
China and Caribbean countries are geographically far away from each other and are separated by the vast ocean. Yet the historical links between the two date back to ancient times. In modern times, the immigration of Chinese to the Caribbean started about two hundred years ago. After their arrival in the region, they entered into very good terms with other ethnic groups, made important contributions to the economic development and social progress of the residing countries, and with their own culture, enriched the cultures of their adopted lands. As Ambassador of China, I certainly feel very happy about that. Actually last year the Chinese Government joined the Chinese community in Jamaica in celebrating the 150th anniversary of the Chinese first arrival in Jamaica by sending an acrobatic troupe and an puppet show troupe to Jamaica.
Up to now, China has established diplomatic ties with 11 Caribbean countries. Among them, first with Cuba, and followed by Guyana, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, Suriname, Barbados, Antigua and Barbuda during the period from early 70's to 80's, and then Bahamas and St. Lucia in 1997, Dominica in 2004, and Grenada in January 2005.
The recent years have witnessed an all-round development of the relations between China and Caribbean countries in political, economic, cultural, educational and other fields.
1. There have been extensive exchanges of high-level visits between China and the Caribbean countries. Over the past two years, leaders from most countries in the region that have established diplomatic relations with China have visited China. On the part of China, Vice Premier Mme. Wu Yi, and Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing, have visited Caribbean countries. The recent visit to Jamaica and Trinidad &Tobago by Vice President Zeng Qinghong, during which a relationship of "Friendship and Partnership for Common Development" was established, has brought the bilateral relations between China and the two countries to a strategically new high. The above-mentioned friendly exchanges have greatly enhanced the mutual understanding, mutual trust and friendship between Chinese and Caribbean leaders, and further promoted mutually beneficial cooperation between the two sides.
As a complement to these visits between leaders of both sides, the Foreign Ministries of China and Caribbean countries having diplomatic ties with China have set up a consultation mechanism with the former's Vice Foreign Minister and the latter's Permanent Secretaries meeting once every two years.
2. Economic and trade exchanges between China and the Caribbean countries have expanded steadily, ushering in the best period of economic and trade development in history. According to Chinese statistics, the trade volume between China and the Caribbean countries in 2004 amounted to US$2 billion, a 42.5% increase over 2003. By the end of 2004, Chinese companies have implemented all kinds of labor contracts in the Caribbean region totaling US$1.32 billion, and fulfilled the business volume of over US$900 million. Caribbean countries' commodities exported to China mainly comprise alumina, asphalt, timber, sea products,etc., and their main imports from China range from mechanical and electrical products, light industry and textile products, to chemical products, etc.
What is worth mentioning here is the launching of the China-Caribbean Trade & Economic Cooperation Forum held in Kingston earlier this year, which marked a milestone in China-Caribbean trade and economic relations. It has provided a platform to deepen China-Caribbean friendship and expand their cooperation. During the Forum, China and Caribbean countries signed the Action Program of Economic and Trade Cooperation, making the blueprint for strengthening bilateral cooperation in such areas as trade, investment, agriculture, fishery, tourism, finance, infrastructure construction, and human resources development.
3. The area of cooperation between China and Caribbean counties has been further expanded to cultural, sports, educational, media and other fields. In terms of cultural exchanges and cooperation, various Chinese art troupes have made performance tours in most of the island nations. At the recent Forum in Kingston, China announced that it had agreed to enlist ten Caribbean countries as approved tourist destinations for its citizens. As you may know, two table tennis coaches from China are now in Jamaica, training your national players. The Chinese government has provided scholarship for students from most Caribbean countries to study in Chinese universities. In September 2003,a delegation of journalists from Caribbean countries visited China. Some provinces and cities in China have established twinning relationship with their Caribbean counterparts. For instance, Kingston is the sister city of China's Shenzhen and Motego Bay is the sister city of China's Hangzhou. In the past few years, China has provided military logistic goods gratis to Jamaica, Trinidad & Tobago and Suriname and also accepted military officers from these countries to take training courses in outstanding Chinese military academies. Besides, China and most Caribbean countries have had good cooperation on matters of mutual concern in various regional and international forums and organizations. With the valuable support from the Caribbean countries, China successfully became a permanent observer of the OAS in 2004.
An Evaluation of the Standing of the Caribbean Countries in China's Foreign Policy
Based on its analysis of the international situation and definition of its national interests, China attaches great importance to its relations with the developing countries in its diplomacy. To strengthen its friendly relations and cooperation with numerous developing countries including those in the Caribbean region is one fundamental element of China's foreign policy. Although Caribbean countries are tiny island nations far away from China, yet they do occupy a very important position in China's foreign policy.
Firstly, Sino-Caribbean relations have a long history. The vast Pacific Ocean is not a natural moat standing between China and Caribbean countries, but rather a bond of friendship that has linked the two sides. Over the past one hundred years, China and Caribbean countries have traversed the same or similar development course. They have all struggled unyieldingly for their national independence and liberation and for the maintenance of state sovereignty and national dignity. They have all opposed foreign intervention and aggression and resisted and stood up to hegemonism and power politics. They have all advocated and worked for the establishment of a just and reasonable new international political and economic order. They have all made tenacious reform and exploratory efforts in leading their respective countries onto a road to strength, economic prosperity, social progress and well-being of the people. All these have laid a solid foundation for closer partnership between them.
Secondly, Both sides share much common ground in the international arena. The Caribbean countries are important members of the developing world. Aspiring to speak in one voice, the 15 Caribbean countries constitute an important group at the international forums. Confronted with the same challenges and opportunities arising from political multi-polarization and economic globalization, both sides advocate multilateralism, keep committed to promoting the democratization of international relations and are working hard to create sound international environment for their own development. China and the Caribbean countries need each other and can work together in the United Nations, WTO, WHO, G77+China and other international forums.
Thirdly, between Caribbean countries and China there is a great complementarity economically. Both sides will benefit from each other by furthering economic cooperation. I will talk more about it later.
China's Basic Policy towards the Caribbean Countries
As reiterated on many occasions, the Chinese Government is ready to make joint efforts with the Caribbean countries to vigorously expand its relations of friendly cooperation with them on the basis of the principles of mutual respect, equality and mutual benefit. This position has been well received and highly appreciated by the Caribbean countries.
1. With a view to seeking a stable international environment, China supports the efforts by Caribbean countries to maintain regional peace and stability.
The overall political and security situation in the Caribbean region at present is relatively stable. Certain countries, however, are still overshadowed by political uncertainties and sluggish economic performance, as shown by the recent crisis in Haiti. At the regional level, Caribbean nations are faced with the threat to their sovereignty and security posed by various trans-national crimes and other non-traditional threats, such as terrorism, drug-trafficking, firearms smuggling, money laundering, the spread of infectious diseases including HIV/AIDS, etc..
The Chinese government has always supported the efforts by the Caribbean countries to safeguard their national sovereignty and territorial integrity, maintain regional peace and stability, and combat various trans-national crimes and terrorism. China has actively participated in the UN peace-keeping operations in Haiti in an bid to contribute to maintaining peace and stability in that country and the region at large. In a word, the peace and stability in this region is an important part of the stable international environment China is seeking.
2. China is ready to make joint efforts with the Caribbean countries to develop regional economy and safeguard the legitimate rights and interests of the developing countries.
All the 15 Caribbean countries are developing nations, with Haiti being listed by the UN as a Least Developed Country. Generally speaking, economies of these countries are featured with geographic remoteness and isolation, small population size, weak telecommunications and transport infrastructure,simple industrial structure and high dependence on foreign trade, investment and aid. These weak points have placed the Caribbean countries in an extremely unfavorable position in international economy and trade. The Caribbean countries, together with other small islands developing states (SIDS), have tried to make the global economic, trade and financial systems more responsive to their needs and have consistently called for special and differential treatment in trade and aid arrangement to address their special circumstances. China, which is also a developing country, fully understands the difficulties the Caribbean countries are faced with.
China has always maintained that a fundamental way to safeguarding world peace and stability is to narrow the North-South gap, or the gap between the developing and the developed nations, by helping developing nations develop their economies. Out of this understanding and taking into consideration the unfavorable conditions of the Caribbean countries, China has supported the just economic demand of the Caribbean countries. The Chinese Government also supports the CARICOM in its active efforts for greater strength through unity among the island countries and the island countries' initiative of establishing the CSME. Bilaterally, China stands ready to offer assistance within its capacity to its friends in the Caribbean region, to help them develop national economy and improve people's living standards. China's aid is modest and limited, but it is provided sincerely and without any conditions attached.
3. China is committed to strengthening bilateral economic and trade relations on the basis of equality, mutual benefit and complementarity.
Economies of China and the Caribbean countries are highly complementary and there is vast potential for mutually beneficial cooperation between the two sides. The Caribbean region is rich in natural resources in terms of alumina, asphalt, timber, oil and gas. On the other hand, China's light industrial products, household electronics, chemical products, textiles and other goods are inexpensive and yet of high quality and therefore are rather competitive in international markets and very much welcomed by the islanders.
This complementarity provides a good opportunity for the mutually beneficial cooperation between China and the Caribbean countries. To address the challenges of economic globalization and achieve sustained development, the Chinese Government has encouraged Chinese enterprises to adopt a strategy of "going global" by doing business and investing abroad and exploring overseas markets. At the same time, China is attaching more and more importance to diversification of import of oil and other strategic resources so as to ensure its national economic security and sustained development. In this connection, the Caribbean countries will become a more and more important cooperation partner for Chinese enterprises to seek international market and resources. Chinese business circle has been encouraged to interact with their counterparts in the Caribbean region on a much larger scale so that they will know more about what their counterparts can offer and explore more opportunities for economic cooperation.
4. The principle of one China constitutes the political foundation of the relations between China and Caribbean countries.
China appreciates the majority of the Caribbean countries for their adherence to the one China principle. China's position is consistent and clear. We do not oppose economic and cultural exchanges of an unofficial nature between the Taiwan region and countries having diplomatic relations with China. But, we firmly oppose any country developing official relations or having any official exchanges or contacts with Taiwan, which is a province of China. It is hoped that all the countries will stand on high alert against the Taiwan authorities' political attempts to advance "pragmatic diplomacy" and "dollar diplomacy" in the Caribbean region, create "two Chinas" or "one China, one Taiwan" and sabotage the relations between China and the Caribbean region.
The development of the bilateral relations in the past thirty years or so has shown that although China and the Caribbean countries have different national conditions and China's ties with certain island countries have experienced ups and downs, the two sides have much in common and China-Caribbean relations will continue to move forward healthily and steadily so long as the two sides deal with bilateral ties in line with universally recognized norms guiding international relations. As Prime Minister P. J. Patterson observed at the opening ceremony of the China- Caribbean Trade and Economic Cooperation Forum on 2 February, the time for Caribbean countries and China to join hands and explore new areas and channels for cooperation has come. It is believed that with the concerted efforts of the two sides, such cooperation will yield abundant fruits in the future.
Thank you for your patience. Now I am glad to take your questions.