Your Excellency Lady Cooke,
Mr. Maurice Tenn, President of Jamaica China Friendship Association,
Member of the Association,
Leaders of the Jamaican Chinese Community,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
My wife and I feel greatly honoured to be invited to this banquet hosted by Jamaica China Friendship Association to celebrate the 56th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China. It is almost like a tradition for me to join my friends from the Association at our National Day or the Chinese New Year's Day, to celebrate and to take pride in what China has achieved in the previous years.
The past 56 years are unforgettable, especially the 27 years after China started the reform and opening-up, for they witnessed the development of China from a poor and backward country into one of the world's major economic powers. For 27 years, China's economy has grown at an unprecedented rate, averaging 9.4% annually, bringing the GDP from USD 147.3 billion to USD 1.65 trillion. The trade volume also increased from USD 20.6 billion in 1977 to USD 1.15 trillion in 2004, ranking the 3rd in the world. And we have the confidence that this momentum will be kept for the years ahead. In the first half of 2005, China's GDP increased by 9.5% to USD 814.6 billion and the trade volume amounted to USD 645 billion, an increase of 23%.
These figures may sound too abstract for you. I just want to give you an example to show the country's fast development, that is the construction of expressways, which I believe must have impressed our friends of the Association who have visited China. You may recall that wherever you went in China, either travelling to the Great Wall in Beijing, or being driven to visit the Terra Cotta worriers and horses outside Xi'an, you saw the wide and smooth expressways. Now the country has the total length of 34,300 km of expressways. Who can imagine that 27 years ago China had not got an inch of it? You may have been impressed by China's highways as well. Now, almost every village is linked by highways. Mrs. Pickersgill told me that recently during her trip to China she went to see her sisters outside Shenzhen City. The highways lead right to her sister's village.
Of course, we always keep it in our mind that there is no plain sailing in China's voyage to the development and modernization. We do have problems. For instance, too big a population. Now we have a GDP of USD 1.65 trillion, but when it is divided by 1.3 billion, the per capital GDP is only USD 1,200. It would be a totally different picture if it was divided by Jamaica's population of 2.6 million, then our per capital GDP would have been USD 635,000. Besides, every year we have a total of about 4 million university graduates, who need jobs. So large population does bring us serious challenges. We also have other problems such as the widening gap between rich and poor and pollution, etc.
These are visible problems. There are also many invisible. For instance, the people's mode of thinking. It should also be changed along with the country's change from the old-fashioned planned economy to market economy. As China is undergoing economic restructuring, some workers have been laid-off and need to be re-employed. Some years ago when walking on Beijing streets, you would seldom see the local Beijingers doing so-called indecent jobs such as running small food stands or restaurants and sweeping streets. These jobs were all done by migrant labourers. As a result, there were few food stands on the roadside open in Beijing during the Chinese New Year, as those people doing the job had left Beijing for home to make holidays. Of course that was a scene in the past. Now things have started to change.
We can rely on no one except ourselves to resolve the problems facing our 1.3 billion people. Luckily, we have found the right path of development for China. And we have got the competent new leadership, who has always emphasized the common prosperity of all people and eradication of poverty in less developed areas.
Let me say a few words on the Sino-Jamaica relations. The past months have witnessed frequent exchanges of high-level visits between the two countries, especially Vice President Zeng Qinghong's visit to Jamaica in February and Prime Minister Patterson's visit to China in June, resulting in the strengthened political mutual trust among our leaders. Economically, the two countries have been conducting exchanges and cooperation in some important projects. The construction of Greenfield Sports Complex has started. The Prime Minister Patterson will officiate the ground breaking ceremony on October 25. A delegation from China is in Jamaica right now to make geological survey for the railway project of Jamaica. All these, together with cooperation in many other areas have culminated in the establishment of the Jamaican Embassy in China this July. And I'd like to echo what President Hu Jintao said to Prime Minister Patterson last June in Beijing: "The year 2005 is the year of Sino-Jamaican friendship".
Dear friends, I want to say that, without the concerted efforts of the Jamaican government and our Jamaican friends, including members of the Association, it would be impossible to bring the Sino-Jamaican relations to such a high level.
I want to express my sincere appreciation to the Association, which, since its establishment, has been devoting itself to the promotion of friendly exchanges and cooperation between the peoples of China and Jamaica.
Special appreciation should be extended to Her Excellency Lady Cooke, who always cherishes special feeling towards China as well as the Jamaica China Friendship Association. Her presence tonight has really graced the occasion. I'd like to request Lady Cooke to convey our high respects and best wishes to Sir Howard Cooke, the Governor General, who is in Belize for the Conference of Caribbean Governor Generals.
Now please allow me to propose a toast,
To the health of Her Excellency Lady Cooke,
To the prosperity of China and Jamaica,
To the friendship between China and Jamaica, and the Chinese and Jamaican peoples,
To the health of everyone,