Zheng Bijian:China's Peaceful Rise and Opportunities for the Asia-Pacific Region
Origin:Boao Forum for Asia      Time:2013-12-13 14:52:31     Views:661040

Mr. Chairman,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Today, China Reform Forum and Bo'ao Forum for Asia come together for this round-table meeting to discuss the important topic of the relationship between China's peaceful rise and economic globalization. Over the past two years, due to China's development,"China threat" and"China collapse" have become hot topics in some countries. I have noticed lately that people are quite interested in the topic of"China's peaceful rise" and have raised some very thought-provoking questions that deserve answers.

Today, I wish to further elaborate my observations in three aspects:

 -- What is the nature of the path for China's peaceful rise? Will it get anywhere?

 -- What will China's peaceful rise bring to the Asia-Pacific region?

-- Where is the future of China and the Asia-Pacific region?

During this morning's general session, I briefly discussed these questions. Now I would like to further elaborate.

Before I touch upon the prospect of the path for China's peaceful rise, I would like to make some clarifications."China's peaceful rise" refers to the road of development pursued by China dating back to the 3rd plenary of the 11th National Congress of the Communist Party of China at the end of 1978 and lasting until the middle of this century. During such a historical process, with peace and development remaining the themes of the times, China by and large realizes modernization through sustained, rapid, coordinated and sound development on the basis of reform and opening up. It's been a quarter century since China embarked on the road to peaceful rise. It was Mr. Deng Xiaoping, the chief architect of China's reform and opening up, who brought us onto such a road and it is under the leadership of Mr. Jiang Zemin, the core of China's third generation leadership, and Mr. Hu Jintao, the leader of the new generation, that we stride on this road into the 21st century.

The past 25 years are quite extraordinary. Our biggest gain is that we have realized that"peace" and"rise", which look quite contradictory, can actually be integrated. In the past, the rise of big powers often meant a toppling of the international order and a threat to peace. China breaks this rule. While seeking a peaceful international environment to ensure our development, we are safeguarding world peace through our own development.

How can we manage to integrate"peace" and"rise"? If there is any secret, it is we blazed a road of building socialism with Chinese characteristics independently by engaging in rather than detaching from economic globalization.

By"engaging in economic globalization", I mean we not only open our domestic market, but also tap the world market under the pretext of peaceful coexistence with the rest of the world. We seek a win-win and mutually beneficial situation by competing on a level playing field with other countries under the same rules and the principle of making the most of the advantages while avoiding the negative factors.

 "Building socialism with Chinese characteristics independently" means while attaching importance to utilizing the world market and the resources it provides, we mainly depend on our own strength for settlement of the problems arising in the process of development, rather than bring trouble to other countries. As a big country covering a large area and endowed with rich natural resources, China is capable of achieving such a goal.

This is how"peace" and"rise" are linked up and integrated. Two Chinese sayings may help illustrate the process. One is"Do not do to others what you would not have them do to you" and the other is"He who helps others helps himself". This is how peaceful rise comes about.

For those who suspect the feasibility of the path for peaceful rise chosen by the Chinese people, their main worry is, in the first one or two decades of the 21st century, China is faced with both opportunities and challenges, then how can China handle all these? It is true that what we face is no smooth sailing; there are bound to be predictable or unpredictable challenges, risks and pressure. We are not only soberly aware of this, but have also formed a scientific approach to dealing with these opportunities and challenges.

First, our experience told us that there is no free lunch in the world. To seize and create opportunities and open up a new vista, we have to overcome difficulties and cope with risks.

Second, our experience has also proved that opportunities and challenges may be brought about by both domestic and foreign factors, but the decisive factor is always China itself. Our success depends on whether we are able to seize the opportunities with a pioneering spirit and refrain from following the beaten track.

Third, due to China's weak aggregate strength compared with many big powers in the world, coupled with a host of serious weaknesses, we are certainly faced with quite a lot of unpredictable factors and difficulties. So long as we properly handle these weaknesses and find new approaches and strategies, we will be able to turn risks into opportunities and even create new opportunities.

All in all, the internal and external factors, the positive and negative aspects, plus our attitude toward opportunities dictate that in the first two decades of the 21st century, while confronting various risks and challenges, China is bound to usher in a new era of strategic opportunity for its peaceful rise.

What will China's peaceful rise bring to the Asia-Pacific region?

During last year's general session of this Forum, I mentioned two mathematic questions. One is multiplication; the other is division. The two questions illustrate the pressure and impetus brought to our development by China's huge population, and prove that we have to concentrate on our own development.

Today I will talk about two more mathematic questions. One is addition; the other is subtraction. The addition is: What a huge growth potential will it produce if a big market of 1.3 billion people and China's rapidly growing economy are added to the Asia-Pacific economy. The subtraction is: what a huge market vacuum will it be if the Chinese market of 1.3 billion people is subtracted from the Asia-Pacific market.

That is to say, China's peaceful rise and the sustained, rapid, coordinated and sound growth of China's economy will bring about tremendous historic opportunities, rather than threats, to the Asia-Pacific region.

Such tremendous historic opportunities are created thanks to China's independent foreign policy and its pursuit of a path for peaceful rise. China is already a constructive force for peace and stability of the region, rather than a destructive force that challenges the regional order. Having suffered from the scourge of wars and civil conflicts, the Chinese people know full well the preciousness of peace and importance of development. China will play a part in everything that is conducive to stability and peace of the Asia-Pacific region, and strongly oppose everything detrimental to regional stability, even destructive to regional peace. This is fully testified by China's responsible behaviors in handling regional affairs.

Such tremendous historic opportunities are also the result of various sub-regional cooperation mechanisms and close economic links China has forged with its neighbors in the process of peaceful rise. Such a sub-regional system not only serves the needs of the developing countries in the region, but also provides a platform for big powers to play their due role in the region. This sub-regional system and the US alignment with its Asian allies, thought different, are not confrontational. The two can be complementary and reinforcing in stabilizing regional order.

The tremendous historic opportunities also stem from China's culture and traditions and its influence in the Asia-Pacific region. As an ancient civilization with a history of several thousand years, China has the tradition of inclusiveness and drawing on others' strong points. In particular, it has very deep-seated historical and cultural links with East Asian countries. China's cultural tradition featuring"unity in diversity" and"priority to peace" also goes a long way to facilitating China's harmonious coexistence and sharing of prosperity with the Asia-Pacific region and the world at large.

Generally speaking, China's peaceful rise brings to the Asia-Pacific region opportunities for development, conditions for peace and space for cooperation. Besides, we believe that China and Asia-Pacific countries can provide opportunities to each other. The more opportunities we give Asia-Pacific countries, the more opportunities we get from them. If China fails to provide opportunities for Asia-Pacific countries in its process of development, China will lose its opportunity for peaceful rise. Due to such a basic understanding, China will never become a threat to the region. There is no denying that China's peaceful rise will somewhat intensify the competition in the region. But this is competition of friendship, cooperation, mutual benefit and win-win, not competition of arms buildup, or competition for spheres of influence or hegemony. None of us should miscalculate strategically on this point.

Now let us look at the future of China and the Asia-Pacific region.

At present, the world is undergoing tremendous and profound changes. With peace and development remaining the themes of the times, the Asia-Pacific region is faced with more development opportunities than other regions in the world amid the readjustment of big-power relationships. China's peaceful rise, in particular, will contribute to the creation of a win-win situation and common prosperity of the region. This is a general trend of the region in the first one or two decades of the 21st century.

First, Asia-Pacific countries are blessed with the same opportunities brought about by the strong economic growth of the region. Compared with most other regions, the Asia-Pacific has less wars and conflicts and most countries in the region are committed to their own development. To share these common opportunities, the Asia-Pacific region, the East Asia in particular, needs to form communities of common interests.

Second, the new threats we face mainly come from the non-traditional security areas. Such comprehensive and profound new challenges cannot be handled with the strength of a simple country. It takes our joint efforts to guard against and dissolve the present and prospective security threats. In this connection, security cooperation is becoming an effective way to maintain security in the Asia-Pacific region. The common challenges facing China and Asia-Pacific countries give rise to the necessity to establish communities of common interests that are conducive to all parties, different in content and multi-layered. In particular, to maintain cooperative partnerships among big countries, explore the possibility of establishing a crisis early warning and management mechanism for big countries, and expand their common interest to guarantee common security has become the prerequisite of regional and even world peace.

Third, it is necessary to emphasize that, in the process of peaceful rise, China has formed a new security concept that differs from any traditional security concepts. With"mutual trust, mutual benefit, equality and cooperation" as its core notions, our new security concept firmly abandons the strategic framework under which big powers in the past vied for spheres of influence, went in for military confrontation or exported ideologies. The new security concept is a comprehensive and strategic concept with peaceful coexistence as its precondition, common interests as its basis, strategic cooperation as its bond and common development as its objective. History and reality have repeatedly proved that armed forces cannot make peace, and power politics cannot ensure security. The collective security achieved through cooperation by Asia-Pacific countries will surely lead to universal, lasting peace, and rapid, sustained development.

Finally, we are soberly aware that, given the huge area, large population and great differences in system and culture, it takes arduous efforts and a long time to realize integration and build mechanisms in the whole region. Nonetheless, we may start with the establishment of sub-regional mechanisms with different functions and features, and conduct flexible cooperation to achieve marked results. For instance, the northeast Asian sub-region may set collective security as its goal, the southeast Asia may mainly target at market integration and trade liberalization, while the northwest Asia may focus on counter-terrorism and economic cooperation.

All in all, the future of China and the Asia-Pacific region hinges on peace, development and cooperation. We are confident that so long as we work hand in hand, pull together and make all-out efforts, the lasting peace and sustained development of the Asia-Pacific region, the East Asia in particular, will surely have a promising future.

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