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Remarks at the series of events on Western China at the Confucius Institute at the University of Maryland(03/01/09)

Meet China's West and

Get a Complete Picture of China

Remarks at the series of events on Western China at the Confucius Institute at the University of Maryland

by Charge d'Affaires a.i. Xie Feng of the Chinese Embassy

March 1, 2009

President Liu Quansheng,

Vice President Guan Naijia,

Artists of the An Da Union from Inner Mogolia,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

My colleagues and I are delighted to attend the opening of the series of events on Western China here at the University of Maryland. On behalf of Ambassador Zhou Wenzhong and the Chinese Embassy, I would like to extend warm congratulations to all of you.

I want to take this opportunity to update you on China, its western regions as well as China-US relations.

Last year was the 30th anniversary of the reform and opening up in China. In three decades, China went through a successful and historic transition from a planned economic system to a socialist market economic system, from a closed or semi-closed society to one that is fully open to the outside world.

Economic and social progress has been enormous, and there have been a major historic leap from lack of subsistence to overall, moderate prosperity in the country. Between 1978 and 2008, China's GDP grew from the equivalent of 216.5 billion US dollars to 4.27 trillion. Per capita GDP increased from the equivalent of 226 US dollars to 3,200 US dollars. The rural population in poverty dropped from 250 million to just over 10 million, and the average life expectancy increased from 64 to 72 years.

Meanwhile, China remains the largest developing country in the world, with per capita GDP less than one tenth of that of the US and trailing behind the 100th place in the world. The main features of China's national condition are: a large population, weak economic foundation and developmental imbalance. One of the most prominent is the regional disparity between the relatively developed and affluent east coast and the relatively backward and poor west. In other words, one need to find out more about the vast western region in addition to the coastal cities and provinces like Beijing, Shanghai and Guangdong in order to get a complete picture of China.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

There are 12 provinces and autonomous regions in China's west, including Qinghai, Ningxia, Xinjiang, Sichuan, Yunnan, Tibet and Inner Mongolia. Vast area, over 71% of the land area of China, and low population density, only 27.5% of the total population, characterize this region.

China's west is also known for its unique natural beauty, cultural relics and high concentration of ethnic culture and folklore. This region is home to almost all the 56 ethnic groups of China.

What also set the region apart from the other regions in China are relative underdevelopment and the pressing task of environmental rehabilitation. For historical and geographical reasons, the GDP of China's west is only about 17% of the national total while the poverty level is noticeably higher than the national average.

The Chinese government has recognized that without the comprehensive development of China's west, it would be impossible to realize the national development goal of building a moderately prosperous society in an all-round way and increasing per capita GDP to 3,500 US dollars by 2020. Therefore, the Chinese government introduced the western development strategy in 1999, which focuses on accelerating development in China's west.

Ten years later, the economy and various social undertakings in China's west have made rapid progress and the life of the people greatly improved. Today, many places there have taken on a brand new look, with much developed agriculture, forestry and animal farming, and greatly improved environment. The photos of China's west on show toady offer a stronger visual impact.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region is a multi-ethnic region and the largest inhabited by ethnic Mongolians, an important member of the Chinese nation. Genghis Khan, a household name in both the Oriental and Western world meaning "a strong king", was a proud son of the ancient Mongolian people. His family later established the Yuan Dynasty and unified China over 700 years ago.

Today, on this vast, beautiful and richly-endowed land of wonders, the Mongolians and other ethnic groups created a grassland culture with rich cultural heritage, distinct regional characteristic and unique ethnic features. In a few minutes, we will have an opportunity to view the splendid performance of An Da Union from Inner Mongolia and have a little bit taste of the grassland culture.

With the implementation of the western development strategy in recent years, the economy and social undertakings in Inner Mongolia continued to develop rapidly. In 2007, its economic aggregate jumped to the 16th place in the line-up of all 32 Chinese provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities directly under the central government. Its per capita GDP exceeded the equivalent of 3,000 US dollars for the first time, ranking 10th in the whole country. Inner Mongolia is an epitome of the latest development in China's west, where unlimited dynamism is being unleashed.

However, there remains, on the whole, a relatively big gap between the east coast and the west. There are multiple reasons for such disparity and changes will take place only gradually. Late comer's advantage will give the west a broader horizon for long-term economic growth. As the western development strategy continues to roll out, China's west will have an even brighter future.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

This year is the 30th anniversary of the establishment of China-US diplomatic relations. Working hand in hand, China and the United States have moved from mutual antagonism to stakeholders and constructive partners. China-US relations have become one of the most important bilateral relationships in the world. In recent years, China and the United States have had effective dialogues and cooperation in important bilateral areas and on major international and regional issues. Bringing tangible benefits to the peoples of the two countries, China-US relations have assumed an increasingly important strategic significance and global impact.

China and the United States are each other's second largest trading partners. In 2008, trade between the two countries was over 333 billion US dollars, over 130 times more than 30 years ago. From 2000 to 2007, US export to China grew by 301%. Millions of American jobs are closely related to trade between China and the United States.

The exchanges and friendship between the Chinese and American peoples continue to grow. There are 35 pairs of sister province/states and 144 sister cities between our two countries. Mutual visits totaled two and half million person/times in 2008. At present, there are over 90,000 Chinese students and scholar studying and working on campus here in the US and about 15,000 American students studying in China. A total of 52 Confucius Institutes have been established, including the one at the University of Maryland.

China-US relationship is now faced with an important opportunity for further development. The presidents and governments of both countries attach great importance to the development of China-US relations. President Hu and President Obama have twice exchanged views over the phone and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has just paid a successful visit to China. The leaders of our two countries have agreed to push for greater development of China-US relations in the new era.

Both sides believe that due to the differences in historical and cultural heritage and level of development, it is only nature that the two countries do not see eye to eye on every issue. In a complicated and volatile international situation, China and the United States have more extensive common interests and broader basis for cooperation. The two countries should strengthen dialogues and exchanges, enhance trust and cooperation, and raise the bilateral relations to a new level. Both countries believe that they are in the same boat and should work hand in hand to meet the global challenges, such as the financial crisis and climate change, and push for solutions of international and regional hot spot issues, old and new.

Experience shows that China and the United States are partners in cooperation, not strategic competitors. China-US relationship is a formula for mutual benefit not a zero-sum game. Closer China-US cooperation is good for both China and the United States. It is also good for Asia-Pacific region and the whole world.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The heroic western development in the United States back in the 18th and 19th centuries was long and hard. It chastened the will and nurtured the courageous and pioneering spirit of the American people. It was an important chapter in the history of the United States.

China is now in an extraordinary historical period and experiencing unprecedented development. The western development in China will not only provide strong dynamism for the transformation of China's mode of economic growth and increase domestic demand but also contribute, in a significant way, to the exchanges and cooperation between China and the United States.

As we mark the 30th anniversaries of China's reform and opening up as well as China-US diplomatic relations, it is of great significance for the Confucius Institute at the University of Maryland to host the series of events on China's west. According to President Liu, this is the first of a series of program, which, in addition to Inner Mongolia, will include events on Tibet and Xinjiang. I hope that this series of program will give everyone who participates an opportunity to meet and know more about China's west so as to make positive effort for the further opening up and development of China's west and greater China-US friendship and mutually beneficial cooperation. The Chinese Embassy is ready to assist in this program to the best of its ability.

In conclusion, I wish the An Da Union a great performance, and the events on Western China of the Confucius Institute at the University of Maryland success.

Thank you.

 


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