Ladies and Gentlemen,
At the outset, let me express our deep appreciation to all of you for joining us in celebrating the 61st anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China.
China has gong through an extraordinary journey in the 61 years since it was founded, particularly over the past 32 years of reform and opening-up. The economy has grown significantly, and the living standards, educational and cultural levels of the Chinese people have greatly improved.
The average life expectancy is up from 35 to 73 years. Illiteracy rate is down from 80% to below 3.5%. Between 1978 and 2009, China's per capita GDP has grown by over 12 times. More than 200 million people in rural areas have been lifted out of poverty. China is also playing an active international role as never seen before.
While we are proud of our past achievements, we are soberly aware of the fact that China is still a developing country with a large population. There are many severe challenges lying ahead, including the uneven, imbalanced and unsustainable development patter. We face increasing constraints in terms of resources and environment, and our ability for innovation has yet to be improved.
China's per capita GDP is around 3,700 US dollars, only one thirteenth of that of the US, ranking behind the 100th place in the world. Every year, more than 24 million people in the cities need to find jobs, including 6 million university graduates, creating huge employment pressure for the government.
The challenges encountered by China in its process of development are rarely seen in the history of mankind in terms of their magnitudes or level of difficulty. There is still a long way to go before China achieves modernization.
Development is and will be a top priority for China. We will work hard to transform the economic development pattern, restructure the economy and set out on a path of balanced and sustainable development.
China will pay greater attention to ensuring and improving people's well-being. We will further reform the income distribution system and improve the social security system. We will endeavor to narrow the gap between urban and rural areas, between different regions and between the rich and the poor. We want to make sure that each and every citizen of China shares the benefit of reform, opening-up and development in general.
China will firmly follow the path of peaceful development and adhere to the independent foreign policy of peace. We will stick to the long-term strategy of mutually beneficial cooperation. We will follow established international rules in expanding business ties with other countries. We will continue to improve the environment for foreign investors and explore new ways for enhancing overseas investment and cooperation.
China-US relationship is one of the most important bilateral relationships in the world. In today's globalized world, the interests of our two countries are more closely tied to one another than ever before. We are each other's second largest trading partner. Our two countries have conducted effective consultation and cooperation on global challenges such as the international financial crisis, climate change, anti-terrorism as well as nuclear non-proliferation. Our common interests far outweigh our differences. Dialogue and cooperation remain the mainstream of our relations.
Currently, we face important opportunities to further advance China-US relations. At the invitation of President Obama, President Hu Jintao will pay a state visit to the US in the beginning of next year. Last week, when Premier Wen Jiabao met with President Obama in New York, Premier Wen proposed that both sides explore ways to engage in large scale budgetary, financial, trade and investment cooperation. There is also great potential to expand cooperation in such areas as clean energy, energy conservation, environment protection and infrastructure.
We are ready to work with the US side to implement the important agreement reached by our two presidents to build a positive, cooperative and comprehensive China-US relationship for the 21st century to bring greater benefits to the people of our two countries and in the world at large.
To conclude, I wish to thank all of you for your continuous interest in and strong support for China's development and China-US friendship.
Now, I would like to propose a toast,
To the friendship between the Chinese and American people,
To the growth of China-US relations, and
To the health of everybody present,