China and Britain Are on a Winning Course
By H.E. Li Keqiang Premier of the People's Republic of China
2014/06/16

China and Britain Are on a Winning Course

6 June 2014

By H.E. Li Keqiang

Premier of the People's Republic of China

Published in the Times

Many countries have very high expectations of China, some even to the extent of seeing China as a global power. As the premier of China, I do have a good sense of where things stand.

Indeed, China has achieved a quantum leap in its development, which is regarded as a remarkable success by the international community. Thanks to the reform and opening-up process started more than 30 years ago, China has substantially improved the livelihoods of its people within a generation. Personally, I do recall vividly my experience of poverty and hunger in my youth, having been sent to work as a farm boy. By 2013, China's grain output had continuously increased over ten consecutive years and basically met the food needs of the 1.3 billion Chinese. Feeding its people has been considered as an issue "the size of Heaven" since ancient times in China.

At the same time, China's urbanisation process is steadily advancing, with more than half of its people now living in cities and towns. Nine-year free compulsory education is provided, covering 160 million students. A nationwide medical service network has been built, covering all its urban and rural residents. The list can go on and on.

On the other hand, we should keep in mind an old Chinese saying: "One should always be aware of the strength of others and the shortcoming of oneself." China is far from achieving its development goals. Measured by World Bank standards, more than 200 million Chinese still live below the poverty line. Development is quite uneven between urban and rural areas and among different regions, with the per capita GDP of some inland provinces being just one third of the coastal region.

In the process of urbanisation, China faces three pressing tasks, affecting 100 million people each: to help 100 million rural migrants enjoy resident status in cities and towns in eastern China; to accommodate 100 million rural people as local residents in cities and towns in central and western China, and to provide 100 million people living in rundown areas in cities with decent housing. These undertakings have an impact on 300 million people. It is indeed a most daunting challenge. A latecomer to modernisation and weighed down by weak economic foundations, China lags far behind the United Kingdom and other western countries in many areas. Its quest for modernisation remains a long and arduous one. As premier, my highest priority is to pursue modernisation through urbanisation and industrialisation.

China's economy needs to grow at a proper rate, expected to be around 7.5 per cent this year. It is slower than the past, but normal. Given the size of China's economy, its annual economic increment is about one trillion US dollars. The growth rate in the first quarter of 2014 was 7.4 per cent. Despite considerable downward pressure, China's economy is moving on a steady course. We will continue to make anticipatory and moderate adjustments when necessary. We are well prepared to defuse various risks. We are confident that this year's growth target will be met.

Reform and opening up in the past three decades have delivered better livelihoods for the Chinese people. And reform and opening up remain key to realise modernisation. To achieve this goal, we need to stay the course on market-orientated reform, energise the market, motivate the people, bring out their ingenuity and open China still wider to the outside world.

We will delegate power and create more space to individuals and the private sector for economic activities, while enforcing government regulations with tighter oversight, and imposing tougher penalties on IPR infringement, environmental pollution and unfair competition. This will give foreign investors the same level playing field and greater space for development, just like their Chinese counterparts.

The United Kingdom is a great country and an important partner of China. My visit has a threefold purpose: first, to discuss ways to deepen co-operation in various fields and thus spur the growth of our respective economies; second, to present the real China so as to change misperceptions and ease misgivings; and third, to draw on British perspectives and experience.

The United Kingdom has a strong economy, dynamic financial sector, advanced science and technologies; and it leads the world in energy conservation and environmental protection. China, for its part, has a huge market, large foreign exchange reserves and a competitive manufacturing sector. Drawing on our complementary strengths, there are many areas for collaboration. We look forward to stronger co-operation in finance, infrastructure construction, among others, and more robust exchanges in research, education, and culture. We look forward to win-win engagements.

In the 20th century, after going through the baptism of two world wars and a cold war, humankind has realised that nothing is more valuable than peace. In today's globalised environment, nations can develop together in a peaceful manner. While the world continues to face challenges and differences, we need to be steadfast in insisting on addressing them through dialogue and consultation. Nothing can make us turn our back on peace.

China is a beneficiary and a contributor to peace. We appreciate fully the difficulty in building peace and the greater difficulty in sustaining it. As a major country on the world stage, China would dedicate itself to securing peace and co-operation. China is eager to learn from other nations, will keep abreast of the trend of the times, will actively engage in global dialogue, and will promote the 21st century as an era of peace and co-operation.

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