Remarks at Luncheon Hosted by Harvard University

Liu Yandong

Boston, 13 April 2011


Vice Provost Jorge Dominguez,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I wish to thank President Drew Faust for the invitation. It gives me great pleasure to come to the world-renowned Harvard University in this beautiful spring season and meet all of you present today. Let me begin by extending cordial greetings and best wishes to all the guests and friends here.

Harvard was founded before the United States of America. Its unique contribution in the history of the United States and pre-eminent position in education are recognized the world over. It has produced more than 40 Nobel laureates and eight US presidents, enough to make you proud and win the respect and admiration from people around the world.

Harvard is also a trailblazer and a practitioner in China-US people-to-people exchanges. It is among the first American universities to provide Chinese language courses and accept Chinese students. Here I want to mention in particular the Executive Training Program on Public Management, a joint program launched a number of years ago by Harvard and Tsinghua University, my alma mater. So far, 68 minister-level officials and nearly 400 director general-level officials from China have taken part in the program, now a shining example of people-to-people exchanges between China and the United States. Harvard also hosts the John King Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies, one of the most prestigious research centers in the world for the study on China. While Harvard is known by many in China, China is certainly not unfamiliar to Harvard.

I am visiting the United States at the invitation of the US government to follow through on the important agreement reached between President Hu Jintao and President Barack Obama during President Hu's visit to the United States, and to co-chair with Secretary Clinton the second meeting of China-US High-Level Consultation on People-to-People Exchange. I know that many scholars present today have done extensive research on China's eventful modern history and are interested in the profound changes that are taking place in China. Here I wish to take this opportunity to briefly talk about several topics that might be of interest to you.

The first topic, the path to China's future. In the past sixty years since the founding of New China, especially in the past thirty years and more since China launched its reform and opening-up program, the Chinese people have learned conscientiously from the outside world, worked tirelessly to overcome all kinds of difficulties and made remarkable development achievements. In this process, we have received support and help from the United States and many other countries. The world has brought opportunities to China and China has made contribution to the world through its own development. That being said, and despite the fact that its GDP ranks second in the world, China is around 100th in the world in per capita GDP. By the United Nations standard, over 100 million Chinese are still living below the poverty line. There is a serious lack of balance, coordination and sustainability in China's economic development. To realize modernization in China, we need to make persistent efforts for generations to come.

Last month, China adopted the Outline of its 12th Five-Year Plan. The plan aims at promoting scientific development and accelerating the transformation of the economic development pattern, and serves as a blueprint for China's economic and social development in the next five years and beyond. It spells out efforts to be taken in the following four respects:

First, China will remain committed to scientific development. Development has always been China's top priority. Economic, political, cultural and social development will advance in parallel and in a coordinated manner. China is working to build a resource-conserving and environment-friendly society in order to strike a balance between economic and social development, and population, resources and the environment, and realize sustainable development. With these efforts, China's environment will keep improving.

Second, China will continue to promote reform and opening-up. Reform and opening-up has brought about a profound change in China. It is in line with the will of the people and the trend of the times. China will act in the spirit of reform and innovation in each and every part of its governance. We will unswervingly promote economic, political, cultural and social restructuring, continue to implement the win-win strategy of opening-up and increase the level of openness to the world.

Third, China will work for greater social harmony. We will continue to put people's livelihood on top of our agenda. We will speed up the development of social programs and promote democracy and the rule of law, justice and fairness, integrity and amity, dynamism and order, stability and harmony between man and nature. We will work to ensure that the fruits of development are shared by the people.

Fourth, China will remain committed to the path of peaceful development. China needs a peaceful international environment to develop itself. China's development is an opportunity rather than a challenge, still less a threat, to all other countries, including the United States. China will never seek hegemony. The world can be fully at ease with China's development. The path of peaceful development is a strategic choice that China has made on the basis of its domestic reality and the situation of the world. It takes into account both China's own development and its international responsibilities.

The second topic, the future reform and development of China's education system. China will rely on human resources and education to achieve development in the future. Last year, we launched the Outline of China's National Plan for Medium and Long-term Education Reform and Development (2010-2020). The plan has three key elements. First, the fundamental requirement for education is to train well-rounded individuals. The core and very task of education is to nurture talents and encourage all-round development of students. Second, the two priorities of education are to promote equity and improve quality. Equity in education is the foundation of social equality. Unfair income distribution may affect a person in the short term, whereas education inequality may affect a person's entire life. There are 260 million students in China. We need to provide them with equal access to education and high quality education, and create favorable conditions for each child to succeed in life and be happy. Third, the two safeguards of education are government priority, and reform and innovation. It has been a long-standing policy of the Chinese government to give priority to education. The expenditure in education has been growing at an annual rate of 20% over the past decade and will further increase by over 50% in 2012 from the 2010 figure. At the same time, we will reform the model of cultivating talents and the education system with a focus on teachers, teaching materials and teaching methods, and fully bring out the creativity of schools and teachers.

The third topic, the future development of China-US people-to-people exchanges and the broader China-US relations. China attaches great importance to developing its relations with the United States. We are sincere about our friendship and partnership with the United States. Our two countries stand at a new historical starting point as we celebrate the 40th anniversary of reopening the door of exchanges and enter the second decade of the 21st century. Our two presidents, with extraordinary vision, have proposed the building of a cooperative partnership based on mutual respect and mutual benefit. This reflects the strong consensus of the governments and mainstream societies of the two countries.

As an ancient Chinese saying goes, "Amity between people holds the key to friendship between countries." There is another one which says, "Sincerity is vital to a lasting friendship." To build the cooperative partnership, we need strong public support built up through people-to-people exchanges. People-to-people exchanges, like political mutual trust and economic cooperation, is an important pillar for the steady growth of China-US relations. In conducting people-to-people exchanges, first, we should serve the broader interests of China-US relations, make overall plans and integrate resources. We should promote understanding and friendship between the two peoples through communication between people as the priority. Second, we should accommodate and trust each other, and seek common ground while reserving differences. While promoting exchanges on an equal footing, we should recognize and respect our differences and seek and expand common ground. Third, we should take an incremental approach, remain committed in the long run and design good exchange and cooperation programs of mutual interest. We should open up new channels, enrich the contents and improve the form of such exchanges and cooperation. Fourth, non-government institutions can act as main players with support from the government. In other words, we should put into full play the central role of non-government institutions in people-to-people exchanges and cooperation, and let governments provide policy guidance and necessary support.

Harvard has left an imprint on history with its outstanding achievements. More importantly, it will continue to lead in the future with its innovative spirit. I sincerely hope that Harvard will play an even bigger role in China-US people-to-people exchanges. Let us join hands to write a new chapter in people-to-people exchanges and work for a bright future of China-US relations.

Thank you.


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