China in the Lens of Edgar Snow: Lessons from the Past
--Remarks by Minister Xu Xueyuan at the 18th Edgar Snow Symposium


(October 5, 2018      Kansas City, Missouri)

Governor Jeff Colyer,

Madam Nancy Hill,

Ambassador Nicholas Platt,

Guests from both the U.S. and China,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

First of all, on behalf of H.E. Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of China Cui Tiankai, I'd like to send warm congratulations to the success of the Edgar Snow Symposium.

Edgar Snow is a household name in China. Today I am deeply honored to attend the 18th Edgar Snow Symposium here in his hometown, Kansas City.

Over 80 years ago, when the Western world almost knew nothing about China and the Communist Party (CPC), Mr. Snow went deep into China's Shaanxi-Gansu-Ningxia region, a revolutionary base area led by the CPC, where he wrote Red Star Over China. This book provides a lens into China and the CPC for people of the United States and the world.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The Chinese people love and commemorate Edgar Snow, because he is willing to go to China, get to know it and describe what it really is like to the world. He said, the truth is that if I have written anything useful about China, it has been merely because I listened to what I thought I heard the Chinese people saying about themselves. Through his trip to China, he knew more about the CPC, a genuine representative of the interests of the Chinese people, and on that basis, he got to see the real picture of China. Back then, the 5,000-year-old Chinese nation was going through a darkest chapter of its history, and it was the CPC who led the Chinese people in finding a correct path and with 28 years of heroic struggle, founding the People's Republic of China in 1949.

It was CPC again, after leading the Chinese people in standing up, that identified a development path that suits China's realities and led China in growing more prosperous and stronger. We just celebrated the 69th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China. Over the past 69 years and particularly over the past 40 years of reform and opening-up, China has developed from a poor and backward country to the world's second biggest economy. Its per capita GDP is now over 8,000 US dollars, compared to 200 dollars in 1978. It has lifted more than 700 million people out of poverty. One theme has dominated China's development all along: to meet people's ever-growing needs for a better life. This is China's goal of development and strategic intention.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

China owes its development to the painstaking work of hundreds of millions of Chinese people; it has also benefited from engagement with countries around the world. Over the decades, China has taken in a big amount of foreign capital and learned advanced technologies from other countries, and at the same time it has connected a 1.3-billion-people market with the world. China has maintained long-term high-speed growth, which serves as an engine to the world economy and contributes over 30% to global growth. China is committed to the path of peaceful development, creating a sound external environment for itself and making important contribution to peace and stability of the Asia-Pacific and the world. Since Day One of the People's Republic, China has never initiated any war or conflict; instead, it has become the world's second largest contributor to the UN peacekeeping budget and the biggest contributor of peacekeeping troops among the five permanent members of the Security Council. A more developed China is providing more public goods for the world. Guided by the principle of achieving shared benefits through extensive consultation and joint contribution, the Belt and Road Initiative offers a new platform for countries along the routes to share in China's development dividends and achieve common development. There is no hidden agenda of seeking geopolitical advantages, only the ambition to promote common progress of all countries.

Under the leadership of the CPC, China in the future will continue the people-centered development philosophy, deepen reform in an all-around way and open even wider to the world. China has benefited from reform and opening-up for its past achievements; in the days ahead, it still needs reform and opening-up for further development. China will never stop its pace of reform; instead, it will go even faster. China will never shut its door of opening-up; instead, it will open it even wider. We will stay committed to peaceful development; this is something that has been included in the Party Constitution and the constitution of China, this is something that we must follow heart and soul. China has no intention to seek hegemony, or upend the existing international order, or export China's model to other countries whatsoever; what China is doing is to facilitate a community with a shared future for mankind.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Edgar Snow was a staunch supporter of China-US friendship. His personal experience is an illuminating footnote to China-US relations, from which we learn the lesson that our two countries must reject prejudice and work together if we are to bring greater benefits to our two countries and the whole world. In the 1930s and 1940s, Mr. Snow recounted the history of the Chinese People's War Against Japanese Aggression in his work, and personally witnessed the victory of China-US cooperation in fighting Fascism. In the 1960s, he fell victim to McCarthyism due to his special relations with China when our two countries were overshadowed by non-engagement in the Cold War. And then in the 1970s, he was invited to the Tiananmen Tower (by Chairman Mao), which sent an important message about the resumption of our interactions and pushed forward the process of normalization of our relations.

We will celebrate the 40th anniversary of China-US diplomatic ties next year. Over the past four decades, the China-US relationship has kept moving forward despite twists and turns, bringing huge benefits to the two peoples and contributing significantly to peace, stability and development of the Asia-Pacific and the world. Then where is this relationship heading in the next 40 years? This is an important question for both countries. Is China a rival or even an enemy, or instead a partner and friend for the United States? China has a clear answer in mind: it is committed to building a new model of major-country relations with the US featuring non-conflict, non-confrontation, mutual respect and win-win cooperation. The US, however, has not made up its mind and is still vacillating. Some people try to paint China as an enemy and throw us into a zero-sum game where one side's success means the other's failure. They see this as a way to make their country "great again". However, what China wants is only to achieve greater development itself, not to defeat others; and America cannot be made great again if it comes at the expense of China.

People will know if they look through the lens of Mr. Snow that China-US interactions can only be put on a firm footing if there is mutual respect between us. First and foremost, it is necessary to respect each other's political system and ideology. China has no intention to turn the US to a second China, and the other way around is neither possible. Non-interference in other countries' internal affairs is China's diplomatic tradition; it is also rooted in the Chinese culture. As Confucius said, do not do to others what you don't want others do to you. We don't hope to see other countries meddle with China's internal affairs and likewise, we will never do so to other countries. Those people who accuse China of interfering in the US' internal affairs are obviously following a wrong playbook. Second, it is necessary to respect each other's core interests and major concerns. In particular, caution must be exercised in handling issues concerning sovereignty and territorial integrity. We have noted that some American leaders call upon other countries to respect its sovereignty. The US is the world's strongest country and needs to hopefully set a good example for other countries in this respect.

People will know if they look through the lens of Mr. Snow that win-win cooperation is the only right choice for China and the US. Our two countries enjoy economic complementarity and are fully capable of achieving win-win results. Last year, our trade in goods hit 580 billion US dollars, 233 times of that in 1979 when we first established diplomatic relations. It's simply impossible that one side has kept imposing trade terms on and taken advantage of the other side in the 40-year business relations. It must be a win-win scenario as the relations continue to this day. On the security front, from handling regional hotspots like the Korean Peninsula nuclear issue and the Middle East to addressing global challenges including terrorism and transnational crime, our two countries have important common interests and space for cooperation. China and the US alone cannot resolve all the difficulties in the world, but China and the US together can get things done.

People will know if they look through the lens of Mr. Snow that only with people-to-people friendship can China-US relations stay on a steady course. Stronger mutual understanding and friendship between the two peoples bears on the future of our relationship. As we speak, 14,000 people are flying across the Pacific Ocean every day. We are enjoying an increasing number of student exchanges. In 2017, 350,000 Chinese students were studying in the US, who contributed significantly to America's economy. More importantly, they represent a vast and valuable pool of human resources for the development of science, technology and other areas of your country. When people hear groundless charges against Chinese students and scholars of collecting intelligence, they couldn't help but ask, where is that open and confident America we used to know?

Ladies and Gentlemen,

We in China often say that we can foresee the future by drawing lessons from the past. We gather here today, to pay tribute to Edgar Snow for his broad mind never swayed by ideological biases, and to learn from him how he showed understanding, accommodation and even compliment to different voices and ideas. As two major countries with different history, culture, social system and in different development stage, there is nothing to be feared that China and the United States differ and compete. What is to be feared indeed is that we are not determined enough to rise above differences and not capable enough to engage in sound competition. The China-US relationship bears on the fundamental interests of not only the 1.7 billion Chinese and American people but also the seven billion people of the whole world, so we must get it right, and not let it fail. We need to show the due sense of responsibility as major countries and sufficient courage and wisdom, enhance mutual understanding and trust, promote cooperation and avoid misjudgment, to ensure that China-US relations will keep moving forward along the right track of sound and steady development.

Thank you.


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