Peaceful Development and Mutually Beneficial Cooperation: Working Together for a Beautiful Asia

From: English Edition of Qiushi Journal Updated: 2013-11-07 15:19
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Asia boasts a long history and splendid cultures. Three of the world’s four ancient civilizations originated in Asia. For centuries, Asia stood at the very forefront of human civilization. But with the dawn of the industrial age, Asia suffered greatly due to foreign aggression, colonial rule, and civil war. Thus, independence, prosperity, and strength became a common dream pursued by the people of Asia.

For more than 60 years since the end of World War II, the wise and hard-working people of Asia have forged a path ahead with great determination. Starting out in a state of poverty and backwardness, the Asian people have developed their economies, improved their standards of living, and revitalized their cultures, achieving what the world has called the “Asian miracle.” In 1952, Asia’s GDP accounted for 15% of the global total, while its GDP per capita was 27.4% of the global average. By 1980, Asia’s share of the global GDP and its GDP per capita had risen to 17.8% and 30.6% respectively. And by 2010, these figures had leapt to 27% and 45.5%. Since the financial crisis, in particular, Asia has become an important engine driving world economic recovery and growth, having been responsible for over 50% of world economic growth in recent years. In their joint pursuit of development, Asian countries have reached a consensus on prioritizing development, pursuing peaceful cooperation, seeking common ground while setting aside differences, and advocating openness and inclusiveness. In addition to realizing its own development, Asia has provided a strong impetus for global development.

April 7, 2013, Chinese President Xi Jinping delivers a keynote speech while attending the opening ceremony of the Boao Forum for Asia Annual Conference 2013 in Boao, Hainan.    /Photo by Xinhua reporter Pang Xinglei

Asia is the largest and most populous of the word’s five continents. The rapid development of Asia will not only bring about a marked increase in the economic strength and competitiveness of the region and greatly improve people’s standards of living, but will also contribute significantly to world peace, development, and human progress.

As a member of the Asian family, China shares a common destiny with the rest of Asia. As President Xi Jinping said at the Bo’ao Forum for Asia, “Asia needs to push ahead to achieve economic transformation and upgrading. Asia needs to make concerted efforts to resolve major difficulties and ensure stability. And Asia needs to build on past successes to make progress in promoting cooperation.” With broader horizons, a wider embrace, and a more open mind, we should draw actively from the various outstanding achievements of human civilization, and bring the wisdom of the Asian people into full play. We should seek a path to Asian prosperity that is characterized by peace, development, and mutually beneficial cooperation, and engage in a concerted effort to build a beautiful Asia.

We should build an Asia of lasting peace. “No benefit is bigger than stability, and no harm is worse than chaos.” Asian development and prosperity will not be possible unless there is peace. For the neighboring countries of Asia, peace and friendship have always been the prevailing historical trends. But despite this, however, the occurrence of friction due to unresolved historical problems and realistic interests cannot be avoided. At present, there are a number of challenges to peace and stability in Asia. Hot-spot issues have cropped up in rapid succession, and traditional security threats are interwoven with non-traditional ones. There is a saying in The Analects of Confucius, “In the usages of ritual, it is harmony that is prized.” History has shown us time and again that neighboring countries have much to gain from peace, and much to lose from confrontation. Reflecting on the past, we should set our eyes on the future, build friendships and partnerships with our neighbors, and resolve friction and conflict through peaceful dialogue. There is a Chinese proverb that goes, “better a close neighbor than a far-away relative.” The ancient Chinese believed that neighbors should help each other, and look out for each other as friends. So, rather than undercutting each other, we need to pool our efforts, meet various threats and challenges together, and maintain a commitment to safeguarding and promoting peace in Asia.

We should build an Asia of common development. The majority of Asia’s countries are developing countries, and this means that development is still Asia’s number one priority. Starting from the 1960s, a number of Asian economies have risen in close succession. Moreover, China’s reform and opening up have created a new miracle of sustained and rapid development that has gone on for more than 30 years. From East Asia to South Asia, from Central Asia to West Asia, more and more countries have embarked on the fast track of modernization. We believe that the development of Asia as a whole cannot be achieved by relying on a small minority of developed countries. There is a saying in Myanmar that goes, “When the water rises, the lotus flowers grow taller.” Since the outbreak of the international financial crisis, the countries of Asia have been searching for opportunities to accelerate the transformation of their development models. In keeping with the principle of sticking together in times of difficulty, the countries of Asia should strive towards common development, and break through old barriers that are hindering development. By invigorating the dynamics of development, the Asian countries will be able to “make the pie bigger,” and realize their own development while promoting the development and prosperity of other countries and regions.

We should build an Asia of friendly cooperation. In the age of the global village, the countries of the world are becoming increasingly interconnected and interdependent. Cooperation within Asia has boomed since the beginning of this century. Intra-regional trade has grown from US$800 billion to US$3 trillion, and the dependency ratio of intra-regional trade in goods has reached 54.1%. With stronger interactions with regard to resources, markets, capital, and technology, Asian countries enjoy immense potential for future cooperation. Moreover, when “advanced expertise” is coupled with the “late starter’s advantage,” and “high-tech” meets “emerging markets,” Asia’s development becomes even more formidable. However, we should also be aware that as most Asian countries are at similar stages of development, competition is inevitable. Moreover, different countries have their own different ideas and propositions. But as the saying goes, “Sticks in a bundle are not easily broken.” Deepening friendly cooperation is the right choice for realizing common development in Asia. In recent years, China has significantly enhanced its investment cooperation with ASEAN nations, having pledged US$25 billion in loans and supported over 50 infrastructure projects in ASEAN countries. At the end of 2011, China set up a 3-billion RMB China-ASEAN Sea Cooperation Fund, which has promoted maritime connectivity between China and ASEAN. Asian countries should be aware that they share a common destiny. Placing an emphasis on the long-term and fundamental interests of their peoples, Asian countries should forge wide consensus, enrich cooperation, and promote government-to-government, party-to-party, and people-to-people cooperation and exchanges. At the same time, Asian countries should facilitate practical cooperation with regard to trade, investment, science and technology, education, and culture. By drawing on cooperation to promote development and build mutual trust, we should work to comprehensively raise the level of cooperation within Asia.

We should build an Asia of mutual benefit. Mutual benefit is a long-lasting driving force for friendly cooperation, and a bond of interests that unites Asia’s strength. One country’s dream of development should never become another country’s nightmare of decline. China’s development will not come at the cost of other countries. Over the past decade, the number of free trade agreements (FTAs) in Asia has gone from 70 to over 250. Volumes of trade and investment among Asian countries have grown continuously, resulting in the ever-deepening integration of interests. At the same time, however, trade friction and disputes caused by investment have also been on the rise. Therefore, Asia’s wisdom will be put to the test by the question of how to expand common interests while reducing differences. During more than three decades of reform and opening up, China has utilized a total of US$1.46 trillion in foreign capital, which has not only provided us with the capital needed for our development, but has also brought advanced technology and managerial expertise. At the same time, foreign capital has gained considerable returns from China’s development. Now we are witnessing a new surge of intra-regional investment in Asia. The best received foreign businesses tend to be the ones that help to create jobs locally and that care about public interests. Therefore, in addition to pursuing their own development, Asian countries should also respect other countries’ reasonable concerns, address trade friction in an appropriate manner, seek to expand common interests, and work hard to realize an ideal scenario of mutual benefit and joint progress.

Green development is the trend of development in today’s world. Asia has already paid a high price in its pursuit of modernization. From the snow-capped mountains of the Himalayas to the Mongolian grasslands, from the shores of the Aral Sea to the Pacific islands, and from the Anatolia Plateau to the rainforests of Southeast Asia, our beautiful homeland is suffering from the afflictions that accompany industrialization and modernization. When one comes to a dead end, one thinks of change; when change takes place, a lasting solution will present itself. Asia’s modernization needs to be approached with new concepts, new ideas, and new measures. We must cease to rely on a path that brings about high pollution, high consumption, and high emissions, and accelerate our shift to a green path of development that gives priority to ecological progress, environmental protection, and conservation.

We must give high prominence to environmental protection. Mother Nature gave life to human beings, and the Earth is our common home. In ancient Asian cultures there are many concepts relating to harmony between man and nature. For example, the ancient Chinese believed in “man and nature as one,” and Islamic culture holds that “man and nature thrive together.” Both are very relevant to us today. Our view is that in pursuing development, we must consider the bearing capacity of the environment. No matter how pressing our development may be, we must always attach great significance to the protection of ecological and natural environments. We need to maintain a commitment to sustainable development, and be more conscientious in cherishing nature and protecting the environment. The countries of Asia are linked by the same mountains and rivers; pollution knows no national borders. Therefore, the only way to rectify the environment is through cooperation. It is our joint responsibility to protect our common blue sky, rivers, and mountains. Over 20 years ago, five Central Asian states, including Kazakhstan, began a campaign to save the Aral Sea, jointly establishing an international fund to seek a solution to the problem. Thanks to these efforts, the once ailing fishing industry along the Aral Sea has been successfully revived. The countries of Asia should join hands in environmental rectification and protection, and work together to build a beautiful homeland with blue skies, green hills, and clear waters.

We must economize on the use of resources. Asia has a fine tradition of frugality. More than 2000 years ago, the Chinese philosopher Xunzi said, “With strong agriculture and frugality, not even the heavens will have the power to make the country poor.” As industrialization continues to progress at a rapid pace, all Asian countries are experiencing the “limits to growth,” and shortages of resources and energy are becoming increasingly serious. According to a research report on water security released by the Asian Development Bank in March this year, 80% of Asian countries and regions are suffering from water shortages. Asian countries should regard resource conservation as a long-term strategy and a fundamental policy for environmental protection. Cherishing our valuable land, water, and mineral resources, we should promote fundamental changes in the way that we utilize resources, so as to ensure that enough is left behind for the development of future generations.

We should advocate rational consumption. Our ancestors told us never to take anything for granted, as even the smallest things in life do not come easily. Given that Asia has a total population of 4.2 billion people, there is no way that the consumption model of developed Western countries can be sustained or copied in Asia. Asian countries should guide their peoples in fostering rational consumption habits and in pursuing healthy and rational lifestyles, so as to give rise to a culture that encourages frugality instead of extravagance. Doing so will create a new source of inner strength to underpin prosperity in Asia, and will allow Asia to lead the way in human progress and development.

We should be committed to the wellbeing of the people. Asia belongs to the Asian people. The aim of building a beautiful Asia should be to improve the lives of the people of this continent. Green development pertains to an inclusive form of development that not only stresses GDP growth, but more importantly emphasizes the actual feelings of the people. In recent years, Asian countries have enjoyed rapid economic growth, and there have been marked improvements in standards of living. However, divides between rich and poor, between different regions, and between urban and rural areas still exist to differing degrees. There can be no beautiful Asia where wealth, modernity, and civilization continue to coexist with poverty, backwardness, and ignorance. Asian countries need to put people first, and identify people’s wellbeing as the priority. In our pursuit of development, we should place more emphasis on equity, on the improvement of people’s living standards, and on vulnerable groups, so that everyone may benefit from development and enjoy higher standards of living.

Green development is also a pursuit of China. With less than 10% of the world’s arable land and only 28% of world average per capita water resources, China has managed to feed one fifth of the world’s population and sustain fast growth for over 30 years. Today, China is facing a severe challenge in the form of tightening resource constraints, serious environmental pollution, and ecological degradation. The Eighteenth National Congress of the CPC called on us to respect, accommodate to, and protect nature, emphasizing that ecological progress should be placed high on our agenda in an effort to build a beautiful China. The Chinese people are willing to work with the other peoples of Asia to promote green development, jointly build a beautiful Asia, and contribute to global ecological security.

Peace, development, cooperation, and mutual benefit are the trends of our times and the shared aspirations of the people. Political parties in Asia should safeguard lasting peace in Asia, foster Asian development, promote friendly cooperation, and advocate mutual benefit. They should play a unique role in promoting green development and building a beautiful Asia. So, let us work together to bring about development and prosperity in Asia, and make bigger contributions to the grand cause of human peace and development.

(Originally appeared in Qiushi Journal, Chinese edition, No.13, 2013)

This is a speech given by Chinese Vice-President Li Yuanchao at a special session of the International Conference of Asian Political Parties (ICAPP) in 2013. The text has been slightly shortened for the purpose of publication.

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