HARVARD GAZETTE ARCHIVES
Remarks of Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao:
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DEAN KIRBY: Thank you very much, Kim. The Faculty of Arts and Sciences at Harvard joins in welcoming all of you and our distinguished guests from the People's Republic of China. Today is a very important occasion, an opportunity for dialogue between members of the Harvard community and the leader of one of the most rapidly transforming and transformative countries in the world, whose future is closely intertwined with our own. And in this global era, universities serve an increasingly important function. We are points of connection and communication between citizens of different regions of the world. Harvard is honored to welcome Premier Wen and his delegation. As the first line of "The Analects" tells us, "How very glad we are to welcome friends from afar." Our guest speaker today is, as you know, the Premier of the People's Republic of China, Premier Wen Jiabao.
Seated to the Premier's left is Mr. Li Zhaoxing, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the People's Republic. Next to Minister Li is Ma Kai, Minister of the National Development and Reform Commission. To Mr. Ma Kai's left is Mr. Wei Liqun, who is Director of the Research Office of the State Council. And seated next to the Director is the Honorable Yang Jiechi, the Ambassador of the People's Republic of China to the United States.
And let me introduce the gentleman to my right. We have already had the pleasure of hearing from Dean Kim Clark of the Harvard Business School. And the gentleman to his right, Professor Dwight Perkins, the Director of the Harvard University Asia Center. To Professor Perkins' right is Professor Wilt Edema, Director of Harvard's Fairbank Center for East Asian Research, and to his right is the Honorable Clark Randt, the United States Ambassador to the People's Republic of China. Welcome, Ambassador Grant. Thank you all for coming, and may I now introduce our next speaker, ladies and gentlemen, the President of Harvard University, Lawrence Summers.
PRESIDENT SUMMERS: Thanks very much, Bill. On a day like this I am particularly glad to have a distinguished scholar of Chinese history as the Dean of our Faculty of Arts and Sciences. Premier Wen, we are honored to have you here today. On behalf of the entire Harvard community and especially the 350 Chinese students at Harvard, and the nearly 500 scholars, teachers and professors at Harvard, I am delighted to welcome you to our university.
When the history of our era is written a century or two from now I suspect that the end of the Cold War, the fall of the Berlin Wall, may be the second story in that history. The first story in that history may be the dramatic developments on the Asian continent over the last quarter century and the next, and at the center of that story is your country, China. This is surely a moment of promise, of risk, and of opportunity in China.
And our distinguished speaker, Wen Jiabao, is poised to lead China into a new era with great potential for growth and prosperity. A geologist by training and an experienced public servant over more than three decades, Premier Wen has the very well-established reputation of being a very able and very well-trusted statesman. He and I had a chance to meet, it was my very great privilege to meet with him, when I traveled to China several years ago on behalf of the U.S. government, and I am now delighted to welcome to Harvard University Premier Wen. Premier Wen, we look forward to your remarks.
PREMIER WEN: Mr. President, ladies and gentlemen. I would like to begin by sincerely thanking President Summers for his kind invitation. Harvard is a world famous institution of higher learning, attracting the best minds and bringing them up generation after generation. In its 367 years of history, Harvard has produced seven American presidents and more than 40 Nobel Laureates. You have reason to be proud of your university. It is my great pleasure today to stand on your rostrum and have this face-to-face exchange with you. I like young people very much. Because young people are always so energetic and they have the least conservative ideas, and they represent the future of our world. And this year during the outbreak of the SARS epidemic, I thought about the students. I cared a lot for them, and I wanted to gain strength from them. So that was why I went to our Tsinghua University to have lunch with them. And also I went to Beijing University and I had a chat with the students in the library. At that time probably you could not have imagined what an atmosphere we were in, but I felt that the young people were as hopeful as ever. They always dream about a beautiful future. They pointed to the trees outside the window and said to me, "People like to say that when all the leaves grow, when the tree becomes green all over, this crisis will be over. And they also said that they would all rather be the green leaves themselves, and they asked me, Premier, in this big tree, which part of the tree are you? I immediately replied, "I'm also one of the leaves like you."
I think the developments proved to be like they predicted. When spring came back, when the trees became green, this outbreak was driven away.
As the speaker today, of course I think I need to explain myself a little bit to my audience, and I owe you this because in this way we can have a heart-to-heart discussion.
As you know, as you probably know, I'm the son of a schoolteacher. I spent my childhood mostly in the smoke and fire of war. I was not as fortunate as you as a child. When Japanese aggressors drove all the people in my place to the Central Plaza, I had to huddle closely against my mother. Later on, my whole family and house were all burned up, and even the primary school that my grandpa built himself all went up in flames. In my work life, most of the time I worked in areas under the most harsh conditions in China. Therefore I know my country and my people quite well and I love them so deeply.
The title of my speech today is "Turning Your Eyes To China." China and the United States are far apart, and they differ, they differ greatly in the level of economic development and culture. [At this point a protester interrupted.]
Please allow me to continue with my speech. Ladies and gentlemen, I will not be disrupted. Because I'm deeply convinced that the 300 million American people do have friendly feelings towards the Chinese people.
And I'm deeply convinced the development and improvement of China-U.S. relations will not only serve the interests of our two peoples but is also conducive to peace and stability of the whole world.
I know that China and the United States are far apart geographically and they differ greatly in the level of economic development and a cultural background. I hope my speech will help increase our mutual understanding.
In order to understand the true China, a changing society full of promises, it is necessary to get to know her yesterday, her today, and her tomorrow.
China yesterday was a big ancient country that created a splendid civilization.
As we all know in history of mankind there appeared the Mesopotamian civilization in West Asia, the ancient Egyptian civilization along the Nile in North Africa, the ancient Greek-Roman civilization along the northern bank of the Mediterranean, the ancient Indian civilization in the Indus River Valley in South Asia, and the Chinese civilization originating in the Yellow and Yangtze River Valleys. Owing to earthquake, flood, plague and famine, or to alien invasion or internal turmoil, some of these ancient civilizations withered away, some were destroyed and others became assimilated into other civilizations. Only the Chinese civilization, thanks to its strong cohesive power and inexhaustible appeal, has survived many vicissitudes intact. The 5,000-year-long civilization is the source of pride of every Chinese.
The traditional Chinese culture, both extensive and profound, starts far back and runs a long, long course. More than 2,000 years ago there emerged in China Confucianism represented by Confucius and Mencius. Taoism, represented by Lao Zi and Zhuang Zi, and many other theories and doctrines that figured prominently in the history of Chinese thought, all being covered by the famous term, "the masters' hundred schools." From Confucius to Dr. Sun Yat-sen, the traditional Chinese culture presents many precious ideas and qualities, which are essentially populist and democratic. For example, they lay stress on the importance of kindness and love in human relations, on the interest of the community, on seeking harmony without uniformity and on the idea that the world is for all. Especially, patriotism as embodied in the saying, "everybody is responsible for the rise or fall of the country;" the populist ideas that, people are the foundation of the country and that people are more important than the monarch; the code of conduct of, don't do to others what you don't want others to do to you; and the traditional virtues taught from generation to generation: long suffering and hard working diligence and frugality in household management, and respecting teachers and valuing education. All these have played a great role in binding and regulating the family, the country and the society.
On this year's Teacher's Day, which fell on the 10th of September, I specially went to see Professor Ji Xianlin of Peking University in his hospital ward. Professor Ji, 92 years old, is a great scholar in both Chinese and Western learning, and specializing in Oriental studies. I enjoy reading his prose. And he had a very good habit that is even in his hospital he would keep a journal, in fact a very beautiful essay about what he saw and did and felt for that particular day. And he studied a special Oriental language and probably he is among the very few in the world who actually knows this language. In our conversation we talked about the movement of Eastern learning spreading to the West, and also Western learning spreading to the East in modern times. In the 17th and 18th centuries, foreign missionaries translated Chinese classics into European languages and introduced them to Europe, and this aroused great interest in some eminent scholars and enlightenment thinkers there. Among them, Descartes, Leibniz, Montesquieu, Voltaire, Goethe and Kant all studied the traditional Chinese culture.
In my younger days I read Voltaire's writings. He said that a thinker who wanted to study the history of this planet should first turn his eyes to the East, China included. He once said that when people in many other countries are debating about the origin of the human species the Chinese are already seriously writing about their history.
Interestingly, one and a half centuries ago, R.W. Emerson, a famous American philosopher and outstanding Harvard graduate, also fell for the traditional Chinese culture. He quoted profusely from Confucius and Mencius in his essays. He placed Confucius on a par with Socrates and Jesus Christ, saying that we read the moral teachings of the Confucius school with profit today, though they were addressed to a state of society unlike ours.
Rereading these words of Voltaire and Emerson today, I cannot but admire their wisdom and far sight. China today is a country in reform and opening up, and a rising power dedicated to peace.
The late Dr. John King Fairbank used the following words to describe China's overpopulation and land scarcity. On the land owned by one farmer in the U.S., there might live hundreds of people forming a village in China. He went on to say that although the Americans were mostly farmers in the past, they never felt such pressure of population density.
A large population and underdevelopment are the two facts China has to face. Since China has 1.3 billion people, I often like to say, I often like to make a very easy but at the same time very complicated division and multiplication. That is, any small individual problem multiplied by 1.3 billion becomes a big, big problem. And any considerable amount of financial and material resources divided by 1.3 billion becomes a very low per capita level. And becomes really small. This is a reality the Chinese leaders have to keep firmly in mind at all times.
We can rely on no one else except ourselves to resolve the problems facing our 1.3 billion people. Since the founding of the People's Republic, we have achieved much in our national reconstruction. At the same time we have made a few detours and missed some opportunities. By 1978, with the adoption of the reform and opening up policies, we had ultimately found the right path of development. The Chinese people's path of independently building socialism with Chinese characteristics.
The essence of this path of development is to mobilize all positive factors, emancipate and develop the productive forces, and respect and protect the freedom of the Chinese people to pursue happiness.
China's reform and opening up have spread from rural areas to the cities, from the economic field to the political, cultural, and social arenas. Each and every step forward is designed in the final analysis to release the gushing vitality of labor, knowledge, technology, managerial expertise and capital, and allow all sources of social wealth to flow to the fullest extent.
For quite some time in the past, China had a structure of highly centralized planned economy. With deepening restructuring towards the socialist market economy and progress in a development of democratic politics, there was gradual lifting of the former improper restrictions, visible and invisible, on people's freedom in the choice of occupation, mobility, enterprise, investment, information, travel, faith and lifestyles. This has brought extensive and profound changes never seen before in China's history. On one hand, the enthusiasm of the work force in both cities and countryside has been set free. In particular, hundreds of millions of farmers are now able to leave their old villages and move into towns and the cities, especially in the coastal areas. And tens of millions of intellectuals are now able to bring their talent and creativity into full play. On the other hand, the massive assets owned by the state can now be revitalized. A private capital pool in the amount of trillions of yuan can take shape, and more than 500 billion U.S. dollars' worth of overseas capital can flow in. This combination of capital and labor results in a drama of industrialization and urbanization of a size rarely seen in human history being staged on 9.6 million square kilometers of land called China. Here lies the secret of the 9.4 percent annual growth rate that Chinese economy has been able to maintain in the past 25 years.
The tremendous wealth created by China in the past quarter of a century has not only enabled our 1.3 billion countrymen to meet their basic needs for food, clothing and shelter and basically realize a modestly comfortable standard of living but also contributed to world development. China owes all this progress to the policy of reform and opening up and in the final analysis to the freedom-inspired creativity of the Chinese people.
It has become so clear to me that, at the current stage, China has an abundant supply of labor in proportion to her limited natural resources and short capital. If no effective measures are taken to protect the fundamental rights of our massive labor force, and in particular the farmer workers coming to the cities, they may end up a miserable plight as described in the novels by Charles Dickens and Theodore Dreiser. Without effective protection of the citizens' rights to property, it will be difficult to attract and accumulate valuable capital.
Therefore the Chinese government is committed to protecting the fundamental rights of all the working and the right to property, both public and private. This has been explicitly provided for in China's laws and put into practice.
China's reform and opening-up is exactly aimed at promoting human rights in China. The two are mutually dependent and reinforcing. Reform and opening-up creates conditions for the advancement of human rights, and the advancement of human rights invigorates the former. If one separates the two and thinks that China only goes after economic growth and ignores the protection of human rights, such a view does not square with the facts. Just as President FDR said, true individual freedom cannot exist without economic security and independence, and necessitous men are not free men.
I am not suggesting that China's human rights situation is impeccable. The Chinese government has all along been making earnest efforts to correct the malpractices and negative factors of one kind or another in the human rights field. It is extremely important and difficult in China to combine development, reform and stability. Seeing is believing. If our friends come to China and see for themselves, they will be able to judge objectively and appreciate the progress made there in human rights and the Chinese government's hard work in upholding human rights since the beginning of reform and opening-up.
China is a large developing country. It is neither proper nor possible for us to rely on foreign countries for development. We must and we can only rely on our own efforts. In other words, while opening still wider to the outside world, we must more fully and more consciously depend on our own structural innovation, on constantly expanding the domestic market, on converting the huge savings of our citizens into investment, and on improving the quality of the population and scientific and technological progress to solve the problems of resources and the environment. Here lies the essence of China's relative peaceful rise and development.
Of course, China is still a developing country. There is an obvious gap between its urban and rural areas and between its eastern and western regions. If you travel to the coastal cities in China's southeast, you will see modern size skyscrapers, busy traffic, and brightly lit streets. But that is not what China is all about. In vast rural areas of China, especially in the central and western rural parts, there are still many backward places. Not long ago, Secretary Evans of Commerce had a talk with me about China/U.S. economic relations and trade. Before he met with me he went to see some rural areas in China's west and in our meeting he showed me two pictures he shot in his visit and reflected the state of backwardness in those quarters. And in fact he felt strongly about what he saw. He said that he would never forget the people that he met within that trip. I said to him that out of the total of 2,500 counties in China I have personally been to 1,800 of them and I've been to the poorest areas in China. I said to him that what you saw in fact is not the poorest of areas and I said that if you can see what China really is then our discussion today would be very easy. And our conversation did indeed turn out to be very interesting and useful.
In those poor and remote mountain villages folks still use manual labor and animals to till the land. They live in houses made of sun-dried mud bricks. In times of severe drought there will be scarcity of drinking water for people and animals. I often remember in my mind two lines from a poem written by Mr. Chen Banjao in 18th century. That is:
The rustling of bamboo outside my door
Sounds like the moaning of the needy poor.
As the premier of China I'm often torn with anxiety and unable to eat or sleep with ease when I think of the fact that there are still 30 million farmers lacking food, clothing and shelter, 23 million city dwellers living on subsistence allowances and 60 million disabled and handicapped people in need of social security aid. For China to reach the level of developed countries it will still take the sustained hard work of several generations, a dozen generations or even dozens of generations.
China tomorrow will continue to be a major country that loves peace and has a great deal to look forward. Peace loving has been a time-honored quality of the Chinese nation. The very first emperor of the Qin Dynasty commanded the building of the Great Wall 2,000 years ago for defense purposes. The Tang Dynasty opened up the Silk Road one thousand years ago in order to sell silk, tea and porcelain to other parts of the world. Five hundred years ago, Zheng He, the famous diplomat navigator of the Ming Dynasty, led seven maritime expeditions to seek friendly ties with other countries, taking along China's exquisite products, advanced farming and handicraft skills. The great Russian writer Leo Tolstoy once called the Chinese nation the oldest and largest nation, and, the most peace-loving nation in the world.
As the modern times began, the ignorance, corruption and self-imposed seclusion of the feudal dynasties led China to prolonged social stagnation, declining national strength and repeated invasions by the foreign powers. Despite compounded disasters and humiliation, the Chinese nation never gave up, and managed to emerge from each setback stronger than before. A nation learns a lot more in times of disaster and setback than in normal times.
Now, China has laid down her three-step strategy towards modernization. From now to the year 2020, China will complete the building of a comfortable society in an all-round way. By 2049, the year the People's Republic will celebrate its centenary, we will have reached the level of a medium-developed country. We have no illusions but believe that on our way forward, we shall encounter many difficulties foreseeable and unpredictable and face all kinds of tough challenges. We cannot afford to lose such a sense of crisis. Of course, the Chinese government and people are confident enough to overcome all the difficulties and achieve our ambitious goals through our vigorous efforts. This is because the overriding trend of the present-day world is towards peace and development. China's development is blessed with a rare period of strategic opportunities. And if we don't grasp it, it will slip away. We are determined to secure a peaceful international environment and a stable domestic environment in which to concentrate on our own development, and with it to help promote world peace and development.
This is because the socialism China adheres to is brimming with vigor and vitality. From the day when I became Prime Minister, I made an analogy. I said that socialism is like an ocean that takes in all the rivers and will never go dry. While planting our feet solidly on our national conditions we will boldly press ahead with reform and opening-up, and boldly absorb all fine achievements of human civilizations. There is no limit to the life and exuberance of a socialism that is good at self-readjustment and self-improvement.
This is because 25 years of reform and opening-up has given China a considerable material accumulation, and her economy has gained a foothold in the world. The motivation of China's millions to pursue happiness and create wealth is an inexhaustible reservoir of drive for the country's modernization.
This is because the Chinese nation has rich and profound cultural reserves. Harmony without uniformity is a great idea put forth by ancient Chinese thinkers. It means harmony without sameness, and difference without conflict. Harmony entails co-existence and co-prosperity, while difference conduces to mutual complementation and mutual support. To approach and address issues from such a perspective will not only help enhance relations with friendly countries, but also serve to resolve contradictions in the international community.
Ladies and Gentlemen, A deeper mutual understanding is a two-way process. I hope American people, young people in this country, will turn their eyes to China. I also trust that our young people will turn their eyes more to the United States. The United States is a great country. Since the days of the early settlers the Americans with their toughness, frontier spirit, pragmatism, innovation, and their respect for knowledge, admission of talents, their scientific tradition and rule of law, have forged the prosperity of this country. The composure, courage and readiness to help one another shown by the American people in the face of the September 11th terrorist attacks are truly admirable.
Entering the 21st century, mankind is confronted with more complicated economic and social problems. The cultural element will have a more important role to play in the new century. Different nations may speak different languages, but the people's hearts and feelings are interlinked. Different cultures may present manifold features, yet they often share the same rational core elements that can always be passed on by people. The civilizations of different nations are all fruits of human wisdom and contribution to human progress; they call for mutual respect. Conflicts triggered by ignorance or prejudice are sometimes more dreadful than those caused by contradictory interests. We propose to seek common in a spirit of equality and tolerance, and carry on extensive inter-civilization dialogue and closer cultural exchanges.
In his poem, "Malvern Hill," the famous American poet Herman Melville wrote:
Wag the world how it will.
Leaves must be green in Spring.
The youth represents the future of the nation and the world. Faced with the bright prospect of China-U.S. relations in the new century, I hope the young people of China and the young people of the United States will join their hands more closely.
Ladies and Gentlemen, Chinese forefathers formulated their goals as follows:
To ordain conscience for Heaven and Earth.
To secure life and fortune for the people.
To continue lost teachings for past sages.
To establish peace for all future generations.
Today, mankind is in the middle of a period of drastic social change. It would be a wise approach for all countries to carry forward their fine cultural heritages by tracing back their origin, passing on the essentials, learning from one another and breaking new ground. My appeal is that we work together with our wisdom and strength for the progress and development of human civilization. Our success will do credit to our forbears and bring benefit to our posterity. In this way, our children and their children will be able to live in a more peaceful, more tranquil and more prosperous world. I am convinced that such an immensely bright and beautiful tomorrow will arrive.
Thank you for your attention.
Now I'll be happy to take questions from you. You may raise your hands.
DEAN KIRBY: Thank you, Premier Wen, for your wide ranging and very interesting historical perspective. And as a historian I have many questions I would like to ask you, but it's not my turn. We have several questions that have been submitted by our students, and I just have to tell you that students ask much harder questions than deans. So if I may read you one question that has been submitted by our students.
Premier Wen, what do you feel are the prospects for democracy in China? Do you envisage any changes in the role of the Communist Party? For example, do you envisage contested direct elections for township, county, and provincial governments?
PREMIER WEN: There's no question that to develop democracy, the objective of our endeavor, all our efforts will be aimed at building China into a prosperous, democratic, civilized and modern country. We once said that without democracy there will be no socialism. To develop socialist democracy some specific measures will have to be taken.
First, we need to improve the election system. Just now you mentioned election in China. Among China's 680,000 villages we carry out direct election for the Villager's Committee. And direct/indirect election is carried out at counties and the municipalities where they don't have districts. And we also have indirect election for officials at provincial and central level. Because conditions are not ripe yet for direct election of senior officials, China is such a big country and our economic development is so uneven, to start with I think the educational level of the population is not high enough.
Second, we should let the people supervise the work of the government and be critical of the performance of the government. Only when we allow the people to supervise the performance of the government, the government cannot afford to slack in its efforts in serving the people. And only when the government accepts the criticism from the public we can ensure the success of all policy.
In China it would be a time-consuming process to develop China's democracy perfectly. But if you look at the U.S. history it is also time consuming for U.S. to develop its democracy from the days of the Declaration of Independence in the year 1776 to the Civil War in 1860s, and to the incidents of Martin Luther King in the 1960s.
Just now in the speech I quoted President Roosevelt. He said the necessitous men were not free men. In fact in preparing his Declaration of Independence President Jefferson also placed the right to development before anything else. President Jefferson put the right to life before anything else. So we need to work to improve the living standards of 1.3 billion Chinese people. This is a big challenge ahead. Thank you.
People sometimes have mixed feelings about giving a speech in Harvard. They like to come here very much because Harvard is so famous as a gathering place of the best brains in the world. But at the same time they also feel afraid because they know from the faculty and students there will be touch questions.
Before I arrived here I kept recalling one remark my mother always said to me. According to my mother a person should try to be truthful, honest, sincere and candid. If a people can reach these standards then he will find himself with a very highest state of mind. I may not be able to give you good answers, yet I always speak from my mind and tell you the truth.
DEAN KIRBY: A question from the floor. Yes ma'am.
WOMAN: My name is Cheng Zhu. I'm from the Harvard School of Education, and I came here two years ago. I got my Bachelor of Arts degree from Beijing University, from the English Department. My question is, we are very excited that Beijing is going to host the 2008 Olympic Games, and Premier Wen has said that we're going to do our best to host the Olympic Games. So I was wondering, what kinds of aspects are you talking about? Thank you.
PREMIER WEN: It seems that she is more nervous than I am. I don't know about the audience if there are more Chinese students or more American students. But since you mentioned the Olympic Games that is to be hosted by China, it reminds me of a sad story in the past. Before China was liberated, before PRC was founded in '49, we at that time were only able to send one athlete by name of Yo Jangjin, he was a short distance runner, to participate in the Olympic Games. The game was held in the United States so he took a ship and had a long journey. He was already exhausted after the long journey when he reached the United States. He was the only representative of China in the Olympic Games. He did not win any medal but he had the support and attention and care of the entire Chinese population. Now it's a different story. The Olympic Games is going to be held in China. This is because China has developed itself to a great extent, and China already has the respect of the international community. I said we will stage an excellent game in China. This will mean that it will be of very high standard. But at the same time I have to say that China is still a developing country. We have to practice economy. We cannot squander the resources away. Thank you.
DEAN KIRBY: The gentleman far up in the white shirt, there sir?
MAN: I hope it's OK if I speak in English for this question.
You mentioned in your visit with President Bush a couple of days ago that you are hoping to encourage American imports into China to balance the trade deficit. And I was wondering what steps China will be taking to encourage American imports into China.
PREMIER WEN: Indeed the Americans have a strong interest in seeing more U.S. products to be sold in Chinese market. And I also discussed this with President Bush yesterday. It will be fair to draw attention to the fact that in recent two years the U.S. export to China has grown. Last year while the U.S. export to the rest of the world grew at a rate of only two to three percent, U.S. export to China grew by 15 percent. And the first 10 months of this year U.S. export to China grew by 26 percent. We have to recognize the fact that in the trade relationship United States does run a quite significant deficit with China.
I had a very good discussion with President Bush. The two of us did not get bogged down on the small details, so precisely as described by the famous poem in China, was the ascent to the top of the Mountain Tai, where the other peaks are simply dwarfed. I proposed to President Bush five principles on further expansion of our economic cooperation in trade. And the first principle is mutual benefits and a win-win situation. We need to think broadly. Each side must take into account the interests of the other side.
Second, we need to find a solution to the trade imbalance problem through the expansion of trade. To cut back China's export to the U.S. market is not a good solution. The better solution is for U.S. to increase its export to China.
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