China is always a staunch force for peace and development in the Asia-Pacific
Ladies and gentlemen,
It is my great pleasure to attend the Asia House Annual Outlook 2024 Launch. With the Chinese New Year right around the corner, this event could not have come at a better time. I’d like to thank the Asia House and its members for your long-standing efforts in promoting understanding and cooperation between China, other Asian countries and the UK.
In 2023, we witnessed accelerating upheaval in the world. With elections unfolding in so many places, 2024 is bound to face more uncertainties and turbulence.
The global situation further confirms President Xi Jinping's assessment, that is, changes in the world, of the times, and of history are playing out like never before, and the world has entered a new period of turbulence and transformation.
Yet, it is China’s conviction that the overall direction of human progress, the overall dynamics of world history moving forward amid twists and turns, and the overall trend towards a shared future for the international community, all remain unchanged.
So how to tackle an increasingly complex external environment? Here is China’s approach: at home, we stay the course of high-quality development, and advance the building of a strong country and national rejuvenation through the Chinese path to modernisation.
And internationally, we call for an equal and orderly multipolar world and a universally beneficial and inclusive economic globalisation. We call on all countries to work together to build a community with a shared future.
The year 2023 saw China continuing to be a key engine for the world economy. With the challenges we faced, our GDP grew by 5.2% year-on-year, ranking among the fastest of the world's major economies. Internal drivers were stronger, and domestic demand contributed more than 110% to growth.
Despite weak external demand, China’s total import and export of goods increased by 0.2%. In the first 11 months of last year, the number of newly established foreign-invested enterprises in China grew by over 36% year-on-year.
The economy has become more digitalised and greener. Investment in high-tech industries increased by 10.3%, and foreign demand for “the new three,” namely, new energy vehicles, lithium-ion batteries and photovoltaic products grew rapidly, and their exports exceeded 1 trillion RMB yuan for the first time.
China's contribution to global economic growth once again exceeds 30%, conveying a very clear message to the world: betting against China has never succeeded in the past, and will not succeed in the future.
Looking ahead, there will still be headwinds in 2024. However, the long-term trajectory of China’s development remains positive.
Our confidence comes from at least the following five areas:
- First, China’s strong political leadership, and the consistency of major policies.
- Second, the demand generated by a supersize market of more than 1.4 billion people, in particular, a middle income group that is 400 million strong.
- Third, the supply supported by a fully-fledged industrial system. China is the only country with industries across all categories in the U.N. industrial classification.
- Fourth, abundant talent, capital, and data resources.
- And finally, innovation underpinned by the rapid development of high-tech industries. China is now home to about 400,000 high-tech enterprises, and the number of unicorn companies in the country ranks second globally.
As Premier Li Qiang noted in his special address at Davos 2024, China is firmly committed to opening up. As a major trading partner of over 140 countries and regions, China’s overall tariff level has been cut to 7.3%.
In the past five years, the return on FDI in China stands at around 9%, which is quite competitive globally. In the following five years, China is projected to import 17 trillion US dollars worth of goods and services.
China will continue to foster a market-oriented, law-based and world-class business environment. Its door will open even wider to the world, and businesses from all countries including the UK, are welcome to expand cooperation in our country.
Ladies and gentlemen,
The Asia-Pacific is the region with the fastest growth, the greatest potential, and the most dynamic cooperation in the world.
As an important member of the Asia-Pacific family, China has always been a staunch force for peace, stability and prosperity in the region.
China is firmly committed to peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific. We follow the principle of amity, sincerity, mutual benefit and inclusiveness, and work to build friendship and partnership with neighbouring countries.
During President Xi Jinping’s state visit to Viet Nam last month, the two sides agreed to build a community with a shared future that carries strategic significance.
We actively promote the peaceful resolution of regional hot-spot issues. Recently, under China's mediation, relevant parties in Myanmar signed a temporary ceasefire agreement in Kunming.
China is firmly committed to the development of the Asia-Pacific. For many years now, China has been a powerful economic propeller in the region, contributing over 64% to regional economic growth in 2022.
China is firmly committed to regional economic cooperation and integration. We are dedicated to major regional multilateral mechanisms such as China plus ASEAN (10+1), ASEAN plus China, Japan and South Korea (10+3), APEC, and the RCEP. We have always supported ASEAN centrality in regional cooperation and stood for economic integration in the region.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Peace, stability and prosperity in the Asia-Pacific bears on not only the future of the region, but that of the world. Amid changes unseen in a century, China will deepen dialogue and cooperation with all parties towards the goal of building an Asia-Pacific community with a shared future.
To achieve this goal, we call on all parties to follow these principles:
First, Respecting each other. Mutual respect for core interests and major concerns is the very basis of political mutual trust between countries.
The Taiwan question is at the core of China’s core interests. The result of the elections on Taiwan island not long ago has in no way changed the basic fact that Taiwan is part of China and there is only one China in the world. It has never changed the universal commitment of the international community to the one-China principle. And it has never changed the historical trend that China will eventually be reunified.
China will continue to strive for peaceful reunification with the greatest sincerity and the utmost effort. But, we will do whatever it takes to thwart any attempt for "Taiwan independence", and any interference from external forces.
Second, upholding peace. The world is chaotic enough. So, the peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific need to be cherished more than ever. We stand ready to work with regional countries to apply the Global Security Initiative, and are resolutely opposed to exclusive circles or blocs by some countries, such as AUKUS. Such blocs are not conducive to regional stability, and will only create division and frictions.
On the South China Sea, China remains steadfast in defending its territorial sovereignty and maritime rights and interests. At the same time, we are committed to properly handling differences through dialogue and consultation with the parties directly concerned. China opposes actions by any countries aimed at sowing discord, and instigating trouble in the South China Sea.
Recently, the Eighth Meeting of the China-Philippines Bilateral Consultation Mechanism on the South China Sea was held in Shanghai. The two sides had a candid and in-depth exchange of views on the situation in the South China Sea and maritime issues of their respective concern. Both sides agreed to properly manage relevant disagreements and create favourable conditions for the sound and stable development of China-Philippines relations.
Third, championing openness and cooperation. All countries should oppose sci-tech and economic blockade or "decoupling", for such moves will only undermine the stability of industrial and supply chains and jeopardise regional prosperity.
We will continue to work with all parties to implement the Global Development Initiative, promote high-quality Belt and Road cooperation, and strive to complete Version 3.0 ASEAN-China FTA negotiations this year.
We will work actively towards joining the CPTPP, and strengthen cooperation with regional countries on digital economy and green development. These efforts will create more opportunities for the world’s development.
Fourth, embracing exchanges and mutual learning. Amity between the people holds the key to sound state-to-state relations. China will continue to work with countries in the region to implement the Global Civilisation Initiative, and strengthen the sharing of experience in governance, enhance engagement with different sectors and bolster public support for relations among regional countries.
Ladies and gentlemen,
The UK has long been a participant in Asia-Pacific affairs, despite the geographical distance. The UK will hold its general election in 2024. Whoever wins the election, I hope, the UK will have a good grasp of the mega trends in the Asia-Pacific and play a constructive role in promoting peace, stability and prosperity in the region.
China follows a consistent policy towards the UK, continuing to seek a relationship based on mutual respect, non-interference in each other’s internal affairs, and win-win cooperation. We see great potential in our bilateral economic, educational, cultural, and tourism cooperation, and both sides are working together on common challenges such as climate change and the loss of bio-diversity. The two countries should enhance communication on Asia-Pacific affairs, increase understanding and trust, and avoid misjudgment and misperception.
Ladies and gentlemen,
We will soon usher in the Chinese New Year, the Year of the Dragon. Dragon in the Chinese culture symbolises fortitude, wisdom and auspiciousness. In the spirit of the Chinese New Year, I wish you all more wisdom, greater success, and more happiness in the year ahead.