President Fernando Peña,
Governor Tony Rufino,
Governor Jun Tambunting,
Former President Roque Tordesillas,
Former President Lou del Rosario,
Ambassador Albert del Rosario
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Thank you, my dear friends from the Rotary Club of Makati West, for this warm welcome. It's my pleasure and honor to meet so many professionals and top executives of the Philippine leading corporations here today.
As one of the 33,000 clubs of Rotary International around the world, the RCMW is nonpolitical, nonprofit and open to all cultures and creeds. Your members, better known as Rotarians, have been working hard to provide humanitarian service, encourage high ethical standards in all vocations and help build goodwill and peace in communities, in workplaces and throughout the world. Therefore, I am standing at this podium with deep respect and true appreciation.
Now, with your permission, I'm going to read this paper. I'm going to read it for three reasons: One, I have a very poor memory. And the other two… I can't remember……
As the RCMW commemorates 40 years of "Service above Self", in just one week, the Chinese people are going to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China. One week ago, former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger told reporters in New York, "When I first visited China in the 1970s, I could not have imagined that China would have developed as it has. My son had been in China with me in 1974. When he saw China now and compared it with what he saw then, he understood the stunning achievements."
Here comes the question: what is China trying to achieve and what has China achieved?
There are no short answers. To put in simple terms, we are hoping to develop China into a modern country with prosperity, democracy and rule of law. To cite our ancestors' visions, or sometimes it seemed more like dreams, in ancient times: the pursuit of prosperity is to have everyone a roof overhead, the young educated, the elderly cared, the sick treated and the labor employed. Today, these are no more dreams. They are things now within our grasp.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
China's GDP topped $3.86 trillion in 2008, 77 times more than that in 1952, ranking the third in the world. China's foreign trade volume registered only $1.14 billion in 1950. In 2008, the figure stood at $2.5 trillion, making up 9 percent of the global total. From 1952 to 1978, our foreign reserve rose from $139 million to $167 million. Today it is almost $2 trillion.
By the end of 2008, accumulated outward direct investment from non-financial sectors had added up to $140 billion. Foreign project contracts are being carried out in more than 190 countries, totaling $260 billion in terms of turnover. As many as 4.6 million Chinese are now working overseas.
China's total grain output reached 529 million tons in 2008 from 113 million tons in 1949, the highest in the world. China's cereal, meat and cotton output are all the largest in the world. China is feeding 20% of the world's population with 10% of the world's arable land. In 1978, 250 million Chinese people were under the poverty line, and today, 14 million, a drop of more than 95% in 30 years time.
China's industrial pattern is also undergoing profound changes: the proportion of agriculture in GDP dropped from 51% to 12% while that of industry climbed from 20% to 48%, and the tertiary contribution from 28% to 40%, marking the transition of China from an agrarian country to an industrial society.
China is now home to 60,000km of expressways and more than 80,000km of railways with an average speed around 200km/h. The high-speed train travels between Beijing and Tianjin at 350km/h. China now has 600 million landline phones and 700 million cell phone users. By the end of last June, China leads the world in a netizen population of 338 million.
But the most significant changes in China are not only in big cities like Beijing or Shanghai, but in vast rural areas. Probably, there weren't many people noticing agricultural tax abolished for Chinese farmers since 1 January 2006. In 2007, the program of getting every village access to power supply let many people see electric lights for the first time in their lives. About half of the rural population in China never went into the hospital for economic reasons. A cooperative medical care scheme now covered 90% of rural China. Believe it or not, the average life expectancy in China rose from 35 in 1949 to 73 today.
A painting of China's development wouldn't be complete without mentioning its democratic political reform. As the one who grew amid anarchical chaos of the Cultural Revolution in the 1960s and the one who saw reform unfold and succeed, I should say that China has come a long way in the development of democratic decision making and the rule of law.
Among all the laws in China, more than 95% of them were promulgated during the 30 years since the adoption of reform and opening-up policy in 1978. The National People's Congress (NPC) is covering the huge legislative work that would have taken many countries hundreds of years. The property law took a record 7 years of debating through out of the country. When the labor law was debated, the NPC received 200,000 suggestions, 65% of them from the grassroots.
As President Hu Jintao said at the 17th Party Congress, "Power should operate under the sunshine." At the center of the democratic reform is the decision making process. Both the Party and the Government have set up the structure with which, major decisions are made only after full consultations. Transparency in the personnel system has also been a focus of constant reform measures. Election was introduced at rural level 10 years ago. 64,000 village committees were set up as of the end of 2004, all of them being directly elected. 85% of the villages have set up mechanism for important decisions. Just like you can see new buildings in Beijing every year, you will also see, every year in China, new political development towards greater openness, transparency and accountability.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Behind achievements there must be reasons.
We find them in a people. What we have today is all that a great people can achieve. Courageous, intelligent, industrious and patriotic, the Chinese people have always been the source of China's strength.
We find them in a leadership. It is a leadership of consistency and determination. Visionary and steadfast, the government bore any burden and met any hardship, in order to assure the country's success and the people's well-being.
Most singnificantly, we find them in a road. A road of development, which conforms to the trends of the times, has gradually shaped through practice on the basis of China's special national conditions. It takes as its core the prosperity of the world's largest population. It taps into the enormous potential of combination between socialist system and modern market economy. It brings into full play rich labor resources and a vast market. It pushes forward industrialization, informatization, urbanization and marketization. And it aims to achieve harmony between economic growth and social progress, between man and nature. This is such a road along which we will carry on.
With the facts and figures stated, can we come to the conclusion that China is strong? The answer seems to be YES. However, we have to admit, sometimes, that some time-worn clichés do carry truth: A coin has two sides. Many years ago, Mr. Deng Xiaoping depicted China as a county big and small, strong and weak. It still remains true today. Though China's GDP ranked the third in the world in 2008, in per capita terms, China has only $3,000, placed No. 104 in the world. China is among the top three traders worldwide, but in terms of service trade, China is only a beginner. In the first half of 2009, China's foreign currency reserves surpassed $2 trillion. Four out of the top 10 banks in the world are from China. However, Shanghai is still a place far from a global financial hub. 60% of China's population is rural residents and 135 million people are living under a dollar a day. The list can go on and on.
When a Chinese leader was asked by a foreign reporter what came to the mind first when he wakes up every morning, he said, "How many babies to be born today and for how many people I should solve the problems of food, health and education?" As Premier Wen Jiabao said in Singapore in November 2007, China is still a developing country marked by a national condition of a huge population, weak economic base and underdeveloped productive forces. There are still many acute problems, such as urban-rural disparity and unbalanced regional development. These problems for a country with more than 1 billion people mean that China has a long way to go before it can realize modernization.
The way will not only be long, but also bumpy with difficulties and challenges. Energy and resource constraints, ecological and environmental pollution, and lagging scientific and technological innovation should be on the top list. Furthermore, longstanding structural problems and extensive modes of economic growth are yet to be fundamentally addressed. There remain institutional obstacles slowing down the development of socialist market economy and further reforms still face deep-seated problems. The foundation of agriculture remains weak and rural areas still lag behind in development. The task is still arduous to narrow the urban-rural and inter-regional gap in development and promote balanced economic and social development. Efforts to improve democracy and the legal system have fallen somewhat short of the needs to expand people's democracy, and political restructuring must be deepened. Cultural undertakings are thriving as never before, but the people have growing needs and have become more independent, selective, and diverse in thinking, calling for a more advanced and enhanced culture.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Maybe nothing is certain in the future, but we can be certain about this: the belief in the greatness of the Chinese people, the confidence in the dedication Chinese leadership and our dedication to keep China in the right direction of development are needed today as much as they have ever been needed in the past six decades to make our country strong.
We don't get to choose the tests and trials ahead. But we're entirely free to choose how we will meet those tests. The Chinese people will go forward, committed to our ideas, confident of victories to come, and certain that China's development has not only enabled its people to move steadily toward prosperity and happiness, but also contributed substantially to peace and stability of the world, the growth and prosperity of the world economy and the progress of human civilization.
Thank you and Mabuhay!