Working Together to Build a Community of Shared Future for Humankind
Working Together to Build a Community of Shared Future for Humankind
Speech at the United Nations Office at Geneva
January 18, 2017
Your Excellency Mr. Peter Thomson, President of the 71st Session of the UN General Assembly,
Your Excellency Mr. António Guterres, UN Secretary-General,
Your Excellency Mr. Michael Møller, Director-General of the UN Office at Geneva,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
As a new year begins, everything takes on a new look. It gives me great pleasure to visit the United Nations Office at Geneva and discuss with you the building of a community of shared future for humankind, which is the call of our time.
I just attended the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting. In Davos, many speakers pointed out in their speeches that today's world is full of uncertainty, and that people long for a bright future but are bewildered about what will come. What has happened to the world and how should we respond? The whole world is reflecting on this question, and it is also very much on my mind.
I believe that to answer this question, we need to be clear on a fundamental issue: Where did we come from? Where are we now? And where are we going?
Over the past century and more, humankind endured bloody hot wars and the chilling Cold War, but also achieved remarkable development and huge progress. In the first half of the last century, humankind suffered the scourges of two world wars, and people yearned for the end of war and the advent of peace. In the 1950s and 1960s, people in colonies awakened and fought to shake off shackles and achieve independence. Since the end of the Cold War, people have pursued a shared aspiration, namely, to expand cooperation and promote common development.
For over a century, peace and development has been the common aspiration of humankind. However, this goal is far from being met. We need to respond to the people's call, take up the baton of history, and forge ahead on the marathon track towards peace and development.
Humankind is in the midst of an era of major development as well as profound transformation and change. The trend towards multi-polarity and economic globalization is surging. The application of IT in all aspects of society and the diversification of culture are making continued progress. A new scientific and industrial revolution is in the making. Countries are becoming increasingly interconnected and reliant on each other, and the world is increasingly facing common circumstances. The forces for peace far outweigh factors causing war, and the trend of our times towards peace, development, cooperation, and mutually-beneficial outcomes has gained stronger momentum.
At the same time, humankind is also in an era of numerous challenges and growing risks. Global economic growth is sluggish, the impact of the financial crisis lingers on and the development gap is widening. Armed conflicts occur from time to time, the Cold War mentality and power politics still exist, and non-conventional security threats, particularly terrorism, refugee crisis, major epidemic diseases, and climate change, are spreading.
There is only one Earth and we humankind have only one home. Stephen Hawking has speculated about the existence of "parallel universes," hoping to find another place in the universe where humankind could live. We do not know when his wish will come true. Earth is still the only home for humankind, so to care for and cherish it is the only option we have. There is a Latin motto inscribed in the dome of the Federal Palace of Switzerland which reads, "Unus pro omnibus, omnes pro uno" (One for all, and all for one). We should not only think about our own generation, but also take responsibility for future ones.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
To pass on the torch of peace from generation to generation, sustain development, and allow civilization to flourish – this is what people of all countries long for; it is also the responsibility statesmen of our generation ought to shoulder. China's proposition is to build a community of shared future for humankind and achieve shared and mutually-beneficial development.
Vision guides action and direction determines the future. As modern history shows, the establishment of a fair and equitable international order is the goal that humankind has always striven for. From the principles of equality and sovereignty established in the Peace of Westphalia over 360 years ago to the international humanitarianism affirmed in the Geneva Convention 150-plus years ago; from the four purposes and seven principles enshrined in the UN Charter more than 70 years ago to the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence championed by the Bandung Conference over 60 years ago, many principles have emerged in the evolution of international relations and become widely accepted. These principles should guide us in building a community of shared future for humankind.
Sovereign equality has been the most important norm governing state-to-state relations over the past centuries, and it is the cardinal principle observed by the United Nations and all other international organizations. The essence of sovereign equality is that the sovereignty and dignity of all countries, whether big or small, strong or weak, rich or poor, must be respected. The internal affairs of countries must not be interfered with, and each country has the right to independently choose its own social system and development path. In organizations such as the United Nations, World Trade Organization (WTO), World Health Organization (WHO), World Intellectual Property Organization, World Meteorological Organization, International Telecommunication Union, Universal Postal Union, International Organization for Migration and International Labor Organization, countries have an equal voice in decision-making, constituting an important force for improving global governance. In a new era, we should uphold sovereign equality and work for equality in rights, opportunities, and rules for all countries.
Geneva has witnessed many historic events over the years: the adoption of the Final Declaration on the Problem of Restoring Peace in Indo-China; the first summit meeting for reconciliation between the two blocs during the Cold War; and dialogue and negotiations on hotspot issues like the Iranian nuclear issue and the Syrian issue. What we can learn from both past and present is that dialogue and consultation is an effective way to bridge differences, and political negotiation is the fundamental solution to end conflicts. When we have sincere wishes, goodwill, and political wisdom, no conflict is too big to settle and no ice is too thick to break.
An ancient Chinese philosopher said, "Law is the very foundation of governance." Here in Geneva, countries, on the basis of the UN Charter, have concluded a number of international conventions and legal documents on political security, trade, development, social issues, human rights, science and technology, health, labor, intellectual property, culture, and sports. The relevance of law lies in its enforcement. It is thus incumbent on all countries to uphold the authority of the international rule of law, exercise their rights in accordance with law, and fulfill their obligations in good faith. The relevance of law also lies in fairness and justice. All countries and international judicial institutions should ensure equal and uniform application of international law and reject double standards and selective application of international law, thus ensuring genuine equality and justice in the world.
"The ocean is vast because it admits all rivers." Openness and inclusiveness have made Geneva a center of multi-lateral diplomacy. We should advance democracy in international relations and reject dominance by just one or several countries. All countries should jointly shape the future of the world, participate in writing international rules, manage global affairs together, and ensure that development outcomes are shared by all.
In his 1862 book Un Souvenir de Solférino, Henry Dunant pondered the question of whether it was possible to set up humanitarian organizations and conclude humanitarian conventions. The answer came one year later with the founding of the International Committee of the Red Cross. Over the past 150-plus years, the Red Cross has become a symbol and a banner. In the face of frequent humanitarian crises, we should champion the spirit of humanity, compassion, and dedication and extend love and hope to innocent people caught in dire situations. We should uphold the basic principles of neutrality, impartiality, and independence, refrain from politicizing humanitarian issues, and ensure the non-militarization of humanitarian assistance.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Great visions can be realized only through actions. Actions hold the key to building a community of shared future for humankind. To achieve this goal, the international community should promote partnership, security, growth, inter-cultural exchanges, and the building of a sound ecosystem.
– We should stay committed to building a world of lasting peace through dialogue and consultation. When countries enjoy peace, so will the world; when countries fight, the world will suffer. From the Peloponnesian War in the fifth century BC to the two world wars and the Cold War that lasted more than four decades, we have drawn painful and profound lessons from conflict. "History, if not forgotten, can serve as a guide for the future." By establishing the United Nations, those before us secured more than 70 years of relative peace for the world. What we need to do is to improve the mechanisms and means at our disposal to more effectively resolve disputes, reduce tensions, and put an end to wars and conflicts.
The Swiss writer and Nobel laureate Hermann Hesse stressed the importance of serving "not war and destruction but peace and reconciliation." Countries should foster partnerships based on dialogue, non-confrontation, and non-alliance. Major countries should respect each other's core interests and major concerns, manage their differences, and build a new model of relations characterized by non-conflict, non-confrontation, mutual respect, and mutually-beneficial cooperation. As long as we communicate and treat each other with sincerity, the "Thucydides trap" can be avoided. Big countries should treat smaller ones as equals instead of acting as a hegemon imposing their will on them. No country should open Pandora's box by willfully waging wars or undermining the international rule of law. Nuclear weapons, the Sword of Damocles that hangs over humankind, should be completely prohibited and ultimately destroyed, ridding the world of them once and for all. Guided by the principles of peace, sovereignty, inclusiveness, and shared governance, we should turn the deep seas, the polar regions, outer space, and the Internet into new frontiers for cooperation rather than a wrestling ground for competition.
– We should build a world of common security for all through joint efforts. No country in the world can enjoy absolute security. A country cannot have security while others are in turmoil, as threats facing other countries may one day come to haunt it. When our neighbors are in trouble, instead of tightening our own fences, we should extend a helping hand. As a saying goes, "United we stand, divided we fall." All countries should pursue common, comprehensive, cooperative, and sustainable security.
Terrorist attacks that have occurred in Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East in recent years once again demonstrate that terrorism is the common enemy of humankind. Fighting terrorism is the common responsibility of all countries. In fighting terror, we should not just treat the symptoms, but remove the root causes. We should enhance coordination and build a global united front against terrorism so as to create an umbrella of security for people around the world. At present the number of refugees in the world is at its highest since the end of World War II. While tackling the refugee crisis, we should also get to its roots. Why would anyone want to be displaced if they had a home to return to? The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the International Organization for Migration should act as a coordinator, mobilizing the whole world to respond effectively to the refugee crisis. China has decided to provide an additional 200 million yuan of humanitarian assistance for refugees and the displaced of Syria. As terrorism and refugee crises are closely linked to geopolitical conflicts, the resolution of conflicts represents the fundamental solution to such problems. Parties directly involved should return to the negotiating table, and other parties should work to facilitate talks for peace, and we should all respect the role the UN plays as the main channel for mediation. Pandemic diseases such as bird flu, Ebola, and Zika have sounded the alarm for international health security. The WHO should play a leading role in strengthening epidemic monitoring and sharing information, practices, and technologies. The international community should step up support and assistance for public health in African countries and other developing countries.
– We should build a world of common prosperity through mutually-beneficial cooperation. Development is the top priority for all countries. Instead of trying to benefit oneself at the expense of one's neighbor, countries should stick together like passengers in the same boat. All countries, the main economies in particular, should strengthen macro policy coordination, pursue both current and long-term interests, and focus on resolving deep-seated problems. We should seize the historic opportunity presented by a new round of scientific, technological, and industrial change to shift growth models, drive growth through innovation, and further unleash social productivity and creativity. We should uphold WTO rules, support an open, transparent, inclusive and nondiscriminatory multilateral trading regime, and build an open world economy. Trade protectionism and self-isolation will benefit no one.
Economic globalization is a surging historical trend that has greatly facilitated trade, investment, the flow of people, and technological advances. Since the turn of the century, under the auspices of the UN and riding on the waves of economic globalization, the international community has set the Millennium Development Goals and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Thanks to these initiatives, 1.1 billion people have been lifted out of poverty, 1.9 billion people now have access to safe drinking water, 3.5 billion people have gained access to the Internet, and the goal has been set to eradicate extreme poverty by 2030. All this demonstrates that economic globalization is moving in the right direction. Of course, challenges such as development disparity, governance difficulties, digital divide, and equity deficit still exist. But they are growing pains. We should face these problems and tackle them, rather than simply do nothing. As we Chinese like to say, one should not stop eating for fear of choking.
We should draw inspiration from history. Historians told us long ago that rapid economic development necessitates social reform; but people tend to support the former while rejecting the latter. Instead of hesitating, we should firmly move forward. Answers can also be found in reality. The 2008 international financial crisis has taught us that we should strengthen coordination and improve governance so as to ensure the sound progression of economic globalization and make this process open, inclusive, balanced, and beneficial to all. We should not only make the cake bigger, but divide it fairly to ensure justice and equity.
Last September, the G20 Summit in Hangzhou focused on global economic governance and other major issues. Adopting the Blueprint on Innovative Growth, it put development in the global macro policy framework for the first time and formulated an action plan.
– We should build an open and inclusive world through exchanges and mutual learning. Delicious soup is made by combining different ingredients. The diversity of human civilizations not only defines our world, but also drives the progress of humankind. There are more than 200 countries and regions, over 2,500 ethnic groups, and numerous religions in our world. Different histories, national conditions, ethnic groups, and customs have given birth to different civilizations and made the world a colorful one. There is no such thing as a superior or inferior civilization. Civilizations differ only in identity and location. The diversity of civilizations should not be a source of global conflict; rather, it should be an engine driving the advancement of human civilization.
Every civilization, with its own appeal and roots, is a treasure of the humankind. Different civilizations should draw on each other's strengths to achieve common progress. We should make exchanges among civilizations a source of inspiration for advancing human society and a bond that keeps the world in peace.
– We should make our world clean and beautiful by pursuing green and low-carbon development. People coexist with nature, which means that any harm we inflict on nature will eventually come back to haunt us. We often take natural resources such as air, water, soil and blue sky for granted. But we wouldn't be able to survive without them. Industrialization has created material wealth like never seen before, but it has also inflicted irreparable damage on the environment. We must not exhaust all the resources left to us by previous generations and leave nothing to our children, or pursue development in a destructive way. Lucid waters and lush mountains are just as valuable as mountains of gold and silver. We must maintain harmony between humans and nature and pursue sustainable development.
We should pursue a green, low-carbon, circular, and sustainable way of life and production, advance the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in a balanced manner, and explore a civilized path of development that ensures increased levels of production, high standards of living, and fine natural environments. The Paris Agreement is a milestone in the history of climate governance. We must ensure that this endeavor is not derailed. All parties should work together to implement the Paris Agreement. China will continue to take steps to tackle climate change and fully honor its obligations.
The Swiss army knife embodies Swiss craftsmanship. When I first got one, I was amazed at the amount of functions it had. I couldn't help thinking how wonderful it would be if a Swiss army knife could be made for the world: whenever there was a problem, we could use one of the tools on the knife to fix it. I believe that with the unremitting efforts of the international community, such a knife can be made.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The Chinese people believe that China will do well only when the world does well, and that a better China also means a better world. Many people are interested in what policies China will pursue, and we have heard various views. Here, I wish to give you an explicit answer.
First, China remains unchanged in its commitment to world peace. Amity with neighbors, harmony without uniformity, and peace are values cherished in Chinese culture. The Art of War, a Chinese classic, begins with the observation, "The art of war is of vital importance to the state. It is a matter of life and death, a road to either survival or ruin. Hence it demands careful study." What this essentially means is that every effort should be made to avoid war and great caution must be exercised when it comes to fighting a war. For several millennia, peace has been the essence of our national tradition.
Several centuries ago, China's GDP accounted for as much as 30% of the global total. But even then, China never engaged in aggression or expansion. In the century that followed the 1840 Opium War, China suffered immensely from aggression, wars, and chaos. Confucius said, "Do not do to others what you do not want others to do to you." We Chinese firmly believe that peace and stability is the only path to development and prosperity.
China has grown from a poor and weak country to the world's second largest economy not through military expansion or colonial plunder, but through the hard work of its people and their efforts to uphold peace. China will never waver in its pursuit of peaceful development. No matter how strong its economy grows, China will never seek hegemony, engage in expansion, or build its own sphere of influence. This has been proven in the past, and will continue to be proven in the future.
Second, China remains unchanged in its commitment to common development. As an old Chinese saying goes, when you reap fruits, you should remember the tree; when you drink water, you should remember its source. China's development has been possible because of the world, and China has contributed to the world's development. We will continue to pursue a mutually-beneficial strategy of opening up, share our development opportunities with other countries, and welcome them aboard the train of China's development.
Between 1950 and 2016, China provided foreign countries with over 400 billion yuan in aid, and we will continue to increase assistance to others as our ability permits. Since the outbreak of the international financial crisis, China has contributed to over 30% of global economic growth each year on average. In the coming five years, China will import 8 trillion US dollars of goods, attract 600 billion US dollars of foreign investment, and invest 750 billion US dollars overseas. In addition, Chinese tourists will make 700 million outbound visits. All this will bring more development opportunities to other countries.
China pursues a path of development in keeping with its national conditions. We put the people's rights and interests above everything else, and have worked hard to advance and protect human rights. China has met the basic living needs of its 1.3 billion-plus people and lifted over 700 million people out of poverty, which represent a significant contribution to the global cause of human rights.
The Belt and Road Initiative I put forward aims to achieve mutually-beneficial and shared development. Over 100 countries and international organizations have voiced support for the initiative, and a large number of early harvest projects have been launched. China supports the successful operation of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and other new multilateral financial institutions in order to provide more public goods to the international community.
Third, China remains unchanged in its commitment to partnerships. China pursues an independent foreign policy of peace, and is ready to enhance friendship and cooperation with all other countries on the basis of the Five Principles of Peaceful Co-existence. China was the first country to make partnership-building a principle of its state-to-state relations. It has formed partnerships of various forms with over 90 countries and regional organizations, and will build a circle of friends across the world.
China will endeavor to put in place a framework of relations with major countries characterized by over-all stability and balanced growth. We will strive to build a new model of major country relations with the United States, a comprehensive strategic collaborative partnership with Russia, a partnership for peace, growth, reform, and civilization with Europe, and a partnership of unity and cooperation with BRICS countries. China will continue to uphold justice, and deepen pragmatic cooperation with other developing countries to achieve joint interests and common development. We will further enhance mutually-beneficial cooperation with our neighbors under the principles of affinity, sincerity, mutual benefit, and inclusiveness. We will pursue common development with African countries in the spirit of sincerity, real results, affinity and good faith. And we will elevate our comprehensive cooperative partnership with Latin America to a higher level.
Fourth, China remains unchanged in its commitment to multilateralism. Multilateralism is an effective way to preserve peace and promote development. For decades, the United Nations and other international institutions have made a universally recognized contribution to maintaining global peace and sustaining development.
China is a founding member of the United Nations and the first country to put its signature on the UN Charter. China will firmly uphold the international system with the UN as its core, the basic norms governing international relations embodied in the purposes and principles of the UN Charter, the authority and stature of the UN, and its core role in international affairs.
The China-UN Peace and Development Fund has been officially inaugurated. We will make funds available to peace and development oriented programs proposed by the UN and its agencies in Geneva on a priority basis. China's support for multilateralism will increase as it continues to develop.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Geneva invokes a special memory for us. In 1954, Premier Zhou Enlai led a Chinese delegation to the Geneva Conference, and worked with the Soviet Union, the United States, the United Kingdom, and France to seek the political settlement of the Korean issue and a ceasefire in Indo-China. This demonstrated China's desire for peace and contributed Chinese wisdom to world peace. Since 1971, when China regained its lawful seat in the UN and began to return to international agencies in Geneva, China has gradually involved itself in disarmament, trade, development, human rights, and social issues, putting forth Chinese proposals for the resolution of major issues and the formulation of important rules. In recent years, China has taken an active part in dialogue and negotiations on the Iranian nuclear issue, the Syrian issue and other hotspot issues, providing Chinese input for their political settlement. China has mounted successful bids with the International Olympic Committee to host both the summer and winter Olympic and Paralympic Games. In addition, we have gained endorsement from the International Union for Conservation of Nature for over a dozen applications for world natural heritage sites as well as world cultural and natural heritage sites. All this has presented Chinese splendor to the world.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The ancient Chinese believed that "one should be good at finding the laws of things and solving problems." Building a community of shared future is an exciting goal, and it requires efforts from generation after generation. China is ready to work with all the other UN member states as well as international organizations and agencies to advance the great cause of building a community of shared future for humankind.
On January 28, we will celebrate our Chinese New Year, the Year of the Rooster. The rooster symbolizes bright prospects and auspiciousness. There is a popular Chinese saying which goes, "The crow of the golden rooster heralds a great day for all." With that, I wish you all the very best and a very happy Chinese New Year!
(Originally appeared in Qiushi Journal, Chinese edition, No. 1, 2021)