From Past to Present: to Observe China Without Filter
2022-01-01 05:15

On December 30, Ambassador Yi Xianliang wrote an article entitled “Past to Present: to Observe China Without Filter” on Aftenposten, encouraging Norwegian friends to understand China from an objective and friendly point of view. The full text is as follows:

China has become a hot topic. In the past 30 days, there has been nearly 30 articles about China on Aftenposten alone. As the Chinese ambassador, I appreciate the attention to my country. However, I find it difficult to agree with some of the views in the articles. How should we observe China? What kind of civilization has persisted in the 5000 years’ history of China? What diversities does the land of 9.6 million square kilometers feature? What kind of values do the 1.4 billion people believe in? These elements are complicated issues. But it might be wise observe China from 4 perspectives:

The historical perspective: During the Warring States period over 2000 years ago, China was a war zone where there was not so much of a livelihood for the people. During the Ming Dynasty 600 years ago, China became one of the most prosperous nation after having stabilized its borders. Zheng He, leading his gigantic fleet, made 7 overseas visits, reaching as far as eastern Africa, without claiming an inch of territory. Nor did he initiate any war or conflict against others. In the Qing Dynasty which collapsed 110 years ago, China was struggling deep in the chaos created by foreign warships and forced opium trade. The average life expectancy was less than 34 years. In the next century, tens of millions of people died in the melee during the Warlord Era, the War of Resistance against Japanese Aggression and the Civil War. It was not until the establishment of the People’s Republic of China in 1949 that the nation was back on track. In the early 1950s, China’s population was 570 million while its GDP was 68 billion USD. The country was in ruin and couldn’t even produce basic goods such as thumbtacks. Now in 2020, China enjoys a average life expectancy of 77 years and its GDP is at 14.7 trillion USD. It is the largest trading partner of more than 120 countries and regions, and contributed more than 30 % of the world’s economic growth. China has experienced both ups and downs in its 5000 years of history, and the lesson are clear. Only by continuous self-improvement can we realize peace. Only with peace can we prosper. Therefore, the Chinese people treasure peaceful coexistence.

The realistic perspective: With a vast territory and great diversity, China’s development could not be realized simultaneously. There are metropolises such as Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong, but also many underdeveloped regions. Although almost 800 million people have been lifted out of absolute poverty over the past 4 decades, China’s GDP per capita is still less than 1/7 of that in Norway. 600 million Chinese have a monthly income less than 1400 Norwegian Krones. China is and will remain a developing country for a long time. As a result, the primary task of the Chinese government is to meet the needs of its own people, maintain social fairness and justice, and to solve the problem of unbalanced and insufficient development. For instance, if 1.4 billion Chinese eat one egg per day, 500 billion eggs are needed for a year. And the problems China faces are more complicated than just providing eggs. Therefore, development is the first priority of China. We have no interest or extra resources to seek hegemony.

The future-oriented perspective: The driving force within China originates from the belief of a better world. As a responsible country, China wants to contribute more to the outside world. The surviving logic of Chinese is that one can only achieve better well-being when others are well and happy. Since the outbreak of the pandemic, we have produced 350 billion face masks, supplied the world with 2 billion vaccine doses and are among the first countries to support the sharing of vaccine patents. Nuclear weapon is a heated topic in Norway. China is the only one among countries with nuclear weapons that commits itself to the no-first-use policy, and will not use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear-weapon states or nuclear-weapon-free zones. China remains an open economy no matter how international conditions may change. The China International Import Expo has been held in four consecutive years, and China remains the world's largest trading nation in goods. In 2019, 145 million tourists came to the Chinese mainland, while 155 million Chinese traveled around the world. China longs for a world of true multilateralism, with peace, development, fairness, justice, democracy and freedom as the common values of mankind. China's development is not the result of colonization or invasion, but an outcome of hard work. China looks forward to a community with a shared future for mankind where no countries shall live at the mercy of other countries. Instead, all people have full right to achieve common prosperity through cooperation.

The political perspective: China has always been seeking a development system that suits its reality. Since the fall of the Qing Dynasty in 1911, numerous experiments on political systems were conducted, among which both constitutional monarchy and parliamentarism failed. It is through continuous exploration and practice that the current political, economic and social systems were established. The political system in Norway differs from that in the U.S. or the U.K.. It was chosen by the Norwegian people according to the Norwegian conditions. For over 70 years, the Chinese, led by the Communist Party of China, have promoted democracy in their own unique way. The feeling of happiness and participation in public governance among all Chinese people have increased, the supervision of the government has become more effective, and the whole society has become more inclusive and vibrant. China is committed to developing whole-process people's democracy, which is reflected in the satisfaction of ordinary people. Travel around China, and you will have a deeper understanding of the real life, including political life, of Chinese people. If there should be a universal principle in China, then it must be to seek truth from facts. And that is precisely the recipe for China's progress. To distort the truth or mislead on purpose will pay a heavy price. There has been many hard-learned lessons for China and other countries throughout history.

The image of China in your eyes depends on your intention and will of observation. However, China should by no means be observed in one color or from one angle, just as no one visits the Munch Museum with sunglasses on. A diverse China deserves nuanced insight without filters, and the Winter Olympics in Beijing offers just such an opportunity. I'm convinced that if you could put away the prejudice, China might bring you a pleasant surprise. It is my sincere hope that you could understand China from an objective and friendly point of view.

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