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Remarks by H.E. Ambassador Song Zhe at the European Parliament
Understand A Diverse and Complex China

Dear Young Friends,

Good afternoon!

It’s a pleasure to meet so many young people at the European Parliament. I always look forward to such an opportunity to exchange ideas with you. I presume that your active minds are free from constraints and conventions brought by age and experiences. And I admire your courage and resolve to practice what you think. I’m expecting an interesting afternoon session. I hope my candor and candidness will match your vigor and vitality.

I’m not sure how much you know about China and how many of you have been to China, but I believe that for most people in Europe, China is both well-known and little-known.

Let me start from what is well-known. China appears so often on media. Take high-level visits for example, in just over a month since early October, there have been more than a dozen high-level visits between China and Europe. Chinese President Hu Jintao visited France and Portugal. Premier Wen Jiabao paid visits to Greece, Belgium, Italy, and attended the ASEM 8 and the 13th China-EU Summit in Brussels. Chairman Jia Qinglin of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) visited Poland early last month. From Europe, Albanian President Topi, British Prime Minister Cameron, Italian President Napolitano, Latvian President Zatlers, Lithuanian President Grybauskaite, Portuguese Prime Minister Socrates, and Swedish King Carl XVI Gustaf went to China and paid visits to different cities across the country. Leaders from two sides have also held meetings on multilateral occasions such as the G20 Seoul Summit. Earlier this week, Chinese State Councilor Ma Kai visited EU headquarters. Not long ago, around 40 MEPs from the Delegation for Relations with China visited China. And last month, Chairman of the CPPCC Ethnic and Religious Committee visited the European Parliament.

China is also well-known for the “Made in China” products. You can easily find them around: water heater, clothes iron, TV sets, DVD players, garments and accessories, silk, porcelain, toys, scooters, just to name a few. These low priced yet high quality products from China provided European consumers affordable commodities and diverse choices. People in Europe have also strong interest in China’s economic policies and activities, a matter of close relevance to the economy and people’s wellbeing in Europe. Since the outbreak of the international financial crisis, China and Europe have maintained close cooperation in the time of difficulties. We made it clear and firm that we support the measures taken by the EU and the IMF, we will keep our Euro bonds, and we support the stability of the Euro. To help Europe overcome difficulty and gain recovery, China sent quite a few business delegations to Europe. Purchase orders were made and investment agreements were signed. We did so because we believe this is what a true friend is supposed to do. Because of what we did, China-EU trade volume has maintained strong growth momentum amidst the crisis. Our trade structure has become more balanced, and Europe is playing a stronger and bigger role in China’s total foreign trade structure.

China again is well known for its culture. While many people in China know much about European festivals, myths, philosophers, musicians, and cuisines, I’m also happy to see that more and more Europeans begin to understand and appreciate the Chinese culture. Many of my European friends love Chinese dishes. They can use chopsticks with ease, and they know where to find a good Chinese restaurant in Brussels. More European people are learning the Chinese language. When we go shopping, very often we are greeted by “Ni Hao”. Then there are Chinese Kong Fu lovers. It is said that in France alone, around 200 to 300 thousand people are learning Kong Fu. There are also tens of thousands in Italy, Netherlands, Spain, Belgium and Switzerland. Every year, a lot of fans travel to China to learn Kong Fu. Some of them have later become enlisted pupils of Shaolin or Tai Ji denominations. I believe that such mutual understanding and appreciation will help us remove misgivings, reduce misperception, and consolidate our friendship.

Now some of you might ask, why would I say China is also little known in Europe. There are many answers to this question. On the one hand, China is a big country. It’s not an easy job to understand its diversity and complexity. On the other hand, news coverage about China in Europe is often not fair, objective and comprehensive. The difference between our culture and the way we think also leads to misunderstanding and disapproval. Today, I’m going to tell you stories about two young Chinese. I hope the stories will offer you some perspectives on viewing China, so that you will begin to fathom in greater depth about the extra-ordinary nation.

This young woman is Huang Shanshan. She’s been teaching in a rural elementary school in the mountainous region in Hubei Province. Her school is 110 kilometers away from the nearest city. There is no internet or cable TV. Fresh vegetables are hard to find. She doesn’t have a separate living quarter, but lives together with students in the same building. During the day, she’s the teacher. After class, she’s a nanny. For her, to sleep the whole night through is a luxury, because she must take care of the kids who either kick the quilt or pee in bed. Huang’s parents feel for her hardships and asked her to return home for a better job. Her boyfriend also hopes that she can leave that remote village to be with him. At some point, Huang did think again of her choice to stay. But she just couldn’t get over the earnest look on the students’ faces—their eagerness for knowledge made her stay. She worked hard and tried to improve her teaching quality. So everyday the school is becoming better than yesterday.

This school is just one of the hundreds of thousands of similar schools scattered all across China. Many teachers, like Shanshan, are living in extremely poor conditions. There’s no guarantee to their basic needs for water and electricity, let alone internet, shopping or simply having fun. At the same time, they bear heavy workload. In these village schools, one teacher must teach several subjects for different grades. I believe most people in Europe could barely imagine how stressful these teachers could be. However, these teachers, in many cases young men and women, are willing to stay away from vanity, take their job as a career, and devote all they have to teaching the younger generation.

China today is the world’s second largest economy, you might feel surprised to find that we still have so many backward regions. But it is the reality. And I believe you can now understand better why we keep saying that China is still a developing country. In China, we still have 150 million people living under poverty line on less than 1 US dollar a day per person. That’s more than the total population of Germany and France combined. 10 million Chinese people still don’t have access to electricity. Due to harsh natural conditions, low level of economic development, and fragile ecological environment, many people in the central and western part of China are living a poor life. The per capita GDP of Shanghai is eight times of the level in Guizhou. I think the Chinese people are in the best place to understand the complications of our own challenges and problems. In fact, a survey suggests that 80% of the Chinese don’t think of China as a strong power. China still has a long way to go. Yet we are very proud to have many promising and selfless young men and women just like Huang Shanshan. I believe their enthusiasm, aspiration, and devotion will surely contribute to a prosperous China.

The other young woman I want to introduce is Chen Lingzhi. She is from Guangdong Province, a rather developed coastal region. Chen lives in a well-off family. Her parents didn’t want her to work somewhere far away from home. And she actually had a choice for a well-paid job after graduation. However, Chen finally chose to become a Spanish interpreter for Chinese doctors in Equatorial Guinea. Life as a medical volunteer in Africa is not easy. Conditions are tough. There is no running water in the hospital. In the first couple of months since her arrival, she was infected with malaria almost every month. Once, she was infected with typhoid fever, which almost took her life. Chen didn’t fall back in front of these tests. Instead, she stood determined to live a life that she’s never had before. And today, she’s become the most important member in her medical team.

In the past 50 years, China sent several hundred medical teams to Africa. Chinese doctors have checked and cured nearly 200 million person times of patients. 47 Chinese doctors left their lives in Africa due to disease, work injury or accidents. The professional skills, medical ethics, and sense of responsibility of the Chinese doctors have won them respect and recognition of governments and peoples in wherever African country they serve. 721 medical workers have been awarded honors by the countries where they work.

For years, China has been committed to developing cooperation with African countries on the basis of equality and mutual benefit. We have been providing assistance to Africa with no attached political conditions. Some people in the media blame what we do as “neo-colonialism”. But I would say that China is a true friend of Africa. Our traditional friendship runs deep in the hearts of our two peoples. No matter how much investment we make, no matter how many equipments we provide to Africa, without volunteers like Chen Lingzhi, we can by no means accomplish such profound friendship. It is their virtue of giving, their sincerity to work and live together with African people, and their resolve to overcome difficulties, that have earned them such trust and esteem. We in China sincerely hope to see stability and prosperity in Africa. We are willing to strengthen cooperation with the EU and other countries and organizations on African development. To say that China is a responsible country is not empty words.

Dear Friends,

Working in the European Parliament must be a rewarding experience. The European Parliament represents the European people. After the Lisbon Treaty went into effect, the European Parliament plays an increasingly important role in EU’s foreign policy. On our part, we always attach great importance to cooperation and exchange with the European Parliament. We hope that the Parliament will play a more positive role in EU’s relations with China. And we hope you, the dynamic and vibrant young people, will contribute to promoting our relationship. I hope that today’s event has brought to you more knowledge about China. We are open to all advice and will work together with our European friends to grow China-EU ties.

Thank you!

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