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Welcoming Remarks by H.E. Ambassador Song Zhe for the Open House at the Mission of China to the EU

Communicating for Better Understanding

Distinguished guests,

Dear young friends,

Good morning!

Welcome to the open house of the Chinese Mission. This year’s open house is rather special. Because this May, all Chinese diplomatic missions in the EU member states will open their doors to the young people. This collective move actually constitutes a flagship event of the EU-China Year of Youth. While we welcome you in our embassies and missions here, young people in China are getting involved in China-EU Youth Week, Youth Forum and other like events. We have every reason to expect that youth exchange will become the signature of China-EU relations throughout this dynamic and vigorous year.

As we often say, young people are our future. The friendship and trust our young people develop through exchanges and contacts benefit the future of China, Europe, and the world. The Chinese philosopher Confucius said well over two thousand years ago, “How happy we are, to meet friends from afar!” Because he believes that exchanges with friends promote intellectual enlightenment, facilitate better understanding, and offer deeper insights into the world and life. German philosopher Jürgen Habermas wrote in The Theories of Communicative Action that mutual understanding, a key element of the communicative action, will be achieved through democratic, diverse and open dialogues. History renders their views highly pertinent. And for both members of a family and countries in the international community, equal, candid and close exchange and communication help people develop fair views and make people more capable of understanding and appreciating each other. Based on that, we are likely to adopt a balanced and prudent approach towards each other, which works better in promoting our relationship. And a better relationship will in return create favorable conditions for further exchange and communication. Such a healthy cycle of communication makes a society united and prosperous among individuals, and makes the world moving towards long-term peace and sustained growth among different nations.

Today, when you come together to discuss China and Europe, what is most likely that you could achieve? I don’t think it will be judgments or conclusions. Neither would I like to see you trying all out to knock the other side out in argument. Instead, I wish that above all you will help each other to set up a perception structure in order to get a comprehensive view of the other. To make an analogy, we all understand that in order to get a comprehensive view of an object, we need to lay our eyes in a 3D space just like a Cartesian coordinate system consisting of horizontal, vertical, and depth axes. Observing a nation or its people is no different. So why not launching our journey of mutual understanding following the same three-axis approach?

The horizontal axis records the evolution of human civilization. The world history is a chronicle of the rise and fall of great cultures and powers. But mankind as a whole grows ever stronger. Home to ancient civilizations, both China and Europe have also contributed our enormous share to the development of humanity. That said, the world has never been, nor will it ever be, dominated by an individual civilization for good. That’s why today, we simply cannot trace up entire human civilization to a single root. The world today is the result of centuries of clashes, exchanges, melting and converging of different cultures and civilizations. History will make the choice of our legacy and dispose of matters inconsistent with the trend of times.

The vertical axis records the changes in international order. Greater interdependence is the prime feature of our globalised world today. Under such a context, the overall strength and development potential of a country is increasingly defined by its capacity and contribution to promoting the welfare of the world. The emergence and empowerment of the G20 and the reforms of world economic, trade and financial system all suggest that the global industrial structure is changing and roles of emerging countries are strengthening. Instead of calling this process “power shift” as some people do, I would rather say that we are on the track towards a more fair and just international order.

The third axis, the depth axis, marks the development path of individual countries. For any nation, the road to development cannot be all the way straight ahead. We all share moments of pride. But there are also times when we slipped. The important thing is that we learned our lessons and improved ourselves. China has worked hard and experimented through more than three decades of reform and opening up to finally lay our feet on a suitable development path. And we are not done perfecting ourselves to meet new challenges. Europe has gone through the ordeal of two World Wars before finding the right prescription for peace, and fifty years into integration, the journey towards a united Europe remains a bumpy ride. When looking at other countries, it’s important that we do not evaluate them using one’s own standards or impose one’s own political system and development model. We must abandon static perspectives and reject the habit of willfully pinning someone a political tag.

Now, I’ve lived for more years than many of you have. But I’m not going to pride myself on being a veteran and plant in your heads my views on China, Europe and our bilateral ties. After all, today is more of an occasion for you the young people to talk. What I was trying to do is to offer you, through my personal experience, some observations and perspectives on how to set up a fair perception. I hope that three axes approach I mentioned will in some way help you develop a truthful, comprehensive and objective image of the nation and the people on the other side. Growing up in an era of globalization and information explosion, you all have much more bright and brilliant minds. My hope is that you all have an open and tolerant heart, and will continue talking to each other to build better understanding. I’m deeply convinced that through communication, you will be able to cross over cultural barriers, remove bias over different systems, establish effective cooperation to meet global challenges, and contribute to the peace, stability, and harmony of China, Europe, and the world.

Today is only the first part of our open house. On the 17th of this month we will host also here a reception for the Chinese delegation attending the China-EU Youth Week. We invite all of you to come back on that date so you can meet and talk to the Chinese youth representatives from all different sectors of society. To conclude, I wish to share with you the vision described by the Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao during the opening ceremony of the EU-China Year of Youth held in Beijing. He said, “The seed of friendship should be sown in every young heart. With this foundation, we can handle any storm together on the way forward, and ours will be a broad road to cooperation and friendship.”

Thank you!

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