Last updated at: (Beijing Time) Friday, December 12, 2003

Full text of Premier Wen's speech at Harvard

The following is the full text of Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao's speech delivered at Harvard University, December 10, entitled "Turning Your Eyes to China".


Wen delivers a speech at Harvard University
Mr. President,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I would like to begin by sincerely thanking President Summers for his kind invitation.

Harvard is a world-famous institution of higher learning, attracting the best minds and bringing them up generation after generation. In its 367 years of history, Harvard has produced seven American presidents and more than 40 Nobel laureates. You have reason to be proud of your school.

It is my great pleasure today to stand on your rostrum and have this face-to-face exchange with you. I am an ordinary Chinese, the son of a school teacher. I experienced hardships in my childhood and for long years worked in areas under harsh conditions in China. I have been to 1,800 Chinese counties out of a total of 2,500.I deeply love my country and my people.

The title of my speech today is "Turning Your Eyes to China".

China and the United States are far apart, and they differ greatly in the level of economic development and cultural background. I hope my speech will help increase our mutual understanding.

In order to understand the true China- a changing society full of promises - it is necessary to get to know her yesterday, her today, and her tomorrow.

China yesterday was a big ancient country that created a splendid civilization.

As we all know, in the history of mankind, there appeared the Mesopotamian civilization in West Asia, the ancient Egyptian civilization along the Nile in North Africa, the ancient Greek-Roman civilization along the northern bank of the Mediterranean, the ancient Indian civilization in the Indus River Valley in South Asia, and the Chinese civilization originating in the Yellow and Yangtze river valleys. Owing to earthquake, flood, plague or famine, or to alien invasion or internal turmoil, some of these ancient civilizations withered away, some were destroyed and others became assimilated into other civilizations. Only the Chinese civilization, thanks to its strong cohesive power and inexhaustible appeal, has survived many vicissitudes intact. The 5,000-year-long civilization is the source of pride of every Chinese.

The traditional Chinese culture, both extensive and profound, starts far back and runs a long, long course. More than 2,000 years ago, there emerged in China Confucianism represented by Confucius and Mencius, Taoism represented by Lao Zi and Zhuang Zi, and many other theories and doctrines that figured prominently in the history of Chinese thought, all being covered by the famous term "the masters' hundred schools". From Confucius to Dr. Sun Yat-sen, the traditional Chinese culture presents many precious ideas and qualities, which are essentially populist and democratic. For example, they lay stress on the importance of kindness and love in human relations, on the interest of the community, on seeking harmony without uniformity and on the idea that the world is for all. Especially, patriotism as embodied in the saying "Everybody is responsible for the rise or fall of the country"; the populist ideas that "people are the foundation of the country" and that "people are more important than the monarch"; the code of conduct of "Don't do to others what you don't want others to do to you"; and the traditional virtues taught from generation to generation: long suffering and hard working, diligence and frugality in household management, and respecting teachers and valuing education. All these have played a great role in binding and regulating the family, the country and the society.

On this year's Teacher's Day which fell on 10thof September, I went to see Professor Ji Xianlin of Peking University in his hospital ward. Professor Ji, 92, is a great scholar in both Chinese and western learning, specializing in oriental studies. I enjoy reading his prose. In our t��te-��-t��te we talked about the movement of "Eastern learning spreading to the West" and "Western learning spreading to the East". In the 17thand 18thcenturies foreign missionaries translated Chinese classics into European languages and introduced them to Europe, and this aroused great interest in some eminent scholars and enlightenment thinkers there. Descartes, Leibniz, Montesquieu, Voltaire, Goethe and Kant all studied the traditional Chinese culture.

In my younger days I read Voltaire's writings. He said that a thinker who wanted to study the history of this planet must first turn his eyes to the East, China included.

Interestingly, one and a half century ago, R.W. Emerson, famous American philosopher and outstanding Harvard graduate, also fell for the traditional Chinese culture. He quoted profusely from Confucius and Mencius in his essays. He placed Confucius on a par with Socrates and Jesus Christ, saying that we read [the moral teachings of the Confucian school] with profit today, though they were "addressed to a state of society unlike ours".

Rereading these words of Voltaire and Emerson today, I cannot but admire their wisdom and farsight.

China today is a country in reform and opening-up and a rising power dedicated to peace.

The late Dr. John King Fairbank used the following words to describe China's over population and land scarcity. On the land owned by one farmer in the US, there might live hundreds of people forming a village in China. He went on to say that although the Americans were mostly farmers in the past, they never felt such pressure of population density.

A large population and underdevelopment are the two facts China has to face. Since China has 1.3 billion people, any small individual shortage, multiplied by 1.3 billion, becomes a big, big problem. And any considerable amount of financial and material resources, divided by 1.3 billion, becomes a very low per capita level. This is a reality the Chinese leaders have to keep firmly in mind at all times.

We can rely on no one except ourselves to resolve the problems facing our 1.3 billion people. Since the founding of the People's Republic, we have achieved much in our national reconstruction; at the same time we have made a few detours and missed some opportunities. By 1978, with the adoption of the reform and opening-up policies, we had ultimately found the right path of development - the Chinese people's path of independently building socialism with Chinese characteristics.

The essence of this path is to mobilize all positive factors, emancipate and develop the productive forces, and respect and protect the freedom of the Chinese people to pursue happiness.

China's reform and opening-up have spread from rural areas to the cities, from the economic field to the political, cultural and social arenas. Each and every step forward is designed, in the final analysis, to release the gushing vitality of labor, knowledge, technology, managerial expertise and capital, and allow all sources of social wealth to flow to the fullest extent.

For quite some time in the past, China had a structure of highly-centralized planned economy. With deepening restructuring toward the socialist market economy and progress in the development of democratic politics, there was gradual lifting of the former improper restrictions, visible and invisible, on people's freedom in choice of occupation, mobility, enterprise, investment, information, travel, faith and lifestyles. This has brought extensive and profound changes never seen before in China's history. On the one hand, the enthusiasm of the work force in both city and countryside has been set free. In particular, hundreds of millions of farmers are now able to leave their old villages and move into towns and cities, especially in the coastal areas, and tens of millions of intellectuals are now able to bring their talent and creativity into full play. On the other hand, the massive assets owned by the state can now be revitalized, the private capital pool in the amount of trillions of Yuan can take shape, and more than 500 billion US dollars worth of overseas capital can flow in. This combination of capital and labor results in a drama of industrialization and urbanization of a size unprecedented in human history being staged on the 9.6 million square kilometers of land called China. Here lies the secret of the 9.4% annual growth rate that China's economy has been able to attain in the past 25 years.

The tremendous wealth created by China in the past quarter of a century has not only enabled our 1.3 billion countrymen to meet their basic needs for food, clothing and shelter, and basically realize a well-off standard of living, but also contributed to world development. China owes all this progress to the policy of reform and opening-up and, in the final analysis, to the freedom-inspired creativity of the Chinese people.

It has become so clear to me that at the current stage China has an abundant supply of labor in proportion to her limited natural resources and short capital. If no effective measures are taken to protect the fundamental rights of our massive labor force, and in particular the farmer-workers coming to the cities, they may end up in a miserable plight as described in the novels by Charles Dickens and Theodore Dreiser. Without effective protection of the citizens' right to property, it will be difficult to attract and accumulate valuable capital.

Therefore, the Chinese Government is committed to protecting (1) the fundamental rights of all workers and (2) the right to property, both public and private. This has been explicitly provided for in China's law and put into practice.

China's reform and opening-up aims at promoting human rights in China. The two are mutually dependent and reinforcing. Reform and opening-up creates conditions for the advancement of human rights, and the latter invigorates the former. If one separates the two and thinks that China only goes after economic growth and ignores the protection of human rights, such a view does not square with the facts. Just as your former President Franklin Roosevelt said, "True individual freedom cannot exist without economic security and independence," and "Necessitous men are not free men."

I am not suggesting that China's human rights situation is impeccable. The Chinese Government has all along been making earnest efforts to correct the malpractices and negative factors of one kind or another in the human rights field. It is extremely important and difficult in Chinato combine development, reform and stability. Seeing is believing. If our friends come to China and see for themselves, they will be able to judge objectively and appreciate the progress made there in human rights and the Chinese Government's hard work in upholding human rights since the beginning of reform and opening-up.

China is a large developing country. It is neither proper nor possible for us to rely on foreign countries for development. We must, and we can only, rely on our own efforts. In other words, while opening still wider to the outside world, we must more fully and more consciously depend on our own structural innovation, on constantly expanding the domestic market, on converting the huge savings of the citizens into investment, and on improving the quality of the population and scientific and technological progress to solve the problems of resources and the environment. Here lies the essence of China's road of peaceful rise and development.

Of course, China is still a developing country. There is an obvious gap between its urban and rural areas and between its eastern and western regions. If you travel to the coastal cities in China's southeast, you will see modern sights of skyscrapers, busy traffic and brightly-lit streets. But in rural China, especially in the central and western rural parts, there are still many backward places. In the poor and remote mountain villages, folks still use manual labor and animals to till the land. They live in houses made of sun-dried mud bricks. In times of severe drought, there will be scarcity of drinking water for people and animals. A Chinese poet-magistrate of the 18thcentury wrote:

The rustling of bamboo outside my door.

Sounds like the moaning of the needy poor.

As China's Premier, I am often torn with anxiety and unable to eat or sleep with ease when I think of the fact that there are still 30 million farmers lacking food and clothing, 23 million city-dwellers living on subsistence allowances and 60 million disabled and handicapped people in need of social security aid. For China to reach the level of the developed countries, it will still take the sustained hard work of several generations, a dozen generations or even dozens of generations.

China tomorrow will continue to be a major country that loves peace and has a great deal to look forward to.

Peace-loving has been a time-honored quality of the Chinese nation. The First Emperor of Qin Dynasty commanded the building of the Great Wall two thousand years ago for defensive purposes. The Tang Dynasty opened up the Silk Road one thousand years ago in order to sell silk, tea and porcelain to other parts of the world. Five hundred years ago Zheng He, the famous diplomat-navigator of the Ming Dynasty, led seven maritime expeditions to seek friendly ties with other countries, taking along China's exquisite products, advanced farming and handicraft skills. The great Russian writer Leo Tolstoy was right when he called the Chinese nation "the oldest and largest nation" and "the most peace-loving nation in the world".

As the modern times began, the ignorance, corruption and self-imposed seclusion of the feudal dynasties led China to prolonged social stagnation, declining national strength and repeated invasions by the foreign powers. Despite compounded disasters and humiliation, the Chinese nation never gave up and managed to emerge from each setback stronger than before. A nation learns a lot more in times of disaster and setback than in normal times.

Now, China has laid down her three-step strategy toward modernization. From now to 2020,Chinawill complete the building of a well-off society in an all-round way. By 2049, the year the People's Republic will celebrate its centenary, we will have reached the level of a medium-developed country. We have no illusions but believe that on our way forward, we shall encounter many foreseeable and unpredictable difficulties and face all kinds of tough challenges. We cannot afford to lose such a sense of crisis. Of course, the Chinese Government and people are confident enough to overcome all the difficulties and achieve our ambitious goals through our vigorous efforts. This is because:

- The overriding trend of the present-day world is towards peace and development. China's development is blessed with a rare period of strategic opportunities. We are determined to secure a peaceful international environment and a stable domestic environment in which to concentrate on our own development and, with it, to help promote world peace and development.

- The socialism China adheres to is brimming with vigor and vitality. Socialism is like an ocean that takes in all the rivers and will never go dry. While planting our feet solidly on our national conditions, we will boldly press ahead with reform and opening-up and boldly absorb all fine achievements of human civilizations. There is no limit to the life and exuberance of a socialism that is good at self-readjustment and self-improvement.

- Twenty-five years of reform and opening-up has given China a considerable material accumulation, and her economy has gained a foothold in the world. The motivation of China's millions to pursue happiness and create wealth is an inexhaustible reservoir of drive for the country's modernization.

- The Chinese nation has rich and profound cultural reserves. "Harmony without uniformity" is a great idea put forth by ancient Chinese thinkers. It means harmony without sameness, and difference without conflict. Harmony entails co-existence and co-prosperity, while difference conduces to mutual complementation and mutual support. To approach and address issues from such a perspective will not only help enhance relations with friendly countries, but also serve to resolve contradictions in the international community.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

A deeper mutual understanding is a two-way process. I hope American young people will turn their eyes to China.I also trust our young people will turn their eyes more to the US.

The United States is a great country. Since the days of the early settlers, the Americans, with their toughness, frontier spirit, pragmatism, innovation, their respect for knowledge, admission of talents, their scientific tradition and rule of law, have forged the prosperity of their country. The composure, courage and readiness to help one another shown by the American people in face of the 9.11 terrorist attacks are truly admirable.

Entering the 21stcentury, mankind is confronted with more complicated economic and social problems. The cultural element will have a more important role to play in the new century. Different nations may speak different languages, but their hearts and feelings are interlinked. Different cultures present manifold features, yet they often share the same rational core elements that can always be passed on by people. The civilizations of different nations are all fruits of human wisdom and contribution to human progress; they call for mutual respect. Conflicts triggered by ignorance or prejudice are sometimes more dreadful than those caused by contradictory interests. We propose to seek common ground in the spirit of equality and tolerance, and carry on extensive inter-civilization dialogue and closer cultural exchanges.

In his poem, Malvern Hill, the famous American poet Herman Melville wrote:

"Wag the world how it will,

Leaves must be green in Spring."

The youth represents the future of the nation and the world. Faced with the bright prospect of China-US relations in the new century, I hope the young people of China and the US will join their hands more closely.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Chinese forefathers formulated their goals as follows:

To ordain conscience for Heaven and Earth,

To secure life and fortune for the people,

To continue lost teachings for past sages,

To establish peace for all future generations.

Today, mankind is in the middle of a period of drastic social change. It would be a wise approach for all countries to carry forward their fine cultural heritages by tracing back their origin, passing on the essentials, learning from one another and breaking new grounds. My appeal is that we work together with our wisdom and strength for the progress and development of human civilization. Our success will do credit to our forbears and bring benefit to our posterity. In this way, our children and their children will be able to live in a more peaceful, more tranquil and more prosperous world. I am convinced that such an immensely bright and beautiful tomorrow will arrive!

Thank you.

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Premier Wen delivers a speech at Harvard University 

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