Facts, comparisons speak louder than mere words

15:36, July 28, 2011      

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The New York Times recently published an article by Eric X. Li with the headline, "Counterpoint: Debunking myths about China." Li debunked five most popular misconceptions about China by citing the findings of Western opinion polls and research institutions as well as comparing China with other countries. At the end of the article, he drew a reasonable conclusion that "hypotheses that do not stand up to facts and yet still dominate people's consciousness are specious and harmful."

The New York Times published this article in the context of a changing world.

After the Cold War, certain Western elites were ecstatic about "the end of an era," thinking that the world would be theirs and that they could reshape the world to a Western model. However, after nearly 20 years, it turns out that the current world is not the kind they hoped for, and the Western democracy they propagandized for is not as perfect as they have claimed it to be.

I have attended many international conferences in the United States and Europe in recent years and have made private conversations with many Western elites. Some of them honestly expressed doubts about the democratic systems in their countries. Many problems facing today's United States are caused by its democratic system, which features party politics.

An obvious fault of party politics is that the interests of political parties are often put above national interests. For example, both Republicans and Democrats care more about their political interests than the interests of the country and the people, and many American politicians have failed to honor their fine-sounding election commitments. Therefore, doubts about American democracy have started to spread among American elites.

Europe's democratic system is different from that of the United States, but all of their political parties and politicians seek the same goal: winning elections. To gain votes, they must please voters, the consequences of which are mounting national debt in some European countries and the looming crises from sovereign debt and the euro.

Each country needs to adapt to globalization through reforms so as to enhance their competitiveness. When I returned to China after serving as a Chinese ambassador in Europe for nine years, I found through comparisons that the Chinese people's attitudes toward reforms is considerably different from those of Europeans: Europeans are afraid of reforms, while the Chinese people embrace reforms.

This situation has caused European politicians who advocate reforms to usually lose elections. Whoever seeks to adopt a reform will face large-scale strikes and protests. The limitations in such a democratic system are gradually emerging.

China's political system has always been under criticism from Western countries. However, China's achievements including its rapid ascent, improved public living standards and three decades of double-digit economic growth are rare in the world.

In April 1997, I went to attend an international seminar in St. Gallen, a border city in Switzerland. In response to some criticism over China during the seminar, a young man from Spain said, "I view the Chinese government as a good government. Which country in the world has helped 250 million people overcome poverty over the past two decades? Such great progress is unprecedented in the history of mankind." It was noteworthy that none of those smooth-talking Westerners stood up to refute him. Facts are facts, and the remarks of the young Spanish man are just facts that others could not refute.

Of course, China will face a lot of severe challenges and problems during its rising process, and we are willing to use the successful experience of any human civilization for reference to cope with the challenges. However, if China copies the Western system, the severe problems that have emerged in other countries not only will re-emerge in China, but also will be much severer in China.

Another inspiration that we got from Li's article is that facts and comparisons are more convincing than talks. Facts are facts, and nobody can deny them. When introducing China to the world, using the comparison is a quite effective method. I often use comparisons personally in diplomatic affairs.

The world is experiencing an in-depth change and various voices can co-exist in the world. We must never think that all Western media hold a same opinion. In fact, the entire world is making self-examinations. I have lived in the West for more than 20 years, and I know some Westerners have a prejudice against China, and it is hard for them to get rid of it. But most common people of the West are frank and reasonable. As long as we clear things up based on facts, they will ultimately see a true China.

By Wu Jianmin from People's Daily, translated by People's Daily Online

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