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People’s Daily interview with Bill Gates

By Niansheng Zhang (People's Daily)    03:06, March 23, 2017

Z:Thank you very much for your time. I hear that you will visit China soon. The first time you visited China was in 1994, still remember your first impression of China?

BG: Every time I go, you know China’s advancing, whether it’s the buildings, or the people we are meeting with, or the technology. So it’s been exciting to keep going back and see how quickly it’s improving.

Z: You’ve made so many trips to China over the years. What do you think is the most significant change that has taken place in China? And how has the Chinese people changed in your eyes?

BG: I’d say two things. One is the miracle of Chinese economic development since 1990, lifting people out of poverty, building up the infrastructure, developing world-class universities.

I remember almost every year somebody says, well now the China boom it’s reached its limits. And then 3 years later, they’ll say it’s reached its limits…Of course, even today there’s some strains and challenges, but still the growth is lifting people up. And it’s quite impressive.

The second thing I’d say is that China is embracing its role in the world more. Of course its first priority was the poverty in the country, but in parallel to that now China has joined the World Trade Organization, and China’s made really big commitments to Africa, both financially and about partnership. And in the region, the Belt & Road project is about tying together the economies for mutual benefit. So all of that has been exciting to see.

Z: Does the Gates Foundation have any plans to help China complete the last mile of the conquest? How do you see China’s role in global development and governance?

BG: The work of the Gates Foundation in China has two phases. One is the work in China itself, helping people with HIV, helping avoid people getting infected, working on tuberculosis and smoking (control).

Our second phase is a three-way partnership, where developing countries, China and the foundation find ways to work together. And taking some (of China’s) strengths like livestock vaccines; rice, including super green rice, where China’s very strong. So, (there’re) many examples. Ethiopia is a good example, where funding animal vaccine projects are what we are working on together. A group called CADFund is the local Chinese partner.

So the commitment to help other parts of the world is very important; that’s something that historically the U.S. has been very good at, but today we find some discussion in the current administration about should that generosity continue, and what kind of level that generosity should be. And where should that aid piece go in the budget? We need Europe to continue that generosity, I’d be disappointed if the US cuts back. But it’s fantastic that China, because of its success, is joining in and in its unique way. So I am glad to see the leadership. (The scale of some of the infrastructure projects) I think it’s a $60 billion commitment that was made in FOCAC to help the African countries. That’s a realistic acceleration under his (Xi’s) leadership.

Z: My understanding is you showed confidence in China’s poverty alleviation?

BG: In my annual letter I mentioned, we asked people to guess how much poverty has been reduced in the world. And almost no one we interviewed knew that. But maybe in China, because people have been through it, it would be more plausible. But the visibility of the good things that are going on in Africa or other poor countries are very low in the US, because most people don’t get to go there. And they are hearing just about the bad things. Of course there are many challenges, in terms of disease, famine… Africa still has problems. But they don’t realize that the world is making improvement, in things like literacy and nutrition.

The Chinese partnership will go and help to accelerate that improvement. And there are many lessons and things that China did very, very well, in the agricultural economy and manufacturing economy.

Z: Being a successful entrepreneur and philanthropist, you have made substantial contribution to communication and collaboration between the two countries. Based on your own experiences, how do you see the role that business collaboration plays in Sino-U.S. relations?

BG: I do think that the business context is quite critical. We cannot rely just on government to government, we need business to business, and we need people to people type things as well, such as student exchange. We need to keep the level of interaction up at every level, because the opportunity, from my understanding, is much lower if the relationship is based on just the top guy alone.

Z: Your life story is legendary to many people. Here are some questions from our young readers: What do you personally find as your greatest achievement in life and in work?

BG: I am super lucky. I’ve been in the area where things have been changing and been part of the digital revolution, the magic of software, the internet, the computer, and now the cellphone… so it’s been a great privilege. For me, I like to read and learn. There are always so many new things, like artificial intelligence, is now a big thing. We are making rapid advances. All the top companies and universities, rapid advances there.

It’s not a major thing, but I have some hobbies, like tennis and bridge. Actually I won my first bridge tournament last week, so that’s a small piece of excitement for me. I’ve been studying bridge for a while. It’s just a hobby. My team and I have really good result in the national tournament last week. 

(For the latest China news, Please follow People's Daily on Twitter and Facebook)(Web editor: Shen Chen, Bianji)

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