Chinese peace mission to win trust at UN

Updated: 2013-04-17 11:07

By Michael Barris at the United Nations (China Daily)

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Patrick Ho says Americans' distrust of China can be melted by reassuring skeptics that China is a nation of "peace-loving people".

"We want to do away with what is called China bashing," said Ho, deputy chairman and secretary-general of the China Energy Fund Committee. "Having a big GDP doesn't mean we carry a big stick. A big GDP means we're prosperous."

Ho's words followed the Forum on Sustainable Development and Government: A China Story which the CEFC presented on Tuesday at United Nations headquarters in New York.

A private think tank focusing on energy research and public diplomacy, Hong Kong-based CEFC seeks to promote worldwide understanding of China.

Following the country's leadership transition last month, the conference included presentations on how China could achieve a "sustainable future", a concept that various leaders over the years have shaped as "five pillars" - effective governance, economic prosperity, a dynamic culture, social justice and environmental protection.

Asked about the challenges CEFC faces in promoting understanding related to China's emerging position in the world, Ho said the biggest problem was highlighting China's big GDP - and its status as the world's second-largest economy - while the country grapples with myriad domestic concerns, such as pollution, corruption and poverty.

"This is a big country with so many different races and such a disparity of styles of living," said Ho, a professor of ophthalmology who has been a member of the National Chinese People's Political Consultative Committee. "So we have our hands full. And the Chinese have never been known to conquer anybody or dominate the world. So there's nothing to be afraid of. We really mean peace".

China's GDP made news again on Tuesday when the International Monetary Fund lowered its 2013 outlook for economic growth in the country to 8 percent. The forecast came a day after China said the economy grew at a lower-than-expected 7.7 percent annual rate in the first quarter, rekindling worries about a global slowdown in growth, and overbuilding in China's real estate market. The IMF's World Economic Outlook report cut its prediction for growth in China from the 8.2 percent it had given in January.

"GDP is only one small consideration" in a comprehensive picture of China, Ho said. Asked why Western media seem to highlight that statistic, he said, "it is something they can put their hands on because China is so big. The only thing that China has to show at this point is the big GDP."

The keynote speech was delivered by Cheng Siwei, an economics, finance and management scholar who was vice-chairman of China's legislature - the National People's Congress Standing Committee from 1998 to 2008.

Cheng urged China to apply the lessons it learned from the 2008 global financial crisis to change its development pattern and pursue development in a "scientific way" that puts people first and is "comprehensive, balanced and sustainable". He said China must switch to a consumption-based growth model instead of continuing to rely on foreign trade to reach its target of doubling its 2010 GDP and per capita income for both urban and rural residents, and to build a "moderately prosperous" society by 2020.

Achieving that goal involves recognizing that "the employee is the most valuable asset of the enterprise", Cheng said. "We need to rely on their activity and creativity. Only when our employees can raise their creativity, can we finally raise our productivity," he told his audience.

Asked later how employers in China could encourage individual creativity in a system that champions collective thinking, Cheng said: "We should encourage people to share ideas, just like they do in some companies where they have a coffee corner."

Noting that knowledge leads to creative thought, he added: "We have to be ready to give the opportunity to people to learn more - learn more so they can become more knowledgeable."

Before the conference started, a moment of silence was held out of respect for the victims of Monday's bombing at the Boston Marathon. UN General Assembly President Vuk Jeremic then opened the conference.

Citing remarks made recently by new Chinese President Xi Jinping, he said it was "important for nations to recognize that peace and development go hand in hand".