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Minister Counsellor Zhou Yuxiao:China's Population, Progress, Problems and Policies

Introductory Remarks on China by Mr. Zhou Yuxiao, Minister Counsellor of the Chinese Embassy in South Africa, at "The Asian Ambassadors Roundtable" Held by Gordon Institute of Business Science (GIBS)

September 5, 2006


Esteemed Dr. Martyn Davies,

Respected GIBS faculty members and MBA student,

Ladies and gentlemen:


It is my great pleasure to be invited to address and dialogue with the GIBS faculty members and MBA students who are going to have an academic tour to Asia.  I would like to take this opportunity to warmly welcome you to visit China.


As you all know, China is so big and complex, and there is so much happening there.  It is rather difficulty for me to give you a briefing on it in just 5 minutes.  Yet I have to do it as I am already sitting here.  To make things easy for you to understand, I am going to make my introductory remarks with 4 Ps, namely population, progress, problems and policies which, I believe, are the basics for anyone who wishes to know about China.


First, let me talk about the Chinese population first as it has enormous implications.  China has a population of more than 1.3 billion.  It might never occur to some of you that China's population is nearly twice as big as the total population in the whole African continent.  On top of that, it is still growing at a rate of nearly one percent every year, even with the well-implemented one-child-per-couple-policy in place.  That is to say, China produces an additional population of about 10 million a year, roughly an equivalent of 3 Singaporean populations.  It is by no means an easy job for China to provide such a big population with adequate job, food, shelter, clothing and other social services.  As Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao once said, "any small problem multiplied by 1.3 billion will end up being a very big problem, and a very big aggregate divided by 1.3 billion will come to a very tiny figure".  Having realized the enormous difficulties brought by the population, the Chinese government and people have devoted all their efforts and energy to social stability and economic development, so as to steadily improve the livelihood of the Chinese people.  


Second, let me show you some of the progress that has been made by China in the last 28 years since reform and opening up.  I can say with pride that China's reform efforts and hard work has been paid off.  The Chinese economy has registered an impressive annual growth rate of 9.4%.  In 2005, China's growth rate jumped to 9.9% to reach 2.26 trillion US dollars, making China the fourth largest economy in the world.  With total foreign trade volume stood at 1.42 trillion dollars, China was the third largest trading nation in the world.  It attracted 60.3 billion dollars of direct foreign investment.  Its foreign exchange reserve has reached 1 trillion dollars by now.  What is most gratifying to notice is that China has managed to support 22% of world's total population with only 6 and 7% of world's water resources and arable land respectively.  China has succeeded in feeding its 1.3 billion people, reduced its poverty population by over 200 million.  Mr. Joseph Stiglitz, a Nobel laureate in economics and once chief economist at the World Bank described China with the following words: "never before has the world seen such a sustained growth; never before has there been so much poverty reduction".


Third, let me also point out some of the crucial problems China is faced with.  China has not been carried away by its relatively quick development.  We are fully aware that China remains a developing country faced with a lot of difficulties.  A big population, low productivity, unbalanced regional development are the basic features of China's national conditions.  China still ranks behind the 100th place in terms GDP per capita which is as little as 1,707 dollars, so much lower than South Africa' per capita GDP which is more than 5,000 dollars.  More than 23 million people in China's rural areas still live in poverty.  China needs to provide jobs for close to 24 million people every year.  More than 100 million surplus rural labor force needs to be transferred to other sectors.  Over 60 million people with disabilities need care and assistance.  Its economic structure needs to be further readjusted.  Its high rate of dependence on foreign trade makes its economy vulnerable.  Its huge foreign exchange reserve is yet to be opportunely used.  Its shortage of natural resources conditions its sustainable development.  Greater expectations are placed on China by the outside world.  China has long way to go before it achieves modernization, obtains prosperity and assumes expected international responsibilities. 


Forth, I wish to brief you on the major policies currently pursued by China.  China has been doing fine for the last two decades and more.  But we can not afford to stop where we are.  To facilitate continued progress, some important policy measures have formulated by the Chinese government.


The first is to improve governance by building a harmonious society.  To achieve this, the government has been implementing the principle of "putting people first", which is the essence of China's good governance.  Some practical measures have also been worked out, namely to maintain a rapid, coordinated and healthy economic development; to expand socialist democracy; to rule the country by law; to fight against corruption, to strengthen moral and ethics building; to safeguard social equity and justice; to enhance creativity and innovation; to correctly handle the internal conflicts of interest among the people and strike a better balance between stability, reform and development. 

The second is to take a scientific approach to development.  Quick development in the past has caused many social and economic dislocations and problems which may, if not addressed properly, hinder China's future development.  Therefore, scientific development approach is called for.  This new concept is very rich in content.  The "five balances", namely the balanced development between urban and rural areas; between different regions; between economy and society; between man and nature and between domestic development and opening wider to the outside world, that have been pursued by the Chinese government partially reflect the concept.  This means that China will endeavor to build a new socialist countryside by giving top priority to rural development, change the pattern of economic growth by emphasizing quality rather than quantity, build a resource-conserving and environment-friendly society, strengthen capacity for independent innovation, expanding domestic market, reduce export and make more overseas investments and etc.


The third is to pursue peaceful development.  In essence, it means that China seeks to develop itself by working to sustain a peaceful international environment and promotes world peace through its own development.  China mainly relies on its own strength, reform and innovation to achieve development.  At the same time, it remains open to the outside world.  China conducts exchanges and cooperation with other countries on the basis of equality and mutual benefit in order to achieve win-win outcome and common development.  China stands ready to resolve any problems arising from its interactions with others through consultations.  China's pursuit of the path of peaceful development is determined by China's history and cultural traditions, by China's need to for development and by the global trends.


In fact, these policies are a continuation and advancement of the past thirty years of reform and opening up.  It is not only a national development strategy adopted by the Chinese government, but also a reflection of the mainstream cultural thoughts and values in the Chinese society today.


Thank you.

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