Ambassador He Xiangdong
100 years ago, in July 1921, when Ireland was emerging victorious from the War of Independence, thirteen delegates from different areas of China met in Shanghai and then in Jiaxing and established the Communist Party of China. At that time, China, like Ireland, remained poor and backward and was struggling against foreign oppression and exploitation.
Over the 100 years since then, the CPC has been rallying the Chinese people, leading them in revolution and nation-building, and putting an end to the semi-colonial, semi-feudal society of the old China. This led to the country’s great transformation from a millennia-old feudal autocracy to a people’s democracy. Since then the Chinese people have gone from regaining their dignity to becoming prosperous and strong. For example, in 1949, when the People’s Republic was founded, China’s share of global GDP was less than 4.5%, but by 2020 it had increased to 17%; also, the average life expectancy in China was 35 years, while now it is over 77.3 years. Notably, China has been successfully feeding over 20 percent of the world’s population with only 9 percent of the world’s arable land.
All along the way, the CPC has gained solid support from the Chinese people. A series of surveys conducted in eight waves from 2003 to 2016 by the Ash Center of Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government indicates that, overall, Chinese people have very high levels of satisfaction with their government. In 2016, the last year the survey was conducted, 93.1 percent of respondents were satisfied with central government. Another survey, by the University of California’s China Data Lab, shows that the Chinese public’s trust in their government, measured on a scale of 1-10, increased from 8.23 in June 2019 to 8.87 in May 2020. The survey also found that 83% of respondents prefer living under China’s current political system.
Why does the Chinese government led by the CPC hold such solid support from the Chinese people? There are many factors underpinning this support. However, the following three are particularly worth noting:
Firstly, commitment to the well-being of the Chinese people and the development of the country. The government led by the CPC adheres to its fundamental purpose of serving the people and takes the support, approval, happiness and consent of the people as fundamental criteria for judging all its work. To meet the people’s aspiration for a better life is a fundamental goal of the Chinese government.
Since the founding of the People’s Republic, the Chinese government has done a better job in improving Chinese people’s livelihood than any other government in Chinese history. Over the last 70 plus years, over 850 million Chinese have been lifted out of poverty, and 400 million people are now classified as middle-income earners. China’s GDP has risen from 12.3 billion USD in 1949 to 15 trillion USD in 2020, and its per capita GDP from less than 30 USD to over 10,000 USD. Now China is the world’s second-largest economy, its largest manufacturing country, and the largest commodity trading nation. For more than a decade, China’s contribution to world economic growth has been over 20 percent. This trend will continue in the five years through 2026, according to the International Monetary Fund’s World Economic Outlook report in April 2021.
Since the Covid-19 pandemic broke out in early 2020, the Chinese government has taken a people-centered approach and put people’s lives and health first. It swiftly adopted a series of measures on prevention and control of the virus and treatment of the infected, not giving up on any life, and covering all medical costs for Covid-19 patients. As Chinese President Xi Jinping stressed, “We will do whatever it takes to protect people’s lives!” The Government mobilized the whole country to tackle the pandemic. A total of 346 medical teams, composing 42,600 medical workers and 965 public health workers from across the country, were dispatched to Hubei and Wuhan, the epicenter of China’s coronavirus outbreak. China has effectively coordinated a strong Covid-19 response, normalized people’s life and revived its economy within a short time span.
Secondly, commitment to an independent foreign policy of peace. With the painful memory of suffering from foreign aggression and a deep understanding of what peace means for a country and its people, China is determined to adhere to the path of peaceful development. In recent years, in view of changes in the international context, China has proposed important ideas, such as building a new type of international relations, and a global community with a shared future for mankind.
Over more than 70 years since the founding of the People’s Republic, China has never provoked a war against other countries and has codified peaceful development in its Constitution. China has solemnly announced that it will never seek hegemony, expansion, or sphere of influence, nor will it ever engage in an arms race. China is the second-largest contributor to the UN’s regular budget, the second-largest contributor to the UN peacekeeping operations fund, and the largest contributor of peacekeepers among the five permanent members of the UN Security Council. China observes universally recognized international law and norms and accedes to more than 600 international conventions. China stands firmly against bullying practices and advocates that dialogue, consultation and win-win cooperation should prevail over confrontation, coercion and zero-sum game.
Thirdly, commitment to international cooperation and mutual benefit. China’s development has never been at the expense of other countries interests. China adheres to multilateralism and remains firm in upholding the international system with the UN as its core, the international order based on international law, and the multilateral trading system with the World Trade Organization as its core.
China has signed more than 200 Belt and Road Initiative cooperation documents with over 170 countries and international organizations and has invested more than 130 billion USD in partnership countries. According to a World Bank analysis, the Belt and Road Initiative will lift 7.6 million people out of extreme poverty and 32 million out of moderate poverty in the participating countries.
At present, China is building a new development paradigm based on strengthening domestic market, with international markets as reinforcement. China is committed to a more active cooperation with other countries, forming an all-round, multi-levelled and diversified pattern of opening up and cooperation.
Since the Covid-19 breakout, China has provided urgently needed supplies to over 150 countries and 13 international organizations, including more than 280 billion masks, 3.4 billion protective suits, and 4 billion testing kits. China has also sent 37 medical teams to 34 countries to help them tackle the pandemic. China was the first to pledge making vaccines a global public good and has so far provided over 450 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines to nearly 100 countries.
A successful China is an important opportunity for Ireland. China and Ireland differ in history, culture and social systems. All these differences make our two peoples different from each other, and enable our two countries to develop mutually beneficial cooperation. Just as John Hume said, “Difference is the essence of humanity. The difference is an accident of birth, and it should therefore never be the source of hatred or conflict. Therein lies a most fundamental principle of peace: respect for diversity.”
Recent years have witnessed strong momentum in China-Ireland relations and new evolution in our wide-ranging cooperation.
In 2020, bilateral trade between China and Ireland reached 18.04 billion USD, an increase of 7.7% over 2019. China became Ireland’s largest trade partner, after the EU, UK, and the US, the largest export market for Irish pork, and the fifth-largest export market for Irish food and drinks. According to Chinese Customs’ statistics, in the first five months of this year, our bilateral trade stood at 8.48 billion USD, an increase of 25.6% compared with the same period in 2020, and Irish exports to China reached 6.82 billion USD, an increase of 24.9%.
Exchange between our two peoples is a key pillar of our relations. Nowadays, nearly 50,000 Chinese are studying, working, and living in Ireland. The number of Irish people who go to China for work and study is increasing year after year. There are 7 twinning relations between Chinese and Irish cities and friendly exchanges and cooperation between both local governments have become more active. These have all made significant contributions to the mutual understanding between our two peoples. The Chinese language was introduced to the curriculum for Ireland’s Leaving Certificate last year and will become a subject of Leaving Certificate Exam in 2022, which will provide a new way for Irish people to get to know China.
Now is a good time to further strengthen China-Ireland cooperation. The Chinese and Irish economies are highly complementary, and there is great potential for mutually beneficial cooperation. China welcomes Ireland to engage in China’s development and benefit from some of the great opportunities China offers. China is ready to work with Ireland to deepen effective exchanges and cooperation in bilateral areas such as trade, agriculture, scientific and technological innovation, people-to-people exchange, as well as in public health, climate change, and development assistance, thus ushering in a brighter future based on mutual benefit and common development.