Dr. Hiria Ottino – 8th Friendship Forum Key note speech

Key note speech during the 8th Friendship Forum, hosted by the Chinese People’s Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries

November 23rd 2018

Distinguished Heads of Friendship Associations,

Members of Friendship Associations,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Dear Friends,

In this cool season of early winter, here we are, when every living thing reflects on the achievements & realizations of the year past. 38 days remaining until the end of 2018!

On behalf of all of us, I am honored to welcome all of you, distinguished guests, representing over ___ associations of over ___ countries and regions, to attend this important 8th Friendship Forum, held here in beautiful Haikou, Hainan, China.

This, indeed, is a gathering of great minds, an assembly of believers in Friendship… “Each friend represents a world in us, a world of possibly not born until they arrive, and it is only by this meeting that a new world is born.” (Anais Nin) You look at that relationship today, and you see something more than you did the day before… This is probably one way to identify Friendship.

Saying all of this would have led on to a banal blather of motherhood principles, at any other time in our history.

But today, in this well-managed and growing hostile atmosphere being whipped up towards China, it is a bold and powerful statement, perhaps even a risky one.

… We are far from my university studies and the discussions of Chinese influences on Islamic pottery covering a period starting from at least the 8th century!

So, to paraphrase Jalal Ad-Din Rumi (1207-1273) “Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing, and rightdoing there is a field…”, and it is here, in Hainan, where we are meeting, for this Friendship Forum, organized by our friends of the Chinese People’s Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries.

A round of applause please for CPAFFC!

Because the best relationships – the ones that last – are frequently the ones that are rooted in friendship… in the coming days, I hope that together, we will engage in full exchanges of views, I hope that we will all contribute in pursuing friendship, so that when we go back to our respective homes, our uplifted spirit will benefit people across the world.

Dear Friends,

Before going any further, let’s all together acknowledge our host. Hainan. Today, represented by _________________

A round of applause for Hainan please!

This year marks the 30th anniversary of the founding of Hainan Province and the Hainan Special Economic Zone. This same beautiful Hainan who was and remains at the forefront of China’s 40 years of reform and opening up!

Service trade is key to Hainan’s development. We are all eager for the upcoming visa-free access to Hainan, yet another vivid reflection of China’s opening up!

By 2025, Hainan aims to establish a free trade port system which will play an important role in the business of international conferences, exhibitions and warehousing. The maritime economy is regarded as the (next) frontier of the Belt and Road Initiative and Hainan will be facing new opportunities in its development.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

As you are all aware, 2018 is also the 40th anniversary of reform and opening-up of China… 40 years ago, in December 1978, a wave of reform started to sweep China, people where encourage to emancipate their minds, to seek truth from facts, and to unite as one to face the future.

Four decades of reforms have brought China to where it is now – the second largest economy in the world, and one of the few countries that will soon have made the journey from a low-income to a high-income country.

The reforms corresponded to the trends of the day, and followed the wishes of the people, braking through barriers, shaking free from old ways of thinking, and charting a path towards growth and prosperity.

China’s accomplishments of the past four decades are reflected by three leaders’ wise words:

  • Mao Zedong : “Only the people are the driving force behind the creation of world history.
  • Deng Xiaoping : “Development is the absolute principle.”
  • Xi Jinping : “Happiness is achieved through hard work.

A quick recall:

  • From 1978 to 2018, China’s GDP increased 224 times, today ranking second in the world, up from the 10th.
  • During the same period, China slashed its population living in poverty by 740 million.
  • China’s foreign goods trade volume moved up (in 1978) from 29th worldwide, to the top place in 2013.
  • China’s ODI, outbound direct investment rose (in 1982) from 28th globally, to second place in 2016.
  • China’s FDI, Foreign direct investment rose in 1979 from 122nd worldwide, to second place in 2013.
  • China has the world’s largest group of outbound tourists. The number of outbound trips made by Chinese tourists rose from 5 million in 1995, to 135 million in 2016.

However you look at the facts and figures, however you turn them around, you can only come to one conclusion, and to quote Xi’s 2018 New Year’s Address in Beijing : “Reform and opening up has been the only path to the development and progress of contemporary China, and the only path to the realization of the Chinese Dream.”

With four decades of hard hard work, the Chinese nation has achieved tremendous transformation; it has stood up, grown rich, and has become strong.

Now, China is building a “bridge to prosperity” by rebalancing its economy.

This transition is good for China, especially in terms of rising standards of living for the Chinese people, and also good for the world, including all those who consider China as a vital and vibrant market for their goods and services, or eager to welcome their outbound tourists.

And now China is ready to share this wealth, by building a “bridge to the future” by harnessing the power of international cooperation, especially on trade. In these tense times, China argues that one needs to de-escalate and resolve current disputes and fix the global system, not destroy it. To achieve these goals, more international cooperation, is needed, not less – and that goes well beyond economics.

And this thought, this ideal, this philosophy has blossom under the Belt and Road Initiative.

First presented in 2013, BRI is now supported by over 100 countries and international organizations. Important resolutions passed by the UN General Assembly and Security Council contain reference to it.

BRI is not a Marshall Plan. BRI is not about reinventing the wheel.

BRI proposition is to:

  • Enhance friendship and cooperation
  • Reach practical cooperation agreements with countries
  • Scale up financing support
  • Endeavor to build a win-win business partnerships
  • Enhance cooperation on innovation with other countries.

BRI is to complement the development strategies of countries involved by leveraging their comparative strengths. It holds the belief that mutual understanding, friendship and development holds the key to solving most of the difficulties we are facing. It is about releasing the growth potential of various countries; achieving economic integration and interconnection which benefits all.

A few numbers: BRI is 56 economic cooperation zones expending over 20 countries, generating 180,000 jobs. It’s also, every year, 10,000 Chinese government scholarships…

So, beyond these impressive figures, the Belt and Road Initiative today is about :

  • Peace, cooperation and prosperity,
  • Openness and inclusiveness,
  • Mutual learning,
  • Mutual benefit.

The future will show that the Initiative will also :

  • Deepen policy connectivity,
  • Enhance infrastructure connectivity,
  • Increased trade connectivity,
  • And strengthen people-to-people connectivity.

The outcome will probably be that the initiative will grow into a road :

  • For peace,
  • Of prosperity,
  • Of opening up,
  • Of innovation,
  • And connecting different civilizations.

As “a long journey can be covered only by taking one step at a time”, and that “Rome wasn’t built in a day”, friendship is a great undertaking which requires dedicated, steadfast and enthusiastic efforts.

By doing so, we will bring true benefit to both all our people and the world!

Dear Friends,

Coming back to the achievements of the UN Millennium Goals, quoting David Beasley, executive director of the UN World Food Program, the leading humanitarian agency addressing global hunger and promoting food security :

  • China has proven that they are not talkers. They are doers and get it done.” And to pursue: “It’s astonishing what China has done; there is not a nation on the face of the planet that has done that before.”

When, according to UN reports, the number of people facing hunger worldwide is increasing, he said that “the Chinese goal of no absolute poverty by 2020 will be achieved”.

China’s expertise and success, here, and in other areas, are highly relevant to the world, to us. Understanding the path China traveled, the historical decisions made, and their effects on the course of China’s economy can inform decision makers hoping to achieve similar outcomes in their countries and for their populations.

I see two specific lessons other developing countries could learn from China’s economic success:

  • First,        China’s reform and opening-up program was the basis for the rapid growth that allowed people to lift themselves out of poverty, with hundreds of millions of rural citizens building better lives in the city.
  • Second,   a focused on cooperation and friendship – even in the most difficult time.

Thank you!


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