Hailing China as World’s Fastest Growing Economy, Secretary-General Urges Chinese Government to Put Greater Emphasis on Social Equity, Environmental Sustainability

1 November 2010

Hailing China as World’s Fastest Growing Economy, Secretary-General Urges Chinese Government to Put Greater Emphasis on Social Equity, Environmental Sustainability

1 November 2010
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Hailing China as World’s Fastest Growing Economy, Secretary-General Urges Chinese

Government to Put Greater Emphasis on Social Equity, Environmental Sustainability

(Delayed in transmission.)

Following are UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s remarks at Nanjing University, Nanjing, China, 31 October:

I am delighted to be here on this beautiful campus at one of the world’s oldest centres of learning.

Nanjing has long been one of China’s most historic cities.  It has seen dynasties rise and fall.  It has endured natural disasters and the worst atrocities of war.

Today, Nanjing is at the heart of China’s growth, and this university is playing a central role.

Thank you for welcoming me into your distinguished family.  I accept this Honorary Doctorate not for myself but for the Organization I serve, the United Nations.

By honouring me, you are recognizing the critical role of the United Nations in shaping our modern world; a world that increasingly looks to China.

Every time I come to China, I marvel at its dynamism, the breath-taking speed at which it is changing.

I saw this today on the new Huning High Speed Railway from Shanghai:  300 kilometres in just over an hour.  This is not even your fastest train.

Last week China introduced the world’s fastest scheduled service between Shanghai and Hangzhou.  And I read in the news that China is a front-runner to build a super-fast computer.

China is indeed a country on the move.  Its transformation is profound.  Its influence is global.  Its power is real.  By some accounts China’s economy is now second only to the United States, larger than that of Japan or any single member of the European Union.

The decisions China makes today, on the economy, on the environment, on its political evolution, will reverberate down the generations and across the globe.

This is what I want to talk about today.

China is on the cusp between the developing and developed worlds.

You have met many of the Millennium Development Goal targets and you have the potential to meet them all by 2015.  And yet, per capita gross domestic product (GDP) is one tenth that of the major developed countries.

China’s coastal cities are modern and sophisticated.  And yet, vast inland areas cry out for development.

Your economy is mighty.  And yet, 150 million Chinese live below the poverty line.

That is why development remains China’s top priority.  The question on everyone’s minds, here in China and abroad, is how to ensure that this development is sustainable.

Yesterday and this morning, in Shanghai, I visited Expo 2010, the first to be hosted in a developing country.  The theme of the Expo is “ Better City, Better Life”.

We have entered the urban century.  More than half the world’s population lives in towns and cities.  This presents considerable challenges but also massive opportunities for sustainable development and improving people’s well-being.

Yesterday, at the China pavilion, I saw some of the possible solutions:  compact urban design; mixed land use; mass transit systems; renewable energy; and low-carbon living.   China is becoming a world leader in pioneering these concepts.

This, for me, is one of the most significant aspects of China’s development.  You are aware of the problems and challenges inherent in your push for growth and development.  You are discussing them and you are acting to solve them.

But let us be under no illusion.  The road ahead is long and hard.  It is full of potholes.

The Chinese people should be proud of their remarkable achievements in lifting millions out of poverty.  The world’s most populous country is its fastest growing economy.  You have become the world’s largest manufacturer and exporter.  But you are also the world’s greatest emitter of greenhouse gases, the price of feeding the consumption habits of people in developed countries.

As China rises from poverty, its people, too, will seek more material comforts.

You are the fastest growing market for cars in the world.  Seven of the world’s ten most polluted cities are in China.  Your environmental footprint is growing daily.  Ten years of close regulation have seen China’s forests start to recover, but your paper mills and furniture makers contribute to the loss of forests in Russia, Indonesia and Brazil.

It is right to ask whether such growth is sustainable in China.  Fortunately, China is asking itself these questions.  In fact, many of these questions were raised during recent discussions on the next five-year plan for economic and social development.

Increasingly, China is not only fighting poverty.  It is also beginning to fight the side-effects of prosperity — climate change and environmental degradation.

You have set a target of controlling biodiversity loss by 2020, backed by State funds.   China’s biodiversity action plan designates 35 priority conservation areas, covering 23 per cent of the country.

And you are investing in the low-carbon economy; more than $34 billion last year, more than any other nation — including Germany, the other investment leader — double what the United States spent.  Three of the top ten global wind turbine makers are in China.  You command half the global solar market.  Indeed, the world’s first solar energy billionaire is Chinese.

These facts tell me that China is serious about sustainable development. We all need to get serious about sustainable development.

That is why, in August, I established a new High-Level Panel on Global Sustainability, co-chaired by the Presidents of Finland and South Africa.  I am sure you will be pleased to know that Dr. Zheng Guoguang, Administrator of the China Meteorological Administration, and a distinguished alumnus of this university, is a member of the Panel.

I have asked this Panel to offer a vision for sustainable development and prosperity for a planet under increasing pressure.  I have asked them to find integrated solutions to the global challenges of poverty, climate change, water, food, and energy security.  These problems are interconnected.

The Panel will report back by the end of 2011.  Its work will venture into many issues, many sectors, many cross-cutting areas.

I have asked the Panel members to think big, to be bold and ambitious [and] not to shy away from controversy.  And I have asked them to be strategic and practical.  Their recommendations must be politically viable and lead to tangible progress.  Their findings will feed into intergovernmental processes, such as the climate change negotiations.  They will play a key part in the Rio 2012 Earth Summit, 20 years after world leaders agreed on Agenda 21, our blueprint for sustainable development.

On all these areas - sustainable development, climate change - we will depend on China’s leadership.

On climate change, I thank the Government of China for hosting the latest round of talks under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change in Tianjin.

I am pleased that we are seeing some progress on important issues, such as adaptation, technology cooperation and steps to reduce deforestation.  I also believe there has been some progress on financing, both on mobilizing $30 billion of fast-start funding over the next three years, and also on the $100 billion a year envisioned by 2020.

I am, however, concerned about slow progress in other areas.  Among them:  setting mitigation targets; monitoring and verification; and the future of the Kyoto Protocol.  We must not allow momentum to stall.  We must not jeopardize the gains we have made.

The UNFCCC [United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change] process must go forward in Cancun in December.  I am, therefore, calling on all Member States, all Governments of the world, to work together in a spirit of compromise and common sense.

Progress on adaptation, technology cooperation, deforestation and finance can achieve powerful results; results that can offer hope and change the lives of hundreds of millions of people, particularly the world’s poorest and most vulnerable.

I think people in China understand this.  You know the power of nature.  You know the dangers of natural catastrophe that climate change can unleash.

The drought in south-east China this year was the worst in living memory.  The floods that followed tested the Three Gorges Dam to near-capacity.  And hundreds of people in north-west Gansu province recently lost their lives in the country’s worst mudslides in decades.

But China is also seeing the other side of the coin.  You see the economic potential of low-carbon growth.

The message is clear:  the more we delay, the more we will lose in competitiveness, in resources, in human lives.  We must take action now to reduce climate risks, strengthen our resilience, and support developing countries in order to build a clean energy future that is safer, healthier and more prosperous for all.

China can and must lead the way.   China’s people have a legitimate right to development.  But we know that the world’s resource base cannot support the consumption patterns seen in the industrialized countries.

China must seek a different route — the path of sustainability.  You already have a concept for it, I believe, a vision of an “All-around Xiaokang Society by 2020”.

The idea is to shift from the old paradigm of “development first” to a new model, a model of sustainable growth, a model that puts far greater emphasis on social equity and environmental sustainability.

China is known as a great exporter.  Making Xiaokang a reality, perhaps, will ultimately become China’s great export, its gift to humankind.

Let China be the country to show the way ahead.  Let China show the world how to live comfortably, in harmony with the environment and leaving none of its citizens behind.

The eyes of the world are on China.

As the world’s largest developing country as its fastest growing economy as an increasingly important development partner, China is a leader across the United Nations agenda.

As a member of the Security Council’s permanent five [members], China is central to United Nations decision-making, from conflict prevention to peacekeeping and peacebuilding.   China has a long history, stretching back thousands of years.

Today, China is once again on the rise and I believe this rise is beneficial to the rest of the world.  With this rise — with all this progress — come great expectations and great responsibilities.

We live, increasingly, in an era of global challenges — global crises that no one nation can solve alone.  Nations can effectively advance these common interests only if they stand by the same values and principles.

For me, we find those common values and shared principles in the United Nations Charter, as well as the body of international agreements that are the foundation of our common quest for development, peace and security and human rights.

In all this, we need China’s full engagement.  We need China’s leadership.

As I said at the beginning of my speech, China is on the move.

You, the citizens of China, faculty and student body of this great university are part of this great move forward.  You can help China to fully embrace its emerging role as a global leader in the twenty-first century.

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.