FEATURE: Ban urges China to increase presence on world stage
BEIJING (China Daily/ANN) - Former UN secretary-general praises country’s efforts to maintain global peace, tackle climate change and eradicate poverty.
Ban Ki-moon, former UN secretary-general, summarized China’s 40 years of reform and opening-up by using one of his favourite phrases－“With great success, comes great responsibility.”
He added, “It’s hard to describe the phenomenal changes and development China has made with the reform and opening-up of Chinese society and the economy since 1978.”
Describing China’s economic achievements during the past four decades as “a miracle”, Ban said that in addition to making its own people richer, the country’s contribution to the world has been to set a development model for other developing nations.
He noted that in 1978, the year the policy was adopted, China’s GDP accounted for just 2 per cent of the global total, and many people in the country were living below the poverty line.
However, economic and social development in China has grown in leaps and bounds as a result of the policy.
According to the National Bureau of Statistics, China’s GDP rose by 6.9 per cent to $12.06 trillion last year, one-fifth of the global total and surpassing the United Kingdom, Germany, and Japan to retain the country’s position as the world’s second-largest economy. Moreover, the monthly per capita disposable income of China’s urban workers rose to $5,245, 104 times higher than in 1978, while rural monthly per capita net incomes rose to $1,935 from $20.
“One of the greatest achievements of China’s economic growth is that it has lifted more than 700 million people out of absolute poverty, accounting for 70 per cent of global poverty reduction during the period,” Ban said.
Stressing the importance of China’s poverty alleviation efforts, he added that the country has also made a commitment to accept more responsibility within the international community.
Nearly two years’ after leaving the UN, the 74-year-old still appreciates China’s continued leadership and multilateral engagement within the organisation in support of resolving regional and global challenges.
Ban held office from 2007 to 2016, and during his tenure he was a keen promoter of tackling climate change and other global challenges.
“During my two terms as UN secretary-general, I am proud to have prioritized and expanded the importance of the organisation’s global development efforts,” he said.
In 2015, the UN and its 193 member countries passed the 2030 Agenda and its 17 sustainable development goals. Ban said the goals offer the world a way to confront the most critical issues of our time, including poverty reduction, education, inequality, climate change, improvements in public health, and gender equality.
The initiative called for “multi-stakeholder partnerships that mobilise and share knowledge, expertise, technology and financial resources to support the achievement of the sustainable development goals in all countries”, Ban said.
He added that in the three years since the goals were adopted, progress remains uneven and some sectors and regions are moving faster than others. However, he also noted that cooperation between the UN and China has accelerated, and said the country’s crucial role in advancing the goals at home and abroad is providing a better quality of life for the world.
China released its national plan for implementing the goals in 2016, which Ban said “perfectly incorporated its domestic development plan with an international commitment”.
Within the goals, he said climate change is “one of the most concerning issues”.
One of his earliest major initiatives at the UN was the 2007 Climate Change Conference, followed by extensive diplomatic efforts that helped put the issue at the forefront of the global agenda.
Ban said he pays a lot of attention to climate change because it is altering the Earth’s character and creating dire risks and instability.
“From record-breaking heat waves and wildfires, to hurricanes and flooding of historic intensity, climate change is no longer a debate. It is clearly here right now. The extreme weather events of just the last few months alone point to a bleak and dangerous future,” he noted.
“This summer, California has been engulfed in flames and smoke from historic wildfires. Intense and prolonged heat waves claimed dozens of lives in Japan and the Korean Peninsula. And near Greenland, the Arctic’s thickest sea ice broke up for first time on record. These events no longer seem like anomalies; rather, they appear to be the new normal.”
He added that the necessary steps should be taken to combat climate change otherwise these turbulent shifts will continue to bring dangerous scorching heat waves to cities and rural areas, which will drive displacement and seriously threaten entire communities and countries.
With this reality in mind, Ban is happy to see that many countries, including China, are stepping up collective efforts to implement the Paris climate agreement.
Ban regards the signing of the agreement as one of his most significant achievements during his tenure at the UN, and he believes that it offers scope to counter the serious threats to the planet.
The agreement, signed by nearly 200 countries in 2015, set viable targets to impede rising temperatures, constrict emissions of greenhouse gases and spur climate-resilient development and green growth.
“To achieve these goals, we need to keep working together,” Ban said, adding that he is deeply disappointed that the United States has withdrawn from the agreement, and the move isolates the US from every other country in terms of climate policy.
“It is scientifically wrong and economically irresponsible, and it will be on the wrong side of history. I greatly hope that this decision is reconsidered and reversed,” he said.
However, he believes that there are still many reasons for optimism.
He said China’s growing climate leadership in these difficult times for the planet has the potential to positively affect the Asian region and the world at large. The country’s decision to set a deadline to completely phase out sales of fossil-fuel-powered vehicles is a sterling example in this regard, he added.
Ban said he also greatly values China’s contribution to UN peacekeeping pledges, adding that the country’s contribution of troops for UN missions in complex and challenging environments is “a role model for other countries”.
He listed China’s contributions to the promotion of peace and security in Syria, Afghanistan, Myanmar, Sudan and South Sudan, and encouraged the country to remain focused on these issues.
“This not only shows that China is a peace-loving country, but it is also taking more responsibility to bring peace to other places in the world,” he said.
Born in the Republic of Korea in 1944, Ban witnessed how the Korean War (1950-53) destroyed buildings, separated families and damaged economies.
“I grew up in war, and I saw the UN help my country recover and rebuild. That experience was a big part of what led me to pursue a career in public service,” he said.
Established in 1945, the UN was designed to provide an international forum for the maintenance of global peace and security as the ashes of war dispersed. Although the UN had numerous critics at the time, Ban said the organisation offered all nations and peoples an alternative to the bombs, guns and destruction of World War II.
“This alternative was based on the guiding belief that diplomacy and cooperation offered the international community a better way of resolving conflicts,” he said. “I cherish peace, and because of this I especially cherish China’s efforts to maintain peace.”
He added that China’s work to bring peace to the Korean Peninsula has been noted by the people of the area.
“Never in the history of the ROK and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea have we seen such an exciting process of reconciliation between the two countries,” he said.
“China’s efforts cannot be neglected. It has played a very important role by engaging with the DPRK leader Kim Jong-un three times this year. It’s very important that Kim understands and learns from China’s rapid industrialization and development through reform and opening-up. I think Pyongyang could gain a lot by opening up and engaging in the denuclearization process.”
Ban has long been actively involved in issues relating to inter-Korean relations because his ties to the UN date back to 1975, when he worked for the ROK foreign ministry’s UN division.
His work expanded over the years, with assignments that included serving as chairman of the preparatory commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty Organisation and chef de cabinet during the ROK’s presidency of the UN General Assembly in 2001-02.
China’s reform and opening-up had synergies with the country’s due role and proper influence in the UN, Ban said, stressing that the thing he most appreciated was China’s vision of “mutual prosperity and coexistence”.
“My country, the Republic of Korea, is also benefiting from this Chinese philosophy,” Ban said, adding that China’s support was instrumental in the ROK gaining UN membership in 1991.
In April, Ban began work as chairman of the Boao Forum for Asia. He said his future career goal is to work with China and many other countries at the forum to fight more global challenges: “Our world is going through pronounced changes, and this is resulting in elevated uncertainties and new risks.”
He said unilateralism and protectionism have become the main threats to the world, and while China continuously contributes to global financial and economic development, it can make a greater contribution.
“China should feel a sense of responsibility for global economic and financial development as a whole,” he said, adding that the country’s achievements are the result of multilateral trade liberalization, which has been the major factor in bringing about global prosperity, peace, and stability since the end of WWII.
He said he has seen more moves by China that are aimed at resisting the anti-globalization trend and deepening the country’s integration with the global market. As an example, he pointed out that the first China International Import Expo, held in Shanghai last month, demonstrated the country’s determination to expand opening-up and work with the international community on tough global issues.
“The expo was a great occasion to stress the importance of free trade and market liberalization, which should be learned by other countries,” he said.
Ban also highlighted the Belt and Road Initiative, which will not only benefit people in participating countries but also build a community with a shared future for mankind.
At the Boao Forum for Asia in Hainan province in April, President Xi Jinping promised the nonstop continuation of reform and opening-up and a commitment to an open economy, which, according to Ban, “was significant for domestic development, as well as that of the international community”.
“Because China is not going out on its own, it also sets an example for, and brings benefits to, other countries,” he said.