Full text of Premier Wen Jiabao's speech at the Arab League

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Following is the translated version of the full text of Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao's speech delivered in Cairo on Saturday at the headquarters of the Arab League:

Respect Diversity of Civilizations

Speech by H.E. Wen Jiabao

Premier of the People's Republic of China

At the Headquarters of the League of Arab States

Cairo, 7 November 2009

Your Excellency Secretary General Amr Moussa,

Your Excellencies Diplomatic Envoys,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

As-Salamu Alaykum.

I am delighted today to have the opportunity to meet you, diplomatic envoys and Egyptian friends from various sectors, here at the headquarters of the League of Arab States, symbol of the solidarity, unity and strength of Arab countries. On behalf of the Chinese government and people, I would like to pay high tribute and offer best wishes to all the Arab countries and people.

There is an Arab saying which goes, "Whoever drinks the Nile water is sure to come back again." Three years ago, right in front of the pyramid by the Nile, I joined people from Egypt and China in celebrating the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations between our two countries. Today, returning to this beautiful land imbued with splendid civilization, I feel much at home.

China and Arab countries enjoy a time-honored friendship. Both sides went through tremendous changes in modern times and embarked on the road of national rejuvenation. Similar experiences and common pursuit of development have bonded us close together. Sharing weal and woe, we have tided over difficulties side by side and forged profound friendship. The Chinese people see the Arab people as good friends, good partners and good brothers. We rejoice at every success you have achieved on the path of development, and we warmly congratulate you on all your accomplishments.

The title of my speech today is Respect Diversity of Civilizations.

There exist diverse civilizations in the world, just like there are diverse species in the nature. The world today is home to over 200 countries and regions, more than 2,500 ethnic groups and 6,000-plus languages. As different musical notes make a beautiful melody, people of different ethnicities, colors and historical and cultural backgrounds have jointly made our world a splendid and colorful place. Dialogue, exchanges and integration among different civilizations form the powerful current of human civilization, surging ahead ceaselessly.

Both the Islamic and the Chinese civilizations are treasures of the human civilization and both have made indelible contributions to the progress and development of the human society.

Dialogue and exchanges between the Chinese civilization and the Islamic civilization date back to antiquity and the world-famous Silk Road offers us the best example. Through this ancient road, walnuts, pepper and carrots were introduced to China two thousand years ago and have since become very popular among the Chinese people. One Thousand and One Nights, a literary classic in the Arab heyday, is known to every Chinese household. And Islamic music, dance, dress and architecture are warmly appreciated in China. Likewise, the ancient Chinese culture and technologies were introduced to Arab countries and via Arab countries, Chinese porcelain, silk, tea and papermaking technique were passed on to Europe. Six hundred years ago, Zheng He, a Muslim navigator in China, landed in the Arab region several times on his seven voyages to the Western Seas. He is remembered as an envoy of friendship and knowledge. The ever expanding and deepening exchanges between China and the Arab world have not only enhanced our respective cultural prosperity and economic development, but also promoted interactions between the Eastern and Western civilizations.

Civilizations can be different, but no civilization is superior to others. Each civilization embodies the common vision and common aspirations of mankind shaped in the course of development and progress. The Chinese civilization has long advocated the great ideas that "Harmony is most valuable," "Seek harmony in diversity" and "Do not do unto others what you would not have others do unto you." Similarly, the Islamic civilization values peace and calls for tolerance. The Koran contains more than 100 references to peace. We should build consensus and seek harmony in a world of diversity and push forward development through exchanges. This is the approach all mankind should embrace in advancing civilization.

Speaking of respecting diversity of civilizations, we must recognize that diversity of civilizations is largely reflected in ethnic and religious diversity. China is a multi-ethnic and multi-religious country. It is made up of 56 ethnic groups. The indigenous Taoism has long existed in harmony with Buddhism, Islam and Christianity, religions introduced from the outside. It is the basic policy of the Chinese government to implement and improve the system of regional ethnic autonomy, ensure equality among all ethnic groups and speed up the economic and social development of minority ethnic groups and areas inhabited by these groups. It is also our policy to ensure freedom of religious belief and bring into play the positive role of religious personages and religious believers in promoting economic and social development.

In China, more than 20 million people from 10 ethnic groups believe in Islam. They are all important members of the big family of the Chinese nation, and their religious belief, cultural tradition and way of life are fully respected. There are over 35,000 mosques in cities and the countryside across China. You can find Muslim restaurants in any Chinese city. In an international metropolis like Shanghai, there is local legislation ensuring the supply of Muslim food. You will also find that in factories, schools and government offices in China, Muslim cuisine is available wherever there are Muslims. If you attend a get-together among friends, those present will all choose to have Muslim food even if only one of them is a Muslim. The Chinese government has adopted a range of policies to support economic, cultural and social development of minority ethnic groups and areas. Ethnic groups who believe in Islam have lived in amity with other ethnic groups and jointly promoted national development and social progress.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Since the founding of the People's Republic of China, China and Arab countries have always sympathized with and supported each other. In the 1950s, a number of Arab countries overcame various interferences and made the courageous decision to establish diplomatic relations with China. In the 1970s, Arab countries and other friendly developing countries gave strong support and made persistent effort in helping restore New China's lawful seat in the United Nations. On our part, the Chinese government and people have shown full understanding for the just cause of Arab countries to seek lawful national rights and your aspirations for development. We have given you strong political and moral support and provided assistance within the realm of our capabilities. Many Chinese engineers and construction workers gave their precious lives for the development of Arab countries and were laid to rest in the Arab land.

The 21st century is the century of economic globalization. It is also one marked by great progress of diverse civilizations. China, with its 1.3 billion people, and the Arab world, with its several hundred million people, both shoulder the sacred mission of renewing our centuries-old civilizations. Looking back at the last 200 years, we have missed far too many opportunities. We have 100 reasons, even 1,000 reasons to strengthen cooperation and speed up development with renewed vigor and vitality, so that we can catch up with the changing times. We have no reason whatsoever to dither or hesitate. All political leaders who have a sense of responsibility towards their countries and peoples and all entrepreneurs and other members of the society who cherish high ideals and aspirations should have a keen awareness of the responsibility that history has placed on them. Let us join hands and take the friendly cooperation between China and Arab countries to a new level!

China is committed to deepening political trust and strengthening strategic cooperation with Arab countries. The world today is experiencing major transformation, major adjustments and major development, and the international political and economic architecture is going through profound changes. The standing and influence of developing countries, including Arab countries, are on the rise. Against such a background, it serves the fundamental interests of both sides to solidify political trust and intensify strategic cooperation. The establishment and development of the China-Arab Cooperation Forum have opened broad prospects for strengthened collective dialogue and coordination between the two sides. We should work together to promote peace and stability, seek settlement of international disputes and regional conflicts through dialogue and consultation, oppose all forms of terrorism, separatism and extremism, and reject linking terrorism to any specific ethnic group or religion. And we should jointly foster a safe and peaceful international environment. China is ready to step up cooperation with Arab countries to address global challenges, including climate change, energy and non-traditional security threats and promote the attainment of the UN Millennium Development Goals. We should continue to support and cooperate with each other in major international and regional affairs, work together to safeguard the interests of developing countries and endeavor to build a just and reasonable new international order.

China will continue to promote the Middle East peace process. The Middle East deserves a peaceful and beautiful future. Since World War II, the Middle East region has been plagued by incessant wars and conflicts. Numerous lives have been lost and many innocent people displaced. The stark reality shows that the an eye for an eye approach can only stoke deeper hatred, and peace can only be achieved by turning swords into ploughshares. We highly appreciate the Arab Peace Initiative, which demonstrates to the whole world the sincere wish and strategic decision of Arab countries to peacefully resolve the Middle East issue. The fundamental way to resolve the Middle East issue is to replace confrontation with dialogue, promote reconciliation by increasing understanding, and stop the bloodshed and conflicts. We hope that disputes and conflicts will soon come to an end and peace and tranquility will return to the Middle East. China is ready to step up consultation with Arab countries and other parties concerned and play a constructive role in promoting a comprehensive, just and lasting settlement of the Middle East issue in order to achieve peace, security and stability in this part of the world.

China will push forward economic cooperation and trade with Arab countries. The mutually beneficial economic and trade ties between the two sides have been growing rapidly since the 1980s, the last few years in particular. Trade volume between China and Arab countries jumped from US$36.7 billion in 2004 to US$132.8 billion in 2008, a 2.6-fold increase in a short span of five years. By the end of 2008, the total value of contracted projects between the two sides had approached US$100 billion. There is great scope and enormous potential for business cooperation between China and Arab countries. In response to the serious impact of the international financial crisis, it is all the more important for us to take more concrete and effective measures to expand practical cooperation in economy and trade, energy, investment, finance, tourism and human resources training. The Chinese government encourages capable Chinese enterprises to make investment and set up businesses in Arab countries. The Chinese government and enterprises will place more emphasis on helping build up the economic strength of our partner countries and on promoting local job creation, comprehensive resource utilization and environmental protection. China will, as always, provide humanitarian assistance to underdeveloped countries and help them improve people's livelihood, eradicate poverty and expand capacity for self-development.

China hopes to step up cultural exchanges and cooperation with Arab countries. The Arab region is the converging point of ancient civilizations. The splendid literature and art, beautiful music and dance, unique food and dress and exquisite craftsmanship epitomize its colorful culture. The Chinese government encourages growing educational, cultural, tourism and other exchanges with Arab countries. We will encourage more young people to study in Arab countries and welcome young Arab students to come to China for study or visits. Cultural exchanges will help deepen mutual understanding about each other's history and current conditions, strengthen the bond of friendship and build strong public support for our friendship.

Over the past half century and more, the League of Arab States has been dedicated to enhancing cooperation among its members and safeguarding the independence and sovereignty of Arab states. We hope that the Arab League will play a bigger role in the international community, particularly in promoting peace and development in the Middle East.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

You may be interested in China's development. Let me say, in this connection, that we have made notable progress in economic and social development since the founding of New China 60 years ago, particularly in the last 30 years since reform and opening-up. At the same time, we are keenly aware that China is still a developing country. While our aggregate GDP may be quite large, our per capita GDP is very low. The global financial crisis has made a big impact on China's economy. Though the target of an 8% growth for 2009 is within reach through our efforts, the foundation of a full recovery is not yet firmly established. We still face many difficulties and pressing problems in the course of modernization. This requires that we press ahead with reform and opening-up, economic development and social progress. We must strike the right balance among development, reform and stability. And we must always put national reunification, ethnic unity and social stability high on our agenda. Otherwise, we can accomplish nothing. I think this logic holds true for all countries in the world.

My current visit to Egypt is aimed at enhancing dialogue among civilizations and promoting closer friendship and cooperation. The friendship and cooperation between China and Egypt represent a good example of respect for diversity of civilizations and a model for relations between developing countries and South-South cooperation. We will never forget that Egypt was the first country in the Arab world and in Africa that established diplomatic relations with the People's Republic of China and the first one that entered into a strategic and cooperative relationship with China. Our two countries have always maintained friendly relations, our cooperation in all fields has made steady progress and we have coordinated with and firmly supported each other on the overarching and strategic issues concerning peace and development. The strategic cooperation between China and Egypt has yielded rich results and brought tangible benefits to people of both countries. China will continue to support Egypt in playing a greater role in regional and international affairs.

The Chinese nation values friendship and keeps its word. China and the Arab world were friends in the past; we are friends today; and we will remain friends forever. No matter how the international scene may change, the Chinese people will always be the trusted brothers of the Arab people. Let us work together to build a harmonious world of enduring peace and common prosperity.

Thank you.


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