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Ambassador Zhang Qiyue Addresses Committee of 100 Luncheon

Address by Ambassador Zhang Qiyue at the Summit Luncheon of the Committee of 100

(April, 10th, 2015)

Distinguished members of the Committee of 100,

Distinguished guests and friends,

I am pleased and honored to speak before such a distinguished group. Congratulations to Committee of 100 on your remarkable efforts. Over the past 25 years, you have worked tirelessly in many fields and across the United States to promote exchanges between our two great nations. With your collective wealth of experience, knowledge and resources, you have helped advance China-US relations to the benefit of our two peoples. Last night's gala was a celebration of your devotion and commitment to this cause. I am touched by your courage and tenacity to foster greater mutual understanding and constructive dialogue between our two countries even in trying times. You are a constant source of inspiration for all of us.

I am four months into this job. As I deal with the broad spectrum of bilateral issues every day, I cannot help but compare where we are now with where we were 40 years ago. I first came to New York in 1974 as one of the five middle school students from New China in the wake of the Nixon-Kissinger trip. We were probably seen as crash-landed Martians. The only Chinese food served in school was called "chicken chow mien", something never heard of back in China. That was then. Today, nearly half of a million Chinese live in New York. There is a flight between China and the United States every 24 minutes, and about 10,000 people travel across the Pacific every day. In fact, Chinese has become the fastest growing community in the city, many of whom have made new homes in New York. China was the fourth biggest source of visitors to New York in the past year, after the UK, Canada and Brazil. The number of visitors is growing fast given the extension of travel and business visas from one to ten years.

Today, China-US bilateral ties have outperformed even the most optimistic predictions when President Nixon and Dr. Kissinger visited China in 1972. China is the fastest expanding export market for the US. We are expected to become each other's largest trading partner by 2022, with US exports to China projected to surpass $450 billion. This will create more than 2.5 million jobs in America. Since the establishment of our diplomatic relationship, 1.5 million Chinese students have studied in the United States. We have 240 pairs of sister states and cities and more than 90 dialogue and cooperation mechanisms. Later this year, President Xi Jinping will pay a state visit to the United States, which will certainly yield substantive results and boost the growth of China-US relations.

Our bilateral relations have come a long way as evidenced by the robust business ties and stronger friendship between our peoples. However, at the policy level, there seem to be growing misgivings or even suspicions about China's moves, intentions and development. A case in point is the misconception that China's rise poses a threat. This is where the cold war mentality continues to cast its shadows on the relationship.

China is fully committed to a path of peaceful development. We know well that this is in our best interests and our goals can only be realized in the peaceful international environment. The essence of our foreign policy has consistently been to foster win-win cooperation. China is an important contributor to world peace. In fact, China today is the largest contributor to UN peacekeeping operations of all the permanent members of the UN Security Council. Differences do exist between China and the United States. This is only natural as no two countries are siamese twins. As Confucius put it, harmony can exist in diversity. We truly believe that the best thing for our two countries to do is working together for peace and harmony.

Another example of the lack of understanding and trust is the Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB). This initiative has generated a lot of interest as well as speculations. Some see it as China's attempts to take advantage of its neighbors' growing need for investment to seek its self-interest and wield its influence over other countries. Some portray the bank as a China-led challenge to the existing multilateral financial institutions and even hype up a rivalry between China and the United States.

The establishment of AIIB was proposed by President Xi Jinping during his trip to the Southeast Asia in late 2013. It is aimed at enhancing the regional infrastructure, inter-connectivity and economic integration so that every country can share the benefits of economic development. The AIIB will fill the gap of existing financial institutions, and help funnel more investment into the region. It complements rather than undercuts existing institutions. Instead of taking the thunder out of the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank, the AIIB will provide additional sources of investment for countries in need.

That the AIIB was proposed by China does not mean that it will be 100% Chinese. It will be jointly owned and operated by its future members. It is about propelling the economic development of the region rather than forming any kind of exclusive economic alliance. AIIB embodies the Chinese concepts of peace, development and win-win cooperation. Over the years, China has been asked to play a bigger role in world affairs. AIIB and other initiatives such as the Belt and Road initiative are our latest answers to that call.

I talked about AIIB at length simply to highlight the need for better mutual understanding between our two countries This is at the core of the new model of major-country relationship our two presidents have agreed to build. This will be the greatest challenge that we must overcome in the years ahead. To that end, we have to work together as facilitators, communicators and bridge-builders. This year is an important year in the relations between our two countries. Our hands will be full with various tasks ahead. Next month, a number of Chinese delegations composed of top publishing professionals and internationally acclaimed writers will come to New York to attend the Book Expo America. The world-renowned Chinese ballet and Peking Opera troupes will also be in town this summer, taking our cultural exchanges to a new level. These visits and many other events signal the deepening bonds of friendship that will continue to be nurtured between our two countries.

The exchanges between our two cultures have intensified so much that they can be seen in even very small things. Recently I have noticed some changes in the fortune cookies you find in Chinese restaurant. When you crack one open, you will not only find a Chinese proverb but also a Chinese character with Pinyin for one to pronounce. This points to a higher interest in and stronger willingness to learn about Chinese culture in America. This reminds me of a Belgian saying I learned when I was working there: Warm feelings come often through the stomach. Now we know why a fortune cookie is a must after a Chinese meal. That perhaps also explains why people work better over meals. And I am sure our friendship and mutual understanding will be even stronger by enjoying today's lunch together.

Bon Appetite!


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