Remarks by H.E. Mr. Li Keqiang
Premier of the State Council of the People’s Republic of China
At the Opening Meeting of the 54th Annual Session of the Asian-African Legal Consultative Organization
Beijing, 13 April 2015
Distinguished Delegates and Guests,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It gives me great pleasure to address the 54th Annual Session of the Asian-African Legal Consultative Organization (AALCO) held in Beijing. This year’s annual session is highly significant as it coincides with the 60th anniversary of the Bandung Conference. China was an active participant of that meeting and a proponent of its principles. Countries in Asia, Africa and the rest of the world have worked together to maintain world peace and promote common development, and are forging a community of common destiny. Here I wish to express, on behalf of the Chinese government, our warm congratulations on the opening of the meeting and warm welcome to all of you.
It has been nearly 60 years since the founding of AALCO. Six decades ago, the Bandung Conference established ten principles governing state-to-state relations, leaving us the invaluable legacy of solidarity, friendship and cooperation. Set up after the Bandung Conference, AALCO bears witness to the unyielding and concerted efforts the Asian and African countries have made to secure a fair and equitable international order and achieve national development and renewal. The international community and China will commemorate the 60th anniversary of the Bandung Conference with a series of events which will be attended by Chinese leaders including President Xi Jinping. Our meeting today, as part of the commemoration, demonstrates to the world that China is ready to work with countries in Asia, Africa and beyond to carry forward the Bandung Spirit and uphold the post-war international order and system.
In the past six decades, we have fought hard in pursuit of independence, freedom and equality. By waging the heroic anti-imperialist and anti-colonial struggle, we Asian and African countries have won liberation and independence and forged profound friendship through mutual support. We will never forget that it was our brothers in Asia and Africa who carried new China into the United Nations. China, on its part, has always stood up for our Asian and African brothers and given sincere help to their just causes. Today, 46 Asian countries and 54 African countries have become member states of the United Nations, making up more than half of the total UN membership. The voice of the Asian and African countries is heeded by the entire world.
In the past six decades, we have worked tirelessly to achieve development, progress and prosperity. We Asian and African countries have explored development paths suited to our respective national conditions; the rights to survival and development of our peoples have never been so respected and protected; and Asia and Africa, two poor continents in the past, are full of vibrancy today. Asia is now one of the most dynamic regions in the world, and the African continent is unleashing great development potential. In 2014, the combined GDP of Asia and Africa reached US$29 trillion, accounting for 37.5% of the global total and representing a 47-fold increase over that of 1970. Asia and Africa are home to most of the emerging economies. With broad prospects, Asia-Africa cooperation for development is growing into an important force for global economic growth.
In the past six decades, we have worked hard to strengthen the international order and rule of law. We Asian and African countries have boosted the rule of law at home, shared best practices and promoted cooperation on enhancing international rule of law. We jointly championed the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence, which enriched the basic principles of international law based on the UN Charter. By promoting South-South cooperation, we worked closely to uphold our legitimate rights and interests, and call for respect for the independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of all countries, and played an important role in advancing world peace and development.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
As a member of the Asia-Africa family, China has come a long way. In the past six decades since the founding of new China, and particularly in the past three decades since reform and opening-up, China has undergone enormous changes, and grown into one of world’s major economies. On the other hand, China remains a huge developing country with the world’s largest population. Its per capita GDP is just over US$7,600, lower than the world’s average of US$10,000 and ranking behind the 80th place in the world. There is still imbalance in the development of rural and urban areas and among regions. As you can see, Beijing, Shanghai and some coastal cities in Eastern China are quite modern. But many places in Central and Western China are still underdeveloped. According to China’s own standards, more than 70 million Chinese are still living in poverty. China remains the world’s largest developing country, and Asia and Africa are home to the largest number of developing countries in the world. Growing the economy and improving people’s lives is a common task facing China and other countries in Asia and Africa. We will continue to work together to bring development benefits to our peoples.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
In today’s world, peace and development remain the call of our times. Win-win cooperation has become the prevailing trend, and international rule of law the shared aspiration of people. But the world is not yet a peaceful place. Asia and Africa still face many challenges in pursuing economic development, and the legitimate rights and interests of developing countries are not yet fully safeguarded. The world needs peace, Asia and Africa need to move forward, and all countries need development; but none of these goals can be achieved without rule of law and order. Under the new conditions, we Asian and African countries should carry forward the Bandung Spirit and work together to advance world peace, development, equality and justice. With this in mind, we should work on the following areas:
First, we should work to make the international political order more just and equitable. This year marks the 70th anniversary of the victory of the World Anti-Fascist War and the founding of the United Nations. The post-war order has provided the foundation for world peace and development. Countries will live in harmony only if they treat each other with respect and as equals. As the founding member of the UN, China believes that the international system based on sovereign states must be strengthened and the law of the jungle under which the weak is bullied by the strong must be rejected. We Asian and African countries should jointly safeguard the UN-based post-war international order and the sanctity of the UN Charter and stay committed to the fundamental principles of sovereign equality, non-interference in others’ domestic affairs and non-use of force. We Asian and African countries are becoming an important pole in the process of moving towards global multipolarity. As a responsible major country, China is committed to peaceful development. We will continue to work with other Asian and African countries to promote greater democracy and rule of law in international relations and play an active role in maintaining and improving the international order.
Second, we need to work for a more open and institutionalized world economy. With economic globalization deepening and countries’ interests converging, common development can only be realized by pursuing mutual benefit. The international community should hold high the banner of free trade, oppose protectionism, refrain from trade wars, observe international trade laws and the basic principles of the World Trade Organization, uphold and improve the international financial system and build a more balanced and inclusive global trade regime. At the same time, trade and investment liberalization and facilitation should also be promoted at the regional level to complement and reinforce the global system, thus supporting global growth with two wheels. With Asian and African countries both at a crucial stage of industrialization and urbanization and a community of shared interests emerging, active efforts should be made to carry out South-South and North-South cooperation. It’s just like the dragon boat race during China’s traditional Dragon Boat Festival. Only when everyone rows at top speed and at the same pace can the boat sail fast and steadily towards victory. Asian and African countries need to continuously improve the legal environment for investment and trade, and be a more proactive participant in the formulation of the rules concerning international economy and trade to secure more institutional rights for their own development. China stands ready to work with Asian and African countries to improve existing cooperation platforms and mechanisms, encourage closer linkages and cooperation among industries to draw on each other’s strengths for common development. We stand ready to align our “Land and Maritime Silk Road” Initiatives with the development plans and needs of countries along the routes so as to bring new opportunities for greater cooperation in Asia and Africa.
Third, we need to uphold international and regional peace and stability. Nothing can be achieved without peace and security. Asian and African countries are neighbors connected by mountains and seas. It is all the more important that we are ready to help each other and be good friends. Regional conflicts and historical issues should be resolved peacefully through consultation rather than by force. And differences and disagreements should be addressed by understanding and accommodating each other and seeking common ground wherever possible. China has made vigorous efforts to uphold regional peace and stability, and conducted intensive diplomatic activities to facilitate peace talks and peaceful settlement of hotspot issues such as those in South Sudan and the Middle East.
On the issue of the South China Sea, China advocates a “dual-track” approach. We believe disputes should be addressed between countries directly concerned through dialogue and consultation and China and ASEAN countries should work together to promote stability in the South China Sea. The freedom and safety of navigation in the South China Sea are fully guaranteed. As long as we pursue peace with sincerity, there will be no problems or difficulties between us that cannot be overcome. The friendship between Asian and African peoples will only be further deepened and strengthened.
Fourth, we need to work together to meet global non-traditional security challenges. No country can stay immune to challenges such as climate change, terrorism, cyber security, pandemic diseases and natural disasters. Given our vulnerability to such threats, countries in Asia and Africa must come together and coordinate our response. On tackling climate change, every country must do its part. We must uphold the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities and work for a fair and equitable post-2020 agreement on emission reduction. Terrorism is a global scourge. Whatever its form, it must be dealt with through joint efforts. Cyberspace is a new frontier for human society. We need to narrow the digital gap and develop an order in cyberspace based on peace, security, openness and cooperation. Epidemics respect no borders. All countries have a stake in the prevention and control of such diseases. Financial and medical assistance from China has contributed to the joint fight against recent epidemics such as the Ebola outbreak. China stands ready to continue to provide assistance to African countries most heavily affected by the epidemic to the best of its ability. China will continue to work with other Asian and African countries to help each other in times of need and together overcome non-traditional security threats and challenges.
Fifth, we need to deepen exchanges and cooperation on the international legal system. Good laws are the foundation of sound governance. In our global village, international law is crucial to telling right from wrong and mitigating differences and conflicts. Asian and African countries need to increase exchanges and coordination on international rule of law and stay involved in international law-making to better reflect the aspirations and interests of developing countries. The authority and effectiveness of international law must be upheld. Asian and African countries need to, under the framework of international law, deepen judicial and law enforcement cooperation, jointly fight against smuggling, drug trafficking, financial fraud and other trans-national crimes and strengthen international cooperation to combat corruption. China is an active contributor to international rule of law. It has acceded to more than 400 multilateral treaties and concluded over 20,000 bilateral treaties. Commitment to the five principles of peaceful coexistence and to international law in general has been a cornerstone and defining feature of China’s foreign policy. As China strengthens the rule of law at home, it will make greater contribution to building rule of law at the international level.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Since its inception nearly 60 years ago, AALCO, as a major platform for Asian-African legal exchanges and cooperation, has played a vital role in strengthening regional governance and safeguarding our common rights and interests. This has been made possible by the extraordinary dedication and intellect of generations of legal experts from Asia and Africa. One of them is Secretary-General Dr. Rahmat Mohamad, a renowned jurist serving his second term as Secretary-General. I commend you and members of AALCO for your efforts to expand the organization’s areas of focus and raise its profile. Going forward, we hope to see more exchanges between member states to help build consensus and allow this valuable platform to flourish and serve its cause. China will remain a firm supporter to AALCO. We will set up a China-AALCO research and exchange program on international law to facilitate AALCO’s growth and international cooperation on the rule of law in general.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Three thousand years ago, the oldest written code of law in human history, the Code of Hammurabi, was enacted in Mesopotamia in an area where our two continents meet. At around the same time in China, known as the Western Zhou Dynasty, the ancient Chinese character which means “law” was invented. It is a pictograph composed of two parts. Its left part means “water”, which indicates impartiality of judgement; its right part contains a pictograph for “the mythic goat-unicorn”, a symbol of justice and authority in China. These two milestones are perfect examples of the rich legal heritage of Asian and African civilizations. Today, it is our duty to carry forward this tradition and the spirit of respecting the rule of law and work even harder to build up the international legal system.
Let us join hands to usher in a brighter future for Asia-Africa unity and cooperation and together create a better world of lasting peace, justice and win-win cooperation.
To conclude, I wish the 54th Annual Session of AALCO full success.
Thank you all very much.