By THÉRÈSE MARGOLIS
Chinese Ambassador to Mexico Qui Xiaoqi celebrated the 69th anniversary of socialist revolution that led to the founding of the People’s Republic of China (PCR) with a lavish diplomatic reception and buffet lunch at his Pedregal residence on Wednesday, Sept. 26.
The celebration also marked the 40th anniversary of China’s commercial opening to the outside world and its transition from a planned economy to an increasingly open market one under the leadership of Deng Xiaoping, which the Chinese government has labeled “socialism with Chinese characteristics.”
During the reception, Qui spoke about his nation’s unprecedented economic success over the last four decades, the so-called Chinese Economic Miracle, which transformed what in 1980 was one of the poorest in the world into what is now the second-largest economy on Earth.
“Over the last 40 years, China’s Gross Domestic Product increased 68 times, from just $175 billion to $12 trillion … which has allowed our country to increase its global economic footprint from 1.8 percent to 15 percent,” Qui told his guests.
“And we have lifted nearly 800 million people out of poverty – a figure that represents 72 percent of the global population that has been raised above the poverty line.”
Qui went on to note that the World Bank has declared this extraordinary accomplishment as “one of the greatest success stories in the history of humanity.”
He also pointed out that over the last four decades, China has managed to obtain the world’s largest middle-class society, the highest number of scientists and engineers, the largest social security networks, the most high-speed trains and the largest internet grid.
“For the past consecutive years, China has contributed more than 30 percent of all global economic growth, making us the undisputed motor and key stabilizing factor for the world’s economic recovery,” he said.
Qui also spoke about China’s economic future, which he said has entered a “new era” as his people strive to meet the challenges posed by the 19th Chinese Communist Party Congress, held in Beijing in October 2017, during which President Xi Jinping consolidated his control over the country’s political machinery and opened the door to push through an ambitions agenda for economic reform.
“We shall continue to broaden our reform and extend our commercial opening,” Qui said.
The ambassador said that by the year 2020, China will have fully integrated its society to completely irradiate poverty and advanced its economy to reach an annual per capita income of at least $10,000.
“And by the middle of this century, China will be a major socialist power that is modern, prosperous, democratic, civilized, harmonious and beautiful, thus making the China Dream into a reality that will revitalize the nation,” he said.
“We are firmly convinced that we shall reach these objectives.”
Notwithstanding, China’s economy, which for the last three decades had registered breakneck expansion that had been growing at a rate of 9.61 per annum, has now begun to lose steam.
Last year, the Chinese economy grew at a rate of just 6.9 percent, and the government has set a target of 6.5 percent growth for 2018.
An escalating trade war with the United States has not helped.
China, which sells about $506 billion in goods to the United States each year (compared to just $130 billion it purchases in U.S. imports) will soon begin to feel the crunch of additional U.S. tariffs aimed at pressuring Beijing to change longstanding trade practices that United States believes are unfair to American businesses.
In regards to China’s foreign policy, Qui said that his government firmly supports global democratization, a multipolar division of power, and international economic development.
“Our country is committed to the construction of a new type of international relations, based on mutual respect, equality, justice, and win-win cooperation, within the context of a community defined by universal human values characterized by lasting peace, worldwide security, prosperity for all, and open inclusiveness,” he said.
Qui also spoke about China’s “Belt and Road” initiative, an ambitious infrastructure, energy and resources platform intended to broaden financial and economic cooperation with 65 countries (including Mexico), which some pundits say has as its objective the shaping of a new world order.
The ambassador said that the initiative is aimed at sharing the “dividends of Chinese development with the entire world.”
But while China may maintain that it has only peaceful intentions regarding its neighbors, its territorial expansionism in the South China Sea has been a bone of contention for many surrounding countries and even led to a legal dispute between Manila and Beijing before the United Nations Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) in 2016.
The South China Sea is believed to have untapped carbon reserves of about 11 billion barrels of oil and 190 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.
Moreover, some $4.5 trillion in ship-borne trade passes through the maritime region every year.
Beijing maintains that it has sole maritime rights over 90 percent of the South China Sea, despite the fact that the Philippines, along with Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan, have long contested China’s claims to those waters.
The dispute over the South China Sea and China’s unabashed plans to revitalize the imperial greatness it enjoyed during the Han Dynasty by creating a modern version of the ancient Silk Road trade route have led to accusations by outside critics of expansionist ambitions.
But Qui was quick to put those allegations to rest.
“China will continue to persist in an unbreakable path to peaceful development and will never aspire to hegemony nor expansionist practices, no matter how developed we may become,” he said flatly.
“China will never avoid disaster at the cost of others, nor will it benefit at the expensive of others.”
That said, Qui turned to the topic of China’s bilateral relations with Mexico, which were formalized in 1972, during the presidency of Luis Echeverría.
“Since that time, our bilateral relations have continued a stable and rapid development,” the envoy said.
“Today, our relations are at their best point in history.”
Last year, combined Sino-Mexican trade between amounted to $80.8 billion, according to Mexican government figures, making China Mexico’s second-largest import partner and fourth-largest export market.
Chinese companies also have more than $4 billion in investment projects in Mexico, most of which were launched over the course of the last four years.
Qui took the opportunity of his national day speech to thank outgoing Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto and his administration (despite an unpleasant incident four years ago when the Mexican government reneged on a massive high-speed railroad construction contract that had been awarded to a Chinese consortium because of unsubstantiated allegations of bribery) for helping to foster the bilateral friendship.
He likewise expressed his congratulations to Mexican President-elect Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO), who will take office on Dec. 1 and who met with Qui shortly after his July 1 victory at the polls.
Qui said he appreciated AMLO’s interest in China and looked forward to developing even closer mutually beneficial ties between the two countries.
“We are living today in a world of constant transcendental changes not seen in the last 100 years,” Qui said.
“In this changing international situation, countries with emerging economies share common opportunities and challenges. A strengthening of Chinese-Mexican cooperation is the natural trend of the times and the shared hope of both our people.”
Qui said that China and Mexico will work together in the context of equality and sincerity, building on a strong mutual friendship.
“China is ready to reinforce its synergy of development strategies with Mexico … and explore the potential of collaborations in key sectors such as energy, infrastructure, manufacturing, telecommunications, finance and tourism.”
Qui concluded his speech by saying that China will always maintain its doors open to Mexico so that the binational friendship will last forever.
After the speech, there was an elaborate performance of Chinese music and dance, as well as a buffet of traditional Chinese delicacies.