Former Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing: Stop Showing Off and Get your Act together

Translated off the reel. If the following blockquote contains errors, please let me know – JR.

Li Zhaoxing (李肇星), former Chinese foreign minister, in an interview with Guangzhou Daily (广州日报), republished by Huanqiu Shibao:

Q: Scholars have recently said that China went through a period of “taking beatings” and of  “famine”, but has now entered a period of “getting scolded”. It is also said that in the wake of China’s rise, “shouting” at China from abroad seems to have increased. How do you see this?


A: The old saying about “rise” may be one cause for attracting the shouting! Who says that China is rising? What’s the rise? Historically, rise mainly refers to Spain’s, Britain’s, Portugal’s and other historic European colonial powers. As far as that’s concerned, personally, I agree with the Central Committee’s way of putting it: peaceful development. “Rise” implies suddenness, and damaging the interests of others, in a selfish way. China’s development benefits us and others. It may also be a translation issue: the English word “rise” can be translated as 上升, 兴起, etc.. 崛起 isn’t the only possible translation.

老说什么“崛起”,可能就是招来骂声的一个原因!谁说中国崛起了?什么是崛起?在历史上,崛起主要是指西班牙、英国、葡萄牙等历史上的西欧殖民主义 国家。对此,我个人认同中央的提法——和平发展。“崛起”似乎暗含带有突然性,而且还会损害别人利益、损人利己。而中国的发展是利己又利人的。这里也可能 有一个翻译问题:英文的“rise”有“上升”、“兴起”等意思,不一定非译成“崛起”不可。

I believe that some of the international voices that shout at China are incited by others, some are feigned American praise for China, and some people here take that for gospel truth. As a result, this attracts shouting – isn’t this self-inflicted? Sure: bad people curse, and that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The really bad thing is when good people curse you.


One can’t say that “China is rising”, that it is no longer a developing country. Let me give you three sets of numbers as examples.


Firstly, within the global GDP of nearly 200 countries, mainland China’s comes second, globally, and last year’s average per-income GDP was 5400 US dollars. That’s position 94, globally. How can you call that a “rise”? (Li Zhaoxing mentions here that he doesn’t like mixing Chinese and English language, and referring to guonei shengchan zongzhi as “GDP.) Two years, mainland Chinese GDP ranked 110th, globally, and America began to hype “China’s rise”. Don’t believe a few Americans.

第一,全球近200个国家中,中国大陆国内生产总值(记者注:说到此事,李肇星提及说他不喜欢中文夹杂英语,不喜欢把国内生产总值说成 “GDP”)位居世界第二,去年人均国内生产总值为5400美元,位列全球第94位,怎么能说崛起?前年,中国大陆人均国内生产总值位居全球110名时, 美国就开始炒作“中国崛起”,千万不能相信美国个别人的话。

Secondly, average Chinese life expectancy is 74.83 years, according to latest statistics. Japan’s is 82 years. In the countries with the highest life expectancy, it’s 88.5 years. China ranks 83rd, globally. How can you call that a rise?


Thirdly, China’s gross university enrollment rate is, what? According to my enquiry to a friend at the ministry of education, the most recent number is 26.2 percent. That’s not even position 40, globally. How can you call that a rise?


Q: More than ten years ago, you were China’s ambassador in America. Back then, America was tough on China. Has the American attitude towards China changed now? Many American media say that America’s strength is declining or fading. How do you view the changes in American strength during the past ten years?


A: I can’t see that. It’s an American characteristic to “pretend to be poor”, it has a particular sense of getting prepared for unforeseen developments. If we have a characteristic it is that we can’t “pretend to be poor”. Some people actually want to “display wealth”. On certain activities, for example, there’s an excessive fondness of having fireworks and setting off firecrackers.


Q: Do you believe that Obama, in his second term, will continue to create trouble for China?


A: No matter if it is Obama, or someone else, each of them is the American president. Don’t care too much about who is elected president. Neither of them represents  China. It’s only us who make China’s benefit the objective of our struggle.


Generally speaking, “Made in China” is globally welcome. And of course, we will make even more efforts to promote “Made in China”.


Guangzhou Daily’s interview with Li Zhaoxing was apparently prompted by Li’s appointment as the first president of a newly-established organization, the China Public Diplomacy Association (中国公共外交协会).

3 Responses to “Former Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing: Stop Showing Off and Get your Act together”

  1. Interesting interview to some extent, but why do I feel I have not learned anything new here?



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