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Build on Past Achievements to Write a New Chapter in the Cause of People-to-people Diplomacy

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  --Speech by Madam Li Xiaolin
President of the Chinese People’s Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries
At the China International Friendship Conference
In Commemoration of the 60th Anniversary of the CPAFFC

  May 15, 2014

Your Excellency President Xi Jinping,
Distinguished guests from home and abroad,
Ladies and gentlemen,
Dear friends,

Today we are gathered here at this grand China International Friendship Conference to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the founding of the Chinese People’s Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries (CPAFFC). We are deeply honored to have with us His Excellency Mr. Xi Jinping, President of the People’s Republic of China, who will deliver a keynote speech in a few minutes. On behalf of the CPAFFC, I wish to pay high tribute to President Xi and other leaders attending the Conference. I would also like to express our warm welcome to all foreign friends coming from afar and hearty gratitude to people from all walks of life who have long supported our work. 

The CPAFFC was established in May 1954. Its predecessor, the Chinese People’s Committee for World Peace, started to conduct people-to-people diplomacy as an important part of China’s overall diplomatic efforts even before the founding of People’s Republic of China. During the Yan’an period, the older generation of revolutionaries including Chairman Mao Zedong seized every opportunity to make international friends to win sympathy and support for the Chinese people’s cause of national liberation. In 1936, after an exclusive interview with Chairman Mao, American journalist Edgar Snow wrote the book Red Star Over China. The book presented to world the Communist Party of China and the revolutionary cause under its leadership, and created a big stir in the world. Canadian doctor Norman Bethune and Indian doctor Kwarkanath S. Kotnis travelled thousands of miles to China to help the Chinese people in the War of Resistance Against Japanese Aggression, and laid down their lives on this vast land. Their sacrifice composed an immortal paean of upholding justice and internationalism.  

In the early years of New China, a pressing diplomatic task for the country was to oppose war, advocate peace and break Western countries’ blockade. The CPAFFC, since its founding, regards conducting people-to-people diplomacy and making friends for the country as its mission, and has made unremitting efforts to present China and win friendship. To celebrate the opening of the Helsinki World Peace Congress in 1955, the CPAFFC invited 14 renowned Chinese calligraphers and painters including Master Qi Baishi to jointly produce a huge traditional Chinese painting “Ode to Peace”, which expressed the ardent wish of Chinese people for peace and their opposition to war.

People-to-people diplomacy has played a unique pioneering and facilitating role when diplomatic relations are absent or run into trouble. In 1971, Chairman Mao invited a U.S. table tennis delegation to China, which riveted the attention of the world and played an important role in opening the door of China-US relations. It was branded by media organizations as “ping-pong diplomacy” in which the small ping-pong ball affected the whole globe. In 1973, with the personal attention of Premier Zhou Enlai, Tianjin of China and Kobe of Japan forged the first international sister-city relationship in China, extending people-to-people diplomacy to the sub-national level.

Since the launch of reform and opening-up, successive Party and State leaders including Deng Xiaoping, Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao have all valued and supported people-to-people diplomacy. President Xi, in particular, has placed high importance on people-to-people diplomacy by taking time to attend various CPAFFC activities and has given us huge support and encouragement. As a major player in people-to-people diplomacy, the CPAFFC has played an active role in China’s reform and opening-up, economic development and the great cause of peaceful reunification. It has constantly broadened its work fields and innovated working methods, and achieved fruitful results.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Dear friends,

The past six decades have witnessed our endeavor in enhancing understanding and friendship. In the past 60 years, the CPAFFC has set up friendship associations with 46 regions and countries and established relationship of friendly cooperation with more than 500 non-governmental organizations and institutions in 157 countries, thus laying a solid social foundation for the normal state-to-state relations between China and other countries. Among the friends of CPAFFC, regardless of their social status, age and residence, their friendship and goodwill toward the Chinese people have never changed, and their support and assistance to China have never ceased. Sitting in the audience today are many such good and old friends. The Chinese people will always remember you.

The past six decades have witnessed our endeavor in promoting exchanges and cooperation. Entrusted by the Chinese government, the CPAFFC is responsible for coordinating and managing sister-city affairs. Thanks to more than 40 years of efforts, China has forged 2,106 pairs of sister-province/state and sister-city relations with 133 countries. In addition, we have established a number of bilateral and multilateral platforms for local government dialogue and exchanges, including China International Friendship Cities Conference, China-US Governors Forum, Forum for Local Leaders of Yangtze River Region of China and Volga Federal District of Russia, China-Japan Governors Forum, High Level China-France Forum on Local Government Cooperation, Forum on China-Africa Local Government Cooperation and BRICS Friendship Cities and Local Governments Cooperation Forum.

The past six decades have witnessed our endeavor in promoting world peace and development. In its modern history, China has suffered greatly from foreign aggression, war and turmoil. Therefore, the Chinese people are resolute in their resolve and determination to follow a path of peaceful development. The CPAFFC is an active advocate of peace and opponent of war. In 1986, the CPAFFC held the Chinese People’s Rally for World Peace and organized the torch-lighting ceremony for the First Earth Run at the Tian’anmen Square. In 2005, to mark the 60th anniversary of the victory of the world’s anti-fascist war, the CPAFFC invited more than 200 veterans and their relatives from 22 countries to China for the commemorative activities to review history, draw lessons for the future, and call on the world to jointly uphold the victory of the war against fascism.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Dear friends,

As we take stock of our achievements in the past six decades, we will never forget the personal care of Party and state leaders, the strong support from friendship organizations and individuals in other countries, and the hard work of our colleagues in 315 local friendship associations across China. At this moment, I’d like to acknowledge with sincere respect those who made outstanding contributions to the cause of people-to-people diplomacy, the CPAFFC Honorary Presidents Madam Soong Ching-Ling and Deng Yingchao, Chairman Guo Moruo of the Chinese People’s Committee for World Peace, and the CPAFFC former Presidents Chu Tunan, Wang Guoquan, Chai Zemin, Wang Bingnan, Zhang Wenjin, Han Xu, Qi Huaiyuan, and Chen Haosu, for their persistent efforts in the development of the Association.

Sixty years is a milestone as well as a new starting point. At present, the Chinese people are working hard for the “Chinese Dream” put forward by President Xi Jinping featuring great national renewal, economic prosperity and happiness of the people. The Chinese Dream is consistent with the world’s dream of promoting peace and well-being of all mankind. The realization of the Chinese Dream needs the understanding and support of people of all countries, and the extensive exchanges and cooperation between China and the rest of the world. In the new historical era, we will continue to hold high the banner of "friendship, peace, cooperation and development", continue to innovate the content and methods of our work, play a leading role in promoting people-to-people diplomacy and a key role in public diplomacy, serve as a bridge for local government cooperation between China and other countries, and make new contribution to the great renewal of the Chinese nation, to world peace and development, and to the worthy cause of people-to-people friendship!

Thank you! 

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