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Remarks by Ambassador YU Jianhua at the Opening Ceremony of the UN Chinese Language Day
2018/04/16

Your Excellency Mr. Michael Møller,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Welcome to this exhibition marking the 2018 UN Chinese Language Day. The Chinese language, or Chinese characters, to be more specific, are vehicles of the great Chinese civilization and a shining gem in the world's treasure trove of cultures. Celebrating the Chinese Language Day every year here in the Palais, the UN dedicates itself to promoting the Chinese language and culture, and more importantly, to encouraging cultural exchange.

Through the ages, Chinese characters have gone through changes in structure and in style, from the crude symbols on oracle bones and engravings on bronze ware to the calligraphic diamond shape that we see today, every step of the way enabled by the intelligence and creativity of the Chinese people over an arc of history stretching 5,000 years.

Among the tens of thousands of characters in use today, one holds the key to understanding the Chinese philosophy. And that character is Min, or people in English, as shown on the background panel. It is central to the idea of putting people first, a founding principle of the Chinese society and a value echoed by the UN's theme for cultural events this year-people at the center.

This idea of loving the people and taking care of their well-being runs through the entire Chinese history. In the early days of the Chinese civilization, our forefathers famously said, "The people is the basis of a country; when the basis is secured, the country is tranquil." 2,500 years ago, the geat Chinese philosopher Confucius advised the rulers to "practice thrift, care about the people, and not to employ their services in their busy farming time". 1,400 years ago, Li Shimin, one of China's greatest emperors, likened sovereigns to boats and the people water, noting that water has the power to carry the boat, and the power to overturn it. Then, 400 years ago, the famous thinker Huang Zongxi concluded that it is the ordinary people's well-being, not the fortunes of the ruling family, that makes or breaks a dynasty. Three hundred years later, this thought was espoused by Liang qichao, a well-known reformist who asked, "who is the master of a country?" "The people." he said. The wording may vary, but these statements all point to a simple truth: good governance lies in winning the people's heart. Only when the people are living and working peacefully can a country aspire for prosperity.

This truth is not lost on those who are given the power to lead China. Since the founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949, especially the introduction of the reform and opening up policy 40 years ago, the Chinese government, proud of its root in the time-honored culture of the Chinese nation, has been developing further the idea of putting people first. In formulating every policy, the government asks itself these questions: Do we have the people's support? Do we have their consent? Will they be happy about it? Will they agree?

Today, China is in a new era. Taking the pulse of the times, President Xi Jinping has shown great insight by highlighting a people-centered philosophy of governance. He makes it clear that the people are the masters and the founding mission of the Party is to serve their well-being. Everything we do in governing the country must be held against this standard. He commits the Party to fighting for the people's aspirations for a better life, making history with the people's support, and staying true to its founding mission. Development, he said, must be for the people; realizing, upholding, and promoting their interests is our fundamental goal. Development must be by the people. And the fruits of development must be shared among the people to give them a better sense of fulfillment. This guiding thought represents the latest development and interpretation of China's age-old tradition of putting people first, one of the many efforts we are making to stay in tune with the times. As history moves forward, this line of thinking will only grow in vitality.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Coming back to Chinese characters, which you find plenty around us in the hall. Some say they are paintings. Some say they are melodies. Some say they are poems. The Chinese characters sustain and renew the vigor of our culture. The exhibition before your eyes today will give you a glimpse into the stories behind the characters and the amazing world of Chinese literature. When you feel it with your heart, you will also see how the idea of putting people first has been kept alive and developed over the centuries.

Today is not just about the Chinese language and culture; it's also about the diversity of the cultures and civilizations around the world, all of which meet here at the UN. We can't find a better place than Geneva, or the Palais, to promote cultural exchange to protect and add to our shared cultural legacy. Now is the time for us to act.

I wish the 2018 UN Chinese Language Day celebrations a full success.

Thank you.

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