Well, thank you very much and it’s a great privilege to share the platform with such inspirational speakers as you’ve already heard this evening. Of course as it was mentioned I have a particular perspective on China. I’ve fallen in love with China in particular one part of it occupied by Xuelin Li and my wife.
Of all the statistics that are presented about China, the one which always inspires me is that no country in human history has ever lifted more people out of poverty than China. Seven hundred million, three quarters of the total lifted out of poverty between 2000 and 2010 were here in China. That should make us celebrate and take note and try to understand. My perspective of understanding was not analysis of the economics. It was to walk through China, to walk a thousand miles.
Originally, it was meant to be from Beijing, the northern capital to Nanjing, the southern capital. But I walked a little bit too fast and I got there three weeks early and Xuelin said you’ve arrived three weeks early, well, now you can walk on to my home city, which is Hangzhou and that’s how it became that we walk for peace to Nanjing and love for Hangzhou. And that was an amazing time.I remember one afternoon, we’ve been walking for three weeks out of Beijing, I have to say many things that are said about walking, but often walking as I found when I set off through Beijing, I was overtaking the traffic as I walked down through the various ring roads to the five, six ring road.
And we walked about three weeks and it was during the August, so it was very hot temperatures.We started to climb high to the Taian mountains in Shandong province and we moved into Shandong province and into the Taian mountains. And it was beautiful countryside. It’s one of the things worth remembering about China is, of course, that a lot of people are looking China and saying, well, it’s an economic miracle, well, it’s already been mentioned. This miracle has actually been happening almost every century for the past three thousand years. We arrived in a small village called Shenjiatun, I just pictured in the mountains nowhere around, hardly a road to be seen.
A few local houses around a local square. In the middle of the square, a great tree, an oak tree. And beside the oak tree, there was a well. We sat down from the heat of the temperatures of about 40 degrees. Xuelin and I sat down beside the well and underneath the tree, and not long before people start coming to join us and start to talk about what we were doing, why we were doing, what we were doing.And as we sat there, they explain that the tree that was providing the shade was some five hundred years old, that the well just beside this was seven hundred years old. And we were getting very nostalgic about this and I said to the few people over there. I said have you had many visitors to your village? Many foreigners come to your village? And they looked at each other and they said no.
And I start really excited.I thought I discovered somewhere new and they said but we were not quite sure. But the person who would know is the old man of the village. He’s 95 years old. He’s lived here all of his life, apart from two years in 1943 when he went off to fight to liberate Jinan which was under Japanese occupation at the time, but he’s lived here all his life. So they went into the field and they brought him and he sat under the tree and they said has anybody, any foreigner visited at this village before. He said no, no, this man is the first.
I was amazed. I felt like Marco Polo. And to capture the moment, I said to Xuelin, I said do you think that they will be OK if we actually took a photograph, a photograph. I thought hang on, they will get a little bit worry, perhaps they don’t know what a camera is, let alone the camera can now be found on the phone. And so they all lined up and Xuelin ask him to take a photograph and they took a photograph with her phone.
And this was an amazing time. I thought I will give talks about this, just this experience in Shenjiatun for many many years to come. And then as the photograph has finished, everybody, including the old man, pulled out their smart phones and started to go to Shelin to ask her for her QS code, so they could join her WeChat group and get copies of the photograph. I thought that were amazed. But to me it was the perfect beautiful illustration of the ancient and the modern, the old and the new resting together here in China. It was an extraordinary thing.
As we continued walking, we visited many of the places that the previous speakers talked about the Confucian tradition which is so important I think to help people understand what China is about and where those traditions come from, just as much as trying to understand European civilization without understanding the importance of the Greek philosophers, Socrates, Aristoteles, Plato, all the Christian religion in that part of our culture development. Confucius is critical.
And so when we were in Qufu, and we actually saw the place where he was born, the beds where he was raised and the place where he was finally laid to rest. We began to understand the importance which is put not on self, but on others. And this was important to remember. It was this drive to serve others, to work hard to be good for others, which was a really important lesson to learn. Everywhere we went, as we walked through small villages, often at the end of a hard day of walk, Xuelin and I would wonder where we were staying and we were going to search some dumplings or some tea in the local market square.
And in the local square, what would we see. Well, in western countries often you won’t see anyone other than young people, because the squares are associated with alcohol and pubs and often they will be places that the very old and very young wouldn’t go. But not so in China. We would see the line dancing. In fact, we used to join in with various dancers dancing in the squares with the more senior experienced dancers at the front and the less experienced watching and taking the note and the children sitting there in front of them and the man sitting to the side playing chesses. It was a wonderful picture. But what reminded us was that young people and children are the center of attention for the Chinese.
We know how investment in young people and in children pays off multiple multiple times if you can get it. And so the fact that you would see children not just playing with other children, not just on their own, but actually surrounded by adults all fighting for the opportunity to look after the child. You realize this is very important in understanding China. They invest in their future. They invest in their children. And you see that then reflected in education.You see the education performance, PISA, which is the international ranking of educational performance looks at all of the countries around the world and where does it find the math and science performance is the best in Shanghai. Amazing. That out of all of the countries in the world, China, which still in nominal GDP terms, is only 72nd in the world should come top because of the importance of education.
I remember going through Suqian, and we were walking through Suqian and at the end of the day I would stop and talk to people who was there with Xuelin.And we were talking to an old man who was raking the sides of the road, the sides of the road, the way that they maintained in China is wonderful and we saw a lot of these people always working, looking after and keeping the road very tidy and free from litter. And this man was working in the heat of the day and I started talking and said is this your piece of land. He said no. I said is this your job and you paid to do this. He said no. I said so why are you doing it. And he said because work is good for you. Work is good for you. I agree with that. I agree with that.
Hard work, so education, investing in the young. Hard work, these are all important lessons for the future. But there was another element. You see, China is actually quite a sentimental country. It’s very optimistic. There was a YouGov opinion poll which is carried out and it said that do you believe the world is getting better. Most of the countries in the world it was either negative or very slightly positive. The UK came in about 4%. In China, 41% thought the world was getting better. Amazing. So 41% think the world is getting better.
There is a saying. It says this, we see the world not as it is, but as we are. If you are pessimistic, then you won’t see the value in investing in the future and investing in yourself. If you are optimistic, you are excited about the future. You want to invest in the future. Important lesson No.3 about China, it’s an optimistic world. If you come here as a pessimist, you’ll never understand China. You need to be positive to understand China.
That investment in children feeds through into infrastructure. So many people have talked about the importance of infrastructure. The massive growth of high speed rail lines around the country is quite amazing and there is still a queue of people trying to get on them. There is no empty seats on the train. Such is the demand. There is twice as much high speed rail track in China already than there is across the whole of Europe. That’s quite amazing.
The investment in infrastructure we heard about One Belt One Road is important in road ways which have doubled in size of the last five to six years. It’s in the growth of airports which have also increased in size. Just take ports for example, because that is a very instructive issue. Ports, of the ten busiest ports in the world, how many do you think are in China. Well, let me tell you, seven. How many do you think are in the United States? None. How many do you think are in the Europe? None. It’s remarkable what is happening here. Now, is it remarkable in some senses, yes, of course it is.
But we go back to this point that China has been a dominant economic power through human history. It comes because of the central plain which I was walking right across between the Yellow River and Yangtze River. It’s an immensely fertile plain. It’s surrounded by hills which protect it from invaders. So not surprisingly, it was always going to be a place where civilization would flourish. It was so fertile that farmers could actually get two crops per year. One crop that they could use to feed their family. Another crop that they could trade. The prosperity that you see.
That passion for education of course continues with young people beyond school age. It goes into universities. Two thirds of the population of overseas population of universities around the world are made by Chinese. There are 17,000 students attending UK universities from the United States. There are 19,000 that are attending UK universities from India. The figure for China is 90,000.
What’s more, 78% of those young people come back. They come back to China. They don’t stay in the west. They come back. They go and get their education and then they come back, the so-called turtles who come back because the opportunities are so immense here. Now, the opportunities are fantastic.
But that leads us to our next lesson for understanding China from my walk. As I walked through towns and villages, I would see everywhere no matter what time of day, people would be working, but often they will be working for themselves. You know, enterprises is very much part of the Chinese dream. The idea of setting up your own business is an incredibly powerful dream that people have. Many advanced economies have failed because of this reason that as it gone through the industrial revolution, the big industries have sucked in all of the talent to a few small employers and when those industries decline and companies fail as they will, there’s no new growth left to take its place. Therefore, perhaps one of the most telling statistics that you could find about the new China is this, is that a number of new enterprises that started in China doubled between 2010 and 2016, ok, that’s fine.
But let me tell you what a double, too. 1.6 million, still not impressed, let me put that in context. 1.6 million new businesses created in China is more than all the new businesses created in Germany, the United Kingdom and the United States, all those together. It’s incredible investment in the future, because people are optimistic, because people are working hard and because they have invested in the future of themselves and of others.
And among those 1.6 million new businesses will be the future Alibaba, the future Huawei, the future Wanda and perhaps the people running them are in this room today. That’s what comes when you have a dynamic economy, confident about the future.
Let me come back to where I started, my passion, my passion for prosperity, for global growth and for people to be lifted out of poverty. We share that passion, I’m sure, but another one is this peace. Everything which China has achieved over the past remarkable thirty years of its growth has come through peace and prosperity.It is important that peace is the other side to the continue prosperity. So on behalf of Xuelin and I can we thank you for this opportunity and wish you long peace and prosperity, which you can share with the world. Thank you.