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Statement by H.E. Ambassador Zhang Yishan at the Annual Session of UNDP/UNFPA Executive Board

2005-06-23 00:00

Madam Chair,

Just now, US representative made some accusations against China-UNFPA cooperation and, in particular, against China’s population policy, bringing differences in views between China and the US on population issues into the current session of the Executive Board. Hereby, I have to take some of Board’s valuable time to clarify a few points, which I hope will help the Board Members to get a full picture of China’s situation and its population policy.

Firstly, this year marks the 60th anniversary of the founding of UN. In mid September this year, leaders of many countries will gather here in New York to set out blueprint strategies on how to realize MDGs. China’s 1.3 billion people accounts for 1/5 of the world’s total, and China is not yet a developed country. How will China reach MDGs? China and the US have more or less the same size in terms of territory, but China has one billion more people than the US, and China’s per capita GDP is only 2.8% of the US. China’s current annual net increase of population is 10 million, the total population of Sweden. The newly added population needs food, clothing, housing and transportation, as well as education, health care and employment, constituting an arduous task for the Chinese Government. As the Chinese saying goes, “well-fed men do not know the meaning of hunger”. It is always easy to make careless remarks or even hurl accusations against China’s population policy. But I do not think the US representatives understand the pressure of such enormous magnitude faced by the Chinese Government everyday, which has been trying its very best to seek ways to provide adequate food, clothing, housing and transportation for its 1.3 billion people.

With regard to the relationship between China’s population and development, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao once observed during his visit to the US that in China “no matter how insignificant the problem is, it will become an enormous one if multiplied by 1.3 billion people; no matter how huge the aggregate total the GNP is, it will become minimal if divided by 1.3 billion people”. This goes without saying that if family planning policy is not implemented, it will be very difficult for China to attain the goal of sustainable development of population, resources and environment. It will also, as we usually say, “drag the legs of the world” meaning to slow down the rate of the world development. Thus, China’s population policy provides a firm guarantee for achieving coordinated development between population and economy, society, resources and environment, reducing tension between population and shortage of natural resources, and achieving MDGs and eradicating poverty.

It is exactly because China has vigorously implemented an appropriate population policy that its total number of birth was reduced by over 300 million in the past 30 years, which equals the entire US population. It is exactly because of the implementation of this policy that the per capita GDP of 1.3 billion Chinese people surpassed for the first time 1,000 US dollars in 2003. And it is exactly because of the same reason that China is able to reduce the number of people in poverty from 250 million to 26 million. I am confident that a prosperous and stable China is not only in the best interests of the entire Chinese people, but also contributes to global realization of MDGs and world peace and development.

Secondly, China’s population policy is based on its own national conditions and is consistent with the principle of ICPD. The Conference explicitly spells out that, States have the responsibilities to formulate and implement population-related policies, and due consideration should be given to the diversity of national economy, society, environment and conditions, with full respect for different religions and ethical values, cultural backgrounds and philosophical beliefs, as well as shared but differentiated responsibilities shouldered by the people of the entire world for a common future.

China’s population policy is pursued by combining state guidance with voluntary choice of individuals. China’s population and family planning law stipulates clearly that family planning workers shall act in accordance with the law and shall adopt no coercive measures in whatever form. It also lists eight rights for all citizens in terms of family planning and reproductive health. In the Chinese society where individual rights and social responsibilities are given equal importance, people choose to pay back to the society voluntarily for the benefit they receive as individuals. This is because that the entire Chinese people share one goal i.e. to strive for a more developed economy, a more harmonious society, and a higher living standard.

Thirdly, China’s family planning program has helped to bring about enormous progress in improving women’s reproductive health, eradicating poverty, and raising the level of social welfare. In recent years, the Chinese Government has conducted experiments with fruitful results in areas of comprehensive family planning reform. The Central Government has recently issued a new policy for family planning in rural areas. Starting from 2004, when the rural couples with one child or two daughters reaching 60, each gets social support fees from national and local governments of no less than 600 yuan till their death. This policy is an innovation in family planning system. It is adopted to provide social support for families that have practiced family planning. This clearly demonstrates the care from the Government to individuals and has greatly motivated people to practice family planning.

Fourthly, China and UNFPA have enjoyed fruitful cooperation. Over the past 26 years, through the window of UNFPA, China has learned advanced international concepts on population and development and management methods, contributing to the formulation of multi-sectoral social policies on population and development, which emphasize the principle of putting people first and offering high quality services. This has also helped us in raising the level of reproductive health and family planning services as well as technical and managerial skills of personnel. The 4th and 5th cycles of program cooperation between China and UNFPA have given priority to people’s interests first and played an active role in establishing and popularizing work models and scaling up the results of the pilot projects, offering high quality services and improving the reproductive health status of women. According to the statistics at the end of cycle 4, in 32 pilot counties, maternal mortality rate has been lowered from 62.9/100,000 prior to the program implementation to 52.2/100,000; the rate of women making their own choice of contraceptive method raised from 56% to 95%; and the knowledge and awareness of HIV/AIDS has increased from 75% to 93%. Though the 5th cycle started only two years ago, new changes and progress have already been made. A grievance mechanism has been established to protect people’s legitimate rights and interests, including hot lines at the national, provincial and pilot county levels. Program counties also provide migrant population and vulnerable groups with free legal advices and aid. Efforts have been made to integrate HIV/AIDS prevention with reproductive health/ family planning, advocate social gender equality, and provide education for youth on their sexual behaviors. Fruitful experiments have been conducted in reducing social compensation fees. Since the beginning of the program cycle, 30 pilot counties have witnessed significant reduction of cases where social compensation fee were levied. All the above demonstrates that UNFPA’s program has contributed to the Chinese Government’s endeavor to promote social development in line with the ICPD principles.

Fifthly, China has made tireless efforts to resolve its differences with the US over population issues. Over the past few years, our UNFPA counties have received over 160 inspection visits, including US State Department officials and religious groups, and held more than 200 talks and briefings. However, it is regrettable to see that China’s frank and open attitude towards the issue and its sincerity in cooperation have failed to yield results. Nonetheless China still firmly believes that dialogue is better than confrontation, and our door will remain open. We will continue dialogue and communicate with the US side. We also welcome officials from other Members States of the Executive Board to visit our program counties and provide guidance for our work. China will, as always, support the work of UNFPA, and earnestly implement cooperation program in China. We are ready to make joint and unswerving efforts with other Member States of the Board for faster and greater progress in our work.

Thank you.

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