Speaking of respecting diversity of civilizations, we must recognize that diversity of civilizations is largely reflected in ethnic and religious diversity. China is a multi-ethnic and multi-religious country. It is made up of 56 ethnic groups. The indigenous Taoism has long existed in harmony with Buddhism, Islam and Christianity, religions introduced from the outside. It is the basic policy of the Chinese government to implement and improve the system of regional ethnic autonomy, ensure equality among all ethnic groups and speed up the economic and social development of minority ethnic groups and areas inhabited by these groups. It is also our policy to ensure freedom of religious belief and bring into play the positive role of religious personages and religious believers in promoting economic and social development.
In China, more than 20 million people from 10 ethnic groups believe in Islam. They are all important members of the big family of the Chinese nation, and their religious belief, cultural tradition and way of life are fully respected. There are over 35,000 mosques in cities and the countryside across China. You can find Muslim restaurants in any Chinese city. In an international metropolis like Shanghai, there is local legislation ensuring the supply of Muslim food. You will also find that in factories, schools and government offices in China, Muslim cuisine is available wherever there are Muslims. If you attend a get-together among friends, those present will all choose to have Muslim food even if only one of them is a Muslim. The Chinese government has adopted a range of policies to support economic, cultural and social development of minority ethnic groups and areas. Ethnic groups who believe in Islam have lived in amity with other ethnic groups and jointly promoted national development and social progress.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Since the founding of the People's Republic of China, China and Arab countries have always sympathized with and supported each other. In the 1950s, a number of Arab countries overcame various interferences and made the courageous decision to establish diplomatic relations with China. In the 1970s, Arab countries and other friendly developing countries gave strong support and made persistent effort in helping restore New China's lawful seat in the United Nations. On our part, the Chinese government and people have shown full understanding for the just cause of Arab countries to seek lawful national rights and your aspirations for development. We have given you strong political and moral support and provided assistance within the realm of our capabilities. Many Chinese engineers and construction workers gave their precious lives for the development of Arab countries and were laid to rest in the Arab land.
The 21st century is the century of economic globalization. It is also one marked by great progress of diverse civilizations. China, with its 1.3 billion people, and the Arab world, with its several hundred million people, both shoulder the sacred mission of renewing our centuries-old civilizations. Looking back at the last 200 years, we have missed far too many opportunities. We have100 reasons, even 1,000 reasons to strengthen cooperation and speed up development with renewed vigor and vitality, so that we can catch up with the changing times. We have no reason whatsoever to dither or hesitate. All political leaders who have a sense of responsibility towards their countries and peoples and all entrepreneurs and other members of the society who cherish high ideals and aspirations should have a keen awareness of the responsibility that history has placed on them. Let us join hands and take the friendly cooperation between China and Arab countries to a new level!
China is committed to deepening political trust and strengthening strategic cooperation with Arab countries. The world today is experiencing major transformation, major adjustments and major development, and the international political and economic architecture is going through profound changes. The standing and influence of developing countries, including Arab countries, are on the rise. Against such a background, it serves the fundamental interests of both sides to solidify political trust and intensify strategic cooperation. The establishment and development of the China-Arab Cooperation Forum have opened broad prospects for strengthened collective dialogue and coordination between the two sides. We should work together to promote peace and stability, seek settlement of international disputes and regional conflicts through dialogue and consultation, oppose all forms of terrorism, separatism and extremism, and reject linking terrorism to any specific ethnic group or religion. And we should jointly foster a safe and peaceful international environment. China is ready to step up cooperation with Arab countries to address global challenges, including climate change, energy and non-traditional security threats and promote the attainment of the UN Millennium Development Goals. We should continue to support and cooperate with each other in major international and regional affairs, work together to safeguard the interests of developing countries and endeavor to build a just and reasonable new international order.