China and the United Nations - June 2006

Two new Rotarians, Jay Joshi (left) and Jennie Shing (second from right) participated in this month’s round table discussion with Chinese Ambassador Zhang (second from left). They were welcomed by Rotary International's Alternate Representative to the United Nations, Sylvan Barnet (Center), and NY Rotarian, Ambassador Wolfgang Trautwein (Right). Ms. Shing, a commercial banker, recently returned from a one-month trip to China.

China’s Ambassador Outlines Role of the United Nations and Helps To Support Humanitarian Rotary Project in Shanghai

Ambassador Yishan Zhang was the guest speaker at the June 7th International Breakfast Meeting of the Rotary Club of New York. He gave an enlightening and insightful summary of the economic advances and challenges of China, as well as providing the Chinese perspective of recent developments at the United Nations.
The meeting was hosted and moderated by New York Rotarian, Ambassador Wolfgang Trautwein of Germany. Ambassador Trautwein informed the participants that proceeds from the meeting were being donated to the new Rotary Club in Shanghai to help finance a health project and to foster a New York and Shanghai relationship. Alas, our host for the last two years also announced that he is likely to be assigned to a new position in Europe and will be leaving New York in July. The Ambassadors' friendship flourished while they were working together when Germany was a non-permanent member of the Security Council and Ambassador Zhang was the Council's president at the beginning of the Iraqi War.

Ambassador Zhang is a graduate of Beijing Foreign Studies University and received advanced degrees from Columbia and Princeton University. His extensive career with China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) include service in Geneva, and Vienna in an Ambassadorial capacity with the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

In the first part of his presentation, the Ambassador noted that China has three special characteristics that everyone should Keep in mind:
First, China has a very long history. Ancient China made great contributions to mankind. However in 1840, starting with the Opium War with Great Britain, China was colonized by Western powers and suffered under this colonial system. Then, with the end of foreign occupation, the period from 1949 to the present is considered as the time for the "Rebirth of the Chinese Civilization".
Second, China has a huge potential market and has sustained close to a nine-percent growth rate over the last years. In fact, recently President Bush stated, when discussing Sino-American relations, that “China needs twenty-five million new jobs every year to stay even. Yet, I rejoice when our country gained 4 million new jobs since 2003." The Ambassador noted therefore that employment is a major dilemma of China. “We have a huge market but we need to create twenty-five million jobs a year.” “No mater how small a problem is, when it is multiplies by 1.3 billion it becomes a huge problem. Conversely, no matter what the Chinese economy achieves, when it is divided by 1.3 billion it is not enough.” Even though China is the 4th largest economy in the world, after Germany, in terms of per capita income China is posted at 111th!
He noted that during the last two decades, China has changed dramatically. The most basic change is the transformation from a demand economy to a market economy. There are no longer government planed production quotas. In the past, there was no private ownership of property. In the cities, property was “State Owned” and in the rural areas is was “Collective Owned.” Today, more than two-thirds of China's economic growth comes from the private sector.
Third, even with impressive economic gains, China still considers itself a developing country. This is particularly evident by the vast income-gap between those of the coastal cities and western China. However, progress is being made. The Millennium Development Goals of 2000 set-out to reduce the poverty in the world by half within fifteen years. Mr. Zhang was pleased to declare that China has already achieved this goal. In 2000, China had 250 million of its citizens living below the poverty level. Today, it is less than 26 million. The ambassador noted that China has become polio-free with some assistance from Rotary’s Polio-Plus Program. However, there are about 600,000 HIV/AID’s victims in China, and the government is taking bold steps to reduce this rate.
China views the United Nations as the most universally represented, intergovernmental organization in the world, and therefore promotion of the United Nations is part of China’s foreign policy. He outlines the three pillars of the United Nations:
  • Security and Peace - Until recently, mainly because of its experience with colonialism, China has not favor the Peacekeeping operations of the United Nations. However it has changed its position gradually and now supports limited peacekeeping missions. Currently, China has some 6,000 civilian and armed personnel in several of the fifteen or so UN Peacekeeping Mission around the world.
  • Economic and Humanitarian Development - As a developing country, and a member of the Group of 77, China feels developmental issues needs more emphasis at the UN. China is working for trade regulation improvements between developing countries and developed economies because many counties have become poorer over the last twenty years.
  • Human Rights - The newly created Human Rights Council that replaced the often discredited Human Rights Commission will bring a “new page to the promotion and protection of human rights around the world” . The Council has declared in its charter that the “Protection of Human Rights is the Responsibility of the State.” Currently the Council is part of the General Assembly, but in five years its organizational effectiveness will be examined and may then become a charter organization or remain under the General Assembly.

    History of Rotary in China

Rotary has had a long, rich history with China. The first Rotary Club in Shanghai was chartered in 1919. By 1947 there were 32 clubs welcoming local businessmen and expatriates, but political changes resulted in the closure of all Rotary clubs on mainland China by 1953.
Rotary leaders met with Chinese officials to introduce Rotary as early as 1982. Actively pursing the possibilities of reintroducing Rotary to China, RI president led delegations to China in 1907, 2000 and 2002. The Board recognized that the Hong Kong Rotary clubs became part of the People’s Republic of China in 1999.
To demonstrate Rotary’s humanitarian ideals, grants and exchanges have been encouraged. As part of Polio Plus, Rotary has given $22 million to eliminate polio in China, a milestone that was achieved in 2001. A total of seven Group Study Exchanges have occurred since 1991. In addition, starting in 1997, Rotary clubs and the Rotary Foundation have built credibility by funding $975,000 in humanitarian projects throughout China, and Hong Kong clubs are raising US $1.3 million for Hepatitis B immunization for 1 million babies.
Provisional Rotary Clubs in China
RI granted provisional status to clubs in Beijing and Shanghai in 2001 and appointed an RI advisor to provide orientation to the club members. Currently, District 3450 provides training and support to the provisional clubs with the help of the three year training subsidy from RI.
The 38 members of the Provisional Rotary Club of Shanghai achieved 100% Paul Harris Fellow status three years ago. Their major fundraising supports the Gift of Life program, providing heart surgeries to Chinese children. They will precipitate in a GSE with District 5879 in Texas this year. In addition, the club administrators three Matching Grants, including a water project and a micro credit program to help women start businesses, and sponsors scholarships to the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology. Nine countries are represented in the club membership, primarily from Europe, North America and Australia. Member classifications include medical consultant, professor, architect, lawyer and business management.
The Provisional Rotary Club of Beijing currently has five Matching Grants, the maximum number allowed. Four of the Matching Grants are for Gift of Life, including video conferencing between Chinese and US heart surgeons. More applications are pending, including a 3H grant. A Group Study Exchange with District 6490 in Illinois is planned this year. The club members also support Children’s Village in Beijing, a home for 115 children whose parents are in prison, work with a school for autistic children and helped to refurbish schools in Tibet. In addition, they are working to establish Rotaract and Interact in Beijing. The 52 members come from 12 countries, including Chinese from Hong Kong and other countries. Most members are CEO’s or senior managers from a variety of industries including , airline, hotel, banking, consulting, public relations, law, energy, information technology, pharmaceuticals, and automobile manufacturing.

t. mcconnon