Distinguished Guests, friends,
As China develops rapidly and its influence on the world stage continues to grow, it is getting more and more attention from the world. While most people have come to appreciate, welcome and recognize the progress that China has made, some argue that China's development comes at other countries' expense, and assert that China is bound to seek hegemony when it becomes stronger. So, what is the truth? Here I wish to offer some of my observations. I hope you will find them helpful when you try to find out what China has really brought to the world through its development.
China brings peace and security to the world. For the past 70 years after the founding of the People's Republic, China has been committed to the path of peaceful development. We have never started a war, or taken an inch of others' land. We have settled land boundary for good with 12 of our 14 neighbors through peaceful negotiations. Though many Chinese islands and reefs in the South China Sea have been illegally occupied by some neighbors for decades, we remain committed to seeking solution through dialogue rather than the use of force. No other major country has been able to do any of the above. Last year, China became the only country to enshrine in its Constitution "adherence to the path of peaceful development". As President Xi Jinping has stated loud and clear on multiple occasions, China will never seek hegemony, expansion or sphere of influence no matter how the international landscape evolves and how much development China achieves.
While safeguarding its own peace and security, China is actively contributing its wisdom, solution and strength for world peace and stability. The Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence, advocated by China, are now the basic norms governing international relations. Visions put forth by China, such as building a community with a shared future for mankind, have won extensive and ever-increasing recognition from the international community. China firmly safeguards the UN-centered international order. It is now the second largest funding contributor to the UN regular budget and UN peacekeeping assessments. We always pay our contributions in full and on time. We never, not even for one single time, repudiate our funding obligations. Nor have we ever been in arrears. The 10-year US$1 billion China-UN Peace and Development Fund created by China is supporting efforts to safeguard peace and development worldwide. By the end of last year, China had dispatched a total of 39,000 military personnel to 24 UN peacekeeping operations, ranking the top among the five permanent members of the UN Security Council. China has signed or acceded to over 20 multilateral treaties on arms control, disarmament and non-proliferation, including the Treaty on the Non-proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.
These are straightforward facts. Indeed, China has come a long way in its development and is better off than before. But we never posed any threat or created any troubles to the world. In fact, the world has become more peaceful and safer thanks to China's development.
China brings development and opportunity to the world. China has been a big contributor to the world economy and a main force driving global growth. According to the IMF, China contributed as much as 34 percent to global GDP growth between 2009 and 2018. During the Asian financial crisis in 1997 and the international financial crisis in 2008 triggered by the US sub-prime mortgage crisis, China played a pivotal role in helping prevent another Great Depression. Today, as the world economy is beset by uncertainties and downward pressure, the Chinese economy continues to enjoy overall stability with good progress. In the first three quarters of this year, it has sustained a growth rate above 6 percent, leading most of the world's major economies. Indeed, China's development has been a source of confidence for the international community.
With its development, China also provides an enormous market to the whole world. Throughout the years, foreign investors have invested more than US$2 trillion and established nearly one million businesses in China. Many countries, particularly Western countries, have gained immeasurable profits from the unprecedented "feast" of China's development. According to the statistics of a US institution, notwithstanding trade frictions between China and the US, 97 percent of the US companies operating in China reported profits in 2018, totaling over US$60 billion. In the first seven months of this year, the EU invested US$5.4 billion in China, up by 18.3 percent over last year. Sixty percent of EU companies take China as a major investment destination. Now China has a population of nearly 1.4 billion, a workforce of 900 million, and a talent pool of 170 million with higher education or professional skills. It also has more than 100 million market entities, as well as the world's largest middle-income population. Improving people's lives and upgrading consumption will unlock the huge demand in the Chinese market. It is estimated that in the next 15 years, China will import US$30 trillion of goods and US$10 trillion of services into its market. This will undoubtedly bring greater opportunities to the world.
China brings openness and cooperation to the world. Over the past 40 years and more, China has, through reform and opening-up, embraced the world with open arms. By the end of 2018, China had more than 230 trading partners across the globe, and signed 16 free trade agreements with 24 countries and regions. China fulfilled its commitment on tariff cuts it made upon joining the WTO as early as in 2010, and its overall tariffs level has now gone down to 7.5 percent, lower than that of the overwhelming majority of developing countries. Going forward, China will open even wider, and lower its tariffs level further. China will remove all restrictions on foreign investment beyond the negative list to create a better business environment. The Chinese government recently announced that it will lift foreign ownership cap in the financial sector in 2020. A German insurance company has become the first beneficiary of this policy, and will be the first foreign-controlled insurance company in China. Next month, China will host the second China International Import Expo (CIIE). To date, more than 3,000 foreign companies and 400,000-strong buyers from over 170 countries and regions have signed up for the Expo, a scale larger than the first one. In the future, China will open its door wider and provide a broader market to other countries.
Seeking self-interests and profit at the cost of others has never been in the genes of the Chinese culture. We do not put our interests above those of others. We do not believe in "interest first" and "interest maximization". On the contrary, we pursue both the greater good and shared interests. And when necessary, we put the greater good first. Over the past 70 years, China has provided nearly 400 billion yuan of foreign aid to 166 countries and international organizations, and sent more than 600,000 aid workers in our humble part to help at least 120 developing countries in meeting the MDGs. Under the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), China has signed cooperation documents with 160 countries and international organizations, making the BRI the world's most popular public good and largest platform for cooperation. A World Bank report released last June showed that if fully implemented, the BRI would lift 32 million people out of moderate poverty, increase global trade by 6.2 percent and trade between participating economies by 9.7 percent, and drive up global income by 2.9 percent. China has also actively fulfilled its international obligations, including upholding and advancing the implementation of the Paris Agreement on climate change. We have fulfilled our commitments under the Paris Agreement ahead of schedule.