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China at 50: Strong, prosperous and changing

Chinese military
Chinese military personnel at a 1972 event  

But many challenges lie ahead

By Li Zhaoxing

(CNN) -- Fifty years ago, on October 1, 1949, the People's Republic of China was founded, ushering in a new era in the history of the Chinese nation.

In the ensuing half-century, the ancient land of China witnessed fundamental socio-economic transformation on a scale rarely seen in human evolution.

The Chinese people have risen to become masters of their own destiny. Their once poor and weak motherland, subjected to repeated foreign aggression and plundering for more than a century, has developed into a major world power with one of the fastest-growing economies, improved living standards and rising international stature.

Communism in China: 50 years of broken promises

After many years of searching, we have finally found the right path for building socialism with Chinese characteristics. While endeavoring to deepen economic reform and open still wider to the outside world, we are actively pursuing political reform, expanding democracy and running the country according to law.

Full of confidence, the Chinese people are trying their best to implement the modernization program and build China into a strong, prosperous, democratic and culturally advanced country.

Impressive economic growth

Nuclear weapon
China's nuclear arsenal, while much smaller than Russia's or the United States', is still a formidable force  

China is a responsible member of the international community. Pursuing an independent foreign policy of peace, China vigorously cultivates friendly relations with other countries. As a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, China has played a constructive role in maintaining peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific region and the world at large.

China is also the first and only nuclear power to forswear the first use of nuclear weapons; its nuclear capacity, developed entirely with its own efforts, is for self-defense. China loves peace, and maintains no military bases and stations no troops outside its borders.

During the Asian financial crisis, China has not only maintained impressive growth, but also helped its neighbors by keeping its currency stable.

Far from being a threat to any country in the world, China, which is focusing on its economic development at home, offers substantial commercial, trade and investment opportunities for the rest of the world.

Many challenges ahead

Multiple challenges still lie ahead on our road to progress. For example, the country still has 42 million people living below the poverty line, although more than 200 million have been lifted out of poverty during the past two decades.

Hong Kong
Britain returned Hong Kong to China in 1997  

Also, reform of state-owned enterprises is unfolding and calling for tremendous attention. And with Hong Kong now returned to the motherland and Macau poised to follow suit later this year, the settlement of the Taiwan question has assumed greater urgency.

Rising separatism on Taiwan, which is supported openly or covertly by foreign forces and fueled by such sinister remarks as Lee Teng-hui's "two states" fallacy, has poisoned the atmosphere of cross-Taiwan Strait relations and put the reunification cause to severe test.

However, no attempt at dismembering China will prevail. It runs counter to the tide of history and the aspirations of the entire Chinese people, including our Taiwan compatriots.

Cooperation will continue

Since the establishment of diplomatic ties, China-U.S. relations have grown steadily in both scope and depth, thanks to the efforts made by the two countries.

Yet this relationship has not been without ups and downs. Some individuals and groups in the United States, unhappy to see stronger China-U.S. ties, are bent on weakening and even scuttling altogether the relationship. Again, they will not succeed, because their actions go against the trend of the times and the will of both peoples.

History will move forward. So will the friendship and cooperation between the Chinese and American peoples.

While celebrating the 50th birthday of the People's Republic of China, we are proud of our achievements and optimistic about winning even greater victories in the years ahead. We will, as always, work hand in hand with all peace-loving people in the rest of the world and build a better future, not only for this generation, but also for many generations to come.

Li Zhaoxing is China's ambassador to the United States

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