Guo Weimin, deputy director of China's State Council Information Office.
More than 120 experts from Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa (BRICS) and other southern African countries gathered at the Sandton Convention Centre in Johannesburg on Wednesday night for a seminar entitled "Contributing BRICS' Wisdom to Global Governance in the Interests of the People.

The seminar, which reflected the common wish of government leaders, think tank members and corporate executives in the "BRICS Plus" community to promote co-operation and benefit the people, was one of the supplementary events in the run-up to the BRICS summit to be held in South Africa later this month.

Here is the speech delivered by Guo Weimin, deputy director of China's State Council Information Office, at the seminar. 

Johannesburg - Distinguished Principal Richard Levin (principal of the South African National School of Government), Ladies and gentlemen, dear friends,

Good morning! It's a great pleasure to meet with so many friends in the beautiful country of South Africa to discuss the BRICS countries’ experience in governance.

Johannesburg is known as the "City of Gold" and today we are gathered here from to exchange ideas, learn from each other, and find the "true gold" of governance wisdom.

On behalf of the Publicity Department of the CPC Central Committee, I would like to extend my congratulations to the opening of the seminar, and my deep gratitude to our host – the South African National School of Government – as well as to other parties for their great efforts for preparing for the seminar.

In response to the call made by BRICS leaders to strengthen the exchange of state governance experience, the Publicity Department of the CPC Central Committee successfully held the first BRICS Seminar on Governance in Quanzhou, Fujian Province, the important starting point of the Maritime Silk Road, in September last year.

Participants at the seminar reached the Quanzhou Consensus of BRICS Seminar on Governance, which was included in the BRICS Leaders Xiamen Declaration. The Xiamen Declaration expressly noted the progress made by BRICS countries in the exchanges and co-operation in various areas, including governance, film-making, media, and think-tanks. The Declaration added: "We appreciate China's successful hosting of the BRICS Seminar on Governance, and will carry these fruitful initiatives forward in the future."

The BRICS Seminar on Governance 2018 held in South Africa is a concrete step to implement the results of BRICS leaders' meeting in Xiamen, and to honour our agreement in Quanzhou. I'm glad that you have all come here as we promised.

The theme of this year's seminar is "Contributing BRICS' Wisdom to Global Governance in the Interests of the People". It reflects the common wish of government leaders, think tank members, and corporate executives in the "BRICS Plus" community to promote BRICS co-operation and benefit the people of BRICS countries, and will have profound impact on beginning the second "golden decade" of BRICS co-operation. I believe your dialogues and in-depth exchanges around the seminar theme will lead to bountiful results.

Ladies and gentlemen, dear friends,

The people are the owners of society, and the countless workers represent the direction of historical development and progress. To truly benefit the people, continuously improve their lives, and strive for national development and progress through their efforts - this is the ultimate yardstick to measure a party's governing performance.

The Communist Party of China is the ruling party of a nation that has a population of more than 1.3 billion people. The people stand for the original aspiration and mission of the Party, and the Party always stands with the people, thinks about the people, and works for the people. 

This year marks the 40th anniversary of China's reform an opening up. In the past 40 years, the Chinese economy and society have undergone tremendous changes, and the Chinese people's lives have considerably improved, from insufficiency and poverty to affluence and generally moderate prosperity. According to current United Nations standards, China has lifted more than 700 million people out of poverty, accounting for more than 70% of the global poverty reduction in the same period. This is a remarkable achievement.

After the 18th CPC National Congress in 2012, the CPC Central Committee with Xi Jinping at the core has established the people-centered development thought. We take the people's aspiration for a good life as our goal, implement the "people first" concept in all governing work, keep pushing forward Socialism with Chinese characteristics, and strive for historic achievements in the Party's and nation's undertakings. The Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era has been formed and a new realm in the governance of contemporary China has been created.

The Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era is the generalisation of the governing concepts and strategies upheld by the CPC and the Chinese government. With the people as its most distinct political stance and purest affection, it is the key to the development and progress of contemporary China. Here I want to share with you some of my observations.

First, we should adhere to "people-centered" value orientation. President Xi Jinping has formed deep and natural bonds with the people. He cares about their happiness and sadness, speaks for them, and stands up for them. He repeatedly emphasised that "winning the people's support is our biggest political task", "the people are whom we rely on", "ensuring a good life for the people is the starting point and objective of all our work", and "no one should be left behind on the way to moderate prosperity". 

President Xi made a report at the 19th CPC National Congress in October last year, in which he mentioned "the people" more than 200 times. He has set an example for caring for the people, and has travelled nearly all over the country, including all of the extremely poor areas. It's safe to say that the CPC's "people first" concept has become a powerful force that keeps all Chinese people united and will help realise the Chinese Dream.

Second, we should adhere to "people-centered" policy direction. "All our policies must be aimed to meet the people's needs". The CPC Central Committee with Xi Jinping at the core takes "people centrism" as the guidance of governance, promotes the five-sphere integrated plan in a holistic way and the four-pronged comprehensive strategy in a co-ordinated way, implements new development concept, deepens the supply-side structural reform, and carries out the rural revitalization strategy, etc. 

These substantial governing strategies are all aimed to improve the people's welfare, boost the modernization drive, and push for all-round development of the people and the society. In the past five-plus years, China has implemented a large number of measures for people's welfare, lifted over 60 million Chinese people out of poverty, and reduced the poverty incidence from 10.2% to less than 4%. 

Education developed across the boar and education in the central and western regions and rural areas was remarkably improved; employment improved and over 13 million people found jobs in cities annually; income of urban and rural residents increased faster than economic growth and the middle-income group continued to expand; the social security system that covers all urban and rural residents was basically established, and people's health and
medical service were largely bettered, giving them a stronger sense of gain, happiness, and security.

Third, we should adhere to "people-centered" evaluation criterion. President Xi Jinping stressed that "the time gives us the test paper, we answer the paper, and the people grade the paper". The CPC makes great efforts to make our reform and development achievements more accessible to all people, and takes the people's attitude - their support, approval, satisfaction, and endorsement - as the fundamental criterion for governance. After the 18th CPC National Congress, the Chinese government has constantly set new records in its "governing performance sheet". By 2017, China's GDP reached RMB82.7 trillion, continuing to rank second in the world and driving global economic growth. The report of the 19th CPC National Congress pointed out that the principal contradiction facing Chinese society has evolved to "the contradiction between unbalanced and inadequate development and the people's ever-growing needs for a better life". 

The Chinese government will work hard to adapt to the new change in the principal social contradiction in the new era, launch more projects and measures for improving people's livelihood and welfare, and better meet the people's ever-growing needs in economic, cultural, social, and ecological sectors. We will accept the evaluation and examination of "people graders" with full confidence.

Fourth, we should promote the building of a community with a shared future for mankind with people at the centre. The world is in a period of big development, big reform, and big adjustment, with prominent instability and uncertainty. Based on his profound insight and wise thinking about human destiny, President Xi Jinping put forth China's assertion of building a community with a shared future for mankind and forging a new model of international relations. The original logic for building a community with a shared future for mankind is "putting the people at the centre". The world is a global village, where peoples of all countries live under the same sky and share the same home. We should act as a family. The dream of the Chinese people is closely connected with the dreams of the peoples of other countries. 

China will stay on the path of peaceful development, carry out a mutually beneficial strategy of opening up, uphold justice while pursuing shared interests, and pursue open, innovative, and inclusive development that benefits everyone. We will boost cross-cultural exchanges characterised by harmony without uniformity, inclusiveness, and mutual learning, cultivate ecosystems based on respect for nature and green development, and continue the efforts to safeguard world peace, contribute to global development, and uphold international order. Our call for building a community with a shared future for mankind
has received positive responses from many countries in the world and has been included in several United Nations resolutions.

Ladies and gentlemen, dear friends,

The past decade has seen the BRICS countries making brilliant achievements, with more prominent international position and increasing global influence. The combined GDP of the five BRICS countries has grown by almost 180%, their total trade volume by 94%, and contribution to world economic growth by more than 50%. BRICS co-operation has formed a multi-layer and all-round framework covering a wide range of areas, including politics, economy, finance, trade, social development, and people-to- people exchange. It has become a cooperation platform with global influence and a crucial mechanism for South-South cooperation, with its significance far beyond the five member countries. 

These achievements are attributed to our adherence to the BRICS spirit of openness, inclusiveness, and mutually beneficial co-operation, which ensures our sound and sustained cooperation pace and ceaseless cooperation outcomes; to our exercising the concept of global governance featuring wide consultation, joint contribution, and shared benefits, supporting developing countries to proactively take part in the reform and construction of the global governance system, and constantly contributing BRICS wisdom and strength; and to our value orientation of safeguarding the people's interests, priority to development, perfection of governance, and efforts to improve the people's livelihood and welfare.

At the same time, we must see that the world today is undergoing profound changes, economic globalisation is encountering resistance, trade protectionism is rising, certain country is taking irresponsible policies and measures to start trade disputes, and the global multi-lateral trade system is harmed severely.

Due to internal and external factors, the economic growth of BRICS countries is facing new challenges. Some people take the chance to assert that the BRICS countries are losing lustre and make bearish forecast about their co-operation and the second "Golden Decade". Under such circumstance, it is more imperative for us to remain confident and steadfast, expand the co-operation scope while focusing on win-win areas, deepen our partnerships, and
consolidate and expand the BRICS' circle of friends. Through these efforts, we strive to form a new situation of common progress and development, and show the world that the BRICS countries remain "true gold".

China is a firm supporter of and participant in the BRICS mechanism and takes BRICS co-operation as an important part of its diplomacy. At the plenary session of the BRICS Xiamen Summit last year, Chinese President Xi Jinping solemnly declared that "China will launch the BRICS Economic and Technical Cooperation Plan with RMB500 million in the first stage to facilitate policy exchange and practical co-operation in economic and trade areas. It will also contribute USD4 million to the NDB preparation fund to support its business operations and long-term development". These measures will generate a strong momentum to kick off the second “Golden Decade” of BRICS co-operation. We believe that the cooperation of BRICS countries will bring more tangible benefits to over three billion people and strongly promote world peace, stability, and prosperity.

Ladies and gentlemen, dear friends,

Think tanks are the brain trust of governance. Their exchange and discussion of governance and mutual learning is of great significance for BRICS countries to achieve greater development in the future. Today, the Sandton Convention Centre is full of distinguished guests, including representatives from established think tanks and scholars with advanced attainment from BRICS countries and Africa. We have reasons to believe that this is going to be a grand gala of thoughts and ideas. I would like to take this opportunity to propose some suggestions for your reference.

First, we need to follow the principle of equality and mutual trust. BRICS countries are in similar development stages with the same development goals even though our national conditions are different. Although the think tanks here vary in strength and scale, they have respective expertise and share the same goal of boosting BRICS co-operation and development. We will have divergences during the exchange and discussion due to different national conditions, history, and culture, etc. However, as long as we respect each other’s development path, treat each other equally, seek common ground while shelving differences, enhance mutual trust while dispelling doubts, and accommodate each other’s concerns, we will have a good precondition for dialogue and consultation, a solid foundation for promoting pragmatic co-operation in various fields, and a bright prospect for the exchange and discussion of governance among BRICS countries.

Second, we need to focus on the second "Golden Decade". Think tanks are the highland of ideas and talent with distinctive intelligence advantages. Since the second decade of BRICS co-operation has begun, think tanks should be participants as well as suggestion and service providers. They should summarize the law of history, analyse the general trend of development, study the common difficulties facing BRICS countries, and offer suggestions for the second “Golden Decade” of BRICS cooperation. To implement the fruits of the BRICS Xiamen Summit, China has earmarked a special fund to encourage
and support think tanks from different countries to conduct researches on BRICS governance, which will be undertaken by China Foreign Languages Publishing Administration, one of the hosts of this seminar. Think tank representatives here are welcome to work with the CIPG.

Third, we need to ensure deep and pragmatic discussion and exchange. The second decade of BRICS co-operation will be more vigorous and dynamic, during which the BRICS think tanks should follow the trend, increase interactions and exchanges, deepen our friendship, and pursue common development. The success of this seminar in South Africa will signal that the BRICS' governance communication has become a regular mechanism within the framework of BRICS co-operation. It is widely hoped that the seminar will closely follow the BRICS Summit and be held annually in the rotating presidency, where we will put forth our ideas and suggestions around the theme of the Summit, and make think tank cooperation a highlight of BRICS co-operation. 

We should translate the fruits of the seminar into action by communicating the fruits widely to build consensus among people from all walks of life and influencing government decisions positively. The Publicity Department of the CPC Central Committee will continue to support the exchange and co-operation among BRICS media to promote the outcomes of the governance seminar and help put them into practice.

Ladies and gentlemen, dear friends,

As a Chinese proverb goes, "the fire burns high when everybody adds wood to it", and an African proverb goes "one log can’t make a house". The spark of intelligence will only burst into brilliant light when gathered in large quantity. We sincerely hope that you will candidly share experience and exchange views with an open mind, reach more consensuses, and gain more insight.

Finally, I wish the BRICS Seminar on Governance 2018 a great success.

Thank you.

Guo Weimin is a Member of the Leadership Meeting of the Communist Party of China Publicity Department and Vice Minister of the State Council Information Office of China.