When we left Beijing on March 23 this year no participant of the NGOs and media representatives from Albania, Poland, Croatia, Slovenia and Slovakia, who attended a Conference organized by the Chinese Association for International Understanding (CAIFU) from March 18 to 28, 2017, really knew anything about the hotel we were going to stay in Nanchang, the capital city of the Jiangxi Province. As it occurs usually in such groups of people – PRs and journalists - used to travel a lot, who felt themselves so comfortable at the Wanshou Hotel in Beijing during the first leg of the tour, it seemed as a puzzle the ‘blackout’ on the place we were to stay in the city of Nanchang and other towns part of the following tour. Even we Albanians, part of the 16- member delegation from Central and Eastern European Countries (CEEC), namely Andi Kananaj, Elinda Cepani, Esmeralda Xhelilaj and me were curious to know which was the place of ‘sleep and work’, if it had Wi-Fi and questions like that. This ‘failure’ of the Chinese, who were accompanying us during the travel to Nanchang, where we were received by the local authorities as soon as we arrived, seemed to us as ‘guess what you will see’. And the guess did not last long because the hotel was a 15- minute bus drive from the airport. Surprise and pleasure were the reaction of all the sixteen CEEC guests as the busses stopped at Shangri-La Hotel, a 32- story hotel which was welcoming us with full of glittering lights and a grandiose reception hall not to mention the other comfortable facilities making out stay very comfortable. The first impression on hotels while visiting the Capital Beijing, and the cities of Nanchang, Shangrao and Jingdezhen, part of Jiangxi Province, in southern China, is that the Chinese authorities have paid special attention to tourism and accommodation reflex of hundreds of thousands of foreigners among whom businessmen, tourists and students that use to visit that country, the second largest economic power after the United States as it is officially recognized by evidence provided by local and international relevant bodies. “Welcome to Nanchang, a small city,” said Mr. Li Yuqiang, deputy Director - General of Jiangxi Provincial Province Foreign Affairs Province, who explained that its population was around 5 million following our inquiry. A comment we made after his evidence- a population in a city around the number of the people living in Albania and Slovenia together.
Two - children policy applauded
It seemed difficult for all the authorities receiving us, especially of those in Beijing, to give an exact number of the population in urban areas as it was incidentally happening “surrounding the cities from the countryside”, a slogan used at the time of the founder of the People’s Republic of China, Mao Zedong. But it should be said that everything is in different circumstances with regards to the current movement of people from rural areas to urban ones as we learned during visits of countryside. “A lot of young people leave the countryside for a better life and study,” a senior local authority of a rural area of Beijing told us during a visit we paid there. There were regulations over the movement of people to urban areas as far as the legislative framework is concerned but it was obvious that young people were not prevented from moving to urban areas for study and work. Of course, as non- residents they had the relevant deprivations. “We are short of work force because the youth are moving to urban areas,” a senior local official told me confessing that even his children had already left residing in Beijing. Free movement of people in China seemed to be normal but to get the appropriate papers to become a resident citizen is not an easy thing given the huge population of a country which has already endorsed the two - children policy. “The government decision to allow families to have two children is very wise not only as a matter of the wish of a couple to have more than one child, but because the population in rural areas is aging,” a senior government official said, who asked by me accepted that not only neighboring countries but even Western countries, according to him, saw in that move a decision which will soon up the Chinese population to 2 billion. “There is plenty of room in our territory. There are areas which have already become empty, especially in remote areas,” he said denying any claim that the growth of the Chinese population could present a risk for any territorial expansion. “We need to develop south and north equally, and the population in northern areas is scarce if it is compared with the territory,” he said, admitting that the wave of movement to urban areas was rising rapidly. “It is the right of people to move,” we had been told by academicians and professors in Beijing who insisted that socialism was developed in their country with Chinese characteristics, meaning socialism adapted to Chinese conditions.
Strict rule of law on private property
As we witnessed a vivid life in Nanchang with concerts starting live in downtown at 8 pm close to the hotel we were staying, likewise we saw huge areas of villages with buildings which were empty as the people had already left. I could not resist the temptation of asking one of the officials accompanying us why a lot of houses did not have curtains at windows. “They are empty. Everybody has left, but anyway it is their property and there is no fear that anyone can ‘occupy’ them,” he told me hastening to say that if there was any government plan to build any national strategic project all the inhabitants were compensated in a descent way that could satisfy the real value of the property. “Rule of law is very strict as far as this matter is concerned as many projects, including those in the field of ‘bullet trains’, which now crisscross China, airports and other infrastructure facilities,” he said. Besides the ‘bullet trains’ service the Jiangxi Province located in the south of the middle and low reaches of the Yangtze River and surrounded by mountain ranges on three sides of the east, south and west, had six airports one of which was an international one. “Jiangxi enjoys an advantageous geographical d location and a convenient transportation network,” said Mr. Li Yuqiang, deputy Director – General of Jiangxi Provincial Province Foreign Affairs Province, who was so kind to accompany us during all the visits in the province. “Jiangxi has a long history and splendid culture. The whole province is proud of having three national- level famous historic and cultural cities, namely Nanchang, Jingdezhen and Ganzhou,” Mr. Li said highlighting the importance that Chinese Confucianism, Buddhism and Taoism had proliferated.
While Beijing had a worrying problem with regards to air pollution and smog, Jiangxi boasted good ecology. The province took proud in its 14 national- level scenic areas one of which we visited finding out that thousands of Chinese and foreigners from other provinces visited it making one of the most crowded scenic places.
170 different kinds of mineral resources
What was impressive is the fact that Jiangxi Province was abundant with mineral resources of which there are 170 different kinds. “The cooper reserves of Jiangxi ranked number one in China,” said Mr. Li a comment which prompted my comment to him that Albania is also rich in copper resources, especially in northern Albania. “We are really ready to cooperate with Albanian partners,” he said as I explained that there was a copper wire plant in Shkodra, northern Albania, built with the aid of China in 1970s. Of course he was surprised that such a strategic plant did not function in Albania as China and international partners, according to him, had the eyes on the copper productions of the province. Asked by me on a possible cooperation to revive the Shkodra plant the senior Chinese official said that they were ready to consider any beneficial mutual offer. In the meantime it was easy to see during our trip large areas of rice cultivation and as it is already known Wan- ian County is the place of the origin of the rice cultivation in the world.
“Ode to Joy” in Porcelain Capital of the World
Jingdezhen is considered as the “Porcelain Capital of the World” inheriting a longstanding ceramic culture dating back thousands of years. And it was breathtaking visiting the Jingdezhen China Ceramic Museum where worldwide ceramic specialists and entrepreneurs gathered in an annual Conference as well as the Ancient Kiln Museum. It was impressive that at the end of the tour a concert was performed by a local youth musical group and part of the repertoire was the European Union Anthem, the melody used to symbolize the EU which comes from the Ninth Symphony composed in 1823 by Ludwig Van Beethoven, when he set music to the “Ode to Joy”, Friedrich von Schiller’s lyrical verse from 1785. The anthem which symbolizes not only the European Union but also Europe in a wider sense got a great applause from all the spectators, Chinese and us, the European group for which it was a surprise and joy, too. It is the right place to mention the fact that not only during lectures by Chinese academicians and politicians but also in free talks it was obvious the China wished to develop its relations with the EU and other European countries, including those of the Western Balkans. And in this frame I cannot fail to mention the fact that elderly professors and officials and diplomats recalled the close friendship between China and Albania and particularly the role played by Albanian diplomacy for the membership of China to the United Nations. “We should make untiring efforts to convey to younger generations such facts of friendship,” a well- known professor told me. It would have been a miss not to mention the fact that Jiangxi was the cradle of the Chinese revolution As we were said, the Jinggang Mountain is the cradle of the Chinese revolution, and Nanchang is the birthplace of People’s Liberation Army (PLA). Nanchang August 1 Uprising fired the first shoot against the Kuomingdang Party, and on the other hand Rujin is the place where the Chinese Soviet Republic, namely the first red regime of China, was founded. “Rujin is the starting point of the Long March of the Central Red Army,” the senior official told us. Tirana- Beijing-Nanchang- Shangro- Jingdezhen, the same itinerary started by our colleagues from their respective capitals, namely Warsaw, Zagreb, Bratislava and Ljubljana, has been not only an exciting trip to know China and its people and history and culture, but also a special occasion to know better the ‘Belt and Road’ Initiative and ‘16 + 1” cooperation mechanism, launched by Chinese President Xi Jinping in 2013 which has been embraced by the Central and Eastern European Countries, including Albania. The visit of 16 NGO and media representatives from Central and Eastern European Countries might be considered as a prelude to the mid- May High Level Conference which will gather in Beijing state and government leaders and other officials from all over the world to consider the benefits and mutual profits from such an initiative which, as it was considered by the Deputy President of CAIFU, Ai Ping, is a new philosophy, an innovative world economic project. In a comment on this global initiative acknowledged by the United Nations a Western Ambassador to Beijing told me on condition of anonymity that at these time of crisis any project bringing development and innovation and investments has been welcomed, and according to him, Albania is a country that should not lose the opportunity to profit from it like its neighbors and in this frame he mentioned Serbia, Montenegro, Macedonia and other regional countries. In his view, pragmatism and national interests should prevail, of course in line with the strategic obligations of Albania as an EU candidate member country and NATO ally. “It has been a wise move of Greek politicians to make the Piraeus port as China’s gateway of their country. And it seems to me that China eyes also Albania as an important point in the Western Balkans,” he said seeing only profits of this tiny Balkan country, which is in dire need of foreign investments at these times of worldwide economic and financial crisis. And it is meaningful an answer by a Chinese politician to my question with regards to the May Forum; he said bluntly that the Chinese were efficient and in a hurry for development and in this frame any concrete portfolio of proposals can be mutually beneficial from any country, including Albania.
China NGO network for international exchanges
We learned during the discussions on the NGOs that China NGO Network for International Exchanges (CNIE) was established in October 2005 as a national non- profit civil society organization with independent legal person status. It is mainly composed of national NGOs and personages from various social fields engaging in research and practices in peace and disarmament, social development, science and education, culture and art, health care, environmental protection, democracy and human rights, ethnic and religious affairs etc. As we were said there were 63 member organizations of which 25 are with consultative status to the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) and over 160 individual council members. As an NGO network dedicated to international exchanges and cooperation, CNIE engages with NGOs and personages both at home and abroad. Since its founding, it has been working actively, on the one hand, to encourage its members to participate in major NGO events, and, on the other, stage impressive activities on its own. As a result, CNEI is regarded highly in the international civil society with extensive rallying capacity. After being awarded the general consultative status to ECOSOC in 2008, CNIE has played an important role in coordinating the participation of Chinese NGOs in major events of the United Nations. By making presentations, submitting reports and hosting side meetings, CNEI has not only become the mouthpiece of the Chinese civil society in the international community, but also related extensively to institutions within the UN system and other international organizations. During the Conference held in Beijing from March 18 to 28, 2017 CNEI pledged that along with the broad civil society in China will always remain devoted to deepen exchanges and cooperation with national, regional and international counterparts around the world.
Nanchang, China, March 27, 2017