Remarks by Ambassador Qin Gang
At the China Folk House Retreat
June 26th, 2022
Dr. Flower, Dr. Leonard,
It’s my great pleasure to join you at the China Folk House Retreat. I learned about this project from Ambassador Marshall. Being here in person is just like how the classic song goes, “Country roads, take me home, to the place I belong”. Seeing a Chinese folk building by the Shenandoah River is really a unique experience. It makes me feel at home. Dr. Flower and Dr. Leonard, you have paid huge efforts for this project. You are incredible! As you said, you have “brought China to the students”. Congratulations on that! This rebuilt house represents American people’s respect for the Chinese culture and friendship for the Chinese people. It is a symbol of our joint work and friendship, and a symbol of cross-cultural communication.
Dr. Flower said, “in a way this house is nothing special. It’s like many other houses. It’s a house of a farmer, so that means it reflects and records the life ways, the folk ways of these people.” I fully agree. The house was originally located in Cizhong village of Yunnan, a province in southwest China. The village is known for its cultural diversity. Villagers come from seven ethnic groups, including the Tibetan, the Naxi and the Han, and there are believers in three religions in the village — Tibetan Buddhism, Catholicism, and Christianity. People there live in harmony, working together and supporting each other. The former owners of the house moved into a new house built by the government, and are leading a prosperous life.
Cizhong village is a great example of our efforts to preserve cultural diversity and local features. It is also a typical example of the happy lives of the Chinese people.
Being here in person, I am reminded of two counties also in Yunnan Province: Jinping and Malipo, as well as my story with them. Jinping and Malipo used to be as poor as many other rural places in China. People had problems putting food on the table. Water was not clean enough to drink. Children dropped out of school. Young people couldn’t find jobs. Patients did not receive enough care. Starting from 1992, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of China where I come from paired up with these two counties to help them get out poverty. We took advantage of local resources to develop specialty industries. We built farms, schools, hospitals. We had our officials posted on the ground and got involved in local poverty alleviation. Thanks to our unremitting efforts for 30 years, Jinping and Malipo became better-off with each passing day, and finally defeated poverty. I went there in 2020, and I saw crops of tea, coffee and herbs grown in the farm fields. Drinking water became available from drilled wells. Village hospitals were clean and provided convenient services. And I joined local children in exercising on their school sport fields. Around China, there were 830 more counties like Jinping and Malipo that received strong support and assistance from the central and provincial governments, various ministries, localities and organizations across the country, and by 2020, they all shook off poverty.
Since 2012, almost 100 million rural Chinese have walked out of poverty. If we extend the time frame to over 40 years ago, about 770 million Chinese have got rid of poverty since China started reform and opening-up. Absolute poverty is now a thing of the past in China, and we take up more than 70% of global poverty reduction. Led by the Communist Party of China, and with the joint efforts of our 56 ethnic groups, the 1.4 billion Chinese people are moving towards common prosperity.
Moving the house here from afar and rebuilding it exactly as it was no easy job. It involves hard and careful work of so many people and organizations. Dr. Flower, Dr. Leonard, Ambassador Marshall, as well as Friends Wilderness Center, West Virginia Timber Framers Guild, and many schools, thank you for that.
I am especially happy to see so many students participating in the rebuilding today. Just now we worked together, assembling the timber frame and raising the barn. (By the way, I hope you all got a chance to knock on wood.) Rebuilding the house together is a way of reaching our shared past and celebrating the friendship between Chinese and American people. One timber piece is relatively small, but when they are interlocked with each other, they are strong enough to support each other and undergo huge pressure. The structure represents the wisdom and way of life of the Chinese — unity is strength.
As we go through the challenges facing not just a few countries but the whole world, we need to reach out to each other, regardless of our differences, stand together, support each other, strengthen dialogue and cooperation, and then we can be powerful enough to tackle the challenges for our two countries and the world, and build our shared future, just like the timber frame that we assembled will be strong enough to support the China Folk House.
Thank you very much! Have great fun! Don’t forget, when Covid is over, go to China, go to Yunnan, go to Cizhong village, to discover an amazing land of rich culture and kind people.