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The Story of a Chinese Committed to Human Development

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By Liu Jinsong, Chinese Ambassador to Kabul-On 4 July, H.E. Mr. Shahzad Aryobee, Minister of Communication and Information Technology, and I hosted a reception for H.E. Mr. Zhao Houlin, Secretary General of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU). I used to host many receptions in the Embassy, but this is the first one for a head of international organization. Your active participation and enthusiastic speeches fully reflected Mr. Zhao’s charm as well as our respect to him.

Mr. Zhao comes from China, but firstly, he is the head of an international organization, with strong independence and neutrality. Therefore, when I asked him whether he would like to stay in the Embassy during his visit to Kabul for security reasons, he refused without hesitation, and said he should stay in the hotel to share the breath and future with Afghan people. I respect his choice, and in the meantime, I applaud for his professionalism and his deep feeling to Afghanistan as well as his courage and determination.

Mr. Zhao has long connection and special feeling with Afghanistan. Early this century, when Afghanistan started mobile telephone service, the telecommunications constructors made the first international long-distance phone call to Mr. Zhao. The Afghan government has given its valuable supports to Mr. Zhao during all his election campaign.

Early this year, after my assuming office in Kabul, I contacted Secretary General and asked him to pay a visit to Afghanistan at an early date upon invitation of Afhgan government. Those days was just coincide with some heavy terrorist explosion, but Mr. Zhao resolutely reply me that he would definitely come because he’s care for this country and its telecommunication cause here, he’s willing to do something for the Afghan people.

It has been 32 years since Mr. Zhao’s joining ITU in 1986. He served as low-rank official at the beginning and promoted step by step, until elected as the Secretary General. He is the first non-European Director General of Telecommunication Standardization Bureau (TSB) since the establishment of ITU in 1865, and also the first Chinese who’s responsible for an UN organization. Since 1998, Mr. Zhao has successive elected as the Secretary General for 5 times.

Therefore, Mr. Zhao is not only an excellent professional staff and a manager of international organization, but also a most low-profile and most outstanding campaign expert. Considering that Afghanistan is entering its elections season, I suggest Afghan political figures to learn from Mr. Zhao on how to be invincible.

Mr. Zhao is surely has his own secret, but I believe that ideal and belief are his strongest weapons for election. When graduated from his major of telecommunications, he firmly believed that telecommunications would have revolutionary meaning for mankind’s development, and determined to devote his life to this challenging cause for which would not only benefit China, but also the whole world.

Secretary General used to go to many places, especially the Africa, where the children were too poor to buy a computer, not to mention surfing online. But when they got a second-hand computer or smart cellphone, they could find out how to use it in a short time without any training, and change their own future as well as their family’s. Mr. Zhao deeply felt the seriousness of the digital divide problem, and was also moved by the eagerness and enthusiasm of the young generation to telegraphy. And that’s why he paid much attention to and devoted himself to the development of telecommunication cause in developing countries. Under his guidance, the ITU Plenipotentiary Conference 2014 adopted the Connect 2020 Agenda for Global Telecommunication/ICT Development, which proposed that 55% families in the world and 50% families in developing countries, 15% families of the least developed countries should be connect to internet by 2020. During the implementation of this plan, Afghanistan will be a significant beneficiary.

We all know that, the first telegraph, telephone, computer and internet are all invented by Western countries. Almost all standards and rules are also made by the Weste. ITU was established during the Industrial Revolution in 1865, and its history is much longer than UN. Someone used to say that people from Asia and developing countries can not be the head of international telecommunication. They also said that Asia and developing countries could only imitate and chase after, but to innovate or surpass western countries.

The excellent performance of Mr. Zhao and his successive appointments broke the prediction and monopoly. Asians could not only be the head of international organization in science, but could also have a better performance and win praise all around. Except hard-working and imitation, our Asian’s innovation and efficiency of realizing our dreams are also as good as the West. The rapid development of Chinese telecommunication cause in the past 40 years, especially the efforts spared by Chinese on the 4G and 5G technology, as well as the achievements of popularizing rate of telecommunication and internet in Afghanistan during the past 17 years in war, we should be proud of the Asian’s spirit of never believe in heresy and never afraid of difficulty. Someone use to say that the 21st century is an Asian century. If this comes true, we will definitely say that is not a gift from heaven, but a fight by our own sweat!

The success of Mr. Zhao also came from his personal efforts. When he was in college, English was still an selective course, and there were insufficient teachers and teaching materials, only a few students kept learning English, but Mr. Zhao was one of them. Every morning, he ran on the playground while reading. Everyone thought that he must be reciting English words. But In fact, he was learning Japanese. I can’t help admiring his exuberant energy and strong perseverance. In the summer of 2002, Mr. Zhao used to make a speech in Japanese in Chitose City, Hokkaido, Japan, electrified all his listeners. He takes his time as life, often rushes from one venue to another, and writes his own speech scripts on the plane. He is so diligent that he was always sending working e-mails at 2 o’ clock in the morning. It’s hard to believe that he is nearly in his 70s. I believe that no matter how poor they are, the young people in Afghanistan and China can walk out of mountains and win the success of their careers as long as they bear the hard-working spirit as Mr. Zhao.

Mr. Zhao and the ITU are advancing the “Digital Silk Road” program, which reveals similar ideas with the Belt and Road Initiative and the community of a shared future for all mankind advocated by Chinese President Xi Jinping. In the era of internet, the international community cannot let any one fall behind, nor let any country be absent. We need to carry forward the open and inclusive spirit of the Silk Road for peace, mutual learning and win-win cooperation, and eliminate all kinds of gaps. By this, can we promote a more just and rational global governance system, as well as the overall development of mankind. We should support UN to play a more active role in Afghanistan, and make the telecommunications technology bring the Afghan people more sense of safety, gain, and happiness.