Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi's Interview on CCTV's News Weekly Program
Journalist:A review of 2008 shows that many of our neighbors encountered challenges: terrorist attacks in Mumbai, political turmoil in Thailand and the political changes in Nepal, to name but a few. The Republic of Korea is experiencing the financial crisis and faces, as we do, enormous pressure for depreciation of its currency. How should we develop relations with our Asian neighbors and how should we help each other in the financial crisis?
Minister: Some people have made similar comments to me. Their impression is that with so many things happening recently, the situation in China's surrounding areas is not so stable. You mentioned several incidents. I think they can be attributed to a host of reasons, including political and economic transition in some countries, the havoc of extremism and terrorism, and unexpected external factors such as the ongoing financial crisis. In the face of these challenges, countries in Asia must enhance dialogue and cooperation. As you know, our policy is to seek amicable relations and partnerships with our neighbors. My interpretation of this policy is that we wish our neighbours well and hope they will enjoy political stability and economic development. As far as tackling the financial crisis is concerned, it means we are all in the same boat. We want to be a sincere partner of cooperation with our neighbors. As a big country in Asia and a country with a growing economy, China should continue to play an important part in maintaining the stability and development of Asia, including in addressing the financial crisis and combating terrorism.
Journalist: The year 2009 marks the 60th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the People's Republic of China and the former Soviet Union. Any activities that we can expect in China-Russia relations in the new year? How would you characterize the development of China-Russia relations over the past 60 years?
Minister: China and Russia will jointly celebrate quite a lot of major events in their relations. One good example is the 60th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries. Next year has been designated as a Russian language year in China and in 2010, a Chinese language year will be held in Russia. China-Russia strategic partnership of coordination has enjoyed sound growth. Over the past year, President Hu Jintao and President Medvedev met five times. Such high-level visits and meetings have given a strong boost to the growth of bilateral relations. I want to mention in particular the assistance that we received from Russia in the wake of the devastating Wenchuan earthquake. Russia sent both a rescue team and a medical team to China. On top of that, it sent an Mi-26 helicopter to help us overcome the difficulties that we encountered in the quake lakes. Later, at the invitation of President Medvedev, more than 1,000 children from the earthquake-afflicted areas went to different parts of Russia for a vacation. Some of these children were received by President Hu Jintao before their departure and they were thrilled with joy. Premier Wen Jiabao said when visiting Russia later in the year that these children are messengers of China-Russia friendship. I am sure these children and their young Russian hosts will all become bridges of friendship between our two countries.
Journalist: The plan for hosting Russian and Chinese language years underscores the role that culture and people-to-people contacts can play in the exchanges between the two neighbors. Can I say they also constitute a very important foundation in diplomacy?
Minister: As I said earlier, Russia has a splendid culture. People in China, particularly those of my generation are quite familiar with some old Russian songs. Time has changed. I think the young people of our two countries should have more interactions. In the 1950s, many Chinese students studied in Russia and spoke fluent Russian. We still have people who are well-versed in Russian today, but I am afraid the number is not enough. Language is the underpinning of culture and that is why I believe the Russian language year and Chinese language year will be of far-reaching significance. The two sides are now having discussions on how to ensure the success of the relevant activities so as to create better conditions for interactions between people of our two countries, particularly those between the young people.
Journalist: This year marks the 30th anniversary of signing the Treaty of Peace and Friendship Between the People's Republic of China and Japan and also the 30th anniversary of China's reform and opening-up program. Thirty years ago, Deng Xiaoping launched the reform and opening-up program in China, and in that year, he paid a visit to Japan. How do you see the development of China-Japan relations over the past 30 years? Tell us something about President Hu Jintao's "warm spring" visit to Japan this year, a visit which has drawn a lot of public interest.
Minister: The past few years have indeed been eventful for China-Japan relations. During his visit to Japan, President Hu Jintao and Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda signed the China-Japan Joint Statement on All-round Promotion of Strategic Relationship of Mutual Benefit. This is a very important political document which serves as a long-term guide for the development of China-Japan relations in the new century.
It is such a coincidence that 30 years ago, Prime Minister Takeo Fukuda signed the Treaty of Peace and Friendship and 30 years later, his son, Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda, signed this Joint Statement. There are many political leaders and ordinary people in Japan who have dedicated themselves to promoting China-Japan relations. During the Beijing Olympic Games, when Japanese athletes entered the National Stadium, waving national flags of both Japan and China, they were accorded a warm welcome. As diplomats, I think we should do more to facilitate the growth of the bilateral relations.
Journalist: Reviewing the development of China-Japan relations in the past 30 years, we see some very difficult moments. But things have apparently changed in the past two years. Though there have been quite frequent changes of government in Japan, China-Japan relations have been growing steadily. People want to know if the relations between China and Japan have entered a relatively steady period of development.
Minister: I hope the current good relations will be carried forward. China and Japan enjoy geographic proximity and cultural affinity. I should say we have a lot in common. The world is now facing a big challenge, that is, the financial crisis. It is a challenge not only for the United States and Europe, but also for us in Asia, including China and Japan. Both China and Japan are major economies in Asia. We should have more exchanges and discussions on how to maintain the economic growth of Asia and carry out necessary reform of international financial institutions.
Journalist: Talking about China's diplomacy in 2008, what impressed people most is that diplomacy also needs a platform. China's diplomatic platform in 2008 has been expanded. One example is the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympic Games. It was unprecedented, because no previous Olympic Games had been attended by so many foreign leaders. The other example is the Asia-Europe Meeting. A total of 45 foreign leaders attended the meeting. This must be a big challenge for diplomacy. How do you see this bigger and higher platform?
Minister: I think we are having more and broader platforms. This is so because first of all, the world has entered into an era of globalization and information technology. All countries are attaching greater importance to multilateral diplomacy. Secondly, China's strength, influence and role have notably increased. Through the Beijing Olympic Games, the Asia-Europe Meeting and other activities, we received more than 180 foreign heads of state and government as well as other leaders this year. This is truly unprecedented.
Journalist: We have never had anything like this since the founding of the People's Republic of China.
Minister: That's right. We are all studying the Scientific Outlook on Development now. A fundamental approach in the Scientific Outlook on Development is overall consideration. It is also the fundamental approach in advancing diplomacy. In my view, this approach should be applied in the following three aspects:
First, take into consideration both the domestic and the international situation. We should fully recognize that the outside world has important influence on China's development, and China's development in turn has a major impact on the evolution of the world situation. Therefore, in conducting diplomacy, we must keep in mind the overall picture.
Second, combine region-specific diplomacy with issue-specific diplomacy. Just think about what has happened this year. The financial crisis, for instance, is not a problem for any particular region. Therefore, I believe we should pay more attention to things like security diplomacy, economic diplomacy, cultural diplomacy and public diplomacy. The crisis concerns one specific sector, that is, the financial sector. It will probably spread to other sectors. We must bear in mind the larger picture. We must see clearly how such problems will evolve, how they will affect China's economic and social development, how they will affect the economic and social development of the world, and how they will affect China's relations with relevant countries. All these are issues we must think over.
Third, attach importance to both bilateral and multilateral diplomacy. We will continue to develop friendly relations and cooperation with major countries, neighbouring countries and the developing world. At the same time, we will make good use of the United Nations and other multilateral fora. This way, our efforts on bilateral and multilateral diplomatic fronts will complement and reinforce each other. It is against such a backdrop that we have played a very positive role in the United Nations and at some important meetings this year.
Journalist: This year has witnessed new developments in the relations between China and the world. With the rise of China's international standing, it seems to me that other countries have higher expectations of us. They expect us to shoulder greater responsibilities. In the financial crisis, they have praised China while wanting us to do more.
Minister: True, China is stronger, more influential and plays a bigger role than before. And we have made greater contribution to peace and stability in the world. As China's national strength further grows, we can contribute even more to world peace and development. This is what we should do. It also helps with our international image.
Having said that, I must say that China remains a developing country. Our per capita GDP trails behind more than 100 countries. It will do nobody any good if we try to do things beyond our capacity. As far as diplomacy is concerned, what we need to do is to help the world know us better, know the real situation in China and understand our policies. We should also stress that, for China, a large developing country with 1.3 billion people, the most valuable contribution it can make to the efforts of Asia and the world in coping with the financial crisis is to maintain stable and relatively fast economic growth at home.
Journalist: Looking back on China-EU relations in 2008, people have mixed feelings. We see two different Europes: one that helped us after the devastating earthquake and supported us in hosting the Olympic Games, including many of its leaders and ordinary people. But there was also the other Europe that outraged many Chinese people on trade issues and those related to Dalai and the torch relay. How do you see these problems that cropped up in 2008? Where are China-EU relations heading for?
Minister: I think China-EU relationship made some progress in 2008, but it also went through complexities and twists and turns.
The positive side in China-EU relations: The two sides maintained high-level contacts, which played an important role in advancing the business ties. As you also mentioned, in our relief and rescue efforts in the aftermath of the earthquake, the people and governments of some European countries provided generous assistance. Some countries sent medical teams or hospital equipment to the afflicted area.
But on the other side, I think some people in Europe did do some wrong things regarding China. One should put China-EU relations in a long-term and strategic perspective, and try to understand the other's national conditions and why it follows a certain path of development. China is different from many European countries in terms of history, culture and level of development. I believe that many Europeans will acknowledge that China has found a development path that suits its national conditions and that the EU side has benefited a lot from its trade with China. I am full of hope about the long-term prospects of China-EU relations. We have a host of common interests and our relations will continue to move ahead.
Journalist: Minister Yang, entering 2009, we will review the 30 years that China-US relations have traversed. You are a witness to what has happened in those 30 years. You went with Deng Xiaoping to the United States in 1979, with President Jiang in 1997 and then with President Hu in 2006. How would you comment on China-US relations over the past 30 years?
Minister: When Mr. Deng Xiaoping visited the United States, I was a young interpreter in his delegation. Or I should say I was a junior interpreter. The chief interpreter was Mr. Ji Chaozhu. The visit took place shortly after the establishment of China-US diplomatic relations. It ushered in a new era of the relations.
President Jiang Zemin visited the United States in 1997 when the bilateral relations were at a turning point following the end of the Cold War. That visit set the tone for China-US relations, that is, we should keep them on the track of sound and steady development.
President Hu Jintao paid a state visit to the United States in 2006. It was a forward-looking visit. The two sides decided to develop sound and stable relations geared toward the 21st century.
In the past 30 years, China-US relations have indeed made tremendous progress. At the time of the establishment of diplomatic relations, trade between the two sides was merely US$2 billion. Now, it has reached 300 billion, an increase of 120 times. There were very few people-to-people exchanges 30 years ago, and now it is said that 5,000 people travel over the Pacific every day. We must cherish these achievements. The 21 century is full of challenges and opportunities. China and the United States, as two major countries, should keep their relations in good shape. This conforms to the fundamental interests of the people of the two countries and is conducive to peace, stability and development of the region and the world at large.
Journalist: We have just talked about 30 years. My next question is about "eight years" and "six years". First, eight years, President Bush's eight years in office. In 2001, you were just appointed Chinese Ambassador to the United States, and the aircraft collision incident happened all of a sudden. At the end of these eight years, there are all kinds of comments on Bush's domestic and foreign policies both here and abroad. People may have different views, but there is hardly anyone criticizing Bush for China-US relations. A period starting with grave challenge in 2001 turns out to be widely seen as a period of very good relationship when it approaches its end after eight years. How do you see this?
Minister: In my view, the growth of China-US relations is a gradual process. Both sides went through a process of understanding each other. During President Bush's early days in office, there were indeed quite a number of negative factors in the bilateral relationship. The aircraft collision took place on 1 April 2001. Of course we needed to react. We needed to safeguard the sovereignty, territorial integrity and dignity of our country. This incident was later properly handled. I believe through this incident the US side also better appreciated the importance of its relations with China. That is why the policy the US side adopted later on has been pragmatic. One reason behind the progress in China-US relations over the past years is that the nature of the relations has been clearly defined, that is, we are both stakeholders and constructive partners. In the course of the development of the bilateral relations, both sides have come to realize that we need each other and our interests are closely interconnected. So, taken as a whole, the past seven years and more have been the longest period of steady growth of China-US relations since the end of the Cold War.
Of course there are always issues that need to be handled carefully, for example, those concerning China's core interests such as Taiwan, Tibet, etc. We believe the two sides should handle the sensitive issues in accordance with the principles of the three joint communiqués and in line with their commitments. We should respect each other and refrain from interfering in each other's internal affairs. This will guarantee the continuous, steady and sound growth of the bilateral relationship.
Journalist: But change will come soon. Mr. Obama will be sworn in on January 20. We know President Hu Jintao and President Bush met four times in 2008 alone, quite frequent indeed. The Strategic Dialogue and Strategic Economic Dialogue are conducted regularly. Will there be any change with Mr. Obama in the Oval Office? Will it be change for the better? What are your expectations and assessments?
Minister: A few days ago, President Hu Jintao had a telephone conversation with Mr. Obama. The atmosphere was very good. Both sides stated their commitment to China-US relations. Mr. Obama knows the situation in the world and in Asia. As a Senator representing Illinois, he is aware of the cooperation between his state and China as well as the exchanges and cooperation between the United States and China in all fields. In today's world of the 21st century, Mr. Obama will surely view China-US relations from a strategic and long-term perspective. We have a lot of common interests, particularly on such important issues as counter-terrorism, environmental protection, combating transnational crimes and addressing hot-spot issues. Therefore, I believe what is important now is to ensure that the relationship between China and the new US administration gets off to a good start.
Journalist: Many people know you worked for many years in the US, but perhaps few people know that since 1995 you have visited almost all countries in Latin America and the Caribbean region.
Journalist: I guess you must have deep affection for those regions.
Minister: Yes, after I became Assistant Foreign Minister in 1995, I was involved in the bilateral ties between China and Latin America and the Caribbean region. I was in charge of relations with these two regions for eight years and visited almost all Latin American and Caribbean countries that have diplomatic relations with China. My impression is that people there are warm-hearted and friendly. Moreover, Latin America and the Caribbean region have exciting prospects of development. President Hu Jintao visited three countries in Latin America not long ago--Costa Rica, Cuba and Peru. I was deeply impressed by the warm and gracious hospitality accorded to President Hu by the three heads of state. Cuban President Raul Castro accompanied President Hu when he visited Chinese students in Cuba and asked the people present to sing The East is Red together.
Journalist: Did President Raul Castro also sing?
Minister: Yes, he did. Actually, he was leading the chorus. He was a good singer. President Garcia of Peru proposed a toast in Chinese at the welcoming banquet, which won him warm applause. In addition to the good political relations, remarkable progress has also been achieved in our trade relations. I remember around 1995 and 1996, China's trade with Latin America and the Caribbean region was only over US$6 billion. China came the eighth, ninth or even the tenth on their list of foreign trading partners. But last year, China's trade with these regions exceeded US$100 billion and from January to October this year, the figure already topped US$120 billion. China has become the largest or the second largest trading partner of many countries in Latin America.
Journalist: In just a few days, that is, immediately after the beginning of the new year, you will visit Africa. After checking background material, I found that you are not the only Chinese foreign minister who starts the year with a visit to Africa. In fact, this has been the practice of successive Chinese foreign ministers over the past decade and more. People want to know why Africa?
Minister: First of all, let me say that Chinese leaders attach great importance to China-Africa friendship and cooperation. The tradition of beginning the new year with a visit to Africa started with Mr. Qian Qichen, when he was the foreign minister. And his successors all did the same. I think this is a very good tradition. Our African brothers have given us a lot of support in various aspects. They supported us during our post-earthquake relief and reconstruction efforts and in hosting the Olympic Games. As you know, China hosted the Summit of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation in 2006, which brought Chinese and African leaders together in Beijing. During the summit, President Hu Jintao announced eight major measures for strengthening practical cooperation with Africa. Some of the measures have been fully or basically put in place and some are in the process of being carried out. These measures include debt cancellation, tariff reduction and providing experts in various fields. Next year will be crucial as it will be the last year for the implementation of these eight measures . We will make utmost efforts to ensure the success of these measures.
Journalist: You often say that diplomacy should be for the people and China's diplomacy is people's diplomacy. In the past, people used to think that diplomacy was distant from them, because it was mainly about state-to-state relations. But in recent years, people feel things are changing. Take for example, the Foreign Ministry's Open Day. On the surface, it is simply an open day, but through it one can see a change of thinking. What is your comment?
Minister: We believe that the primary mission of diplomacy is to uphold state sovereignty and territorial integrity and maintain national security and development interests. There can be no ambiguity about this. We also feel that today's diplomacy is different from that of the past. We should pay more attention to the voice of the people. We have had Foreign Ministry open days for several years and we have tried to make each open day a unique one.
For example, around the time of the Olympic Games, the open day activities focused on showing support to the Olympics. My colleagues suggested that since I liked playing ping-pong, I might invite Deng Yaping, a former ping-pong world champion, to join me in a doubles match. I thought about it and agreed, as I believed that it would be a good way to show support to the Olympic Games.
Later I realized how challenging a task I put myself into because we were playing against two strong young players from Tsinghua University.
Journalist: They were from the university team.
Minister: Yes, and they played much better than me. And I was worried that my performance would ruin the reputation of Deng Yaping, the world champion. Luckily, through hard work and thanks of course mainly to Deng Yaping's extraordinary efforts and excellent performance, we won the match.
Journalist: How do you think such open day activities will help the general public better appreciate China's diplomacy and support China's diplomacy in the future?
Minister: They will play an important role. Take the ping-pong match as an example. Before and after the match, I talked with some of the visitors. They asked me all kinds of questions, not only about the Olympics, but also big questions concerning China's relations with other countries.
Journalist: Tough questions?
Minister: Yes, tough questions and I tried my best to answer them. I wanted to help them know more about the work of the Foreign Ministry and better appreciate that China's diplomacy is people's diplomacy and represents the interests of the people. In this way, our diplomacy will enjoy greater popular support.
Journalist: Diplomacy is indeed getting closer to the people as we can see from the open day activities. With the growing number of Chinese tourists traveling abroad, more and more of them may ask for help from Chinese embassies. Has the Foreign Ministry paid more attention to helping Chinese nationals abroad and taken it as an important part of its work?
Minister: Yes. As you may know, the senior officials of the Foreign Ministry have their division of responsibilities. The official responsible for consular affairs and affairs concerning overseas Chinese always has a busy schedule. He often has to get up in the middle of the night to handle emergencies. Now you can find Chinese in every corner of the world. Every year, outbound travels made by Chinese nationals total 42 million on average. There are 12,000 Chinese enterprises operating abroad and 840,000 Chinese workers working in different parts of the world. Unexpected things may happen at any time in any place. For instance, some time ago a civil conflict broke out in Chad, and the Chinese embassy there is located exactly where the warring parties were exchanging fire. But for Chinese Ambassador Wang Yingwu and his colleagues, the most urgent task was to ensure the safety of Chinese nationals and arrange for their evacuation. The Foreign Ministry made it clear that the embassy staff would not evacuate until the last Chinese national had left.
Journalist: When a Chinese travels abroad and encounters a difficulty, the first thing that comes to his mind is to seek help from the Chinese embassy or consulate. That means a responsibility.
Minister: Yes, it is our responsibility.