China’s new Foreign Minister Qin Gang held a press conference for the Chinese and international media on March 7 in the margins of the ongoing annual meeting of the National People’s Congress (NPC), China’s parliament, in which, over nearly two hours, he fielded 14 questions that together offer rich insights into the principles governing Chinese foreign policy as well as its practical implementation.
In opening, and responding to a question from China Central Television, Minister Qin noted that China will host two major diplomatic events this year, the first China-Central Asia Summit and the third Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation, and continued:
“We will take it as our mission to defend China’s core interests. We firmly oppose any form of hegemonism and power politics. We firmly oppose the Cold War mentality, camp-based confrontation, and acts to contain and hold back other countries’ development. We will resolutely safeguard China’s sovereignty, security and development interests.”
Saying that, “we will [always] honor our commitment to serving the people,” the Minister observed that: “The new journey of China’s diplomacy will be an expedition with glories and dreams, and it will also be a long voyage through stormy seas. The harder the mission, the more glorious its accomplishment.”
Responding to a question from an Egyptian publication, Qin Gang made a number of important points regarding China’s modernization, noting that:
- Achieving modernization for a country of more than 1.4 billion people will be an unprecedented feat in human history, one of profound global significance in itself.
- It busts the myth that modernization is westernization; it creates a new form of human advancement; and it provides an important source of inspiration for the world, especially developing countries.
- Modernization should not serve the interests of only a few countries or individuals. It should not make the rich richer and the poor poorer.
- Chinese modernization is not pursued through war, colonization, or plundering. It is dedicated to peace, development, cooperation and mutual benefit, and is committed to harmony between humanity and nature. It is a new path different from Western modernization.
Much attention has inevitably focused on Qin Gang’s comments regarding the relationship between China and Russia. Responding to a question from TASS, he noted: “China and Russia have found a path of major-country relations featuring strategic trust and good neighborliness, setting a good example for a new type of international relations…With China and Russia working together, the world will have a driving force toward multipolarity and greater democracy in international relations, and global strategic balance and stability will be better ensured. The more unstable the world becomes, the more imperative it is for China and Russia to steadily advance their relations.”
In introducing President Xi Jinping’s flagship policies of the Global Development Initiative (GDI) and the Global Security Initiative (GSI), in response to a question from People’s Daily, he observed:
“Developing countries account for more than 80 percent of the global population and more than 70 percent of global economic growth. People in developing countries are entitled to a better life, and developing countries are entitled to greater representation and a louder voice in international affairs.”
Probably the most sensitive relationship in contemporary global diplomacy is that between China and the United States. Responding to a question from the US television network NBC, Qin Gang said:
“The United States claims that it seeks to ‘out-compete’ China but does not seek conflict. Yet in reality, its so-called ‘competition’ means to contain and suppress China in all respects and get the two countries locked in a zero-sum game…Its so-called ‘establishing guardrails’ for China-US relations and ‘not seeking conflict’ actually means that China should not respond in words or action when slandered or attacked. That is just impossible! If the United States does not hit the brake but continues to speed down the wrong path, no amount of guardrails can prevent derailing, and there will surely be conflict and confrontation. Who will bear the catastrophic consequences? Such competition is a reckless gamble with the stakes being the fundamental interests of the two peoples and even the future of humanity. Naturally China is firmly opposed to all this.”
Making reference to many of the people he had met and interacted with during his recent posting as China’s Ambassador to the USA, Qin Gang pointed out:
“The American people, just like the Chinese people, are friendly, kind and sincere, and want a better life and a better world…Every time I think about them, I’m convinced that the China-US relationship should be determined by the common interests and shared responsibilities of the two countries and by the friendship between the Chinese and American peoples, rather than by US domestic politics or the hysterical neo-McCarthyism.”
Responding to a question from Phoenix Television on Taiwan, he stated: “The Chinese people have every right to ask: Why does the US talk at length about respecting sovereignty and territorial integrity on Ukraine, while disrespecting China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity on China’s Taiwan question? Why does the US ask China not to provide weapons to Russia, while it keeps selling arms to Taiwan in violation of the August 17 Communiqué?”
Qin Gang was asked by Associated Press of Pakistan about the progress of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), as this year is the 10th anniversary of its first being proposed by President Xi. Illustrating his point with concrete examples, the Foreign Minister explained that:
“Over the past decade, the BRI has galvanized nearly US$1 trillion of investment, established more than 3,000 cooperation projects, created 420,000 local jobs, and helped lift almost 40 million people out of poverty.”
He added that: “China should be the last one to be accused of the so-called debt trap. Data show that multilateral financial institutions and commercial creditors account for over 80 percent of the sovereign debt of developing countries. They are the biggest source of debt burden on developing countries. Particularly since last year, the unprecedented, rapid interest hikes by the United States have led to capital outflows in many countries and worsened the debt problems in the countries concerned. China has been making efforts to help the countries in distress, and is the biggest contributor to the G20’s Debt Service Suspension Initiative (DSSI).”
The journalist from the Japanese public broadcaster NHK noted that this year marks the 45th anniversary of the Japan-China Peace and Friendship Treaty, but the two countries presently face a number of difficulties in their relationship, to which Qin Gang reminded his questioner:
“Some leaders in Japan recently have also been talking a lot about ‘international order’. We need to make clear what order they are talking about. Today’s international order is built on the victory of the World Anti-Fascist War, which cost the lives and blood of 35 million Chinese soldiers and civilians. The Chinese people will never accept any form of historical revisionism that challenges the post-war international order and international justice.”
We reprint below the full text of the press conference which was originally published on the website of the Chinese Foreign Ministry.
On 7 March 2023, a press conference was held on the margins of the First Session of the 14th National People’s Congress at the Media Center, during which Foreign Minister Qin Gang answered questions from Chinese and foreign media about China’s foreign policy and external relations.
Qin Gang: Friends from the media, good morning. I’m very pleased to meet you. As the world is undergoing major changes unseen in a century, China will continue to pursue the independent foreign policy of peace, and will continue to implement the mutually beneficial strategy of opening-up. China will always be a builder of world peace, a contributor to global development, and a defender of the international order. Now I’m ready to take your questions.
China Central Television: People at home and abroad have great expectations for China’s diplomacy in 2023. What will be the priorities and highlights in China’s diplomacy, particularly in head-of-state diplomacy? As the new foreign minister, how do you envision China’s diplomacy in the years to come?
Qin Gang: We’re in the first year of fully implementing the guiding principles set forth by the 20th National Congress of the Communist Party of China. The Congress has outlined top-level plans for China’s diplomacy, identified our missions and tasks, and made strategic arrangements to that end. With the COVID situation turning for the better in China, we’re steadily resuming exchanges with the world. We’ve pressed the “acceleration button”, and sounded the clarion call for our diplomacy.
We will follow the guidance of head-of-state diplomacy. In particular, we will ensure the success of the two major diplomatic events that we will host — the first China-Central Asia Summit and the third Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation, which will be the showcase of the distinctive character of China’s diplomacy.
We will take it as our mission to defend China’s core interests. We firmly oppose any form of hegemonism and power politics. We firmly oppose the Cold War mentality, camp-based confrontation, and acts to contain and hold back other countries’ development. We will resolutely safeguard China’s sovereignty, security and development interests.
We will build on our extensive partnerships. We will pursue coordination and sound interactions among major countries, seek friendship and cooperation with other countries, and promote a new type of international relations. China has had a growing network of friends, made more and more new friends, and strengthened ties with old ones.
We will take openness and development as our objective. We will facilitate high-quality development and high-standard opening-up. We will reject “decoupling”, and oppose severing industrial and supply chains and imposing unilateral sanctions. We will uphold an open and inclusive world economy, and will generate new opportunities for the world with our new development.
We will take multilateralism as the way forward. We will promote the building of a community with a shared future for mankind, promote greater democracy in international relations, and make global governance more just and equitable. We will offer more, better Chinese insight and solutions to help meet humanity’s common challenges.
We will take “diplomacy for the people” as our guiding principle. We will always bear in mind the well-being and security of our overseas compatriots, and honor our commitment to serving the people. We will enhance the service for and protection of Chinese citizens and institutions abroad to make their overseas travels and exchanges safer and more convenient.
The world is far from tranquil, being entangled in intertwined turmoils and transformation, the clash between unity and division, and the coexistence of opportunities and challenges. The new journey of China’s diplomacy will be an expedition with glories and dreams, and it will also be a long voyage through stormy seas. The harder the mission, the more glorious its accomplishment. Under the strong leadership of the CPC Central Committee with Comrade Xi Jinping at its core, we will put Xi Jinping Thought on Diplomacy into full practice, follow through on the decisions of the 20th CPC Congress, and uphold our foreign policy goals of safeguarding world peace and promoting common development. We will meet challenges head-on, boldly take on responsibilities, foster an enabling external environment for building a modern socialist country in all respects, and write a new chapter in China’s distinctive major-country diplomacy in the new era.
Rose al-Yūsuf: Many see the Chinese path to modernization as a new path to modernity that will inspire other countries, especially the developing countries. How do you see the significance of the Chinese path to modernization for the world?
Qin Gang: Indeed as you said, “Chinese modernization” has become a popular phrase in the world. Achieving modernization for a country of more than 1.4 billion people will be an unprecedented feat in human history, one of profound global significance in itself.
Chinese modernization offers solutions to many challenges facing human development. It busts the myth that modernization is westernization; it creates a new form of human advancement; and it provides an important source of inspiration for the world, especially developing countries. As I see it, Chinese modernization has at least five features:
First, independence. The reason why the Chinese path to modernization works is exactly because it is developed in China and rooted in Chinese culture, and fits in well with China’s national conditions. China’s success in development also proves that every country has the right and ability to choose its own path, and to hold its future firmly in its own hands.
Second, putting people first. Chinese modernization is the modernization of common prosperity for all. It is about achieving both material abundance and cultural-ethical enrichment for the people. Modernization should not serve the interests of only a few countries or individuals. It should not make the rich richer and the poor poorer. Nor should it lead to cultural impoverishment, moral degradation or disorder. People around the world should all enjoy the rights to seek development as equals and pursue happiness.
Third, peaceful development. Chinese modernization is not pursued through war, colonization, or plundering. It is dedicated to peace, development, cooperation and mutual benefit, and is committed to harmony between humanity and nature. It is a new path different from Western modernization.
Fourth, openness and inclusiveness. Humanity’s modernization should not be a one-flower show but a hundred flowers in bloom. It is important to respect the right of every country to pursue a modernization path tailored to its national reality, and encourage exchange and mutual learning, so that all will flourish and prosper together.
Fifth, working hard in unity. China’s success proves that acting in disunity like a heap of loose sand will get us nowhere, and that only by striving in unity can we pool strength. We will persevere in carrying out the set blueprint until it becomes reality. Partisan rift, empty talk and frequent policy flip-flop as seen in certain country will only make even the best blueprint an illusion and a castle in the air.
The process of Chinese modernization is a boost to the force for peace, justice and progress in the world. We hope and believe that as more and more countries begin their own journey of modernization, the vision of building a community with a shared future for mankind will become true.
TASS: How do you view the future of Russia-China relations? Will it provide a new model for state-to-state relations? Will the Chinese President visit Russia after the NPC and CPPCC Sessions? Is it possible for our two countries to drop the use of the US dollar and the Euro in bilateral trade settlement?
Qin Gang: You mentioned the model for major-country relations. That is a good perspective for observing China-Russia relations. Major countries should figure out what they want with each other — building exclusive blocs, or fostering friendship that is open and sincere. China and Russia have found a path of major-country relations featuring strategic trust and good neighborliness, setting a good example for a new type of international relations.
Some countries who are inclined to view China-Russia relations through the lens of Cold War alliances see nothing but their own image. The China-Russia relationship is based on no-alliance and no-confrontation, and it is not targeted at any third party. It is not a threat to any country, nor is it subject to any interference or discord sown by any third party. With China and Russia working together, the world will have a driving force toward multipolarity and greater democracy in international relations, and global strategic balance and stability will be better ensured. The more unstable the world becomes, the more imperative it is for China and Russia to steadily advance their relations.
Head-of-state interaction is the compass and anchor of China-Russia relations. Under the strategic guidance of the two presidents, the China-Russia comprehensive strategic partnership of coordination for the new era will surely grow from strength to strength.
As for the currencies to be used in China-Russia trade, the answer is simple. I would say whichever that are efficient, safe and credible. Currencies should not be trump cards for unilateral sanctions, still less a disguise for bullying or coercion.
People’s Daily: The Global Development Initiative (GDI) and the Global Security Initiative (GSI) put forward by President Xi Jinping have been welcomed by many countries. What role does China want to play in strengthening and improving global governance? What further steps will it take to this end?
Qin Gang: Amid the changes and confusion, people are wondering what’s wrong with our world and what we should do about it. Humanity has come to a new crossroads. Keeping in mind the lessons of history as well as the well-being of the world and all humanity, President Xi Jinping has proposed the right approach to global governance. Through the past ten years in the new era, President Xi Jinping has put forward a host of major initiatives and proposals, including building a community with a shared future for mankind, the Belt and Road Initiative, the common values of humanity, the GDI and the GSI. The core message of these initiatives is that countries are interdependent, mankind have a shared future, and the international community must get united for cooperation. With solidarity and cooperation, we can defeat COVID, address climate change, tackle the deficit in peace, security, development and governance, and build an open, inclusive, clean and beautiful world of lasting peace, universal security and common prosperity.
Yet the path to global governance is far from smooth. An ancient Chinese philosopher observed that “goodwill leads to good governance while enmity, chaos”. Another ancient philosopher stressed that “the rule of selfish interests spells chaos while the rule of law brings good governance”. The moral of these wise sayings is that global governance should be promoted in accordance with the law and the principles of international law enshrined in the UN Charter; equity and justice must be upheld while hegemonism and selfish interests must be rejected; solidarity must be defended while division and confrontation must be abandoned. Developing countries account for more than 80 percent of the global population and more than 70 percent of global economic growth. People in developing countries are entitled to a better life, and developing countries are entitled to greater representation and a louder voice in international affairs.
A just cause should be pursued for the common good. China will keep in mind the interests of the world, take an active part in global governance, and contribute more to world peace and development and to human progress.
NBC: You once wrote, “The future of American and Chinese peoples — indeed, the future of the entire planet — depends on a healthy and stable China-US relationship.” Healthy and stable relationship? Is that still possible given the widening conflict of interests on a whole range of issues? Or how do you purpose to make it possible? Besides China’s core interests, have you also considered the core interests of the United States?
Qin Gang: A recent episode in China-US relations is the unmanned airship incident. It is entirely an accident caused by force majeure, and its facts and nature are crystal clear. Even the United States did not believe it posed a physical threat. However, in violation of the spirit of international law and international customary practices, the United States acted with a presumption of guilt. It overreacted, abused force, and dramatized the accident, creating a diplomatic crisis that could have been avoided.
An accident can reveal something fundamental. In this case, the US perception and views of China are seriously distorted. It regards China as its primary rival and biggest geopolitical challenge. This is like the first button in a shirt being put wrong. And the result is that the US China policy has entirely deviated from the rational and sound track.
The United States claims that it seeks to “out-compete” China but does not seek conflict. Yet in reality, its so-called “competition” means to contain and suppress China in all respects and get the two countries locked in a zero-sum game. The United States talks a lot about following rules. But imagine two athletes competing in an Olympic race. If one athlete, instead of focusing on giving one’s best, always tries to trip or even injure the other, that is not fair competition, but malicious confrontation and a foul! Its so-called “establishing guardrails” for China-US relations and “not seeking conflict” actually means that China should not respond in words or action when slandered or attacked. That is just impossible! If the United States does not hit the brake but continues to speed down the wrong path, no amount of guardrails can prevent derailing, and there will surely be conflict and confrontation. Who will bear the catastrophic consequences? Such competition is a reckless gamble with the stakes being the fundamental interests of the two peoples and even the future of humanity. Naturally China is firmly opposed to all this. If the United States has the ambition to make itself great again, it should also have a broad mind for the development of other countries. Containment and suppression will not make America great, and it will not stop the rejuvenation of China.
As President Xi Jinping pointed out, whether China and the United States can handle their relationship well bears on the future of the world. Getting the relationship right is not optional, but something we must do and must do well. I have also noted that more and more people with vision and insight in the United States are deeply worried about the current state of China-US relations, and have been calling for a rational and pragmatic policy toward China.
The American people, just like the Chinese people, are friendly, kind and sincere, and want a better life and a better world. When I was working in the United States, I visited many places. In Los Angeles, workers at the port of Long Beach shared with me how their entire families live off trade with China, stressing that the United States and China should prosper together. Farmers in Iowa told me that they want to produce more food because a great number of people in the world are still living in hunger. Presidents of universities stressed that international exchange is critical for technological advancement, and that technological decoupling is a lose-lose and all-lose. A kid in the Yinghua Academy in Minnesota, the world champion of the “Chinese Bridge” Chinese show for foreign elementary school students, confided in me in fluent Chinese that she is learning the language because she loves China. Every time I think about them, I’m convinced that the China-US relationship should be determined by the common interests and shared responsibilities of the two countries and by the friendship between the Chinese and American peoples, rather than by US domestic politics or the hysterical neo-McCarthyism.
China will continue to follow the principles put forth by President Xi Jinping, namely, mutual respect, peaceful coexistence and win-win cooperation, to pursue a sound and stable relationship with the United States. We hope the US government will listen to the calls of the two peoples, rid of its strategic anxiety of “threat inflation”, abandon the zero-sum Cold War mentality, and refuse to be hijacked by “political correctness”. We hope that the United States will honor its commitments and work with China to explore the right way to get along with each other to the benefit of both countries and the entire world.
Phoenix Television: Some US think tanks and officials have been hyping up the possibility of a conflict between China and the US over the Taiwan question in the year 2027 or 2025. Some media even say the United States has made up a plan for the “destruction of Taiwan”. How do you see the current situation in the Taiwan Strait? How likely is such a conflict between the two countries in the Taiwan Strait?
Qin Gang: I knew that the Taiwan question would be raised, so I’ve brought a copy of the Constitution of the People’s Republic of China. Let me first quote two lines from the Preamble of the Constitution — “Taiwan is part of the sacred territory of the People’s Republic of China. It is the inviolable duty of all Chinese people, including our compatriots in Taiwan, to accomplish the great task of reunifying the motherland.” Resolving the Taiwan question is a matter for the Chinese people, and no other country has the right to interfere in it. Some senior US officials have recently asserted that the Taiwan question is not an internal affair of China. We firmly oppose such absurd comments, and we will stay on high alert.
The two sides of the Taiwan Strait belong to one common family, which is called China. As brothers and sisters, we will continue to work with the greatest sincerity and utmost efforts to pursue peaceful reunification. Meanwhile, we reserve the option of taking all necessary measures. In fact, China’s Anti-Secession Law has explicitly made this point. In case this Law is violated, we must act in accordance with the Constitution and the Law. No one should ever underestimate the firm resolve, strong will or great capability of the Chinese government and people to safeguard national sovereignty and territorial integrity.
The Taiwan question is the core of the core interests of China, the bedrock of the political foundation of China-US relations, and the first red line that must not be crossed in China-US relations. The US has unshirkable responsibility for causing the Taiwan question. The reason why China raises this question to the US is to urge it to stop interfering in China’s internal affairs. The Chinese people have every right to ask: Why does the US talk at length about respecting sovereignty and territorial integrity on Ukraine, while disrespecting China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity on China’s Taiwan question? Why does the US ask China not to provide weapons to Russia, while it keeps selling arms to Taiwan in violation of the August 17 Communiqué? Why does the US keep on professing the maintenance of regional peace and stability, while covertly formulating a “plan for the destruction of Taiwan”?
Separatism for Taiwan independence is as incompatible with peace and stability of the Taiwan Strait as fire with water. For peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait, its real threat is the separatist forces for Taiwan independence, its solid anchor is the one-China principle, and its genuine guardrails are the three China-US joint communiqués. Mishandling of the Taiwan question will shake the very foundation of China-US relations. If the United States truly expects a peaceful Taiwan Strait, it should stop containing China by exploiting the Taiwan question, return to the fundamental of the one-China principle, honor its political commitment to China, and unequivocally oppose and forestall Taiwan independence.
Global Times: The Russia-Ukraine conflict has been going on for over a year. Some in the United States and other Western countries are now urging China not to provide lethal assistance to Russia, and hyping up China’s “special responsibility”. What is your take on this?
Qin Gang: The Ukraine crisis is a tragedy that could have been avoided. But it has come to where it stands today. There are painful lessons that all parties should truly reflect upon.
The Ukraine crisis has a complex history and reasons. In essence, it is an eruption of the problems built up in the security governance of Europe. China always makes its own judgment independently based on the merits of the issue. Between peace and war, we choose peace. Between dialogue and sanctions, we choose dialogue. Between lowering the temperature and fanning the flames, we choose the former. China did not create the crisis. It is not a party to the crisis, and has not provided weapons to either side of the conflict. Why on earth the blame, sanctions and threats against China? This is absolutely unacceptable.
Less than two weeks ago, we issued China’s Position on the Political Settlement of the Ukraine Crisis. It offers 12 propositions, including respecting the sovereignty of all countries, abandoning the Cold War mentality, ceasing hostilities, and resuming peace talks. The core stance is to promote talks for peace.
Regrettably however, efforts for peace talks have been repeatedly undermined. There seems to be “an invisible hand” pushing for the protraction and escalation of the conflict and using the Ukraine crisis to serve certain geopolitical agenda.
The Ukraine crisis has come to a critical juncture. Either hostilities stop and peace is restored and the process of political settlement begins, or more fuel is added to the flames and the crisis further expands and spirals out of control. Conflict, sanctions and pressure will not solve the problem. What is needed is calmness, reason and dialogue. The process of peace talks should begin as soon as possible, and the legitimate security concerns of all parties should be respected. This is the right way to achieve durable security in Europe.
Associated Press of Pakistan: This year marks the tenth year of China’s Belt and Road Initiative. The United States and the European Union have also come up with their own global infrastructure initiatives. Do you see them as competing initiatives? Some people say the Belt and Road can lead to debt traps. How would you respond to that?
Qin Gang: The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is a high-quality public good initiated by China, built by the parties involved, and shared by the world. The BRI delivers high-standard, sustainable and livelihood-enhancing outcomes, and is hence widely welcomed. To date, over three quarters of countries around the world and 32 international organizations have joined this initiative.
Ten years after its inception, the BRI has evolved from vision into reality, boosting development in partner countries and bringing real benefits to the people. A decade of efforts have laid down a pathway toward common development, and created an array of national landmarks, livelihood projects, and milestones of cooperation. Over the past decade, the BRI has galvanized nearly US$1 trillion of investment, established more than 3,000 cooperation projects, created 420,000 local jobs, and helped lift almost 40 million people out of poverty. The China-Laos Railway helps make land-locked Laos a land-linked country. The Puttalam power plant helps light up numerous Sri Lankan homes at night. The Mombasa-Nairobi Railway adds more than two percentage points to local economic growth. Luban workshops help young people in over 20 countries acquire vocational skills. The China-Europe Railway Express has completed 65,000 freight services, serving as a steel camel fleet between Asia and Europe, and a health train delivering medical supplies during the pandemic. China will host the third Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation this year. Taking this as an opportunity, we will work with all relevant parties for more fruitful outcomes from Belt and Road cooperation.
The BRI is a practical and open initiative guided by the principle of extensive consultation, joint contribution and shared benefits. Its cooperation is conducted through consultation, and its partnerships are built with friendship and good faith. We welcome all initiatives that are not ideologically-driven proposed by other countries, and we are happy to see them succeed if they don’t carry a geopolitical agenda.
China should be the last one to be accused of the so-called debt trap. Data show that multilateral financial institutions and commercial creditors account for over 80 percent of the sovereign debt of developing countries. They are the biggest source of debt burden on developing countries. Particularly since last year, the unprecedented, rapid interest hikes by the United States have led to capital outflows in many countries and worsened the debt problems in the countries concerned.
China has been making efforts to help the countries in distress, and is the biggest contributor to the G20’s Debt Service Suspension Initiative (DSSI). China will continue to participate constructively in the resolution of international debt issues. Meanwhile, we call on other parties to act together and share the burden fairly. When parties sit together and talk things through, there will be more solutions than problems.
NHK: This year marks the 45th anniversary of the Japan-China Peace and Friendship Treaty. Now, the difference in the positions of the two countries in the fields of politics, economy and security has become clear. How does the new Chinese government plan to build relations with Japan in the future?
Qin Gang: China and Japan are close neighbors. To foster a China-Japan relationship for the new era, it is important to do the following:
First, honor commitments. Our two countries signed the Treaty of Peace and Friendship 45 years ago, codifying the principles and direction for the development of China-Japan relations for the first time. This Treaty, together with the other three political documents between China and Japan, form the political foundation of the bilateral relations. These documents, particularly the important political consensus that the two countries should “be partners, not threats”, must be truly observed. Words must be matched with actions.
Second, learn lessons from history. The immense sufferings imposed by the Japanese militarists on the Chinese nation are still painful today. The Chinese people will not forget this, and the Japanese side must not forget. Forgetting history is a betrayal, and denying a crime is to repeat a crime. China always treats Japan with goodwill and hopes for friendship and good-neighborliness. Yet, should some people from the Japanese side choose a beggar-thy-neighbor approach rather than pursuing partnership, and even take part in a new Cold War to contain China, the bilateral relations would only suffer new wounds when the old ones are yet to be healed.
Third, preserve the international order. Some leaders in Japan recently have also been talking a lot about “international order”. We need to make clear what order they are talking about. Today’s international order is built on the victory of the World Anti-Fascist War, which cost the lives and blood of 35 million Chinese soldiers and civilians. The Chinese people will never accept any form of historical revisionism that challenges the post-war international order and international justice. The Treaty of Peace and Friendship explicitly opposed hegemonism, and its spirit remains relevant today.
Fourth, promote win-win cooperation. China and Japan are highly complementary and need each other. We should uphold market principles and a free and open spirit, increase cooperation, jointly ensure stable and smooth industrial and supply chains, and inject impetus and vitality into global economic recovery.
One more issue I wish to raise here. The Japanese government has decided to discharge contaminated water of the Fukushima nuclear power plant into the sea. This is not Japan’s private business, but a major issue vital to the marine environment and human health. We urge the Japanese side to properly handle this matter in a responsible manner.
Xinhua News Agency: The United States claims that it will “shape the strategic environment in which China operates”. Its Indo-Pacific Strategy is an important leverage to achieve this. As a result, many countries in the region have felt great pressure. Some media suggested that as the Chinese economy faces growing downward pressure, regional countries have found it difficult to continue to “rely on the United States for security guarantee, and on China for economic development”. What is your view?
Qin Gang: The US Indo-Pacific Strategy, while purportedly aiming at upholding freedom and openness, maintaining security and promoting prosperity in the region, is in fact an attempt to gang up to form exclusive blocs, to provoke confrontation by plotting an Asia-Pacific version of NATO, and to undermine regional integration through decoupling and cutting chains.
The US claim to “shape the strategic environment in which China operates” actually reveals the real purpose of its Indo-Pacific Strategy, that is, to encircle China. Such an attempt will only disrupt the ASEAN-centered, open and inclusive regional cooperation architecture, and undermine the overall and long-term interests of regional countries. It is bound to fail.
I noticed that leaders of a number of regional countries have recently stated that ASEAN should not be a proxy for any party and should stay clear from big power rivalry. As a pacesetter in global development, Asia should be a stage for win-win cooperation rather than a chessboard for geopolitical contest. No Cold War should be reignited, and no Ukraine-style crisis should be repeated in Asia.
As for who to rely on in terms of security and economy, I believe it is necessary to stand together in face of difficulties, jointly pursue security and development, and work together to build a closer community with a shared future in the neighborhood.
Some are concerned about China’s economic outlook. I think that’s quite unnecessary. Some international institutions have recently revised upward their forecast on China’s economic growth this year. Our projected growth target is around five percent, far higher than other major economies. Last year, China’s paid-in foreign investment was up by 8 percent, and it remained a top destination for foreign investors. The China Development Forum and the Boao Forum for Asia Annual Conference will soon be held, and so will the Summer Davos in Tianjin. I have learned that many foreign business leaders have applied to participate. In the recent exchanges with my counterparts from regional countries, development is what we all hope for the most, and cooperation is more discussed than any other subject. I believe that as China accelerates high-quality development, expands high-standard opening-up and fosters a new development paradigm, it will surely bring new opportunities to all countries in the world, especially to regional countries.
The Paper: Late last year, President Xi Jinping attended the first China-Arab States Summit and the China-Gulf Cooperation Council Summit, and paid a state visit to Saudi Arabia. In February this year, China hosted Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi. This shows China is giving more attention to the Middle East. What will be China’s priorities in its Middle East policy?
Qin Gang: There are long-standing relations between China and Middle Eastern countries. We are good friends and good partners.
At the first China-Arab States Summit late last year, the two sides agreed to build a China-Arab community with a shared future in the new era. This is a strong boost to our friendship and cooperation. Last month, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi paid a successful visit to China. During the visit, the two sides agreed to deepen the China-Iran comprehensive strategic partnership and take the bilateral relations to new levels.
China supports the strategic autonomy of Middle Eastern countries, and opposes foreign interference in their internal affairs. China will continue to stand for justice and support countries in this region in seeking political settlement of hotspot issues through dialogue and consultation. China fully respects Middle Eastern countries as the masters of their own affairs. We have no intention to fill a so-called “vacuum”. And we will not build exclusive circles. In the Middle East, China will be a facilitator for peace and stability, a cooperative partner for development and prosperity, and an enabler for building strength through unity.
The Straits Times: Some see your appointment as foreign minister as a signal that China is moving away from the so-called “wolf warrior diplomacy” and taking a softer approach with its diplomacy. Is China really pivoting away from what had been viewed as a tough brand of engagement?
Qin Gang: A very interesting question. I recall when I just arrived as Chinese ambassador to the United States, American media exclaimed, “Here comes a Chinese wolf warrior.” Now I am back as the foreign minister, the media have stopped calling me that way. I kind of feel at a loss. Truth is, “wolf warrior diplomacy” is a narrative trap. Those who coined the term and set the trap either know little about China and its diplomacy, or have a hidden agenda in disregard of facts.
Confucius said over 2,000 years ago, “One should repay kindness with kindness, and resentment with justice. If resentment is repaid with kindness, with what then should one repay kindness?” In China’s diplomacy, there is no shortage of goodwill and kindness. But if faced with jackals or wolves, Chinese diplomats would have no choice but to confront them head-on and protect our motherland.
AFP: Given China’s tense relations with the United States in recent months, does China plan to strengthen its ties with the European Union on political and commercial levels?
Qin Gang: China and Europe are two great civilizations, two big markets and two major forces. Our interactions are an independent choice made by the two sides entirely based on our respective strategic interests. The China-Europe relationship is not targeted at any third party, nor is it subjugated to or controlled by any third party.
No matter how the situation may evolve, China all along sees the European Union as a comprehensive strategic partner and supports European integration. We hope that Europe, with the painful Ukraine crisis in mind, will truly realize strategic autonomy and long-term peace and stability.
We will work with Europe to uphold true multilateralism, and keep to mutual respect and win-win cooperation. We wish to work with Europe to overcome disruptions and challenges, keep deepening the China-EU comprehensive strategic partnership, and bring more stability, certainty and positive energy to a world of change and disorder.
China Daily: We recently launched a survey to collect questions for the foreign minister. Many young people care a lot about China’s international image and voice in international affairs. How can we present to the world a true, multi-dimensional and panoramic picture of China? What role can young people play in making China’s voice better heard?
Qin Gang: I’d like to first thank China Daily for conducting this survey. I believe this helps to bring the general public, especially the young people, closer to China’s diplomacy. I’d also like to thank our young friends for your interest in and support for China’s diplomatic work. This is a good question. I’m very pleased to see that our young people have this ambition and vision. As a Chinese proverb goes, “Everyone has a responsibility for the future of their country.” General Secretary Xi Jinping observed that young people are our hope and will shape the future, and that they should demonstrate their youthful vigor in the building of a community with a shared future for mankind.
China is moving closer to the center of the world stage. We make trending topics and find ourselves in spotlight more often. But we don’t have enough microphones, and our voice is not loud enough. Some are still hogging the microphones, and there are quite many noises and jarring notes about China. When it comes to making China’s voice heard loud and clear, young Chinese have an important role to play.
First, be confident. Our 5,000-year civilization and our achievements in modernization are the source of such confidence. I hope that young people will foster greater ambition, grit and determination through practice. I hope you will look the world in the eye and have dialogue with the world on an equal footing to share your unique perspectives, make your voices heard, and tell the world who you are.
Second, be enterprising. To realize the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation and build a community with a shared future for mankind, young people should step forward with courage and tenacity. While Western modernization is the prelude to the modernization of humanity, the development and progress of developing countries including China is a symphony. Young Chinese can compose the most exciting and beautiful part of this symphony with your relentless pursuit of dreams.
Third, be open-minded. You need to cultivate a global vision and draw on others’ strengths through exchange and mutual learning. You need to see the world with your own eyes and tell the world about China in your own words. In this process, you can be good narrators of China’s stories and envoys of Chinese culture.
I hope more young friends will join the diplomatic service, and live youth to the fullest in the times of great opportunities.
Qin Gang: Tomorrow will be the International Women’s Day. I wish to send festive greetings to all female NPC deputies, CPPCC National Committee members, journalists and friends. Wish you a happy Women’s Day and all the best!
The press conference lasted 110 minutes.