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TASR interview with Madamme Fu Ying,Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs of the People's Republic of China

2011-03-18

1. What is interesting about Slovakia for China? The Visegrad Group is presiding by Slovakia now. Which position has V4 within the European Union in your opinion?

The Chinese people are interested in many things in Slovakia, including cars. Slovakia-made models such as Audi Q7 and Volkswagen Touareg are very popular in my country. Slovakia is doing well in areas such as machinery, auto making and auto parts, which attract attention from many Chinese businesses.

Slovakia is no stranger to China. We are one of the first countries to recognize Slovakia's independence, because we fully respect the choice made by the Slovakian people to seek independence and self-governance. Despite the major changes that have taken place in the international situation and in our respective countries over the years, the traditional friendship between China and Slovakia remains unchanged.

China is satisfied with the development of our relations over recent years. President Hu Jintao paid a successful visit to Slovakia in 2009. The agreements reached by the leaders are being implemented. Last year Slovakia took an active part in the Shanghai World Expo. With unique national features and urban landscape, your pavilion attracted a large number of visitors. A new image of your country was demonstrated, which boosted the mutual understanding between the two peoples.

China's policy towards Slovakia is to enhance political mutual trust, expand business ties and people-to-people and cultural exchanges on the basis of mutual respect. Now we can place priorities on the cooperation in science and technology and infrastructure development.

The Visegrad Group you mentioned is quite active within the EU. I once exchanged views with the ambassadors of the V4 in Beijing and my impression is that the four countries have things in common and each distinctive in its own way. They have some good ideas in growing their cooperation with China. China is following the role played by the Visegrad Group. The two sides can have some contact when conditions are ripe.

2. China is the second strongest economy in the world. According to some experts a analysts, period of joint U.S.-China rule begins while Europe will stay on the second track. How will further China-EU relations look like in future?

We are not in favor of the term "joint US-China rule". As globalization and the trend towards a multi-polar world are gaining momentum, no country or bloc of major countries can resolve the global challenges alone. Multilateralism and democracy in international relations are the calling of the times.

The 21st century is a century for peace, development and cooperation. It requires cooperation on an equal footing and joint efforts of all countries to realize the goals. Thus we appreciate multilateralism and peace.

The EU is the largest bloc of developed countries. Its economy is the largest in the world in terms of GDP aggregate. It plays an important role in the international arena. China and the EU established a comprehensive strategic partnership in 2003, which reflects how the two sides view their relations. The EU is the largest trading partner of China. The two sides have similar views on many international issues. We all support the trend towards a multi-polar world and share the belief that differences should be resolved through dialogue rather than conflicts. The two sides have good cooperation in tackling global challenges such as the international financial crisis and climate change. China-EU relations are assuming increasing global and strategic significance.

China has been highly committed to its relations with the EU. The two sides can redouble efforts in the following areas: economically we should go beyond selling and buying, and enhance cooperation in areas such as science and technology, investment, new energy and climate change. Politically we should develop the partnership on an equal footing and foster sound political atmosphere for bilateral cooperation. On international issues we need to have more communication and coordination.

The EU side often sent to the Chinese side mixed messages regarding cooperation. Quite a few European countries say they welcome investment from China, but some people in Europe claim that China's capital will take up the European market and pose a threat. The EU on the one hand is calling on China to jointly assume international obligations; on the other hand it is still imposing arms embargo against China. This makes us quite puzzled.

It is for sure that the role of the EU in the international community depends greatly on EU's self-development. I notice that in respect of EU's China policy, it is easy for the 27 EU members to say "No", but rather difficult for all of them to say "Yes". We understand the difficulty in policy coordination within the EU. We hope that the EU would have a more coordinated and positive China policy. We hope the EU members will not work in concert to apply pressure against China, but will cooperate with China as equal partners. Only by doing so, could the two sides conduct better communication and cooperation and China-EU relations move further.

3. How do you evaluate potential between Slovakia and China? In September last year the Slovak minister for economy Juraj Miškov during visit to Shanghai had declared that Chinese investors were interested in investments into technologies, engineering and tourism. Have Chinese companies done anything in this aspect?

The trade volume between China and Slovakia in 2010 reached 3.75 billion US dollars, which is a record high. However that figure accounts for only 0.12% of China's total export and import volume, and China is running a surplus with Slovakia. Trade between the two countries does enjoy fast growth in recent years. In particular last year, Slovakia's export to China grew by nearly 100%, with machinery, electronic products, rubber and paper taking a greater share. The trade imbalance between us has been well addressed.

Following the "12th Five-Year Plan for Economic and Social Development" adopted recently by the National People's Congress of China (the state legislature), we will expand domestic demand and encourage import. We will see a substantial increase in domestic market demand. China's Commerce Minister Mr. Chen Deming recently said that the policy guidelines for China's foreign trade this year will be "to stabilize export, expand import and reduce surplus". This offers more opportunities for Slovakian businesses in China. We hope more quality products from Slovakia will enter the Chinese market and join the competition.

The Chinese businesses have also made progress in investing in Slovakia. The Lenovo Group has set up in Slovakia an operation center for Europe, Middle East and Africa. The Qingdao Mesnac Co., Ltd has in Slovakia a R&D and Technology Center for Europe. The Jianghuai Automobile (JAC) has passed the EU market certification through Slovakia's market and is discussing the possibility of investment cooperation. We will continue to support Chinese businesses in investing in Slovakia and other European countries. We hope the Slovakian side will provide them with a level playing field and other facilitations.

People-to-people exchanges are an important part of the state-to-state relationship. The Chinese nation is pleased to have exchanges with other countries as we highly value friendship. The number of outbound Chinese tourists grows very fast in recent years, reaching 57.39 million last year and over 80 million by 2015. Slovakia has rich tourism resources. We hope Slovakia will bring into full play its advantages in tourism and actively promote its tourism in China and foster sound political and cultural environment for the people-to-people exchanges.

4. There have been long-time discussions on Chinese companies which are interested in investments into construction of road infrastructures - not only in Slovakia. Problem of pursuing these projects, from the European point of view, is inadmissible state aid which companies are given from the Chinese government. Do you think that companies have any chance to be successful in that, despite this fact?

Large-scale infrastructure development has played a key role in China's reform and opening up process, creating job opportunities and laying a solid basis for economic growth. There was not a single expressway in China in 1978, the year that China started the reform and opening up program. Last year the total length of expressway in China reached 74 thousand km, making China world's number two only after the United States. There was only 52 thousand km of railway in China in 1978. Last year it topped 91 thousand km, including 8,358 km of high-speed railway, making China number one in the world. The Beijing-Shanghai high-speed railway can reach a speed of 486 km/h.

As China develops its infrastructure, a large number of competent construction businesses have flourished. These businesses have won many influential large-scale contracts at home and abroad on the basis of their merits.

Many Central and Eastern European countries are interested in Chinese businesses' participation in their infrastructure development. Chinese businesses, on their part, are also interested in investing in the European market. Many businesses have made positive explorations in participating in some large projects. We are pleased to see the cooperation growing. Of course, Chinese businesses need to observe the local laws and norms to join the competition. The Chinese banks are willing to study the possibility of providing financial support such as loans to the businesses under appropriate business conditions.

Yet Chinese businesses are faced with some difficulties in the European market. They are not familiar with the political, legal and social environment there, and they lack managerial expertise. They need support in laws and other areas from European counterparts. Moreover, some people in Europe made unwarranted criticism against Chinese businesses, saying they have ulterior motives. This undermines the enthusiasm of Chinese businesses in investing in Europe.

Most of the Chinese state-owned enterprises are publicly-listed companies and are operating according to market rules. The comments made by some European media are not fact-based and quite confusing. They commented that Chinese state-owned enterprises depend on state subsidies for development and that Chinese private businesses are taking up too much wealth. I don't think it reflects the reality in China. The media are just being emotional, perhaps. Yet these comments made Chinese businesses quite puzzled. Some businesses believe that since the investment environment in Europe is not good, and it would be better to slow down the steps to go abroad, or to move their investment to other places in the world, where environment is better. I told these businesses that these comments were made by some individuals and do not represent the opinion of the whole Europe. Nevertheless, their enthusiasm was badly affected. This shows that a good investment environment is very important.

5. The Eurozone has been fighting with debt crisis for one year, however China continues in investments into Eurobonds for the time beng. Do you still consider these bonds as good investment and will your country continue in it? Do you believe the Eurozone will eventually be successful in overcoming troubles of its highly debt members and bankruptcy of some those members will not happen?

The impact of the sovereign debt crisis in Europe still exists. We see financial market fluctuations and prominent debt risks in some European countries. Confronted by severe financing difficulties, some countries in Europe hoped that China could lend a helping hand to purchase their treasury bonds and help their economy recover at an early date. We responded positively by taking a series of measures to buy more Eurobonds and help promote the integration process in Europe. Our measures have been productive and were appreciated and welcomed by the EU and governments of European countries.

Yet some people in Europe say that China's purchasing of European bonds poses a threat, and some even say China is doing so with other motives. It is indeed difficult to be a Chinese. When our friends hope to get help, shall we do it or not? It is really disappointing to know that we will be criticized whether we do it or not.

The EU is China's largest trading partner. Economic stability of the EU members is important to China-EU cooperation and China's economic development. Since last year, I accompanied a number of Chinese leaders in their visits to Europe. Our message to our European friends is consistent. China is a responsible long-term investor to the European financial markets. We firmly support European countries in tackling the sovereign debt crisis. As EU's comprehensive strategic partner, we hope to see a Europe that maintains stability and development.

6. Western countries have criticised China for violating human rights including freedom of speech. Popular uprising in Tunisia has been inspiration for people in several Arab countries like Egypt, Yemen or Libya, but China as well. Chinese activists who demand political reforms called for protests in Bejing through social network which stopped functioning for some time and authorities also took some other measures. In addition, there are allegedly 100.000 political opponents of the government in Chinese prisons. China is not interested in liberalization of society, democracy nor plural political system. What development would take place in your country in case of establishing them, in your view?

From the question I can tell that you still need to know more about China.

The global financial crisis and Europe's sovereign debt crisis have exposed the deficiencies in the democratic systems in the west. Some political parties have been running up debts for years to please voters with welfare for the sheer purpose of winning the election. They could not make ends meet and finally came to the crisis. On the part of China, our measures to handle the crisis are paying off. Yet we have not made any comments against the west, or any calls to follow our practice.

China has made unprecedented achievements in its economic and social development in the thirty years after the launch of the reform and opening up program. What has happened shows that China has embarked on a road that fits itself. However, the western world has always been making unwarranted remarks or criticism against China in a condescending way. They are still of the view that China has succeeded in its economy, but failed in political development. It is like saying one country's economy and society can develop in isolation from its political system.

As a matter of fact, China's fast economic development cannot be achieved without the improvement of the political system or a political structure that suits its national reality. We have been promoting steadily the development of the legal system and political restructuring in the 30 years of reform and opening up. The National People's Congress (NPC), China's legislature, has enacted or revised over 200 laws. The protection of human rights was incorporated into China's Constitution in 2004. During the just concluded "two sessions"-the annual sessions of the NPC and the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), over 5000 NPC deputies and CPPCC members had heated discussions over issues such as sustainable development, wealth gap, traffic congestion and social safety net. They put forward quite a lot of proposals. How to increase people's happiness has become a hot topic.

In China, the Internet is an open forum where the public opinion serves as an important source of reference for the government in policy-making. China has over 400 million Internet users, and half of them opened blogs. Everyday over four million postings and comments appear online, making Internet in China world's largest "opinion square". Through the Internet, the Chinese citizens supervise the work of the government, oversee readjustments in government's policies and expose all kinds of malpractices. During the "two sessions", the major websites in China opened special columns for the users to pose questions and submit their advices to the Chinese Premier, a common practice over the years. Premier Wen Jiabao also had dialogue with the users online and listened to their suggestions on China's development.

China welcomes criticism. The process of reform and opening up is a process for China to have self-readjustment and self-improvement. Yet the freedom of any society has to be based on the rule of law and stability. Without rule of law or stability, freedom means a state of anarchy. In the modern history China paid a huge price for turbulences, which made the Chinese people firmly believe that the rule of law and stability serve as the guarantee for progress.

Regarding the calls for so-called "protests" in Beijing, I was wondering whether you have noticed that these calls came from outside China, and that the key participants in the so-called "protest" in Beijing were a group of well-equipped foreign journalists! People in China found this really funny.

Do the Chinese people really have such demand? Or is it because some people overseas hope to see social turbulences in China? Why are the western journalists so keen to see disturbance in China? Some Chinese Internet users angrily pointed it out that "it is the west that hopes to see China in chaos".

Some countries in the Middle East and North Africa have been undergoing turmoil recently, arousing concern from all sides. In order to protect the interests of its nationals, the Chinese government has made an all-out effort in an evacuation campaign that is unprecedented in the Chinese history. In less than 12 days, 35,860 Chinese were safely evacuated from Libya.

The issue of democracy is not the only cause behind the Middle East turbulences. There are other causes, including the deep-rooted issue of development. Some Middle Eastern countries suffer from a two-digital youth unemployment rate, where 60% of their population are under 30 years old. The social problems and deficit in people's well-being have long been overdue. We need to follow the situation in the time to come and find out the fundamental causes of the turbulence.

China's society is generally stable, its economy growing and people's lives improving. And yes we do have problems. We need to run against the clock to meet new challenges and resolve the problems on the road ahead. Democracy is a means for decision-making and governance, but it cannot create wealth or bring food on the table. What is important is to adopt a democratic system that fits national conditions, realize economic and social development and ensure the fruits of development are shared by the public.

Due to our past experience, the Chinese people feel strongly against foreign coercion or interference, no matter it is from the east or west, or from the former socialist bloc or western capitalist bloc. Slovakia also underwent foreign coercion and interference in its history. We hope our friends in Slovakia will understand the wish of the Chinese people to follow a development path of our own.

7. Nobel peace prize in 2010 was given to Chinese author and advocate of political reforms Liou Siao-po who serves 11-year-long punishment in prison for inciting the subversion of the state and he was not allowed to accept the prize in Norway in person. Western countries call for his releasing. Can you tell us what is his further "fate", what is his state of health or some other actual information on him? We are also interested in the situation of his wife Liou Sia who is in home prison according to informtion available.

The Chinese nation made splendid achievements in the long history of development. Yet in the past centuries, we were subject to foreign invasion, colonial rule, wars and famines. In the socialist development period, we had detours and even social upheavals.

Under the leadership of Mr. Deng Xiaoping, China launched the reform and opening up program in 1978. We reviewed and corrected the past mistakes, and chose a path of socialism with Chinese characteristics that fits our conditions. Over the past three decades, China's GDP registered an annual growth rate of 9.9%. Now it stands at 5.88 trillion US dollars, ranking second in the world. Per capita GDP of China increased from 225 US dollars to 4283 dollars. Over 250 million people have been lifted out of poverty. Life expectancy has increased from 68 years to 75 years. All these achievements are the result of the hard work of the Chinese people over the years. They have not come easily and need to be cherished.

Yet China remains a developing country and is still at the early stage of industrialization and urbanization. 60% of the population are farmers and 150 million people are living on under one US dollar per day. China has to rely on only 10% of the world's arable land to feed 22% of the world's population.

Today's China has provided enough food and clothing to its population. Moreover, the Chinese people no longer have to kneel down but can stand tall in the international arena. We have to build on our achievement, carry forward the Chinese civilization and bring more happiness and dignity to the people. This is a serious issue that the Communist Party, the government and people of China need to face. Thus we are firmly committed to development and give priority to the transformation of economic development pattern, improvement of people's well-being and promotion of social fairness.

Stability is the precondition of development and offers the basis of our work in all other areas. It is like the number "1" in figures such as 100, 1000, 1 million or as large as 1 billion. Development is like all the "zeros" that follow. Without social stability, it is like removing the number "1". All things that come afterwards will be turned to zero.

Any individual or incident that would provoke social turbulences and undermine social stability will meet the full might of law. Our differences on the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize are not about the issue of human rights. Rather, they are about whether to respect China's development path and China's judicial independence.

Some people draw an analogy between the Charter 77 of the former Czechoslovakia and the Charter 08. They have totally forgotten the fact that Czechoslovakia at that stage was under great difficulties caused by economic and cultural stagnation and foreign coercion, and that in 1968 the Chinese people were standing firm with the Czechoslovakian people in condemning strongly the invasion by the former Soviet Union. They have forgotten the fundamental causes of the fight of the Czechoslovakian people. Today's China enjoys economic growth, social progress and fast improvement in people's lives. The biggest task for China now is development. We will not miss our development opportunities because of the ulterior motives of certain individuals.

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