Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi has described the relationship between China and Iran as very old.
“Iran has long-standing ties with us,” Wang said in an interview with Al Jazeera ahead of the seventh ministerial conference of the China-Arab States Cooperation Forum in Doha.
The chief Chinese diplomat also said the landmark nuclear deal between Iran and the six major powers (China, Russia, Germany, the U.S., Britain, and France) is “very helpful” as it has allayed possible concerns about Iran’s nuclear activities and can contribute to “peace in the Middle East”.
The following is the transcript of the interview:
Question: How important is the Middle East in China’s diplomatic strategy?
A: The Middle East has always had a unique and important place in China’s foreign policy. We are all developing countries, we have similar historical experiences and we share the goal of revitalizing our nations. Hence, the people of China and Arab countries have been close friends and strong partners.
The fact is, since the 1950s when New China was just founded, we have been a staunch supporter of Arab people’s quest for national liberation, especially that of the Palestinian people. At all critical moments of the Palestine issue, China has stood firmly with the Palestinian people, with the Arab people, and this has become a good tradition between us.
As China and Arab countries continue to develop in recent years, our relations have also been growing in substance. We have launched more win-win cooperation, with China now being the top trading partner of 10 Arab countries and our two-way trade exceeding 200 billion US dollars. Nearly half of China’s crude oil imports come from Arab countries, and China’s investment in Arab countries is fast rising. Having said that, there is still broad space and much potential to be tapped in China-Arab relations. Underpinned by their traditional friendship, China and Arab countries are increasingly becoming a community of shared interests.
President Xi Jinping has called for a joint endeavor to build the Belt and Road. Arab countries and the Middle East evidently occupy a strategic place in such efforts, and the Middle East will only enjoy a rising status in China’s foreign policy. We have full confidence in the future of China’s relations with Middle East countries. Under the new circumstances, we will not just be each other’s ideal partners in building the Belt and Road for common development and rejuvenation, but also safeguard our common interests and jointly make the international relations more democratic.
Q: Regarding President Xi Jinping’s Belt and Road Initiative, how will China and Arab countries benefit from it?
A: This is a very good question. The Silk Road began to take shape from more than 2,000 years ago, and the Middle East was where the land and maritime silk roads intersected. Friendly exchanges between China and countries in the region brought peace, tranquility and prosperity to both sides. Fast track to today: China is following its opening up policy in all respects. Building on our eastward opening-up, we are more active in opening westward. In the meantime, we have noted that, be it Middle East countries, Central Asian countries, or South East countries, and even European countries, they have all started to look to the East. This has made synergy possible between China’s development strategy and those of many Eurasian countries. This trend reflects our mutual need for cooperation. Having suffered from wars and turmoil for centuries, people of all Eurasian countries aspire for peace and development more than anything else, and many countries make development as much a high priority as China does. When it comes to development, China and countries along the Silk Road, especially the Middle East countries, have every condition to draw on each other’s comparative strengths, and achieve common development and prosperity. In keeping with this common aspiration of Eurasian countries, President Xi Jinping put forward the Belt and Road Initiative. The initiative soon received warm response from many countries along the routes, and so far over 70 countries and organizations, including Middle East countries, are ready to participate.
The Middle East region is also where the modern versions of the land and maritime Silk Roads meet. Implementation of the Belt and Road Initiative will surely bring new, historic development opportunities to countries in the region. We are also ready to, through the initiative, work with all countries in the Middle East to make the economy of developing countries stronger, and deliver real benefits to our people. Let us work together for the revival of the Eurasian continent. This vision can become a reality.
Q: When will the Belt and Road Initiative get started?
A: Implementation of the initiative has already begun. Some projects have got off to a start. The pool of projects is growing bigger, up to 1,000 as I know. As our communication with relevant countries deepens, these projects will be implemented one after another.
How come there are so many projects? And why such a keen interest? First and foremost, this is because they speak to the mutual need of China and countries along the routes, including the Middle East countries. Many Eurasian countries want to expedite their industrialization process and shift away from the long, old pattern of driving economic development by relying on primary products and general resource products. They hope to enhance their self-development capacity and promote diversity in the economy. As China’s economy has entered a mature stage of industrialization, we have abundant quality industrial capacity and mature technologies that we can offer other countries. In addition, we can also provide personnel training and necessary financing support. Hence, I’m confident that countries in Eurasia, including the Middle East countries, will find China their ideal partner in the industrialization process. And our political will to enhance cooperation and extensive common interests will only help us achieve greater progress in the win-win cooperation. We have developed some big projects in the Middle East, for example, the Yanbu refinery in Saudi Arabia which is already in operation. This is a large petrochemical plant that helps Saudi Arabia raise its level of industrialization and capacity for self-development. We plan to build an industrial park in Oman, and will undertake a silk city project in Kuwait and launch integrated development around several islands.
The Silk Road Economic Belt, in general, has three dimensions: First, connectivity. The goal is to closely connect as much of Eurasian continent as possible by rail, road, air and network to create basic conditions for development. Second, production capacity cooperation. This is to raise the level of industrialization and enhance the capacity for development for various countries through win-win cooperation. And third, cultural and people-to-people exchange. We have fostered along the Silk Road a fine tradition of mutual learning and mutual respect between different civilizations. We hope to carry forward this tradition and conduct diverse cultural exchanges along the route to increase mutual understanding and friendship, and solidify public support for relations between China and these countries. This is what we have been doing.
Q: On 12 May, you will attend the 7th Ministerial Meeting of the China-Arab States Cooperation Forum. What outcomes does China expect out of the Forum?
A: The China-Arab States Cooperation Forum is an important platform of dialogue and cooperation that China has established with other developing countries. More than anything else, the Forum shows that China values the importance of Arab States. We hope that on the basis of bilateral friendship between China and Arab and Middle East countries, we can have a channel of collective dialogue and cooperation to promote greater understanding of China by more Arab states and their cooperation with China across the board.
The Forum is now 12 years old, and six ministerial meetings have been held. It has produced many important outcomes and advanced China’s relations with Arab states in all respects. For instance, five Arab states have signed cooperation agreements with China under the Belt and Road Initiative. Seven Arab states have joined as founding members the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank established under China’s proposal. Eight Arab countries have established strategic partnerships with China. And as I mentioned just now, China has become the largest trading partner of 10 Arab states. In addition, the number of students from Arab states studying in China has risen rapidly to 14,000. Every week, nearly 200 flights travel between China and Arab countries. These are all what has been accomplished through joint efforts of both sides since the inception of the Forum.
At the upcoming 7th Ministerial Meeting held in Qatar, our discussion with Arab states will be focused on ways to follow through on President Xi Jinping’s policy initiative to achieve China’s friendly ties with Arab countries and a number of key measures he announced during his visit to the League of Arab States last January. We will discuss matters such as how to put into use the US$15 billion special loans for helping Arab states improve their industrialization capabilities and the US$10 billion concessional loans for infrastructure building. We will also discuss how to use the two US$10 billion cooperation funds established with Qatar and the UAE respectively. We hope that the two funds will play their role for the development of Arab states. At the meeting, we will announce some new measures. For example, in the next two years, we will invite to China additional 6,000 students from Arab states under government scholarships, train 6,000 professionals for Arab states and invite 600 leaders of different political parties and group of Arab countries to visit China and hold equal-footed and friendly exchanges on governance issues with relevant authorities of China. In short, we will introduce another host of specific policies and measures on strengthening China-Arab states relations as part of our policies to enhance friendship with Arab states.
Q: China has followed the question of Palestine for years. Why don’t you urge Israel to lift its blockade in Gaza and treat the Palestinian people humanely?
A: We firmly support the just cause of the Palestinian people to restore their national rights and oppose to the prolonged blockade in the Gaza Strip. When outlining China’s policy on the Palestinian issue, President Xi Jinping publicly called for the lifting of the blockade in Gaza. The Gaza issue is part of the Palestinian question. We support the effort to address it in the process of resolving the Palestinian question as a whole.
The pressing task at the moment is to focus on the humanitarian crisis there and offer necessary support and help to the local people who are suffering. At the same time, new ideas should be explored for ultimately resolving the issue. Recently I met the Palestinian Foreign Minister in China. He raised some very important ideas. He said that the Palestinian refugees should not be forgotten when everybody is talking about the refugee issue. I could not agree more. The refugees of Palestine have been displaced for over half a century, unable to build their own homeland. Such an unfair and unreasonable phenomenon cannot be allowed to persist. Next year will mark the 70th anniversary of the adoption of the UN Palestine Partition Plan. Seventy years have passed, but the just propositions and national aspirations the Palestinian people are yet to be realized. The international community should place high importance on it and further pool together energy to solve the Palestinian question at an early date.
This issue is at the core of the Middle East question. It bears on the conscience and justice of mankind and we cannot afford to let it drag on. Neither can we allow our brothers and sisters to remain displaced. Palestine and France are now having discussions on expanding the international mechanism to solve the issue and China’s attitude is open and supportive. We do believe that more countries should care about and participate in the settlement of the Palestinian issue. If such a new and broader mechanism is in place, China is ready to take an active part in it and play a constructive role.
Q: Can the Palestinian people expect China to take further measures on pushing for the lifting of the blockade?
A: We will continue to call for an early lifting of the blockade in Gaza on various international and multilateral occasions. We will call on the international community to pay greater attention to the sufferings of the Palestinian people and urge more countries to support Palestine in fulfilling its long-held dream of statehood as soon as possible. This is what we have all along been doing and we will continue to do so in future. China will always stand side by side with the Palestinian people.
We will call on the international community to pay greater attention to the sufferings of the Palestinian people and urge more countries to support Palestine in fulfilling its long-held dream of statehood as soon as possible. This is what we have all along been doing and we will continue to do so in future. China will always stand side by side with the Palestinian people.
Q: The governments of Russia and Syria have launched a war in Aleppo and millions of Syrians are displaced as a result. What’s your take on this issue?
A: We have all along supported the Syrian people in determining the future of Syria on their own and we support a political settlement of the issue of Syria. That is why the Chinese side voted for the UN Security Council’s resolution calling for a political solution to the Syrian issue. We support a process owned and led by the Syrian people and believe that as long as all the political forces, parties and groups can sit down together and truly bear in mind the fundamental and long-term interests of the nation and people of Syria, a way will be found to solve the issue. No difficulty is insurmountable, so long as the parties are willing to go beyond the selfish interests of their own party or group. External forces should provide necessary support for and play a constructive role in the Syrian people’s effort to solve the issue on their own.
We see that many countries have been involved in the issue to various degrees. To our knowledge, Russia has been officially invited by the Syrian government to join in the process of solving the Syrian issue and to fight the extremist and terrorist forces in Syria. It is fair to say that terrorist forces in Syria have been contained to a certain degree thanks to the joint efforts of Russia and other parties concerned. Otherwise, it would have been impossible to have this new round of peace talks or to conduct any humanitarian assistance. The peace talks are in difficulty recently and the ceasefire has been challenged by various factors. Under such circumstances, it is all the more necessary to stay firm in pushing forward the peace talks and encourage all countries outside this region to play a positive role. China’s position has been consistent and clear, namely, it is important to follow the path of political settlement, because only a political solution can serve the fundamental interests of the people and nation of Syria.
Follow-up: But they have committed war crimes under the disguise of fighting terrorists, haven’t they?
A: I believe the local people know the best what happens there and they have the best say on that. Other countries should be cautious in making any judgment on this matter. On what criteria China adopts in this regard, in specific terms, on how to view a country’s entry into the territory of another country for a military operation, we mainly have two criteria: first, the operation must have the prior consent of the country concerned or must be carried out at its invitation; second, the operation must comply with international law and basic norms governing international relations. China follows these two criteria in forming its views on military operations, no matter it is in Syria, Iraq, Yemen or any other places.
We have all along supported the Syrian people in determining the future of Syria on their own and we support a political settlement of the issue of Syria.
Q: With millions of refugees in Iraq, Syria and Yemen, what efforts is China making to help resolve humanitarian crises in the world?
A: China is a responsible major country and a friend of the Arab people. We care deeply about the refugees and try to help them as much as we can. First of all, we appeal to the world to pay more attention, show more support and take action to resolve the refugee crisis. Secondly, China itself has provided several batches of humanitarian assistance. In the past two years, we have provided 680 million yuan of emergency supplies to help refugees in Syria and elsewhere. Early this year, President Xi Jinping announced a new aid package of 230 million yuan. Not long ago in London, China pledged 10,000 tons of food assistance to meet the urgent need of the refugees.
On the other hand, we think it necessary to address both the symptoms and root causes. We must find the underlying causes of the refugee issue in order to fundamentally remove its breeding ground. People know very well how the refugee issue has come about. You have countries in chaos, governments in disarray, wars and conflicts breaking out, and the rise of extremism and terrorism. People suffer immensely and have no choice but to flee their homes. So, to resolve the refugee crisis, the current hotspot issues must be resolved. Only when normal governance and sound state institutions are in place, will it be possible for the refugee issue to be thoroughly resolved with the help of the international community.
Q: China is on good terms with Arab states and the Gulf States. What does China’s relationship with Iran look like?
A: China desires normal and friendly ties with all countries. Arab states are our good friends and, of course, Iran has long-standing ties with us. The comprehensive agreement on the Iranian nuclear issue is very helpful, as it has addressed international concerns about Iran’s possible nuclear program. It is a good deal for peace in the Middle East and for the international non-proliferation regime. With the implementation of the agreement, Iran could have normal interactions with other countries. Between China and Iran, we have state-to-state relations based on the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence. With the lifting of sanctions, there will be more interactions between our two countries. We will encourage and support efforts by Iran to improve relations and work with its neighbors and to be a positive force for regional peace and stability, including contributing to the settlement of various hotspot issues. China will continue to work along this line.
Q: Russia is again in rivalry with the West. How does China see Russia? Is it a competitor or a partner?
A: We hope that all countries are our partners. This is certainly the case with Russia, because it is China’s largest neighbor and we share a long border. As you may know, historically, relationship between China and the Soviet Union went through ups and downs. There were tensions, confrontations and even local conflicts. Later, the two sides learned lessons and built a more normal, friendly relationship on the basis of the fact that the relationship is not an alliance, nor is it confrontational or targeted at any third party. In recent years, China and Russia have worked closely together in various fields, and we do need each other as neighbors. For instance, we combine each other’s strength economically, and work hard to deepen mutually beneficial cooperation between the two sides. When it comes to international and regional affairs, China hopes to achieve a multi-polar world and democracy in international relations. We are talking frequently and working in concert with Russia to safeguard the legitimate rights and interests of developing countries and jointly playing an active role in upholding justice in the international arena.
Q: After WWII, Britain and France pulled out of the Middle East, leaving a vacuum which was filled by the United States. Now, the United States is reducing its presence. Is China ready, politically and militarily, to fill the vacuum in the Middle East?
A: The expression “to fill the vacuum” does not show enough respect for the right of the Middle East to decide its own future. I don’t think there is a “vacuum” there. People in the Middle East have the right and ability to make their own home a better place. It’s fine if other countries want to help, but, just to be clear, there is no vacuum to fill. Above anything else, we must believe that people in the Middle East are able to master their own destiny and come together to build a better region. This is what China wants to see and all peoples in the Middle East should work for.
Follow-up: Minister, I appreciate your answer about “vacuum”. What you said sends a message that China respects the sovereignty and independence of the Arab people. The Arab leaders should be clear that there is no vacuum in the Arab states and the Middle East, and they should decide their own future.
A: I agree entirely.
Q: The 20th century was the American century. Can we expect the 21st century to be the Chinese century?
A: It’s not China’s preference to describe any century as one belonging to a certain country. We believe that affairs of a country should be handled by its own people, and likewise the affairs of the world should be handled through discussion by all countries, instead of being dominated or monopolized by any single country. In this sense, China has all along supported the current international system with the United Nations at its core. The UN is the most authoritative inter-governmental organization with the broadest representation, whose Charter is endorsed by people across the world. In fact, many problems in our world, turbulence, chaos and wars, all result from the failure to fully implement the purposes and principles of the UN Charter, the very essence of which is respect for sovereignty, non-interference in internal affairs, peaceful settlement of disputes and international cooperation. If all countries, big and small, strong and weak, abide by the purposes and principles of the UN Charter, the world will be more peaceful and stable, and countries will prosper together. That is the goal and philosophy of China’s diplomacy.
Q: The United States is on a path of decline, and such decline will become quite pronounced in the next ten to twenty years. Is China prepared to lead the world, even if it is forced to do so because of the US decline?
A: Different countries may not have exactly the same assessment of the status and influence of the US. From what we know about the country, the United States will probably remain the world’s No. 1 for a fairly long time to come. But this does not mean that the world can only be led by one country, which, in fact, is simply impossible. We need greater international cooperation to ensure a better future for our planet.
At the summits marking the 70th anniversary of the UN last year, President Xi Jinping laid out a very important vision, calling on countries to work together for a community of shared future for mankind. Given the level of interdependence and integration among the world’s nations, our planet has in fact become a village where no one can prosper in isolation. This requires us to build a community of shared interests, shared responsibilities and shared security, and eventually a community of shared future for mankind. Such an endeavor is in the common interest of all mankind and should be a lofty goal for us.
The United States will probably remain the world’s No. 1 for a fairly long time to come. But this does not mean that the world can only be led by one country, which, in fact, is simply impossible.
Q: After attending the US-Philippines joint military drill in mid-April, US Defense Secretary Carter accused China of militarizing the South China Sea and said that countries in the Asia Pacific were concerned about China’s land reclamation. Is this a military provocation by the US and Southeast Asian countries against China?
A: Your question makes sense. The South China Sea is originally peaceful and stable. As for the disputes left over from history over some specific islands and reefs, China is committed to seeking proper, peaceful settlement through dialogue and consultation even though its own rights and interests had been infringed upon. This process is still under way.
Some littoral states of the South China Sea started construction on the islands and reefs many years ago, including their so-called construction on the Chinese islands and reefs they illegally occupied. China began some necessary construction only very recently. For one thing, China’s construction is meant to improve the living and working conditions of the personnel on the islands and reefs. Harsh natural conditions-the wind and rains-have made such improvements absolutely necessary. At the same time, China, as the largest littoral state of the South China Sea, is willing to provide more public goods by building necessary facilities which can benefit everyone. For example, we have built light houses which, once in operation, will benefit all vessels that pass by. People think this is a good thing. The ports we built for emergency relief, including medical facilities and meteorological stations, will also serve the public good. What we did does not breach any international law or affect the freedom of navigation. Quite the contrary, we are providing public goods that everyone needs. To play up or sensationalize the matter makes no sense. Any sensationalization is probably driven by certain political agenda.
As for the so-called militarization you just mentioned, it is common sense that all countries enjoy the right to self-preservation and self-defense under international law. It is therefore perfectly normal that China has some self-defense facilities on its stationed islands and reefs. Other countries have long maintained a large number of military facilities on the islands and reefs around us. We need necessary means and capabilities to defend ourselves, but this has nothing to do with militarization. If one talks about militarization, we have seen aircraft carriers coming to the South China Sea, strategic bombers flying over the South China Sea waters and guided-missile destroyers coming close to China’s islands and reefs, all to exert military pressure on China. I am afraid this is what militarization really looks like, including large-scale military drills and the construction of military bases of all sorts in the Philippines.
Now this is what I think: be it island construction or militarization, there should be no double standard. It is not fair for one to criticize others on the one hand while doing whatever he likes on the other. I think more and more countries have realized this, and people without prejudice will see clearly the current situation and the root of the problem.
Q: The US has sent several thousand American troops to the Philippines for the joint military exercise. Do you see this as a direct threat to China?
A: Such a move, to say the least, has added destabilizing factors to the South China Sea situation, if not further heightening the tensions, and we don’t think it is constructive. For the settlement of the South China Sea issue, there is already a clear approach to be observed by all, that is the “dual track approach” on which China and ASEAN countries have basically agreed.
One track of this approach is about how to settle the specific disputes. China and ASEAN agreed that these disputes should be settled through negotiations by parties directly concerned. This is what the UN Charter encourages, and what has been required by Paragraph Four of the DOC jointly signed by China and the ten ASEAN countries. China, the Philippines and other ASEAN countries all have obligations to shoulder.
It is for this reason that China does not approve of, accept or participate in the so-called international arbitration unilaterally initiated by the Philippines. Because, first of all, this so-called arbitration violates Paragraph Four of the DOC we all signed. It also goes against the principle that arbitration requires agreement between the parties concerned; the Philippines pushed for the arbitration without having any consultation with China. The Philippines also violated a number of bilateral agreements it reached with China, the centerpiece of which is to resolve problems through negotiations. What’s more, the Philippines claimed that it initiated the arbitration because it had exhausted the means of negotiation. That’s not true; or to put it more bluntly, that is a lie. The Philippines had not engaged in any serious bilateral negotiations with China on any of the so-called requests it submitted to the arbitral tribunal. Even till this day, China is still saying to the Philippines that we may sit down and talk, and China’s door for dialogue is open. It is the Philippines who still refuses to negotiate or consult with us. As we see it, what the Philippines did lacks legality and legitimacy from the very beginning.
Some people contend that accepting the arbitration is observing the law, while not accepting the arbitration is a defiance of international law. Such an argument does not hold water at all. As I said just now, it is the Philippines who lacks legal basis. As for China’s non-acceptance of the arbitration, for one thing, we need to honor our responsibilities and obligations under the DOC and to bilateral negotiations as the way of resolving the problem. For another, as early as ten years ago, we had issued a government statement that excluded compulsory jurisdiction, a right provided for by Article 298 of the UNCLOS. Of course, the Chinese government will stand by the statement it made ten years ago; the continuity and consistency of the government’s position need to be maintained. Therefore, China is acting according to law and is safeguarding the sanctity of the UNCLOS. What I just told you is the first track, namely that specific disputes should be negotiated by parties directly involved.
The other track is about peace and stability in the South China Sea. It should be jointly maintained and ensured by all littoral states of the South China Sea, namely China and ASEAN, through cooperation. On this track, China and ASEAN are fully implementing the DOC, including carrying out maritime cooperation. We are also advancing the COC process, which is progressing fairly fast. We hope to reach agreement as soon as possible so as to better safeguard peace and stability in the South China Sea. In other words, China and ASEAN are capable and willing to safeguard peace and stability in the South China Sea through cooperation. So we hope countries from outside the region will support efforts by China and ASEAN and play a constructive role rather than doing the opposite.
Q: You served as the Chinese Ambassador to Japan. Japanese foreign minister visited China a couple of days ago amid strained relations between China and Japan. How do you see the future of China-Japan relations?
A: China and Japan are close neighbors. We certainly want stable, healthy, friendly and good-neighborly relations with Japan. This is our consistent policy. But just as you cannot clap with one hand alone, the two sides need to meet each other half way. We need to see not only what Japan says, but also how it acts. It is important for Japan to view China as a cooperation partner rather than a rival, a friendly neighbor rather than a “threat”. If Japan can commit itself to this common understanding and act on it in developing its relations with China, China-Japan relations will embark on a path of stable development. The China-Japan relations now hinge on what decision the Japanese side would make.
Q: The DPRK has unsettled the world with its military policy. As its neighbor and probably the country with the closest relations with the DPRK, how does China view the situation in the DPRK and the concerns it has caused for countries around the world, in particular, the United States?
A: You raised a very important question about the Korean nuclear issue. This issue has attracted growing international attention, and has been in the spotlight after the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action was reached on the Iranian nuclear issue. China’s position is clear-cut, namely the “three commitments”. First, China is committed to achieving denuclearization on the Korean Peninsula. There should be no nuclear weapons on the Peninsula, either by way of development or by import, because it does no good to either side, to their security, or to the region. Rather, it will undermine the international non-proliferation regime. Second, China is committed to peace and stability on the Peninsula. Given the geographical proximity, any chaos or war on the Peninsula would have a direct bearing on China and its modernization drive. It goes without saying that, war or chaos serves no one’s interests. So we need to work together to avoid such scenario and jointly uphold peace and stability on the Peninsula. Third, China is committed to resolving the Korean nuclear issue through peaceful means. Actually, we already have good experience in dealing with this issue, that is the Six-Party Talks. Under the talks, all sides can bring their concerns to the table, talk them through and address them in parallel. This approach is fair and reasonable, and had secured important progress out of the talks in the past. It has also played a positive role in resolving the Iranian nuclear issue. As such, it is imperative to resume the Six-Party Talks and bring the nuclear issue on the Peninsula back to the track of negotiation.
In the current context, the pressing task is to avoid further escalation of tensions on the Peninsula, in particular, to forestall conflicts and prevent the situation from deteriorating or even getting out of control. The Chinese side is talking to all parties for this purpose. Moreover, UNSC Resolution 2270 should be implemented. Adopted unanimously at the Security Council, Resolution 2270 voices clear opposition against the DPRK’s nuclear and missile program and sets out a host of necessary measures. At the same time, it says clearly that the measures taken should not affect the livelihood of the DPRK people, nor should they lead to humanitarian crisis or further escalation of tensions. It also reiterates the importance of resuming the Six-Party Talks and resolving the issue through negotiation. The resolution includes all these aspects and must be implemented in full.
The Chinese side is implementing the UN resolution as a permanent member of the Security Council while pursuing the resumption of the talks. We have put forward an approach of parallel tracks, which is inspired by our past experience. For the DPRK, security is its top concern, so it wants to replace the armistice agreement with a peace treaty to ensure its national security. This is understandable, while the United States and other countries, including China, hope that the DPRK will give up its nuclear program and the denuclearization of the Peninsula can be achieved. We need to take into account both concerns and pursue, in parallel tracks, the denuclearization and the replacement of the armistice agreement with a peace treaty. We can discuss them all at the negotiating table and find a package solution. I believe this is a viable way to resume the talks. We also hope to keep close communication with all sides, members of the Six-Party Talks in particular, to create conditions for the resumption. In all, the Korean nuclear issue must be addressed peacefully.Follow-up: The big question now is whether the DPRK is willing to abandon its nuclear program.
A: You touched upon a very important point. Is the DPRK willing to do so? The key is to get the talks going, because no progress would be possible without the talks.
Q: I hope you will give a straightforward answer to this question. I mentioned several times the United States and Defense Secretary Carter’s criticism of China. Yet you didn’t name the United States in your answer. Did you do it deliberately to avoid provoking the United States?
A: We will articulate our position very clearly when it’s necessary to do so. You asked about the United States several times and I gave a clear answer already. Who is engaging in massive military exercises in this region? Who is sending a lot of advanced weaponry to the South China Sea and building new military bases? The answer is all too clear: the United States.
Q: You said just now that there is no vacuum in the Arab states, and if there ever is, it is their responsibility to fill it. I have looked at your personal experience and found you grow up witnessing China’s rapid development, a period when China’s dream of national renewal is coming true. So you have been part of the Chinese dream. I would like to hear about your suggestions on how Arab states can revitalize their countries. What steps are needed to realize the kind of growth that China has registered?
A: The Arabs are industrious and resourceful people, who created brilliant civilizations and contributed greatly to the advancement of mankind. We have always been very optimistic about the development of the Arab states. In addition, their huge market and abundant resources put them in a good position for further development. We believe that each country needs to find a path best suited to its national conditions and development stage, one that can be accepted and supported by its people. Only such a path can lead to long-term sustained development. Other countries’ experience may not fit our own national conditions. Still worse, external interference often creates serious complications. So as a friend, we hope to see Arab states come together and help and support each other to jointly revitalize the Arab world and make fresh contribution to the development of mankind.
As conditions vary from country to country, it is up to each country itself to explore the best way for it. As for China, its biggest achievement is that it has found a path suited to its reality, which is socialism with Chinese characteristics and China has accumulated rich experience in this process. Put simply, for the past few decades, we have struck a balance between development, reform and stability. First, the whole nation, starting from the governing party, is committed to the overriding goal of achieving development. Because we believe that development holds the key to solving all the problems facing China. How to achieve development? It requires stability, which is a precondition for development. That is why maintaining stability is an important task for us. We need to safeguard stability of our country, our system, our policy, and all ethnic groups and regions. Development would be out of the question without a stable environment. We also need reform as it provides the driving force and creates new space, potential and prospect for development. In short, it is because we have managed to balance development, reform and stability that we have gone this far and this fast. Of course, this is just China’s experience. We would be happy to share it with Arab states and have further discussions in the future.
Q: You will soon go to Doha for the 7th Ministerial Meeting, and we know that China and Arab states enjoy good relations. Will China say yes, if Arab states propose to cooperate with China the peaceful use of nuclear energy?
A: My answer will be a definite “yes”. Actually President Xi has already put forward an important initiative to set up a China-Arab training center for the peaceful use of nuclear energy. We are ready to cooperate with Arab states in this regard.
Q: Let me come back to the “Belt and Road” Initiative. Will this initiative, if fully implemented, reshape the entire landscape of global trade and international relations?
A: In essence, the “Belt and Road” is an economic initiative for common development and prosperity. If through its implementation, the Eurasian continent can achieve revival and developing countries along the routes can realize development, then the balance of power will be changed and global development will be more balanced and equitable. This, of course, will be something good. The “Belt and Road” will also give developing countries a stronger voice and make us more capable and powerful to safeguard regional peace and stability, and contribute to peace and stability of the whole world.
Q: As China’s foreign minister, what is on top of the diplomatic agenda on your table?
A: The immediate one is to attend the 7th Ministerial Meeting of the China-Arab States Cooperation Forum in Qatar. But I should say a very important event for us this year is the G20 Summit to be held in China in September.
This Summit will be taking place at a crucial moment, where the most difficult period of the international financial crisis is behind us, but the world economy remains sluggish and people are not really optimistic about the economic prospects. Countries have introduced an array of stimulus policies, but the marginal effects of these policies are declining markedly. Take fiscal and economic policies as an example, many countries already have a high level of debts. There is no additional room for maneuvering. If we look at monetary policies, the interest rate is already zero or even negative in some countries and further adjustment is no longer possible. That’s why people are now turning their eyes to the upcoming Summit in China, looking forward to a new formula to come out of the meeting that could reinvigorate the world economy. We are now working with all relevant countries. Two heads of Arab states will be attending the summit this time and we are ready to have further consultation with Arab countries.
As we see it, we need first and foremost to explore new drivers of world economy through innovation, as the old driving forces are losing steam. These new drivers rely on innovation, including new industrial and big data revolution. And this is why we are working on a G20 Blueprint on Innovative Growth for the world economy to be adopted by the G20 this time around.
Second, we hope development will be incorporated into the G20 agenda this year, not only because we are the largest developing country, but more importantly, this is the inaugural year of the Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development adopted by the United Nations. We need to champion the interests of the vast developing world, and call upon major G20 countries to take the lead in implementing the SDGs. We need to formulate a general action plan including national actions, to boost common development of the world.
Third, we hope to include reform, in particular structural reform, in the discussion at the Summit. Countries around the world are calling for structural reform, and China’s reform in this regard has been the most effective and successful. We will be happy to share our experience and practice with the rest of the world, with a view to improving the world economic and financial governance architecture through reform.
In addition, we hope to further stimulate trade and investment. We oppose all forms of trade protectionism and will work to safeguard the multilateral trading regime represented by the WTO. We are against fragmenting regional trading arrangements, which result in isolation or even mutual exclusion. We do hope we can start the process to explore whether there is the need for a globally binding guideline or norm for investment. So far there is yet to be any attempt in this regard. Of course, we would also hope to step up international anti-corruption cooperation under the G20, including on the repatriation of fugitives and recovery of illegal assets.
In conclusion, the G20-related work this year is of great importance to us. We hope and believe that this year’s G20 will be successful and produce important outcomes, leaving an indelible mark on the G20 process, and further facilitating its transition from a crisis response platform to a long-term governance mechanism.
Q: What do you see of the future of China-Arab relations?
A: I do believe we have a very promising future, because first, we enjoy traditional friendship; second, we are all developing countries with broad common interests; and third, we do not have any geopolitical conflict. As one of my Arab friends once said, China is the only major country that has never interfered in the Arab world. This is exactly our policy and our diplomatic philosophy, which we take pride in. Moreover, with China and Arab states partnering on the “Belt and Road” initiative, our interests will further converge, which will go a long way towards achieving common development.
The current obstacles standing in the way of Arab countries’ development are regional hotspots. To address that, China is willing to contribute more to their settlement in a constructive manner on the basis of the non-interference principle. Our approach is very clear. No matter what happens, we will stick to political settlement and will encourage and support Arab states in solving their problems through their own efforts. Be it the Syria issue, the Libya issue or Yemen issue, as long as all the relevant political forces in the country can sit down and have serious talk, there will be no grievance that cannot be resolved.
Arab states know this region the best. We encourage Arab states, especially the Arab League, to play an active role in the settlement of regional hotspots. We will be more than happy to see that through the main channel of the UN, countries outside the region will create a better environment for Arab states to address the problems, thus bringing about a favorable atmosphere of international understanding and support. We believe and are confident that the people of Arab states will surmount the current difficulties and usher in a new future for the region. In this process, China will be your best friend and most reliable partner.
By Tehran Times