State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi’s Exclusive Year-end Interview.
This year marks the 70th anniversary of the founding of New China. What is your view of the international situation and China’s diplomacy in 2019?
The year 2019 is significant in the course of China’s development. The CPC Central Committee with Comrade Xi Jinping as its core led the whole Party and people across the country to solemnly celebrate the 70th anniversary of the People’s Republic of China. A more united, stable and prosperous China is proudly embarking on a new journey toward brighter development prospects. Standing in stark contrast to the effective governance of China is the disorder in many parts of the world. In 2019, quite a number of countries have seen political and social turmoil. Instability and uncertainty are on the rise in the international situation. A tug of war between unilateralism and multilateralism is unfolding across the world, and it will determine the future and destiny of humanity.
In 2019, China, weathering rain and storm, has forged ahead on the diplomatic front. Under the wise leadership of General Secretary Xi Jinping and the CPC Central Committee, we have pressed ahead, overcome challenges and achieved new, important advances.
In the face of external interference and provocation, we have stood firm, resisted them head on and never backed down. We have effectively defended our country’s sovereignty, security and development rights and interests, and resolutely upheld the dignity of the country, nation and people.
In the face of volatility in the international situation, we have stayed committed to multilateralism and championed equity and justice. We have steadily developed relations with other major countries, and vigorously advanced mutually beneficial cooperation with neighboring and developing countries. We have spearheaded global governance and actively mediated various regional issues.
In the face of the sluggish world economy, we have continued to adhere to the principle of mutually beneficial cooperation, and successfully held the second Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation. At the second China International Import Expo, which attracted more participants than the first one, we announced new, major measures of opening-up. In this way, we have made new contributions to building an open world economy.
On the complex international stage, China has become a true pillar of world peace and stability and a key engine for global development and prosperity.
This year has seen close exchanges between Chinese and Russian leaders. What is your comment on the current China-Russia relations?
This year marks the 70th anniversary of diplomatic ties between China and Russia. The relationship has broken new ground in a number of areas:
First, there has been a new characterization of our bilateral relations. President Xi Jinping and President Vladimir Putin, with their vision and political resolve, have upgraded the China-Russia relations to a comprehensive strategic partnership of coordination for a new era. This elevation has brought political trust between the two sides to an unprecedented level.
Second, practical cooperation has made new breakthroughs. Smooth progress has been made in creating synergy between the Belt and Road Initiative and the Eurasian Economic Union. Steady advances have been made in major bilateral projects in energy, aviation, space and connectivity. The east-route natural gas pipeline has gone into operation. Bilateral trade has exceeded the mark of US$100 billion.
Third, friendly exchanges have made new progress. The China-Russia year of sub-national cooperation and exchanges has been brought to a successful conclusion. The number of friendship states/provinces and cities has reached 146 pairs. The Chinese language has been included in Russia’s unified state exam. Friendship between our peoples has been further strengthened.
Fourth, strategic coordination has reached a new level. China and Russia have shown firm mutual support on issues concerning each other’s core interests, and worked together to resist attempts by external forces to keep us down. The two sides signed a joint statement on strengthening global strategic stability. We have enhanced back-to-back coordination in international affairs, and stood shoulder to shoulder in opposing power politics and bullying practices.
In the world today, the China-Russia relationship is the closest, strongest, most mature and most stable one between two major countries. It sets a high standard and a prime example for harmonious co-existence and win-win cooperation between countries. The China-Russia relationship has not reached its full potential; we can do still better. There is no limit to our cooperation; we must always strive to expand it. I am confident that under the guidance of our Presidents, China-Russia relations will continue to make history and scale new heights. They will bring more benefits to our two countries and peoples and play a vital role in international peace and stability.
This year marks the 40th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and the United States. How do you see the challenges for the relationship?
The 40th anniversary of China-US diplomatic relations should have made this year an important opportunity for joint commemoration and new progress. Regrettably however, the US has taken a string of actions to obstruct and repress China in trade, science and technology, and has been meddling in a series of issues concerning China’s territorial integrity and sovereignty and smearing China. The US actions not only undermined the mutual trust that the two sides built over four decades, but also swayed stability and development of the whole world. I would like to stress again that China will resolutely safeguard its core interests and legitimate rights to development. No one and no force can stop the historic march of the 1.4 billion Chinese people toward modernization. This said, regarding the problems and disagreements in bilateral interactions, China is always ready to have consultations with the US on the basis of mutual respect. The fact that China and the US recently reached agreement on a phase one trade deal shows that, when both sides demonstrate good faith, work in concert and communicate as equals, we can always find a solution to whatever issue that may come our way.
The China-US relationship has been through rain and shine and moved ahead amidst ups and downs in the past four decades. The most important thing that this period has taught us is that both countries stand to gain from cooperation and lose from confrontation. As President Xi Jinping has stressed repeatedly, cooperation is the only correct choice for the two countries. It is our hope that the US side will return to a fact-based and correct perception of China and a sensible and pragmatic policy toward China. We urge the US to work with us to put the relationship back on the track of sound development and realize the goal of no conflict or confrontation, mutual respect and win-win cooperation. Considering both the long-term interests of the Chinese and American peoples and the international responsibilities we shoulder as major countries, both sides need to and must find a way of peaceful co-existence between the world’s largest developing and developed countries. Together, we must embark on a path of mutual benefit and win-win results that serves China, the US and the whole world.
What is your assessment of China’s relationship with Europe? And your expectations for next year?
The year 2019 has been a year of harvest for China-Europe relations. President Xi Jinping’s successful overseas visits in 2019 started with Europe, and concluded with Europe as well. The leaders of Germany, France and Italy all made visits to China. The China-EU Summit and the China-CEEC Summit were both very successful. These intensive high-level interactions speak volumes about how both China and Europe value their relationship, and lend strong impetus to the deepening of cooperation between the two sides. China and the EU concluded negotiations for an agreement on geographical indications as scheduled. We are speeding up negotiations for a China-EU investment agreement. We are making progress in the Belt and Road cooperation. The membership of China-CEEC cooperation was enlarged for the first time. China and European countries reached consensus on strengthening global governance and many other major issues. Following the official inauguration of the new EU leadership earlier this month, President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang have had phone calls respectively with President Charles Michel and President Ursula von der Leyen. These interactions between Chinese and EU leaders have built consensus and set the course for the further development of China-EU relations.
As the world’s two major civilizations and major forces, China and Europe stand together for a multi-polar world and greater democracy in international relations. We stand together for multilateralism and the basic norms of international relations. And we stand together for free trade and an open world economy. Our cooperation far outweighs our competition, and we agree much more than we disagree. We are partners, not rivals. We are friends, not enemies. Next year will mark the 45th anniversary of China-EU diplomatic relations. China is prepared to strengthen high-level exchanges with Europe to jointly take China-EU comprehensive strategic partnership to a new level. Working together, China and Europe can provide more stability to an otherwise uncertain world.
How will China bring about new progress in the Belt and Road cooperation?
The second Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation was the most important diplomatic event hosted by China in 2019. Chaired by President Xi Jinping, it was a tremendous success. It was attended by 40 national leaders and heads of international organizations and more than 6,000 representatives of 150 countries and 92 international organizations. With 283 outcomes, the second Forum marked the start of a new journey in Belt and Road cooperation — one of high-quality development.
Thanks to the continuous efforts of all parties, we have refined the blueprint of Belt and Road cooperation, put forward more effective guidelines and identified clearer paths for implementation. This new vision is best captured by our commitment to the principle of extensive consultation, joint contribution and shared benefit; to open, green and clean cooperation; and to a high-standard, people-centered and sustainable approach. Next year, we will host the second United Nations Global Sustainable Transport Conference. It is an excellent opportunity for forging a global partnership for connectivity, for making new breakthroughs in the major connectivity initiatives of China-Europe Railway Express and the New International Land-Sea Trade Corridor, and for supporting the multilateral mechanisms and forums under the Belt and Road Initiative in playing their full roles. I am confident that with our collective efforts, we will draw more exciting and beautiful sketches in pursuing high-quality Belt and Road cooperation.
Unilateralism is dealing a serious blow to the international order. From your perspective, how should the international community tackle this challenge?
Confronted with unilateralism, the international community has no choice but to join hands and firmly resist this perverse trend. If we give a free pass to unilateralism and the supremacy of unchecked national interests, the international order and system on which we live and thrive may collapse. That would be an unacceptable outcome for all of us, particularly small- and medium-sized countries.
As a responsible member of the international community, China has been a strong champion of multilateralism. Wherever he traveled in 2019, President Xi Jinping made China’s voice heard. It is a voice of justice that rejects unilateralism, hegemonism and power politics in favor of multilateralism, the authority of the UN and the norms of international relations. President Xi has pointed out that our commitment to multilateralism requires us to safeguard peace and development for all, to uphold international fairness and equity and promote win-win results, and to reform the international governance system and build a community with a shared future for mankind. The goal, principle and direction he has set capture the essence of multilateralism of our times. They are being recognized and endorsed by more and more countries.
As we celebrate the 75th anniversary of the UN next year, China is ready to work with the rest of the world to uphold the shining torch of multilateralism, and drive away the darkness of unilateralism, and clear up the sky for world peace, stability and development for all.
What’s your comment on the interference of some western countries in China’s internal affairs? How has diplomacy played its role?
The great renewal of the Chinese nation is a natural trend in human history. That said, there are unprecedented difficulties and challenges that come with it. The closer we get to this goal, the more likely that we will encounter disturbances or even disruptions. Strategically, we have the full resolve, confidence and patience. Moreover, we are gaining more resources, capability, confidence and conviction to overcome whatever hardships that come our way. To quote a Chinese poem that describes the bamboo growing in rocks, “It is strong and firm though struck and beaten without rest; careless of the wind from north or south, east or west.” Any attempt to interfere in China’s internal affairs or hold back China’s development will be crushed by the wheels of history.
On Hong Kong, we firmly support the SAR government in ending the violence and chaos, restoring order, and exercising law-based governance. Time will prove that “one country, two systems” not only works and works well in Hong Kong, but also has the support of the people there.
On Taiwan, this year saw China establishing diplomatic relations with the Solomon Islands and resuming diplomatic ties with Kiribati. As the number of countries having diplomatic ties with China has increased to 180, the one-China consensus is more widely established in the international community than ever before.
On Xinjiang, we have effectively ensured the safety and well-being of the over 24 million fellow countrymen of different ethic groups there, giving no chance to terrorism and radical ideologies. Our de-radicalization efforts have responded well to the call of the UN and are becoming an important part of the global fight against terrorism.
To quote another poem that depicts the resolve of our forefathers to defend the ancient Great Wall, “Were the winged general of Dragon city here; the tartar steeds would not dare to cross the frontier.” It falls on China’s diplomatic service and everyone working on the diplomatic front to safeguard the sovereignty and security of the country, which brooks no violation whatsoever, and advance China’s legitimate development rights and interests. It is such an important responsibility that allows not even the slightest error. Under the unified leadership of the CPC Central Committee, we will continue to build up an invincible Great Wall of defense for our national interests.
What is your take on the current China-DPRK relations? How do you evaluate the current situation on the Korean Peninsula?
This year is a milestone in China-DPRK relations. We celebrated the 70th anniversary of China-DPRK diplomatic ties. General Secretary Xi Jinping paid a historic and successful visit to the DPRK. We have further enriched our traditional friendship in keeping with the times, and opened a new chapter in the relations between the two parties and two countries. And the Peninsula issue has returned to the course of political settlement.
There has been a new round of tensions recently on the Peninsula. It is mainly because the Singapore Summit Joint Statement reached by the DPRK and the US has not been effectively implemented, and the legitimate concerns of the DPRK have not been taken seriously or addressed. The window of opportunity for peace is once again shifting, and the chances for dialogue quickly fading. It is under such circumstances that China and Russia assumed responsibilities and tabled a draft resolution at the UN Security Council, which is aimed to maintain the momentum of political resolution for the nuclear issue and prevent the situation from deteriorating or even spiraling out of control. In this context, China calls on the US to take concrete steps as soon as possible to deliver what has been agreed in Singapore. We encourage the DPRK and the US to work out a feasible roadmap for establishing a permanent peace regime and realizing complete denuclearization on the Peninsula. China will continue to play a constructive role to that end.
What new progress has China made this year in its relations with other developing countries?
Developing countries are our true partners in development and “natural allies” in international affairs. In 2019, China has deepened South-South cooperation with fellow developing countries, opening up a new horizon for cooperation toward shared progress and prosperity.
The Coordinators’ Meeting on the Implementation of the Follow-up Actions of the FOCAC Beijing Summit was successfully held in Beijing. The follow-up actions, which are in full swing, have been held to high standards and produced early and encouraging results to the benefit of Chinese and African peoples. China-Africa cooperation has remained a pace-setter for international cooperation with Africa, and inspired more cooperation between other major countries and Africa, thus creating an enabling international environment for our African brothers and sisters.
China’s relations with Latin American and Caribbean countries and with Arab countries have continued to make steady and solid progress, with deepening and better-structured cooperation carried out in various fields. The Presidents of China and Brazil have exchanged visits this year. The China-CELAC Joint Plan of Action for Cooperation on Priority Areas (2019-2021) is being well implemented. Exchange and cooperation programs under the China-Arab States Cooperation Forum are making solid progress.
As the largest developing country, China stands firm with the developing world. We will follow the principle advocated by President Xi Jinping ─ the principle of pursuing the greater good and shared interests, and strengthen solidarity and cooperation with other developing countries. We will continue to support the legitimate aspirations of developing countries and advance the shared interests of the developing world.
Could you please update us on what China has achieved in neighborhood diplomacy this year?
There are many highlights in China’s neighborhood diplomacy this year. They can be summed up in three categories.
First, we have improved and developed relations with our neighbors in an all-round way. President Xi Jinping and Prime Minister Narendra Modi had a successful second summit in Chennai and charted the course for the steady growth of China-India relations. China and Japan reached a ten-point consensus on improving and growing bilateral ties, giving the relationship a strong momentum to return to the right track. China-ASEAN relations have entered a new stage of all-round development, as evidenced by the important progress made in the consultation on a Code of Conduct in the South China Sea and greater stability in the region. President Xi attended both the summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) and the summit of the Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia, elevating China’s relations with Central Asian countries and the development of the SCO to a new level.
Second, important progress has been made in regional cooperation. With China’s active participation and contribution, text-based negotiations were concluded for the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, and a timeline drawn up for its formal signing. What’s more, the full entry into force of the China-ASEAN FTA Upgrading Protocol and the eighth Trilateral Summit Meeting among China, the Republic of Korea and Japan held in China will inject fresh impetus to the trilateral cooperation and to the building of an East Asia Economic Community.
Third, overall stability has been maintained in the region. With regard to the Korean Peninsula, China has been vigorously promoting talks for peace, and China’s idea of a package solution to the peace and denuclearization of the Peninsula through phased and synchronized actions is becoming the common understanding of various parties. On Afghanistan, as part of its shuttle diplomacy, China has facilitated the intra-Afghan dialogue and the China-Afghanistan-Pakistan and the China-Russia-US consultation, and hosted the first China-Russia-US-Pakistan four-party meeting. During the India-Pakistan conflict, China supported the efforts of the two sides to defuse tensions and manage differences through dialogue. China has served as a mediator between Myanmar and Bangladesh to encourage a negotiated solution to their outstanding issues.
This year has seen important progress in the consultations on a Code of Conduct (COC) in the South China Sea. Are you confident about its final conclusion?
The consultations on the COC are steadily moving forward. The first reading was completed ahead of schedule. During the recent China-ASEAN Summit, countries agreed on a common goal of concluding the consultations in 2021 or even earlier. This represents an aspiration shared by all sides for the continued improvement of the situation in the South China Sea. It also demonstrates the sense of responsibility that China, the largest littoral state of the South China Sea, holds.
As an upgraded and strengthened version of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC), the COC will include a set of high-quality regional rules that are more substantive and responsive to the actual needs of the region. The final conclusion and implementation of the COC will secure greater stability in the South China Sea, help us manage the differences more effectively, and further promote the mutually-beneficial cooperation among all sides. At the same time, the legitimate and lawful rights and interests of countries from outside the region will be protected in earnest. We believe that as long as China and ASEAN countries work in concert toward the same goal, the consultations will be completed on schedule. In this connection, we hope that non-regional countries will respect the efforts made by China and ASEAN countries and refrain from doing anything that disrupts the consultation process.
The Middle East is far from being peaceful. What role has China played for the peace and stability of this region?
Peace in the Middle East bears on the fundamental interests of all regional countries and the stability and development of the world at large. With instability in the Middle East, the world can hardly sustain peace.
China is always a peace maker in the Middle East. We have upheld the authority and effectiveness of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) and encouraged parties concerned to resolve differences through dialogue and consultation. We are committed to working on the basis of the two-state solution and the Arab Peace Initiative to break the stalemate in the Palestine-Israel peace talks at an early date. On regional hotspots such as Syria, Libya, South Sudan and Yemen, we have been promoting peace talks, and proposed China’s solutions. We have sent a total of 27,000 peacekeepers to the region and provided massive humanitarian aid to the refugees of some regional countries.
China always promotes stability in the Middle East. At the first Middle East Security Forum hosted by China, we called for efforts to build a common, comprehensive, cooperative and sustainable security architecture in the region. Our four-point initiative of upholding political settlement, defending fairness and justice, leveraging the role of the UN, and creating synergy was warmly received by the participating countries.
China is always a contributor to the development in the Middle East. We have acted on the vision of “development for peace” and helped countries in the region to speed up industrialization and build capacity for self-generated development through Belt and Road cooperation.
President Xi Jinping’s vision for a community with a shared future for mankind has been widely endorsed. How will the vision develop, as you see it?
The world is undergoing profound changes unseen in a century. This is an era of major development, transformation and adjustment. General Secretary Xi Jinping, with a keen understanding of the trend of history and the overall and long-term interests of all countries, has put forward this important and creative vision of building a community with a shared future for mankind. That is China’s answer to what puzzles our world and China’s solution to the challenges of our times. The vision transcends differences in social systems, development stage, ethnicity and religion. It reflects a broad global perspective and a deep insight into how history moves forward. From the moment it was proposed, this vision has been highly commended and warmly received by the international community.
The call for a community with a shared future for mankind is the very essence of Xi Jinping Thought on Diplomacy and the hallmark of major-country diplomacy with Chinese characteristics in the new era. Following the direction given by General Secretary Xi Jinping, we will uphold mutual respect and equal-footed consultation and follow a new path of state-to-state relations featuring dialogue rather than confrontation, and partnership rather than alliance. We will seek peaceful settlement of disputes, bridge differences through cooperation, and develop a fairer and more equitable global governance system. We will pursue cooperation for win-win outcomes, promote trade and investment liberalization and facilitation, and work toward an open world economy. And we will advocate respect for the diversity of civilizations, and promote exchanges, mutual learning and inclusiveness among civilizations. As long as we stay focused and work together with all other countries, this great goal of building a community with a shared future for mankind is surely within reach and our planet will enjoy a brighter future.
How do you envision China’s diplomacy in the coming year?
Next year will be a year of great significance for the renewal of the Chinese nation. In 2020, China will eradicate extreme poverty and build a moderately prosperous society in all respects, meeting its first centenary goal.
In the coming year, all of us working on the diplomatic front will rally closely around the CPC Central Committee with Comrade Xi Jinping at its core and earnestly act on Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era and Xi Jinping Thought on Diplomacy. We will continue to forge ahead and strive to break new ground for major-country diplomacy with Chinese characteristics. We will fulfill our responsibilities to our country, to the Chinese nation, and to the world and all humankind.
We will bear in mind both domestic and international dynamics, serve major national development strategies, and foster an external environment conducive to our goal of building a moderately prosperous society in all respects. We will take firm and proper measures to counter all sorts of external risks and challenges and defend our sovereignty, security and development interests.
We will continue to deepen global partnerships, by steadily moving forward our relations with other major countries, by advancing converging interests with neighboring countries, and by cementing our solidarity and friendship with other developing countries. We will continue to champion multilateralism, engage deeply in global governance, and make more Chinese input to the joint response to global challenges. We will work actively to expand international cooperation and promote high-quality Belt and Road cooperation to forge a global partnership for connectivity.
We will strive to modernize our system and capacity for diplomacy to better communicate to the world the success story of the Communist Party of China, of socialism with Chinese characteristics, and of the united and hardworking Chinese people.