On December 20, Ambassador Qin Gang took a joint interview with chief editors and senior correspondents of major American media outlets. The interview was held by Bloomberg New Economy Forum. It was conducted in English and took the form of “fireside chat”. The entire interview was on the record and also served as a background briefing. Below is the main content of the interview:
Question: Ambassador, here you are in DC up close. What surprised you? What have you found unexpected about Washington DC in your first few months here?
Ambassador Qin: A good starter. I've been in DC for nearly 5 months. Let me give you my, not enough a study, but my impression. First, this country is very complicated and there are many things I don't understand. I asked some wise people from this country, and their answer is that we don't understand it either, we are confused. It takes time to understand it deeper and more comprehensively. Secondly, China is everywhere in the United States. Everybody talks about China at any instant. But many of them don't understand China. They don't understand the Chinese language. They don't know the history, culture, and the people of China. But everybody appears like a China expert. Everybody appears that they know China much more than I do. China is being treated like a kid being scolded by his or her parents every day: You are wrong. You need do this. You shouldn't do that. There are lies and disinformation spreading every day. China is misunderstood, mis-perceived and misrepresented in the United States. This gives me a surprise.
But on the other hand, I find American people are friendly people. They are warm. They are easy-going, like every of you. And I found that their kitchen table matters are the same as the Chinese people, such as jobs, education, prices. Every day I receive letters from American people. They are interested in China. They want to know more about China. I’ve done a lot of interactions with students learning Chinese. They are pure. They are very kind. They have the eagerness to learn Chinese. I ask myself, which represents the United States better? It’s like a coin with two sides. I will continue my study.
Question: I know you don’t like the comments about “wolf warrior”. Do you think “wolf warrior” diplomacy is on the rise in China because China thinks it is being scolded like a kid?
Ambassador Qin: The Chinese people love peace. They value harmony. China never provokes, never makes trouble. China is taking up a peaceful path of development. The textbook for every Chinese diplomat when they enter the foreign service is to pursue and stick to a foreign policy of peace, treat other people with respect and equality, increase friendship and common understanding, and strengthen cooperation. That's the handbook for every Chinese diplomat when he or she joined the foreign service. The handbook is still in our pocket. Nowadays, we are facing a more complicated and difficult international environment. China is being blamed, attacked, lectured. Facing unfriendly words and actions which interfere in China's internal affairs and are harmful to our interests, a Chinese national, not just a Chinese diplomat, will rise up to say no, to argue, to fight back. We are not fighting, but fighting back. If I can describe Chinese diplomats more precisely, I would use this one: They are not wolf warriors; they are dancing with wolves.
Question: As Chinese Ambassador to the US, what do you think you should do?
Ambassador Qin: I come at a very challenging time in China-US relations. I will be a bridge, a bond between the two countries, and reach out to people of all communities, trying to extend China's strategy and intention and avoid misunderstanding and misjudgment. I will do my best to improve the relations, to make this vitally important relationship between China and the United States stable, manageable, and constructive.
Question: China-Russia relations have been greatly deepened in recent years. We've seen your joint military exercises in Western China, naval maneuvers in the East China Sea, air force drills over Northeast Asia. China and Russia are also putting together an alternative global financial structure to get away from dollar hegemony. Is this a bloc? Is this the way the world is going to fall apart?
Ambassador Qin: China and Russia share a long boundary, thousands of kilometers. So that's the most fundamental reason for the two countries to coexist peacefully, to be friendly. We do not want war with the United States. We don't want war with Russia, either. Internationally, China and Russia share a lot of things, see eye-to-eye, particularly on fundamental issues concerning peace, stability, and security of the world. Both countries uphold the norms governing international relations, the UN Charter. Both countries are facing the unjust attitudes and actions against them. The principles of the UN Charter should be respected. There are many commonalities, to be honest, but both countries said it very clearly that we are not forming a bloc. The United States is doing this. You can see the US officials are very busy. They go around the globe every day, to gang up, to form blocs against China, against Russia. I think that we get very close relations with Russia because of the basic principles we uphold, and based on the fact that the we are neighbors. We have no other choice, just like the US and Canada. You are neighbors, you have to be friends.
Question: It seems that China and the US have agreed to restart the process of issuing journalist visas. How important do you think it is to get back to a status quo where the two sides have normal exchanges of journalists?
Ambassador Qin: First of all, I want to say that the actions taken by each side two years ago were caused by Trump administration, because it used every tool to crack down on Chinese media. They were labeled “foreign agent”, “foreign mission”, which restricted the daily work for Chinese media, and 60 Chinese journalists were expelled. As a reaction, the Chinese side asked some American journalists to leave. But we were very restrained. This caused great difficulties in the mutual understanding of the two countries, because we need our reporters in both countries to send out stories and truth. There were negotiations in the past year. And agreements were reached before the virtual summit between President Biden and President Xi. There were three major agreements. One, the existing resident journalists in both countries can go into and out of China or the United States without a time limit. Secondly, each side gives the journalist of the other side the one-year, multiple-entry visa and it can be renewed year after year. The last one is that both sides are kicking off the procedures of approval of new assignments.
Question: We hope to see progress in many things before the Beijing Winter Olympics.
Ambassador Qin: This Winter Olympics will be held at a very special time, with the pandemic still spreading in the world. So we are very pragmatic. We want to hold a streamlined, safe and splendid Winter Olympics. Streamlined because of COVID-19. We can't invite so many people. Safe means that we have very strict, less inconvenient quarantine protocol to athletes, official and journalists. They will be put in a big quarantine bubble to protect them from infection. Splendid means that if you look at the facilities, the stadiums, they are world-class. Organizing work is smooth. We have the experience of hosting the Summer Olympics in 2008. And I want to emphasize that this Olympics will be a green and low-carbon Olympics. All the venues will use clean and renewable energy. For example, how to produce ice? We use cutting-edge technology to produce ice but reduce the emission to almost zero. The International Olympic Committee has been on the ground. They spoke highly of the preparation. There have been more than 2,500 journalists of different countries registering for reporting and more will come. If any one of you are interested, you can just log onto the official website of the organizing committee of the Olympics, and submit your application online. They will be handled efficiently. China welcomes journalists to cover the Olympics, and will provide safety and convenience to them.
Question: What do you think of the impression that nowadays China has lost the American business community, with American companies having changed their attitude toward China?
Ambassador Qin: For a long time, we call business cooperation the anchor and propeller of China-US relations. This shows its important role in our relations. Our views on the importance of trade and business and our welcoming attitudes towards US businesses never change. But there's also a sentiment among the US businesses that they are not treated the way as 20 years ago. Because China at that time was undergoing rapid growth. We were thirsty for foreign investment. China's homegrown enterprises were unborn or still young. But after decades of growth, China has its own companies, even some giants. The Chinese market has more entities, not only foreign investors, but also homegrown companies. The market is big and huge, but the competition is getting fierce. We gave foreign companies national treatment to provide a level playing field for foreign companies. But now the result is foreign companies are feeling that they couldn't get preferential or favorable policies and the treatment they got 20 years go. And they are facing competitions from Chinese companies. This is a natural course of China's economic growth. And I do suggest to American companies, do not only look at the pressure, but look at the future. China pursues all-round, high-level opening up. This will not change. Chinese market is getting bigger and bigger. The best way to get profits or to get your share bigger is to make the whole cake bigger. Everybody, not only American or Chinese companies, can have a share. Who is now a major powerhouse for world economy? China! China has eliminated absolute poverty, and there will be great potential brought by China's efforts to achieve common prosperity. If 800 million people get better off, they have more money to buy. It will unleash endless purchasing power.
Since I came here, I've talked to many American CEOs and chairmen of companies. I can feel that there's a change of the attitude: less complaints, more confidence; less pessimistic attitudes, more positive attitudes. There are over 70,000 American companies in China. 95% of them are profitable. According to the latest survey by the US-China Business Council, more than 80% of their members want to stay in China. They want to expand their investment in China. And they do take note of China's policies newly announced by President Xi to provide a market-oriented, law-based and world-class business environment.
Question: President Xi and President Biden went out of their way in these months to say we are not into a Cold War. And yet we have seen the Chinese intrusion on the Microsoft systems early in the year, the conflict over Taiwan, the President is arguing that this is a battle between autocracy and democracy, China’s decision not to allow tech companies to list on the US exchange, the US not allowing the most advanced semiconductor equipment to be transferring to China, restrictions just last week on artificial intelligence. So how will we know if this trends into a Cold War or not? It truly looks like both sides are behaving like this.
Ambassador Qin: We believe that China and US are interdependent, there are so many interests intertwined. And we both, as big countries, shoulder the common responsibility for world peace, security and prosperity. The two Presidents both agreed in their virtual meeting that there should be no Cold War. President Biden said that the US does not seek a Cold War. But as you mentioned, all these actions from the US give us the impression that the Cold War mentality is seen here. This is the undercurrent of most of the things the US is doing to China as you mentioned.
Question: Don’t you think there is an undercurrent of what China is doing with the US?
Ambassador Qin: No, we don’t. We want mutual respect. We want peaceful coexistence. We want win-win cooperation. We say this, and we do this. But what China faces is China-bashing every day, the ideological line dividing the world, a tendency to interfere in China's internal affairs, particularly on Taiwan.
We are against cyber-attacks. The Chinese government has never been supporting or sponsoring any cyber-attacks against foreign countries. We are living in a virtual world. It’s hard to know where these attacks come from or if they are government sponsored. China is facing cyber-attacks every day. Over five million Chinese computers have been intruded by millions of foreign servers, more from the US than other countries. But can we say that these attacks are sponsored by US government? What to do with them? Let's talk. Now we hope that the previous mechanism of dialogue between law enforcement authorities can be resumed.
Where could a New Cold War come from? Why do people feel that the Cold War is coming back? Because some people in the US have Cold War mentality and take China as the former Soviet Union. But China is not the Soviet Union. The US is not the US 30 years ago. Our interests are closely intertwined. The US is the biggest trading partner of China, and China is the third biggest trading partner of the US, only next to Canada and Mexico, your two neighbors. This year's trade volume will certainly exceed 700 billion US dollars, a 20% increase year-on-year. We have so many interactions and exchanges. Before the pandemic there were five million travels between our two countries in one year. That translates into 17,000 passengers every day, with one flight either taking off or touching down every 17 minutes.
If people really want to launch a Cold War against China, I can say that China won't be the loser. Those people cannot win the Cold War. First, China is not the former Soviet Union. The Chinese Communist Party is not like Soviet Union Communist Party. The CPC is old, 100 years old, just celebrating the centenary, eating the big birthday cake. But it's young. It keeps innovating and keeps catching up with the times, keeps delivering better lives to people. And it keeps delivering peace, prosperity and opportunities to the world. Second, China draws a lesson from the failure of the Soviet Union. There are debates all the time, studies and thinking of why and how the Soviet Union failed. Last but not the least, the Communist Party of China wins the hearts and minds of the 1.4 billion people. Because it serves the people.
Question: I’m asking a question on the relations between Asia-Pacific countries. Australians, Indians and Japanese may see QUAD or AUKUS a way to grapple with an assertive China. How do you see this?
Ambassador Qin: China is facing an international environment which is very grim and challenging. The Asia-Pacific is a region that China and the United States interact closely and frequently. And the peace and the stability in the region is one of our primary concerns. Of course, we do not hope to see a hostile surrounding environment. We are the biggest trading partner of most countries in the region. That's why we advocate to solve the disputes politically and peacefully. But how do you think China should respond to provocations? Act as if nothing happened? AUKUS is the child of Cold-War mentality. Australia is a nuclear-weapon-free country. The United States, the United Kingdom, the two nuclear-weapon countries transfer weapon-grade nuclear materials to a country which is now nuclear weapon free according to the NPT. That will do harm to the international nonproliferation mechanism, which the United States has worked on for so many years. On the other hand, when Iran wants to get nuclear materials to generate power for civilian use, the United States’ attitude is different. This is double standards. You proliferate nuclear technology and nuclear materials, which are highly enriched, and you do not allow other countries to put nuclear for civilian use. How can you persuade Iran and other countries?
Question: I respect the Ambassador and the Chinese people. But I'm a reporter. It's my job to be deeply skeptical. And why can't Western journalists come into the Uyghur camps and talk to the people? The best way to understand is to have truth and report it. I would just want to have the opportunity myself to go to the camps, talk to Muslims in China and hear their story. Is that possible?
Ambassador Qin: Just go! Xinjiang is open to foreign journalists. But the question is, do some journalists really care about the truth? I talked to many foreign journalists. They all said that we don't know what is happening, we are skeptical of what Chinese government said. If you want, like I said, please go. I talked to congressmen and women and senators: You cannot rely on secondhand or third-hand information or lies to make legislation.
But let me stress, there are no so-called concentration camps. This is a lie. If you want to go to look at camps, you will be disappointed because there are no camps at all. You got pictures and videos about high walls, guarding towers, barbed wires. Yes, they are true, but they are prisons. They're not the places as you said, the concentration camps. If you go to a US prison, of course, you will see barbed wires and high walls. I'm puzzled, because Xinjiang gave lots of press briefings, open to journalists of all countries. But attendance of foreign journalists is very, very low. We welcome foreign journalists and foreign officials. But they just don't come. I wish to stress this is not about human rights, not about Uyghurs in Xinjiang, not about religious suppression, not about genocide. It's about counter-terrorism and deradicalization. Can anyone of you recall what happened from 1990 to 2016, how Xinjiang was repeatedly attacked by terrorists, thousands of terrorist attacks, causing great casualties to civilians.
Question: Ambassador, you're giving me a welcome. I'm gonna plan a trip now.
Ambassador Qin: Everybody can go there without any presumption. In the past 40 years, the population of Uyghurs has doubled from 5.55 million to 11.62 million. The average life expectancy has more than doubled in the past 60 years from 30 to 72. Is there any kind of genocide in the world like this? There are no concentration camps. There are only vocational training schools. Why did we set up this kind of school? It is to educate people, to save people. Because from 1990 to 2016, Xinjiang was penetrated by terrorist and extremist ideas and forces. They launched thousands of terrorist attacks within and outside Xinjiang. The Tiananmen Square, the heart of China, was attacked, killing four people. How can the White House tolerate such an action outside its fence? In the railway station in Kunming, China’s Yunnan province, some terrorists used knives killing dozens of people. And in the year 2009, Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang, was attacked heavily by terrorists, causing 197 civilians to die. What's the primary responsibility of a responsible government? Protect people's lives.
Because of the penetration of extremist and terrorist ideas, some people in Xinjiang were brainwashed. They fell prey to extremist ideology. They logged on to the internet. They saw the propaganda of extremism and terrorism, teaching them how to make terrorist attacks. If the government fails to help these people being influenced, we can't eradicate the root of terrorism. We need to educate people, make them get rid of extremist ideologies and give them a new life. All those people, including Uyghurs, were sent to the vocational training schools to be educated about the law, language and be taught a skill, so when they walk out of the school, they can get payable employment, they can keep away from the control of terrorism and extremism. After several years of efforts, these students have graduated. These schools are closed. You can go there and see, but you can't see any students. They are now teaching, making garments, cooking, etc. Because of these efforts, there's been no terrorist attack happening since the year 2016. Safety, stability has returned to Xinjiang. Ordinary people can walk on the streets at night, not like five years ago, people feared to go outside. That's the reason why we opened the vocational education school. Students are citizens, their rights as citizens and freedom are well protected. It's not a concentration camp at all.
Question: What do you think the Biden administration wants this relationship to be?
Ambassador Qin: President Biden said he hopes to have a good relationship with China. He doesn't want to mess up this relationship. But the US is defining the US-China relations as competition. We don't agree, because using competition to define the relations would neglect the cooperation as the mainstream of our relations, while cooperation was the mainstream of the past 40 years. By keeping competing with each other, it will raise the risk of confrontation and conflict. I will make an analogy. It’s just like a hypertension patient. If his blood pressure keeps rising, it may cause a heart attack or a stroke which will endanger his life. If a hypertension patient goes to see a doctor, the doctor’s first thing to do is to have this pressure lower. Don't wait until the heart attack or stroke comes up.
In addition, we do agree that there's competition between China and the United States, but the competition is not driven by a zero-sum mentality. You lose, I win, or I win, you lose. It must be fair and healthy. “Fair” means both sides need to abide by the norms governing international relations, not on one-side terms. We have internationally recognized rules, principles of the UN Charter and WTO rules. And competition should not be perceived or presumed as beating the other to the ground. It's not a modern boxing match. It should be a racing match. Both sides can perform to their best rather than beating the other side to the ground. And both sides can find opportunities for cooperation, make themselves stronger while allowing the other side to grow and develop. That's the healthy and fair competition in our opinions.
But the current competition is not fair. The US side is using competition to contain China's development. You have been given examples of how Chinese companies have been restricted, how the national security concept is being overstretched and abused, and how many Chinese companies are delisted or facing the fate of being delisted. It's like a cut-throat competition. It's a violent attack. This is what I'm worried about. The United States is trying to mobilize allies to kick China out of the international system. China is now being kicked globally, not only in the United States, in terms of industrial line, supply line and high-tech line. This is unhealthy competition and must stop.
Question: How will China and the US manage crises on Taiwan, so that things will not slide into conflict and confrontation?
Ambassador Qin: We think preventing crises is more important than controlling crises. But the crises pop up when the US comes to our side talking about controlling crises. What's the best way to manage crises? The answer is better to prevent them from happening and make fewer negative policies, actions, particularly, no or less provocation on issues like Taiwan. Taiwan is the major issue that can bring China and United States into a potential conflict. The One-China principle is the political foundation of China-US relations. The US must be very careful about its contacts with Taiwan and reduce or deescalate the tension.
What China has been doing is reacting. What causes the current tension in the Taiwan Strait? It is the DPP (Democratic Progressive Party) authority that denies the fact that there's only one China and both sides belong to the one China. Because it is provoking confrontation by seeking US support for its independence agenda. And the United States is using Taiwan to contain China. That's how the tension keeps rising. China is a peace-loving country. Both sides of the Strait belong to the one China. Taiwan people are all our compatriots. In China, we have a saying, blood is thicker than water. We don't want to have a war against our own compatriots. We’ll do our best for the prospects of peaceful reunification, because we believe peaceful reunification serves the best interests of people on both sides of the Strait. But we will never renounce non-peaceful means, simply because we are facing the threat of “Taiwan independence” forces, which we need to deter.
“Taiwan independence” poses an existing threat to the situation across the Taiwan Strait and to China-US relations. The United States says that it does not want a war with China. China calls for peaceful coexistence. Peace, or no war is the biggest consensus between China and the US. But both of us are facing a possibility of “Taiwan independence”. The separatist forces of Taiwan are moving towards their goal day by day, emboldened by the US. We hope that the United States will come to realize that “Taiwan independence” is the biggest threat. And we hope that the US will go back to the one-China principle. If both countries do not want a war, but want peace, let's work together to oppose and contain “Taiwan independence”. Let’s work together to give peace a chance. Let peace prevail.
Question: Some say that China did threaten Taiwan and seek to change the status quo, even if the Taiwan people wouldn't want independence right now. What do you say about that?
Ambassador Qin: The status quo is that there is but one China and both sides of the Strait belong to one China. That's the state quo. But the Taiwan authority goes against the will of the majority of Taiwanese people and wants to change the status quo.
Question: Should the US fear China attacking Taiwan and draws US into war with China?
Ambassador Qin: I have given my answer. Let peace prevail. We need to work together to avoid the worst-case scenario. That's what we want to tell the United States. I hope the US also works for peace.
Question: Does China want to have the nuclear arms control negotiation with the US?
Ambassador Qin: China's nuclear arsenal is not on the same level with that of the United States. The US has the largest nuclear arsenal in the world. If it wants to invite China to join the negotiations, does it mean China should elevate its arsenal level to that of the US? Or should the United States first reduce its own arsenal to China’s level? The United States would take the prime responsibility to axe its nuclear arsenal and take the lead.
Question: I guess the question is, do you think the critical issue right now is the numbers or capability? In other words, if you were experimenting with hyper-sonic weapons, would you see a first place to start is to avoid the arms race in a new technology that avoids missile defense and so forth?
Ambassador Qin: China is not on the same level with the US in terms of the quality and quantity of its weaponry. Before we talk about the nuclear or weaponry negotiation, we need to first address the root cause to lower the tension, reduce and prevent risk from that. The so-called hyper-sonic weapon the US media reported about is actually the experimental reusable spacecraft technology as other countries has done. China is a peace-loving country. We don't want to use that. We want, first of all, to prevent crises from happening. The United States places too much attention on dealing with the scenario after crises. If you make research of what sort of crises can make China and the US go into conflict, our particular concern on that is Taiwan. We need to do our best to prevent crises.