Ambassador Cui Tiankai took an interview with Christiane Amanpour (Transcript)
2021/03/26 11:00


On March 25, Ambassador Cui Tiankai took a live interview with CNN anchor Christiane Amanpour on China-U.S. high-level strategic dialogue, China-U.S. relations, Xinjiang-related issues and more. The interview was broadcast live on CNN and then on PBS on the evening of the same day. Here is the full transcript of the interview:

Christiane Amanpour:At the center of this complex relationship is China's Ambassador in Washington, Cui Tiankai, and he is joining me now for an exclusive interview from the Embassy there. Ambassador, welcome back to the program. It couldn't be perhaps a more relevant time for you to be on the program. President Biden has just had his first press conference. He's addressed relations with China. So I want to ask you, you heard what he said, "Not on my watch, China is not going to become the next superpower". He's also maintained in his administration a certain hawkish public stance. He has not rolled back any of the quite stiff Trump-era tariffs on Chinese imports. How do you reckon with this administration? How different is it from the last one, you think?

Ambassador Cui: It's so nice to talk to you again, Christiane. Let me try to make a few points clear. First, let's have a fair assessment of the meeting in Anchorage. I think the meeting was a timely one, was helpful. It certainly helped both sides to have a better understanding of the other. So I hope this will be the beginning of a long process of dialogue, communication and hopefully coordination between the two sides. Number two, as for China's development goal, we have our goal very clear. Our goal is to meet the growing aspiration of the Chinese people for a better life. Our goal is not to compete with or replace any other country. This is never our national strategy. Hopefully, people could have a better understanding of this.

Last but not least, we are certainly living in a very different world in a fast changing world. And there are different systems in the world, different civilizations. We believe, what today's world wants and what tomorrow's world would want is joint efforts by all countries to build a community of nations for a shared future. We don't think any attempt to divide the world into different camps, or even build confrontational military blocs, we don't think this kind of approach is a solution.

Actually, this is a problem itself. Because such an attempt will not help us, first of all, to stop COVID-19. It will not help us to confront climate change. It will not help us to eliminate poverty. It would not help us to build a more open, inclusive and sharing global economy. It certainly will not help us to stop terrorism. So we believe our future lies in the joint efforts to build such a global community, not to divide the world into different camps.

Christiane Amanpour: You've made your government's position pretty clearly, and we'll go through them throughout this conversation. But just like you just said, nor is President Biden looking for confrontation. He said to the press conference, he had a very good two-hour conversation with your President Xi Jinping. And he said, this is what he told him. I'm going to play what President Biden said.

(clip of President Joe Biden's press conference)

Christiane Amanpour: So that's a big issue obviously for the United States, you saw obviously, because you were the recipient of it during the Trump Administration, trade tariffs, as I said, on imports, and a huge amount of arguments from the West on intellectual property, and the fact that they don't believe China plays by the rules. Do you think with this new administration, there is a way to get beyond those issues to have competition, but a fair competition?

Ambassador Cui: We have no problem with open and fair competition. Actually we very much stand for that. But the problem is, if you look at what happened in the last few years between China and the United States, maybe between the United States and the rest of the world, how can we have fair competition when Chinese companies are discriminated against? When Chinese senior business CEOs are detained without any reason? When there's such a clear attempt to politicize everything? When such an attempt of nationalism and protectionism against international rules? So in order to have open and fair competition, I think these past mistakes will have to be corrected first. Otherwise, there's no basis for us to engage in such a competition.

You see, people talk about international rules. I think, in international affairs, in international relations, there are basic norms. There are rules that every country should follow. What are these rules? You see, we have the United Nations Charter. The very first chapter of the UN Charter set forth a number of fundamental principles for international relations. The first principle set out in the UN Charter is sovereign equality of all its members. Another principle is the obligation of all the UN members to refrain from threat or use of force against the territorial integrity and political independence of any state. So if people are interested in these rules, maybe they should start by reading the Charter first. If people really want to show us the power of example, I would suggest they could very well start with their own compliance, with all these truly universally agreed principles.

Christiane Amanpour: Ambassador, as you know, one of the huge issues that is on the U.S. plate right now is the issue of the Uighurs. The U.S. State Department has called what China is doing to your Muslim minority a genocide. Also Canada says that, also the Netherlands say that. Obviously China has denied that. But a new report from Amnesty International estimates that China's policies have split up thousands of families, for instance. And I am sure you know CNN has traveled to the heavily surveiled region of Xinjiang. Parents have given CNN permission, particularly to correspondent David Culver and his team, to try to find the children who have been separated from them. And they found two families. I'd like you to just stand by when we play a couple of minutes of the report on one story of one of these families.

(Clip of CNN report)

Christiane Amanpour:So Ambassador, it turned out later that the children were interrogated in this orphanage for hours about a conversation they had with our reporter. What is your reaction? And I guess why not let these children go? Why detain children in an orphanage? What can be the political reason for stopping them leaving the country and sending them back to Xinjiang from Shanghai?

Ambassador Cui:Frankly, there has been so much fabrication so far. So I cannot just trust the story.

Christiane Amanpour: You know that's not fabrication, Ambassador.

Ambassador Cui: It's very unfortunate. It's very unfortunate. I think it's very unfortunate. It's immoral to take advantage of any particular family situation and manipulate it. This is not true journalism. It's very unfortunate for CNN.

Christiane Amanpour: Ambassador, I understand that you have a strong reaction to that, but this was not manipulated. This was parents desperate, can't find their children, want to try to be reunited with their children and reporting it is journalistic duty. It's called investigative reporting. I guess my question to you still is why wouldn't those children be allowed to leave? You know there have been all sorts of studies and reports done on what's happening to the Uighurs. The latest comprehensive state policy says the government has men in homestays, mass internment, mass birth prevention policy, forcible transfer of Uighur children to state-run facilities, as we just saw, eradication of Uighur identity, community and domestic life, selective targeting of intellectuals and religious leaders. Ambassador, we're not the only ones who are doing this reporting. What I don't understand is when you talk about international rules, genocide and the violation of people's human rights based on ethnicity and identity and religion is against international rules. Why would a country as developed as China do that kind of thing? Why?

Ambassador Cui: China is not doing these things. Let me make it very clear. China is not doing these things. And it's very unfortunate some people, including some journalists, they start with very strong bias and prejudice. That's their problem. That's how they come to very different conclusions about the particular situation, very much against real facts.

What is really happening on the ground? I've been to Xinjiang more than once in recent years. What I saw is a very different story, very different picture from their reporting. Let me tell you the basic facts about Xinjiang. Until very recently, the big threat to Xinjiang, to people of all ethnic groups was terrorist attacks, thousands of them hurting and killing thousands of innocent people, people from all ethnic groups. It was a very serious threat. There was strong demand by the local people that the government had to do something to stop it. So this has been our priority, to stop the spread of terrorist attacks. Some of them are connected with international groups like ISIS. It was a very serious threat to the lives and wellbeing of the people. Secondly, there was mounting terrorist, extremist and violent ideology among the local population. That was also very dangerous. But what we did was not start war there. We did not use missiles or drones. We set up efforts for education and training, helping people to learn more about the law, to acquire good skills to improve their lives, find good jobs. All this has made a huge difference. There has been no single terrorist attack in the last few years. In terms of the population, the Uighur population has more than doubled in the last four decades. So how can people talk about the so-called genocide? You see, now people have...we do have a situation...

Christiane Amanpour: Just want to ask you, it would be cleared up quite quickly. And you know that there are satellite images and you know that the reporters are talking to people. And the women have told us about forced sterilization, rapes in the camps, forced labor, which already companies abroad are reacting against. We've already got companies who boycott Chinese goods from that region. So why not let international officials in? Why not let international journalists in to just see what's going on?

Ambassador Cui: In the last few years, there have been more than 1,000 people, diplomats, journalists, from over 100 countries, many of them Muslim countries. All these people have visited Xinjiang. What they have seen are real facts. And also you're talking about media coverage, satellite pictures. I remember all these things happened over the years, for instance, in maybe more than a dozen years ago in Iraq, a few years in Syria, in Libya. I still remember you reporting the Iraq War some years ago. So, can people come out and repeat these same stories to the world? No. Because many of the stories were just based on falsehood, were just fabrication.

Christiane Amanpour: Ambassador, I'm glad I've got to ask you some questions about this, I'm glad you've got to see the report and that I've got to lay out the facts. I realized it's not going to be resolved on this program, but it would be great to have more access. And then we could see for ourselves, and we would be able to tell a much better story than the one that has already been told with a lot of reporting. So we will know what's going on.

I want to ask you this, given the pressure on China from the United States and other important countries, because of what's happening with the Uighurs, given the rising calls, let's say, to boycott the next Beijing Olympics, as I say, boycotting some of the products, some of the raw materials from Xinjiang. Where do you see the areas of being able to work with the West, for instance, on climate? Because we haven't even mentioned Taiwan and some of the threats that are coming out of Beijing on that. And most certainly Hong Kong, which we see the democratic promises made by China and the UK to Hong Kong are now being gutted. So, where do you see actual cooperation, given the divisions and the views and the systems are so utterly different and opposed?

Ambassador Cui: We are always open for international cooperation. We are always committed to multilateral cooperation. But frankly, any such cooperation will have to be based on equality, mutual benefit and mutual respect. Otherwise, how can people cooperate with each other if they don't treat each other as equals? This is not our problem. This is the problem for Western countries. They still have to learn how to treat other countries, other races, other civilizations as equals. That's their problem, not our problem.

Indeed, climate change is a global challenge. We are certainly ready to take part in international cooperation on climate change. But honestly, political climate also has an impact on the efforts to deal with the natural climate. When there is insufficient mutual confidence, mutual trust, mutual respect, how can we work together to confront such a global challenge? I don't think it's quite possible. Even for climate change itself, how will the U.S. and Western countries face their historical responsibility ever since industrialization? How will they shoulder their responsibility to help the developing countries to deal with this challenge? They still have to take actions. They still have to prove they are seriously committed. They are earnest about their international obligations. They still have to prove their sincerity.

Christiane Amanpour: Can I ask you a question, as you mentioned the idea of prejudice and bias. We know that there's an amount of prejudice and racism in China against African workers. And you've also seen, sitting in the United States right now, a rise in prejudice, racist attacks, hate attacks, shootings, against Asian Americans in the United States. Can you comment on what you're seeing and what you think about what's going on in that regard right now? Where you are, Ambassador?

Ambassador Cui: We are certainly against such rising crimes, hate crimes, what people call. We take a very firm and strong position against such crimes. We're very concerned, very shocked by the hate crimes against Asians in the United States. We just hope the U.S. government will do everything possible to protect these Asian people. Many of them are American citizens. They should enjoy the same rights as other American citizens. Hopefully, there will be serious efforts to confront such discrimination.

Christiane Amanpour:Ambassador Cui Tiankai, thank you very much for joining us. I appreciate it.


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