|Written Interview with Asharq Al-Awsat by State Councilor and Foreign Minister Qin Gang|
Q1: What is your assessment of the Saudi-Chinese relations? What are the most important areas and prospects for cooperation between the two countries?
Qin Gang: Let me quote a line from a classical Chinese poem, “Good friends feel close to each other even when they are far apart.” This vividly captures the relations between China and Saudi Arabia. Our two countries, though thousands of miles apart, enjoy a long-standing and deep friendship. Since the establishment of diplomatic ties 33 years ago, we have seen all-round, rapid growth of the bilateral relations, as evidenced by deepening political trust and fruitful cooperation of mutual benefit. We have become good friends treating each other with respect and sincerity, good partners pursuing common development and win-win cooperation, and good brothers enjoying mutual understanding and mutual learning. Together, we have set a fine example of friendly exchanges between countries of different civilizations.
China is now advancing the rejuvenation of the Chinese nation on all fronts through a Chinese path to modernization, and Saudi Arabia is pushing forward economic diversification. This brings new opportunities to the growth of our bilateral ties. Last December, President Xi Jinping paid a successful state visit to Saudi Arabia and attended the first China-Arab States Summit and the China-Gulf Cooperation Council Summit. He had in-depth exchanges with His Majesty King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud and His Royal Highness Crown Prince and Prime Minister Mohammed bin Salman, pointing the way forward and charting the course for growing China-Saudi Arabia ties in the new era and marking a new height in our bilateral relationship.
Looking ahead, China will continue to see Saudi Arabia as a high priority in its Middle East diplomacy. China hopes to work with Saudi Arabia to enhance the synergy between the Belt and Road Initiative and the Saudi Vision 2030, and put into action the Global Development Initiative, the Global Security Initiative and the Global Civilization Initiative, to realize complementarity through common development, advance national rejuvenation through shared progress, and add new dimensions to the comprehensive strategic partnership between the two countries.
Q2: There is a Saudi technical team in Tehran to discuss the mechanisms of reopening the Kingdom’s embassy and consulate in Mashhad, in exchange for a visit by the Iranian team to Riyadh to discuss restoring the work of the Iranian embassy in the Kingdom. What would you describe this step? To what extent will the Saudi-Iranian agreement enhance security and stability in the region?
Qin Gang: Based on the roadmap and timetable set out in the Beijing Agreement, Saudi Arabia and Iran have sent to each other embassy reopening working groups, taking a substantive step toward improving their relations. China welcomes this development. As an Arabic proverb says, those who act with patience will realize their wishes. China believes that as long as the two countries continue to act in a reconciliatory and constructive manner, and advance the improvement of relations according to the common understandings already reached, they will be able to increase mutual trust, dispel misgivings and build friendly and good-neighborly ties.
The continued improvement of Saudi Arabia-Iran ties has not only turned a new page in the relations between the two countries, but also served as a fine example for resolving differences and disagreements between states through dialogue and consultation. There is now a wave of reconciliation in the relations between Middle Eastern countries. What has happened shows that acts to control regional security and serve one’s own agenda by stoking discord and increasing antagonism are unpopular and won’t work for long. Enduring peace and security can only be realized by following the vision of common, comprehensive, cooperative and sustainable security and a new path to security featuring dialogue over confrontation, partnership over alliance and win-win over zero-sum.
As a good friend and good partner, China will firmly support Middle Eastern countries in having constructive communication and dialogue, firmly support regional countries in pursuing strategic independence and enhancing solidarity and collaboration, and contribute Chinese ideas and efforts to promoting security and stability in the Middle East.
Q3: America announced that it had sent a nuclear submarine to the Persian Gulf carrying 154 Tomahawk missiles under the pretext of imminent Iranian threats. What is your comment?
Qin Gang: What the Middle East needs is de-escalation, not tensions, dialogue, not confrontation. The Middle East belongs to the people of the region. It is no one’s backyard. We urge relevant countries to bring positive energy to peace and stability in the Middle East, not the opposite.
Q4: French President Emmanuel Macron showed a different French and European stance towards America after his recent meeting with His Excellency Chinese President Xi Jinping, and refused to confront China to please America, but to demand the release of the European and French currencies in the US dollar. Is this the product of his discussions in China? How does China view this position? Will China try to present the American alternative to Europe?
Qin Gang: President Emmanuel Macron’s visit to China was a great success. President Xi Jinping had friendly and in-depth exchanges with him, and the two Presidents reached important consensus on China-France relations, China-Europe cooperation and on meeting global challenges. The relations between China and Europe and between China and France are not targeted at, attached to, or dictated by any third party. The high-level engagement between China and France is not intended to interfere with either side’s relations with the United States. China has no intention to supplant the place of the US in Europe. At the same time, we oppose US moves to disrupt and sabotage China’s relations with Europe and with France, and US attempts to coerce Europe into excluding or distancing itself from China.
France is a major country with a proud tradition of independence, and has been actively promoting Europe’s strategic autonomy. Strategic autonomy is essential to upholding one’s independence and is a choice that is in Europe’s interest. There is every reason for Europe, a continent that has suffered deeply in the Cold War, to become a stage for win-win cooperation, rather than a geopolitical chessboard.
China and Europe represent two major forces, markets and civilizations in the world. China and France are both permanent members of the UN Security Council. China-Europe relations and China-France relations concern not only the well-being of the two sides of the relations, but also stability and prosperity of the entire world. China always sees Europe as an independent pole in the multi-polar world. We wish to work with Europe and with France to uphold mutual respect, pursue win-win cooperation, overcome disturbances and difficulties, and take forward the China-EU comprehensive strategic partnership.
Q5: Some observers consider the results of the recent Chinese-Russian summit as the beginning of a strategic alliance to form the nucleus of a multi-polar world order. What is your comment?
Qin Gang: Over the years, China-Russia relations have stood the test of shifting international dynamics. The key is that the two countries have found a path for major countries to build strategic trust and good-neighborliness, a path of non-alliance, non-confrontation, and non-targeting any third party. Committed to mutual respect, peaceful coexistence and win-win cooperation, the China-Russia relationship rises above the old mindset of zero-sum game and bloc rivalry. It poses no threat to any country, and will not be affected by the interference or instigation of any third party. The bilateral relationship is in keeping with the right direction for the advance of the times and the course of history.
But still, certain countries are always keen to hype up a so-called “China-Russia alliance”. To quote a Chinese proverb, such acts are “gauging the heart of a gentleman with one’s own mean measure”. They are a typical show of the Cold War mentality and reveal an outdated and narrow worldview, where one sees only the alliances and confrontation in a unipolar world, not the win-win cooperation in a multi-polar one.
As permanent members of the UN Security Council and important major countries, China and Russia will continue to advance their comprehensive strategic partnership of coordination for the new era. The two countries will safeguard the UN-centered international system, the international order underpinned by international law, and the basic norms of international relations based on the purposes and principles of the UN Charter, uphold true multilateralism, promote world multi-polarity and greater democracy in international relations, and contribute their due share to the progress of humanity.
Q6: What about the Chinese initiative to solve the Russian-Ukrainian crisis? Will there be an imminent meeting between His Excellency Chinese President Xi Jinping and his Ukrainian counterpart in this regard? The West and America are calling on China to refrain from responding to Russia’s requests to obtain Chinese weapons. What is your comment? What is the expected Chinese response to America’s announcement of imposing sanctions on Beijing due to its position on the Russian-Ukrainian crisis?
Qin Gang: It has been over a year since the full escalation of the Ukraine crisis, and the situation remains complicated and daunting. It is indeed deeply distressing. What happened proves once again that there is no winner in a conflict or war. Sanctions, suppression and provocation would only lead to a spiral of escalation.
China did not create the Ukraine crisis, and is not a party to the conflict. Nevertheless, as a permanent member of the UN Security Council and a responsible major country, China does not choose to watch the fire from afar, still less add fuel to the fire. We have stood on the side of peace and justice, and exerted great efforts to facilitate peace talks and cessation of hostilities, working for a political settlement of the crisis.
We put forward our ideas for the political settlement of the issue. President Xi Jinping set out a “four-should” proposal after the full escalation of the crisis, namely, the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all countries should be respected, the purposes and principles of the UN Charter should be fully observed, the legitimate security concerns of all countries should be taken seriously, and all efforts conducive to the peaceful settlement of the crisis should be supported. Not long ago, we released the China’s Position on the Political Settlement of the Ukraine Crisis, and the core stance is to promote talks for peace.
We worked vigorously to build international consensus on a political settlement. During his visit to Russia last March, President Xi Jinping had a candid and in-depth discussion with President Putin on the Ukraine crisis and stressed that responsible dialogue is the best way for finding solutions. In his recent talks with the visiting leaders of France, Brazil and the EU, President Xi Jinping discussed with them about the ways for achieving a political settlement of the Ukraine crisis. Last week, President Xi Jinping talked with Ukrainian President Zelenskyy on the phone at the latter’s request, in which he clearly underscored that dialogue and negotiation are the only viable way forward, and expressed hope for all parties to have dialogue to accumulate favorable conditions for a political settlement and jointly explore ways to bring lasting peace and security to Europe.
Regrettably, certain countries, for their own geopolitical interests, do not want to see an early end of the conflict. They make up rumors and slanders against China, and impose unwarranted sanctions on Chinese companies. An individual country even uses Ukraine as an excuse to step up its arms sales to Taiwan to interfere in China’s internal affairs. I believe people around the world are clear-eyed about the situation, and will draw their fair conclusion on who is doing the right thing and who is in the wrong here. China will continue to work with the international community and play a constructive role for the political settlement of the Ukraine crisis. At the same time, we firmly oppose the hegemonic and bullying acts of the US and will resolutely safeguard our legitimate rights and interests.
Q7: China simulated strikes against “main targets in Taiwan”. What are the limits and size of these targets? What are the implications of recent visits by US officials to Taiwan? There is talk about US-Taiwan maneuvers and exercises. What is your comment? Do we expect a US-Chinese war to break out because of the Taiwan crisis?
Qin Gang: Taiwan is an inalienable part of China’s territory. On the Taiwan question, we stand firm in defending China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and safeguarding the rights and interests of the 1.4 billion Chinese people, including the people of Taiwan. The strikes are targeted at the forces attempting to split China and instigating “Taiwan independence”.
The root cause of the current tension in the Taiwan Strait is the attempt by the DPP authorities in Taiwan to seek “Taiwan independence” by relying on the backing of the US and their refusal to recognize the one-China principle. The US, on its part, is exploiting the Taiwan question to contain China’s development. While claiming to follow a “one-China policy”, the US has kept upgrading its official exchanges and substantive relations with the DPP authorities; while claiming not to support “Taiwan independence”, the US has been selling advanced weaponry to Taiwan and conniving at the DPP authorities’ attempt to seek “Taiwan independence” by force.
The Taiwan question is the core of China’s core interests. The one-China principle is the key political foundation for the establishment and development of relations between China and other countries, including the US. It is also an important component of the post-war international order. What the US is doing now on the Taiwan question is a gross violation of the one-China principle. It also seriously undermines the post-war international order and the basic norms governing international relations.
“Taiwan independence” is the biggest threat to peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait. China will continue to work with the greatest sincerity and exert its utmost efforts to achieve peaceful reunification. Meanwhile, we reserve the option of taking all necessary measures. If the US truly wants peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait, it should return to the fundamentals of the one-China principle, honor the three China-US communiqués and the political commitments its leaders made, and unequivocally oppose and check “Taiwan independence”, not the other way around.