State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi Gives Interview to Xinhua News Agency and China Media Group on International Situation and China’s Diplomacy in 2020
The following is a transcript of a recent interview given by State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi to Xinhua News Agency and China Media Group on the international situation and China’s diplomacy in 2020.
Question: COVID-19 hit the world with unprecedented impact. What is your assessment of the international situation and China’s diplomacy in 2020?
Wang Yi: It has been an extraordinary year for China and the world. The sudden onslaught of COVID-19 has accelerated the once-in-a-century transformation in an increasingly fluid and changing world. The devastating virus, economic recession and governance difficulties are clear challenges facing humanity. On the other hand, unilateralism, protectionism and power politics are standing in the way of international cooperation. People across the world have increasingly come to see that all countries share a common stake and need to stand together in the face of difficulties. The vision of a community with a shared future for mankind thus enjoys stronger support. More and more members of the international community now choose solidarity over division, openness over isolation and cooperation over confrontation.
Here in China, the CPC Central Committee with Comrade Xi Jinping at its core has rallied the nation behind a common purpose, and secured major strategic gains in the fight against COVID-19. We have also scored decisive successes in the three critical battles against poverty, pollution and potential risks. The whole country is on course to fully build a moderately prosperous society. The recent Fifth Plenary Session of the 19th CPC Central Committee set a great vision for China’s development in the coming years and charted the course for national rejuvenation. The unity and perseverance of the Chinese people have impressed the world. The resilience and dynamism of China’s development have won global recognition.
In 2020, we in the foreign service have forged ahead and tackled the challenges head on. Under the strong leadership of the CPC Central Committee with Comrade Xi Jinping at its core and following Xi Jinping Thought on Diplomacy, we have advanced China’s foreign relations by taking into account both domestic needs and the international context. Guided by President Xi’s leadership and personal engagement and focusing on forging a joint response to COVID-19, we have worked tirelessly to serve the country and contribute to the world. Fighting the coronavirus and the “political virus” at the same time, we have done our best to safeguard national interests and global stability.
We have built a strong defense against the virus at our borders. We have made utmost efforts to facilitate COVID-19 response and safe reopening of economy at home, and provide consular assistance and protection to Chinese nationals abroad. We piloted “fast tracks” and “green lanes” to speed up the flow of essential personnel and goods, and helped keep industrial and supply chains stable and open, contributing to the full establishment of a moderately prosperous society in China.
We have helped erect an international bulwark against the coronavirus. Having actively engaged in the international response to COVID-19, China launched an emergency global humanitarian campaign of a scale unseen since the founding of the People’s Republic in 1949, and helped build consensus on a global response to COVID-19, contributing to the building of a global community of health for all.
We have made more friends in the world. China has deepened friendship and cooperation with all countries, making active efforts to develop relations with major powers, achieving solid progress in building a community with a shared future with neighbors, protecting and advancing the shared interests of the developing world, and working for a new type of international relations.
We have shared benefits generated by China’s opening-up with the world. China has signed the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) and concluded negotiations on a China-EU investment agreement. We have vigorously advanced high-quality Belt and Road cooperation, and highlighted public health, green development and digital transformation in advancing the Belt and Road Initiative. All these efforts have injected much needed impetus into the global recovery.
We have been firm in safeguarding our national interests. We have responded resolutely and rationally to unjustified moves by the United States. We have handled issues relating to Taiwan, Hong Kong, Xinjiang and Tibet with justified, strong and proportionate countermeasures and won one fierce battle after another in international organizations, vigorously safeguarding China’s sovereignty, dignity and development interests.
We have spearheaded multilateral cooperation. Unswerving in advocating multilateralism, China has supported international cooperation on climate change. We have announced our ambitious goal to peak carbon dioxide emissions and achieve carbon neutrality in the upgraded Nationally Determined Contributions. We have put forward a Global Initiative on Data Security to advance the reform of the global governance system.
In challenging times like this, one’s mettle is tested. We are confident that through concerted efforts, the people in China and across the world will prevail over the virus, end the crisis and win an ultimate victory. China, on course toward national rejuvenation, is generating global opportunities and embracing openness and cooperation. We will make greater contributions to world peace and development.
Question: The pandemic has made “cloud diplomacy” a major form of interactions between countries. Through this virtual platform, President Xi Jinping has communicated with many foreign leaders and heads of international organizations and attended multiple important international conferences. What role has “cloud diplomacy” played in China’s foreign relations in 2020?
Wang Yi: COVID-19, which caught everyone by surprise, has hit the “pause” button on face-to-face interactions between countries. But China’s diplomacy has not paused in the face of the difficulties. We have neither shied away from any challenges, nor fallen silent on any major issues.
The biggest highlight in China’s foreign relations has been the “cloud diplomacy” conducted at the head-of-state level. Summit diplomacy, which is the highest form of diplomacy, has been the compass guiding China’s external relations. In 2020, President Xi Jinping personally planned, oversaw and engaged in “cloud diplomacy”, having 87 meetings and phone calls with foreign leaders and heads of international organizations and attending 22 important bilateral or multilateral events.
Through “cloud diplomacy”, President Xi Jinping has championed solidarity in the world’s fight against COVID-19. At the height of this global battle, President Xi sent out this clear message: virus respects no borders and disease doesn’t distinguish between races; humankind is a community with a shared future; solidarity and cooperation is the most powerful weapon to defeat the virus. Advocating science-based response, he called for joint efforts to enhance global prevention and control, develop vaccines, build a strong line of defense against the virus, and oppose politicization and stigmatization. This has helped galvanize international anti-COVID-19 cooperation.
Through “cloud diplomacy”, President Xi Jinping has boosted confidence in world economic recovery. As the world economy slid toward recession, President Xi offered a series of proposals in light of China’s experience in coordinating pandemic response and economic and social development, including maintaining the smooth functioning of the world economy, leveraging the digital economy, making development more inclusive and beneficial for all, and building an open world economy. This has brought hope for the world economy to step out of the doldrums.
Through “cloud diplomacy”, President Xi Jinping has pointed the way forward for reforming the global governance system. As global governance was severely impacted, President Xi, with his keen grasp of the trend of the times, laid out China’s vision for global governance featuring extensive consultation, joint contribution and shared benefits, and articulated China’s unequivocal commitment to multilateralism and to fairer and more equitable global governance.
All in all, with “cloud diplomacy”, China has demonstrated its sense of responsibility, contributed its wisdom and expanded the ways it conducts foreign relations.
Question: How has China contributed to and supported the global COVID-19 response?
Wang Yi: The coronavirus is a common enemy of humanity. To defeat it is the shared responsibility of the international community. Facing this global health crisis, China has called for global cooperation since the start and worked with other countries to fight the pandemic, giving meaning to the vision of a community with a shared future for mankind.
China’s contributions and support to the global response are best seen in the following six respects:
We raced against time and were the first country to report cases to the world. More and more research suggests that the pandemic was likely to have been caused by separate outbreaks in multiple places in the world. When hit by an unknown coronavirus, China took immediate actions to carry out epidemiological investigation, identify the pathogen and publicize key information including the genome sequencing of the virus. All this sounded alarm bells across the world.
We took the most rigorous control measures to fight the virus. Putting people and life first, we effectively controlled the virus within the shortest possible time, and steadily resumed economic and social activities in our country. We made an early contribution to building a strong global line of defense against the virus.
We conducted the largest-scale online exchanges on epidemic response with the support of science and technology. We organized over 100 video meetings with experts from other countries, opened an online knowledge center to share China’s experiences with all countries, and published eight updated versions of diagnosis and therapeutic solutions and seven updated versions of prevention and control protocols. We shared our experience with other countries without any reservation.
We provided urgently needed assistance by launching the largest global emergency humanitarian campaign since the founding of New China. We provided assistance to over 150 countries and 10 international organizations, sent 36 medical teams to 34 countries in need and provided funding to WHO and other relevant UN agencies. We stood with other countries and peoples to help them prevail over the virus.
We did our best as the largest manufacturer of medical supplies. We provided countries around the world with over 220 billion masks, 2.25 billion protective suits and over 1 billion testing kits. “Made in China” products became a key source of supply for the global fight against the pandemic.
We were the first to pledge to make vaccines a global public good, bearing in mind the greater good of humanity. To help other developing countries access affordable vaccines, we engaged in active collaboration on the R&D of drugs and vaccines, which brings hope to heavily-hit developing countries.
As the pandemic is far from over, we must never slacken our joint response. China will continue to advance global cooperation on epidemic response, strengthen joint prevention and control, and assist countries and regions in need. We will never slacken such efforts until humanity secures a final victory against COVID-19.
Question: What role has the Foreign Ministry played during the nation’s battle against COVID-19 and how has the Ministry put its people-centered philosophy into action?
Wang Yi: The principle of for the people and by the people has been a source of strength for the Communist Party of China. It is also the defining feature of China’s diplomacy. This human touch of China’s diplomacy has been further demonstrated during the test of COVID-19. Throughout the year 2020, we have pooled every resource available and lost no time in delivering people-centered diplomacy. We have defied risks and danger to put up a firm line of defense for our fellow Chinese in every corner of the world.
We have stood at the forefront of preventing imported cases, doing everything we could to lock in the hard-won gains in controlling the coronavirus at home. We have stood at the forefront of serving domestic development, giving diplomatic support to the national endeavor of finishing building a moderately prosperous society in all respects and securing victory against extreme poverty. We have stood at the forefront of advocating international cooperation against COVID-19, making our contribution to forging a global synergy in this battle. We have stood at the forefront of fighting misinformation, rebutting attempts of politicization and stigmatization. We were determined to make sure that the objective narrative and collective memory of the battle against the pandemic would not be distorted by lies.
COVID-19 may have suspended flights, yet it has not hindered the solicitude of the motherland for the well-being of its sons and daughters abroad. COVID-19 has brought challenges to our consular work, yet the safety of overseas Chinese has remained our priority no matter what. Consular services have continued uninterrupted, so has our consular work in general.
In the early stage of the pandemic, we mobilized all resources possible to meet the pressing needs of Wuhan and the whole country, sourcing, buying and receiving all kinds of medical supplies from around the world to address the urgent demand at home.
When COVID-19 struck other parts of the world, we kept the safety and well-being of overseas Chinese citizens very much on our mind. We urged more attention from the governments of host countries to the hardships of Chinese nationals, and offered prompt support to those infected, including targeted telemedicine services. We overcame various difficulties to deliver more than 1.2 million health kits to overseas Chinese students, sent emergency medical supplies to overseas Chinese in 100-plus countries, and arranged over 350 special flights to bring home stranded Chinese nationals. Our consular protection hotline 12308 has operated 24/7 to provide dedicated services and assistance to overseas citizens, bringing the care and solicitude of the Party and the country to every one of them. Our diplomats abroad said this to their fellow countrymen and women in affected countries, “The embassy will always be here with you. We will get through this together”.
With COVID-19 still ravaging the world, the risk of case import continues to rise and consular protection remains a formidable task. We in the diplomatic service will firmly implement the decisions of the CPC Central Committee and make solid efforts to prevent imported cases and protect and assist overseas Chinese citizens. We will press ahead against all difficulties to live up to the trust and fulfill the mission placed upon us.
Question: China and Russia have been supporting and helping each other since the outbreak of COVID-19. How would you describe the current China-Russia relations?
Wang Yi: In 2020, China-Russia relations have stood the test of a once-in-a-century pandemic and unprecedented global changes, and reached a historic high in all respects.
Intensive interactions between the two heads of state. President Xi Jinping and President Vladimir Putin have had five phone calls and exchanged correspondence on multiple occasions, providing the most important strategic guidance for the steady growth of the bilateral relations.
Mutual support between the two peoples. Russia was the first country to send medical and other supplies to China, and China was one of the strongest supporters of Russia’s COVID-19 response efforts. The two countries have also worked closely on joint epidemic response and development of vaccines and drugs.
Growing practical cooperation despite challenges. The two countries have vigorously facilitated economic reopening, safeguarded the functioning of industrial and supply chains, and made steady progress in several major projects. The Year of Scientific and Technological Innovation was launched, and bilateral cooperation on the digital economy, e-commerce and other new business forms and models was advanced at a fast pace.
Closer coordination on international affairs. The year 2020 marks the 75th anniversary of the victory of World War II and the founding of the UN. China and Russia have worked in concert to defend the victorious outcomes of World War II and uphold international fairness and justice. The two countries have extended mutual support on issues concerning each other’s core interests and stood side by side against power politics, which further underscores the global significance of China-Russia relations.
The year 2021 is a year of special importance for China-Russia relations, as both countries will enter a new development stage. In developing China-Russia strategic cooperation, we see no limit, no forbidden zone and no ceiling to how far this cooperation can go. Focusing on the central task of implementing the common understandings of the two Presidents, the two countries will use the opportunity of the 20th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Good-neighborliness and Friendly Cooperation to renew their shared commitment to ever-lasting peace and win-win cooperation. Being each other’s strategic anchor, diplomatic priority, development opportunity and global partner, the two countries will expand and deepen cooperation from a higher starting point. Together, China and Russia will continue to be the example of good-neighborly and friendly relations between major countries, add impetus to global recovery, and underpin global strategic stability.
Question: China-US relations are going through a period of difficulties rarely seen since the establishment of diplomatic ties. This relationship has once again come to a major historical juncture. How do you see the future of this bilateral relationship?
Wang Yi: In recent years, China-US relations have run into unprecedented difficulties. Fundamentally, it all comes down to the serious misconceptions of US policymakers about China. Some see China as the so-called biggest threat and their China policy based on this misperception is simply wrong. What has happened proves that the US attempt to suppress China and start a new Cold War has not just seriously harmed the interests of the two peoples, but also caused severe disruptions to the world. Such a policy will find no support and is doomed to fail.
China-US relations have come to a new crossroads, and a new window of hope is opening. We hope that the next US administration will return to a sensible approach, resume dialogue with China, restore normalcy to the bilateral relations and restart cooperation.
China’s policy toward the United States is consistent and stable. We are ready to develop with the United States a relationship based on coordination, cooperation and stability. China never meddles in the internal affairs of the United States and values peaceful co-existence and mutually beneficial cooperation with the United States. Likewise, the United States also needs to respect the social system and development path chosen by the Chinese people and respect their legitimate rights to pursue a better life.
We know that some in the United States are uneasy about China’s rapid development. However, the best way to keep one’s lead is through constant self-improvement, not by blocking others’ development. We don’t need a world where China becomes another United States. This is neither rational nor feasible. Rather, the United States should try to make itself a better country, and China will surely become its better self. We believe that as long as the United States can draw lessons from the past and work with China in the same direction, the two countries are capable of resolving differences through dialogue and expanding converging interests by cooperation. This will allow the two major countries to establish a model of coexistence that benefits both countries and the world, and open up new development prospects in line with the trend of history.
Question: China and the EU marked the 45th anniversary of their diplomatic ties in 2020. Within Europe, there is a debate on maintaining strategic autonomy versus seeking closer ties with the United States. What experience have China and the EU gained in growing their relations? How would you characterize the EU’s role in the process toward a multi-polar world and the future of China-EU ties?
Wang Yi: As you mentioned, the year 2020 marked the 45th anniversary of the diplomatic ties between China and the EU. Throughout the years, our relationship with the EU has withstood the profound changes in the world. It has on the whole focused on dialogue, cooperation and mutual benefit, and demonstrated strong vitality by progressing with the times. For the two sides:
The most important experience is to stay committed to peaceful coexistence, open cooperation, multilateralism, and dialogue and consultation. The most important conclusion is that our cooperation and common understandings far outweigh competition and differences. China and the EU are comprehensive strategic partners, not systemic rivals. The most important mission is to jointly tackle global challenges, promote a multi-polar world, economic globalization and greater democracy in international relations, and inject more stability and certainty into a turbulent and changing world.
In 2020, China and the EU made new progress in their relations despite COVID-19. China became the EU’s largest trading partner for the first time. The two sides signed the agreement on geographical indications, and decided to establish two new high-level dialogue mechanisms on environment and climate and on digital cooperation, and build partnerships for green and digital cooperation.
President Xi Jinping and European leaders have jointly announced the conclusion of negotiations on a China-EU investment treaty, adding fresh, strong impetus to China-EU cooperation. It is also great news for the struggling global economy. This is a clear example of how, by working together in the spirit of mutual understanding, mutual accommodation and equal consultation, the two sides can open up broad prospects for China-EU cooperation.
In this volatile and changing world, China will remain a supporter of European integration, greater strategic autonomy of the EU, and a bigger role of the EU in international affairs. The multilateralism that our two sides advocate must be dedicated to unity and cooperation rather than group politics. It needs to transcend systemic difference rather than draw lines along ideology. China is prepared to enhance coordination with the EU to keep our relations on the right track.