Interview Given by State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi to Xinhua News Agency
On September 16, 2020, when attending the meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) Council of Foreign Ministers and during his visits to Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Mongolia, State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi had an exclusive interview with Xinhua News Agency. The content is as follows:
1. Xinhua: Against the current backdrop of the severe outbreak of COVID-19 in the world, what is the significance of attending the meeting of the SCO Council of Foreign Ministers in Russia? What issues are discussed at the meeting and what is the most important result achieved?
Wang Yi: The meeting is the first offline multilateral meeting held since the global outbreak of COVID-19 this year. It is also an important attempt by various parties to restart offline exchanges and face-to-face discussions on cooperation under the background of normalization of epidemic prevention and control. The foreign ministers of the eight member states of the SCO and the heads of two permanent bodies gathered together to discuss the SCO’s development and regional cooperation. The meeting passed a press communiqué and adopted more than 20 draft documents, demonstrating the “Shanghai Spirit” of mutual trust and mutual benefit and the constructive role of the SCO in promoting regional peace and stability.
The core task of the meeting of the SCO Council of Foreign Ministers is to make political preparations for the SCO summit to be held online in November. The foreign ministers looked forward to taking the summit as an opportunity to respond to global challenges more effectively, resolve security risks, and share development opportunities. As the SCO is about to enter its third decade, the foreign ministers expected that it will become an example of multilateralism and new international relations. The foreign ministers reached a series of important consensus and results to this end.
The first is to confirm that the heads of member states are invited to issue a statement on the 75th anniversary of the victory of the World Anti-Fascist War. The member states of the SCO made great national sacrifices for the victory of World War II. We all agreed that we should resolutely safeguard the outcomes of World War II, oppose tampering with the history of World War II, and resolutely maintain world peace and stability.
The second is to build a consensus on building a community with a shared future for mankind. The once-in-a-century changes have demonstrated the necessity and urgency of building a community with a shared future for mankind. The foreign ministers reiterated that this initiative has practical significance, is in line with the development direction of human civilization, and confirmed its important position in the SCO cooperation concept.
The third is to promote international anti-epidemic cooperation. The foreign ministers believed that it is necessary to carry forward the “Shanghai Spirit”, take solidarity and cooperation as the most powerful weapons to defeat the epidemic, and work together to coordinate epidemic prevention and control and recovery of work and production, so as to create favorable conditions for economic and social development in the post-epidemic era.
The fourth is to expand all-round cooperation. The foreign ministers emphasized that we must continue to strengthen security cooperation, work together to combat the “three evil forces” (terrorism, extremism and separatism), and jointly create a sound security environment. All parties believed that we should deepen cooperation in economic and trade investment, interconnection, digital economy, people-to-people and cultural exchanges, and attach importance to high-quality joint construction of the “Belt and Road”.
The fifth is to advocate and support multilateralism. The foreign ministers advocated that we should take the 75th anniversary of the founding of the United Nations (UN) as an opportunity to consolidate the central coordinating role of the UN and the UN Security Council in maintaining international peace and security, oppose unilateralism and protectionism, and further improve the global governance system. The Global Initiative on Data Security proposed by the Chinese side is consistent with the ideas of various parties and has been actively echoed. The foreign ministers decided to ask the SCO Summit to issue a statement on safeguarding international information security, expressing member states’ clear positions on jointly safeguarding international information and data security.
2. Xinhua: What results have been achieved during your visit to Russia? How do the current changes in the international situation, especially the changes in China-US relations affect China-Russian relations? What role will China and Russia play in the once-in-a-century changes?
Wang Yi: This is the first face-to-face meeting between Chinese and Russian foreign ministers after the global outbreak of COVID-19. Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and I have held long talks and exchanges, and reached a series of important consensus on strengthening bilateral relations and coping with international and regional challenges. We also issued a joint statement with extensive contents by the foreign ministers of the two countries, explaining our common positions on almost all international issues. China and Russia have become important stabilizing forces in the current international situation.
The COVID-19 epidemic accelerated the evolution of changes unseen in a century. Both China and Russia are thinking deeply about how to well maintain, consolidate, and develop China-Russian relations under the new situation. This is not only about the development and rejuvenation of the two countries and the well-being of the two peoples, but also holds global demonstration significance. The Chinese and Russian foreign ministers agreed to strengthen cooperation in four areas.
First, we should to support international anti-epidemic cooperation. We should support the World Health Organization (WHO) in giving play to its coordinating role, support all countries in accelerating drug and vaccine research and development, call for stopping politicizing the epidemic. And the irresponsible act of releasing a “political virus” instead of containing the spread of the COVID-19 should be opposed.
Second, China and Russia should be examples of major countries living in harmony. It is imperative to maintain a constructive and cooperative relationship between major countries for solving global issues. The Cold War mentality and zero-sum game go against the trend of the times of peace, development, and cooperation, and cannot be supported or sustainable. China and Russia will take the implementation of the consensus reached by the two heads of state as the core task, continue to deepen political mutual trust and strategic cooperation, and continue to deepen the cooperation in the joint construction of the Belt and Road Initiative and the Eurasian Economic Union.
Third, China and Russia should strengthen cutting-edge technological innovation. China and Russia have complementary advantages in science and technology. The two sides will implement well over 1,000 projects under the framework of the Year of Scientific and Technological Innovation, deepen cooperation in the commercialization of outcomes in science and technology, promote two-way exchanges of talents, encourage investment fields including high-tech and Internet, and provide scientific and technological support for practical cooperation between the two countries.
Fourth, China and Russia should defend international fairness and justice. China and Russia will firmly maintain the UN’s core role in international affairs, uphold international law and basic norms of international relations, and actively reform and improve the global governance system.
At present, the international community is undergoing a historical test of multilateralism against unilateralism, and cooperation against confrontation. Some countries have conducted the acts of unilateral bullying, wantonly interfered in the internal affairs of other countries, and bashed China and Russia, undermining the security and stability of the surrounding areas of the two countries. China and Russia are united like a mountain, and China-Russia friendship is unbreakable. Bilateral strategic cooperation will remain unchanged despite the influences of external environment. In a period of global turbulence and changes, strong China-Russia relations have more prominent significance in maintaining regional and world peace and security. China and Russia will unswervingly develop future-oriented relations and work with the international community to promote the construction of a new type of international relations featuring mutual respect, fairness, justice, and win-win cooperation, build a community with a shared future for mankind, and make greater contributions to the cause of human peace and development.
3. Xinhua: In the four countries you visited, what new measures have you agreed on anti-epidemic cooperation? How to promote the building of a global community of health for all with China’s neighboring countries?
Wang Yi: Since the outbreak of the epidemic, China has worked with neighboring countries including Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Mongolia to help each other and have carried out effective anti-epidemic cooperation. President Khaltmaa Battulga of Mongolia visited China in February this year at a critical moment of China’s fight against the epidemic to express his support. President Xi Jinping maintained communication through telephone with President Vladimir Putin of Russia, President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev of Kazakhstan, and President Sooronbay Sharipovich Jeenbekov of Kyrgyzstan, and they made plans and arrangements for jointly fighting the epidemic. China and the four countries aided each other to fight the epidemic. China sent medical experts and joint working groups to the four countries, or shared prevention and control as well as diagnosis and treatment experience through video conferences. During this visit, colleagues from various countries expressed their gratitude to China for its timely and strong support and assistance, believing that this vividly interprets the friendship between neighbors that that a friend in need is a friend indeed. Some friends from Central Asia also told me that after they got COVID-19, they took Chinese medicine, which played an important role in regaining health.
During this visit, I exchanged views with the foreign ministers on deepening anti-epidemic cooperation and prevailing over the COVID-19, and committed to building an “anti-epidemic fortress”, a “silk road of health” and a global community of health for all. To this end, we will take four measures. The first is to strengthen international anti-epidemic cooperation, firmly support the WHO’s coordinating role in global anti-epidemic cooperation, and oppose politicizing the epidemic and labeling the virus. The second is to consolidate and expand the results of anti-epidemic cooperation. The Chinese side is willing to continually provide assistance to all countries in the fight against the epidemic, including material procurement, expert training, experience sharing and drug cooperation, and accelerate the establishment of a notification mechanism of major epidemic information with all parties. The third is to actively carry out cooperation in research, development, production and procurement of vaccines. China will make its contributions to making vaccines accessible and affordable in neighboring countries. The fourth is to work together to conduct cooperation in traditional Chinese medicine. The Chinese side is willing to promote traditional Chinese medicine according to the needs of all countries and jointly protect the health of the people.
4. Xinhua: During this visit, you had face-to-face exchanges with leaders of China’s neighbors. How would you evaluate exchanges and cooperation among countries in the post-pandemic era? Has the Chinese side discussed the construction of the Belt and Road Initiative and resumption of work and production with all sides?
Wang Yi: We are containing the COVID-19 on a routine basis. Under such circumstances, the Chinese side attaches great importance to resume exchanges with other countries in a safe and orderly manner. President Xi Jinping have always had phone calls, video conferences and exchanged messages with leaders of other countries. President Xi Jinping has just co-hosted a meeting with EU leaders via videolink, and will attend high-level meetings to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the UN via videolink upon invitation. My colleagues and I have visited Europe and China’s neighboring countries, and will, according to new tasks, work on the plan for diplomatic activities for the next stage. We will continue to hold both online and offline diplomatic activities, according to the situation of the epidemic, as a way to exchange with other countries. We will strive to maintain the frequency and efficiency of bilateral and multilateral exchanges, as well as maintain the breadth and depth of cooperation.
During the visit, the Chinese side, together with all sides, summarized the new features and good experience in cooperation in all areas since the onset of the epidemic. We agreed to continuously give play to the role of the synergy among the Belt and Road cooperation and development strategies of all countries, and accelerate resumption of work and production, in a bid to better benefit peoples in the region. We must ensure a good top-level design in the first place. Second, we must improve cooperation system and mechanism, build a new platform of the Belt and Road Initiative, including improving collective and coordinated response mechanisms in the border areas, and fully support the financing and epidemic response for Belt and Road cooperation projects. Third, we must proceed from our shared interests and complementarity in our needs, and start the new engine of the Belt and Road cooperation. The Chinese side will import more quality agricultural products. All countries are welcome to participate in the third China International Import Expo, and share the opportunities in China’s growing market. China supports all countries in developing digital economy, and will expand cooperation in 5G, big data, artificial intelligence, digital economy, e-commerce and information and communications technology, and will build the Digital Silk Road together. Fourth, efforts must be made to promote interconnectivity and personnel exchanges, and open up new channels of the building of the Belt and Road Initiative. China and Kazakhstan announced support for a greater role of China-Europe railway express, making it the “steel camel fleet” running on Eurasia. China and Kyrgyzstan announced reopening and the restoration of the freight functions of ports. So far, nearly 2,000 Chinese experts have returned to Central Asian countries upon invitation to join in the resumption of work and production there. China and Kazakhstan announced a plan for the first batch of 1000 Chinese experts to facilitate resumption of work and production. The Chinese side is also willing to, according to the development of the epidemic, resume flights to Central Asian countries, and increase more direct flights, so as to create conditions for bilateral exchanges. Even at the height of the epidemic, air flights between China and Russia were kept open, and flows of freight in cross-border areas were never impeded. As the situation turns good, about 90 percent of bilateral cooperation projects have been resumed. Both sides have agreed on an arrangement to facilitate cross-border flow of goods and personnel. China and Mongolia will, while ensuring the smooth operation of the “green channels” for the flow of goods, accelerate the establishment of “fast lanes” for the flow of personnel.
The Chinese side has also briefed all sides on China’s new development stage. That is, China will elevate the level of opening-up to the world, and working toward the goal of fostering a new, dual-cycle development architecture with the domestic cycle as the mainstay and with domestic and international development reinforcing each other. All sides shared the view that this will provide more extensive market space and more cooperation opportunities for all countries in the world. As China’s friendly neighbors and strategic partners, all sides will be the first to benefit from the building of the new development architecture. All sides expressed the willingness to work together to accelerate the development of China’s relations with all countries, and quicken bilateral cooperation.
5. Xinhua: The US seeks formal alliance similar to the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) in the Indo-Pacific region and promote northward enlargement of its Indo-Pacific strategy. What is your comment on the situation in China’s neighborhood? Did you discuss measures to maintain stability in the surrounding areas with the four countries you visited?
Wang Yi: Russia, Central Asia, and Mongolia are important neighbors in Northwest China. China pays close attention to the situation in the region and sincerely hopes that all countries will maintain long-term stability, development and prosperity. In recent years, China’s relations with its neighboring countries and the relations among these countries have maintained a good momentum in general. Meanwhile, turbulences in the world have intensified, and regional security is facing new threats and challenges. International terrorist organizations and separatists, religious extremists and terrorists (“three forces”) in the region are growing worrisome again. Some forces from outside the region have interfered in the internal affairs of countries in the region with various excuses, and even incited a new round of “color revolution.” At the same time, to maintain unipolar hegemony, these forces are maliciously smearing China, Russia and other emerging economies, unreasonably containing and suppressing them, and even coercing other countries to take sides, in an attempt to create a so-called “new Cold War.” Such acts have overstepped the bottom line of state-to-state relations, and are not in line with the interest of various countries. The international community will not accept such acts that will surely make a disgraceful record in history.
During the visit, all countries agreed that security and strategic coordination embody the high-level mutual trust and represent an important part of all-round cooperation between China and these countries. All parties spoke highly of the results of bilateral strategic security, exchanges in defense, and law enforcement and security cooperation. Facing the new situation, the Chinese side will enhance cooperation with various countries in three aspects.
First, China will actively practice a vision of common, comprehensive, cooperative and sustainable security. China will deepen security cooperation in traditional and non-traditional security fields, and work together to cope with risks and challenges. China and various countries are an interdependent community with shared interests and a security community that share weal and woe, and stand ready to make greater efforts to maintain world peace and stability and build a community with a shared future for mankind.
Second, China will continuously elevate our security cooperation at bilateral and multilateral levels, and work together to combat the “three forces,” drug-trafficking, and organized cross-border crimes. All parties welcome the Global Initiative on Data Security recently proposed by China, believing that the initiative carries positive significance for promoting the formulation of global data security rules and building a global data space featuring openness, cooperation and security. China will work with these countries and other like-minded countries to advance this process.
Third, China will firmly support people of various countries in independently choosing their development path suited to their national realities, and oppose any individual or force to interfere in other countries’ internal affairs under any pretext. The Chinese side is willing to enhance exchanges of experience on state governance and administration, and safeguard each other’s political and regime security. Friendly neighbors such as Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan will welcome important political agenda soon, and China wishes them every success.
6. Xinhua: The first intra-Afghan negotiations opened in Doha, Qatar on September 12. Representatives from the Afghan government and Taliban were present. Does China have any expectation for the prospect of these negotiations and the future of Afghanistan?
Wang Yi: The four countries I have visited this time are all the neighboring countries of Afghanistan. China, as a sincere friend of Afghanistan, hopes all sides will bear in mind the interests of their country and nation, and find an effective political solution to the Afghan issue as soon as possible.
The Chinese side attended the opening ceremony of the first intra-Afghan negotiations. We stressed that all parties should keep to the fundamental direction of political settlement, uphold the basic principle of an Afghan-led process, and pursue the goal of a broad-based and inclusive framework. Efforts are also needed to resolutely fight terrorism and uphold a foreign policy of peace and friendship. Such efforts will help truly realize peace and development in Afghanistan.
Cessation of violence and durable peace is the strongest wish of over 37 million Afghan people and the shared expectation of the regional countries and the international community. China will continue to be a supporter, mediator and facilitator for its peace and reconciliation process. China calls on the global community and regional countries to uphold fairness and justice and jointly support peace and reconstruction in Afghanistan. The withdrawal of foreign troops should proceed in a responsible and orderly way to ensure a stable transition in Afghanistan.