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All Countries in the World are in the Same Boat

Mar 18, 2020
  • Fu Ying

    Chair, Center for International Security and Strategy, Tsinghua University

Coronavirus, unknown to mankind, appeared suddenly, but it showed that

all countries in the world are in the same boat

—— Intervew with Ms. Fu Ying, Vecernji List of Croatia

by Dino Brumec, March 10, 2020 

Q1. Two months ago, China and the United States signed a trade deal that might help reconcile the two countries. In 2018 you wrote for Bloomberg website that both countries benefited from globalization. Are you satisfied with the progress in the relations that just recently seemed much more strained? 

A: The reason why China-US relations have been in a downward spiral is that the Trump administration has shifted the American policy towards major power competition, and regards China as the primary strategic competitor. The phase one trade deal may be a touch on the "brake" for the relationship, but there is still much uncertainty down the road. Some sectors in the US, for example, are pushing for "decoupling" with China, and American military activities off the Chinese shores are increasing, threatening the country's territorial sovereignty and maritime rights. China and the US are major countries that can determine the style of future international politics. So it is critical whether they can resolve their differences within the existing international structure. Vicious competition not only harms their own interests, but also undermines global stability. The alternative is coopetition, i.e., cooperation in multiple fields plus limited and controllable competition. I think Europe would rather see China and the US find a way out for cooperation than being compelled to take sides. 

Q2. How do you think Beijing should approach Washington's claims that China uses technology to spy on other countries, both for industrial and political gains? 

A: One essential difference between China and the US in terms of political culture is that the former is opposed to interference in others' internal affairs. We don't want to be interfered with, nor do we want to do it on others. The US, however, keeps the whole world,  including its allies, under surveillance, as revealed by Mr. Edward Snowden. A recent report by 360 Total Security, a Chinese network company, shows that US intelligence agencies have been systematically monitoring and infiltrating into China over the past 11 years. Though the US accuses China of using Huawei to spy on other countries, no evidence has been provided. Moreover, a report by the UK National Cyber Security Center (NCSC) released in March 2019 on Huawei products for their strong and weak points explicitly concluded that there was no Chinese state interference with Huawei products. While China is stepping up its IPR protection, it is ready to work with all other countries to make sure that technologies are used in the sunshine. 

Q 3. You claimed in your text in SCMP in 2018 that China's refusal to change its political system is one of Washington's failures and that US should be grateful for it because US doesn't need an unstable China. Do you think that the Communist Party would win if there would be free elections in today's China? 

A: This is a hypothetical question with a simplistic comparison of political systems. For years the U.S. has tried to impose its political system on other countries and has brought tragic consequences to a number of countries, with negative impact on Europe as well. China, on the other hand, has avoided political instability and economic chaos. Under the leadership of the Communist Party, China has enjoyed social stability, advanced its reforms and opening-up, and blazed a path of socialism with Chinese characteristics, which includes progress in democratice elections. The Chinese Constitution stipulates that “The state organs of the People’s Republic of China apply the principle of democratic-centralism. The National People’s Congress and the local people’s congresses at various levels are constituted through democratic elections. They are responsible to the people and subject to their supervision.” 

Q4. China has been criticised for its response to the coronavirus outbreak, especially by the western media. There have been accusations that Beijing suppressed the initial information about the outbreak. How do you think that China will be able to polish its image in the coming months? 

A: You may have noticed that the media that criticizied China have now turned against their own governments. The virus is unknown to the mankind and it came all of a sudden. It's a huge challenge for any country to come up with the right approach. We will certainly investigate and find out how it could have been better addressed. With the strong leadership of President Xi Jinping, a leading group headed by Premier Li Keqiang has been set up, and Vice Premier Sun Chunlan has been in the city of Wuhan all this time to guide the battle. While Wuhan had a good medical system, the gushing in of huge number of infected people in the early stage stretched it to the breaking point. Now with new hospitals, extra beds, and the support of over 40,000 doctors and nurses from around the country, the situation in the city has been eased greatly. And, with strict quarantine measures, the epidemic is basically under control and the country can expect the dawn coming. 

China has been transperant all along the way and shared the COVID-19 gene sequence information with WHO as soon as we had it. Now we are sharing experience with experts overseas through video meetings, sending a medical group to Iran, and providing testing and prevention materials to neighboring countries. A Chinese team led by Dr. Zhong Nanshan was also engaged in dialogue with the US CDC.  

Q5. What do you think is the biggest demand the Chinese people have from the government and president Xi Jinping regarding coronavirus? 

A: The essence of socialism with Chinese characteristics is the leadership of the Communist Party of China (CPC) whose purpose is to serve the people. China is not Soviet Union. The Chinese people want the CPC to lead them towards a better life and now a victory against the COVID-19 epidemic. In the heroic fight against the outbreak, over 3,000 doctors and nurses got infected in Wuhan, but a lot more have come from all over the country to replace them, many of whom are CPC members. They have stood the ground, having only one goal in mind: save lifes! The Party, Government and people are of one mind. While it's now a critical time for controling the epidemic, it's also time to resume normal order, as the domestic supply chain, employment and education, among others, have all been affected. 

Q6. Sometimes it seems that, unlike confrontational messages from Moscow and Washington, China wants to preserve globalist order of cooperation. What are the biggest issues in today's Chinese foreign policy? 

A: Diplomacy is an extension of internal affairs, and the task of China's diplomacy is to serve its national development goals and maintain an international environment conducive to peace and cooperation. President Xi Jinping has stated that China works to build a new type of international relations and a community of shared future for mankind. The current epidemic shows once again that countries in the world are all in the same boat. Therefore, China will pay more attention to global governance and contribute its share to globalization and solution of world problems. 

Q7. How would you describe relationship between China and Russia? 

A: An important feature of China-Russia relations is that the two countries see each other as reliable partners instead of threats. When celebrating the 70th anniversary of diplomatic relations in 2019, President Xi and President Putin announced the establishment of a comprehensive strategic partnership of cooperation in the new era, which has advanced in-depth cooperation in trade, investment, energy, culture and among local governments. The two countries have shared views on many international issues, but their relationship is not aimed against any third country. President Putin has expressed his firm support for China in its fight against the COVID-19, and Russian special planes have been sent to deliver aid materials to us. On the other hand, there are now Chinese citizens in difficulty in Russia. While we appreciate the need for preventive measures by Russian Government to protect its citizens,  we also hope that the rights and interests of the foreigners there are also insured. 

Q8. Criticism of China is rising because of the treatment of Uyghur population. Just this weekend, there were reports that the country forcefully employed as many as 80 thousand Uyghur workers to work in factories that supply some of the world's biggest brands, like Nike. How would you describe today's position of Uyghur muslims in China? 

A: Since the terrible "July 5" incident of  2009 in Xinjiang, this region had been under serious threat of extreme terrorism until 2016. The central and regional governments have taken a series of measures to address the problem, such as poverty alleviation and job creation. The education and training centers are part of the policy package for eliminating terrorism. The program has helped the trainees to give up radical ideas and learn vocational skills, and enabled them to have normal social life now. More than 20 other countries also have such de-radicalization programs. China's measures are quite comprehensive and effective. The terrorist activities have been contained, and social stability and economic prosperity have come back to Xinjiang. The region is not isolated from the rest of the country. Many people from other parts of the country come to work in Xinjiang and people from the region also move out to find opportunities. The job market in China is open and free, with great mobility of job-seekers. A lot of the allegations about Xinjiang are untrue. I have personally seen some faked videos, and this means that China needs to be more proactive in providing first hand information to the outside world. 

Q9. Belt and Road Initiative has so far been very successful in expanding Chinese political influence all over the world? Where do you see Croatia in the future of the Initiative?

Q10. How do you view relations between Croatia and China, both in economic and political issues? Chinese company is building the biggest infrastructure project in Croatia, the Peljesac bridge. 

A: Infrastructure and connectivity development is at the core of the Belt and Road Initiative, and China is willing to share its experience in infrastructure development with other countries on the basis of mutual benefit. But this is no charitable enterprise, so investment risks and returns need to be considered. 

I have been to Croatia, hometown of Marco Polo, and was overwhelmed by its beauty. It is also located at the intersection of the Belt on the land and the Road on the sea, and is a member of both of the 17+1 (Central and Eastern Europe+China) and 27+1 (EU+China) cooperation mechanisms. China and Croatia have been  brought together ever closer through cooperation in trade, investment, tourism, health care and other fields. Peleshac bridge is our biggest cooperation project, and is also China's largest infrastructure project in EU countries. When completed, it will connect the north and the south of Croatia benefiting tourism, transportation and other industries. China values Croatia's role in the "Belt and Road" development and we agree to set store by the economic viability and sustainability, prevent debt risks, preserve ecological environment, and follow local laws and international rules. This is also consistent with EU principles. I believe that our two countries will continue to uphold the principles of mutual respect and promote cooperation in an open, transparent and market-oriented way to the benefit of the two peoples. 

Q11. In your career, you have seen an isolationist China and also globalist and strong China. You were a diplomat since the days of Mao Zedong. How would you compare this time with the period before the reforms of Deng Xiaoping, both from the perspective of your country, and from your own perspective? 

A: The People's Republic of China was subject to western blockade soon after it was founded in 1949, and to the threat of both the U.S. and the Soviet Union when China and the latter split up. But instead of succumbing to pressure, China chose to pursue an independent foreign policy of peace and strive to lay the foundation for its industrial and agricultural development. The path of reform and opening up initiated by Deng Xiaoping brought China's economy into a new era. As President Xi Jinping puts it, the socialist practice and exploration before the reform and opening up served to lay foundations for the progress afterwards, which has been achieved thanks to the efforts to build upon the accomplishments made during the preceding period. 

Q12. In your country you are very well known, there is even a diplomatic style named after you, the "Fu Ying Style". You were also a role model for a lot of female diplomats. What were the biggest obstacles and biggest rewards in your career? 

A: Thank you for the compliment. There have been many outstanding diplomats in China whom I see as my role models. A diplomatic career takes a lot of traveling or even years of overseas posting. The biggest challenge for me has been how to balance the family and career duties, as it's for most women diplomats. Fortunately, I have had a understanding and supportive family. My husband and daughter tried their best to accommodate it and would stay with me as much as possible. 

My diplomatic career has given me opportunities to get to know the outside world, and thus better understand my own country and the challenges and problems it faces in its internatioanl relations. Talking about rewards, I have made many friends over the years. I often run into them on international occasions and am happy to find that we are still on each other's mind.

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