On August 16, Qin Gang, Chinese Ambassador to the United States, accepted Steve Clemons, the host of "The Bottom Line" of the English Channel of Al Jazeera, and the special guest editor of "Semaphore" News Agency and "Capitol Hill". The interview focused on answering questions on the Taiwan issue and Sino-US relations.
The content of the interview was broadcast on August 18 (with abridged), and the complete transcript of the scene (in Chinese translation) is as follows:
Clemens: In protest of US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi's visit to Taiwan, China has suspended a number of bilateral dialogues and cooperation between the US and China, covering climate change, anti-drug cooperation, regional security and military coordination.
President Biden also halted action to remove tariffs imposed by former President Trump on Chinese exports to the United States.
Despite the downward spiral of bilateral relations, the two countries remain closely linked, with bilateral trade reaching more than $700 billion last year.
So the US and China are each other's strategic partners, strategic competitors or strategic rivals?
What does this mean to you and me and the world?
Today we have Qin Gang, the Chinese ambassador to the United States, who used to be the vice minister of foreign affairs of China.
Ambassador, it's great to communicate with you.
I really want the audience to understand China's position.
We saw that Pelosi visited Taiwan, and the Chinese side warned her not to go, there would be serious consequences if she went.
Why is Taiwan so strategically important to China?
Ambassador Qin: Thank you for inviting me.
Pelosi's visit to Taiwan is a reckless and provocative move, an escalation of the substantive relationship between the United States and Taiwan, and a violation of the commitments made by the United States in the three Sino-US joint communiques, including that there is only one China in the world, and the government of the People's Republic of China is the representative of the whole world. The only legitimate government of China, the United States does not develop official relations with Taiwan.
We observed Pelosi's remarks on his visit to Taiwan, which was not an unofficial visit.
She made it clear in her statement after arriving in Taiwan that her visit was an official one.
She herself is not an ordinary person, but the number three figure in the US government, with a high degree of political sensitivity.
Therefore, Pelosi went to Taiwan for an event, claiming that the United States and Tsai Ing-wen's authorities are standing together, and that the DPP to which Tsai Ing-wen belongs has clearly written the pursuit of "Taiwan independence" into its party platform. The United States is supporting the "Taiwan independence" separatist forces. .
That's why the Chinese government and people reacted strongly to this.
We strongly and resolutely oppose it and have taken countermeasures.
The consequences of Pelosi's visit to Taiwan are very serious. Before her visit, the Chinese side repeatedly warned the US side that there would be very serious consequences.
Now we are dealing with the aftermath of her visit.
Clemens: One of the things that surprised me is that while President Biden did not dissuade her from going, the Department of Homeland Security, the Pentagon, and national security officials working for President Biden all expressed serious concerns about her visit, believing that it might Triggered (nervous).
Are you not a little relieved that there are different views on this issue within the US government and that many people do not support her visit?
Ambassador Qin: We only look at the results.
Congress is part of the U.S. government and has an obligation to observe and implement U.S. foreign policy.
Every country has only one foreign policy.
There cannot always be one set by the executive branch, and another set by the Congress.
We are strongly dissatisfied with what has happened, and believe that the US administration did not do its best to dissuade her from visiting.
Clemens: There is another issue that is also related. Now important figures in both the Democratic and Republican parties have concerns about China. This is one of the few consensuses between the two parties.
I think the US has a sense of insecurity about China, including China's economic growth, strong global position, the Belt and Road Initiative, etc.
Many Americans will say, we want these too, we want the Belt and Road Initiative, but we are deeply disturbed by China's influence in the world.
I hope you can let the audience know what is the future path of China?
What kind of grand strategy does China have towards the United States and the world?
What does China want to achieve in the world?
Ambassador Qin: First of all, China is committed to giving its people a better life.
This is the mission and purpose of the Chinese Communist Party and the Chinese government.
We strive to become richer and stronger, so as to continuously satisfy the people's yearning for a better life.
At the same time, China has made more contributions to world peace, security and common development, and is a force supporting peace and stability.
But unfortunately, China is misunderstood and misjudged as a challenge or even a threat to the United States, trying to replace the United States.
This is not our goal.
We hope to maintain a stable and cooperative relationship with the United States, because we believe that China and the United States have huge common responsibilities and common interests.
We all face challenges at home, and the first thing we have to do is to do our own affairs well.
A sound China-US relationship serves the interests of both countries and the aspirations of the international community to pursue peace, security and jointly tackle common challenges.
Regrettably, the current state of Sino-US relations is very worrying and is going downhill.
As I said, this is because China is misunderstood and misjudged, and the China-US relationship is driven by fear rather than shared interests and shared responsibility.
People forget that our bilateral trade volume exceeded 750 billion US dollars last year, and China and the United States are one of each other's most important trading partners.
Before the COVID-19 outbreak, there were as many as 5 million personnel exchanges between the two countries each year, hundreds of thousands of Chinese students were studying in the United States, and more and more young Americans chose to study in China.
I think it's time to put common sense, common interests, and shared responsibility back at the center of the U.S.-China relationship.
Differences should not be an excuse for confrontation, nor should they lead us down the wrong path to confrontation conflict.
Clemens: Ambassador, you've been in the United States for a year, knowing the United States, dealing with a lot of different people.
I heard you use the term "threat phobia" recently, and the escalation of Taiwan-related remarks in the US also reflects this.
What do you think is driving Americans' growing concerns and concerns about China's behavior?
Ambassador Qin: I think there is indeed a "China phobia" in the United States, and it is still spreading.
Clemens: Is this racism?
Ambassador Qin: Maybe you can judge for yourself, but I do feel that in this country, the sentiment towards Asia is on the rise.
Chinese scientists and Chinese students are increasingly feeling unsafe in the United States.
Our normal exchanges and cooperation in various fields are also negatively affected by this fear.
Clemens: I think a lot of Americans are looking at what they're seeing in China, Taiwan and Hong Kong.
For example, under the "zero" policy, many people were forced to isolate themselves at home for long periods of time, and their frustration can be seen in Youtube videos; in Hong Kong, mass protests were suppressed, and many Americans consider this to be a pro-democracy movement ; Taiwanese worry about their future state of self-government, with some expressing a desire to seek independence, something many Americans agree with.
I'm interested in whether these will trigger a crisis in the future.
How does China respond to this?
What steps will be taken to alleviate US concerns that China is trying to suppress autonomy, fundamental freedoms and human rights in order to promote a relationship of mutual trust between the US and China.
Why is the situation in Taiwan so prone to escalation?
Perhaps part of the reason is that many Americans are more on the "free" side.
Ambassador Qin: Fundamentally speaking, the Taiwan issue is not an issue of democracy and freedom, but an issue of China's national sovereignty and territorial integrity, and an issue of the national dignity of the Chinese people.
History shows that Taiwan has been part of China since ancient times.
In history, Taiwan was divided from the motherland by Dutch colonists and Japanese invaders. The Chinese people made great efforts and paid a huge price to regain Taiwan.
So people need to understand history, understand international law.
What is meant by international law here?
It is the one-China principle. There is only one China in the world. Both sides of the Taiwan Strait belong to the same China. The government of the People's Republic of China is the only legal government representing the whole of China.
This is confirmed and documented in international law and is part of the post-World War II international order.
These international documents on Taiwan, such as the Cairo Declaration in 1943 and the Potsdam Proclamation in 1945, were signed by American leaders.
Therefore, the United States is a stakeholder and should carry forward the spirit of the contract, fulfill its international obligations, and abide by the commitments made in the three Sino-US joint communiques.
Therefore, when the Chinese people saw that Pelosi visited Taiwan and gave a platform to the "Taiwan independence" separatist forces, they reacted very strongly.
This is a blatant provocation that hurts the national dignity and feelings of the Chinese people.
Regarding the future of Taiwan, first, we will do our best to realize the prospect of peaceful reunification with the greatest sincerity.
Because the two sides of the Taiwan Strait are compatriots, the last thing they want to see is flesh and blood.
We will do our best to achieve peaceful reunification and create favorable conditions for it.
The core of peaceful reunification is "one country, two systems" based on one China.
Both sides of the Taiwan Strait have a common identity, that is, Chinese, so we will solve this problem as if we were dealing with family affairs.
Regarding the political arrangements after reunification, we will also fully consider the reality of Taiwan and the feelings of the Taiwanese people.
We have formulated the basic policy of "one country, two systems". After peaceful reunification is achieved on the basis of adhering to the one-China principle, Taiwan can retain a political and social system different from that of the mainland. This is a democratic and inclusive plan.
Clemens: Campbell, the longtime White House National Security Council Indo-Pacific coordinator in charge of Asian affairs, said, don't trust the Chinese on this matter. Peaceful reunification is not what they seek. They use Pelosi's behavior as an excuse to seek advantage.
That's a rather pointed complaint from Campbell.
I would like to know how you view the current situation and how to make the US realize that the current situation is very troublesome?
Ambassador Qin: I don't know why this senior American official made such a public statement that he didn't believe that China would be peacefully reunified or worked hard for it.
As I said just now, both sides of the strait are compatriots. We will do our best to strive for the prospect of peaceful reunification, but we will not promise to give up non-peaceful means to achieve reunification. This is not aimed at Taiwan compatriots, but to deter a handful of "Taiwan independence" separatist forces and prevent Intervention by external forces to protect the prospects of peaceful reunification to the greatest extent possible.
The current crisis was not provoked and caused by China.
Since we learned that Pelosi will visit Taiwan, we have expressed China's firm opposition through various channels at different levels, and repeatedly warned the US that this violates the one-China principle and the commitments the US has made.
If Pei insists on visiting Taiwan, it will have very serious consequences, and China will surely make a resolute and forceful response.
This is a crisis unilaterally imposed on China by the US.
We don't want to use Pei's visit to create a so-called new normal, as US officials say.
If we have such intentions, why do we do our best and do everything possible to prevent it?
This is illogical.
Clemens: You talked about the depth of the economic integration and mutual investment between the two countries. Now the US media does not mention this. Is the economic relationship in danger now?
Are Chinese leaders willing to "decouple" from a frustrated US?
We hear a lot of talk about "decoupling" in Washington.
But as you said, the two countries have $750 billion in trade.
In your opinion, what can be done to bring the US-China relationship back to a healthier state?
Ambassador Qin: First of all, China does not believe that "decoupling" is in the interests of either China or the United States.
Given the size, influence, and responsibilities of China and the United States, "decoupling" will damage each other and the world.
Second, China does not want to “decouple”.
We hope that the two sides can get rid of the predicament of bilateral relations through more exchanges and cooperation.
For this we need to follow some very important principles.
In other words, Sino-US relations should be based on the principles of mutual respect, peaceful coexistence and win-win cooperation put forward by President Xi Jinping.
During the many exchanges between President Xi Jinping and President Biden, the two heads of state agreed to avoid conflict, respect each other and improve bilateral relations.
We hope that the consensus reached by the two heads of state can serve as the general guide for the development of China-US relations.
Honestly, China has been doing this all the time.
But can the US follow the important consensus reached by the two heads of state?
This is a big question mark.
Clemens: I remember when Biden was vice president, he helped arrange the summit between President Xi Jinping and President Obama at the Annenberg estate.
When the then Vice President Biden visited China for the first time to meet with President Xi Jinping, I was a reporter with the delegation.
They maintain a good, respectful relationship.
Biden told me after he became president that he respected President Xi Jinping as a visionary thinker.
Do you think they still have a certain level of trust and respect for each other?
Were you seriously damaged by events that concern you?
Ambassador Qin: I am very worried about the level of mutual trust between China and the United States.
This state occurs because China is seen as a challenge, because of the prevalence of "China phobia" in the United States.
Seeing the other person as a friend or partner or as a threat or challenge is quite different.
So how to restore mutual trust?
It needs to go back to the most basic thing, that is, the US side should view China's development intentions in a fair and objective way, keeping in mind that the common interests and responsibilities of the two countries far outweigh the differences.
Differences or disagreements should not be allowed to hinder the development of bilateral relations and become a reason for confrontation and hostility.
Clemens: When President Hu Jintao visited Washington many years ago, I sat next to the head of policy planning at the Chinese Foreign Ministry.
I thought it was a good opportunity to communicate, so I asked him "what is China's global grand strategy".
"How to keep you Americans distracted by small Middle Eastern countries," he joked to me.
At the time, it did make some sense.
So what is China's grand strategy today?
Ambassador Qin: China's grand strategy is to maintain world peace and security, and work together with the people of other countries to achieve common development and shared prosperity.
We want a peaceful and friendly international environment so that we can focus on domestic development and allow the Chinese people to live a better life.
As ambassador, my role is to try to free the US from its "China phobia".
Let me tell a story, the musical "Hamilton" tells the life experience of Hamilton, the first Secretary of the Treasury of the United States.
Hamilton had a political opponent, then-Vice President Aaron Burr.
They did not end well in the play, and the two fought a duel.
At the end of the duel, Vice President Burr said regretfully that the world is big enough for me and Hamilton.
Let's look at the world today and China-US relations.
I would like to borrow Mr. Burr's words, the world is big enough to accommodate China and the United States.
We should not allow the tragedy of more than 200 years ago to be repeated today.
Clemens: Qin Gang, Chinese Ambassador to the United States, thank you very much for being interviewed and discussing these issues candidly with us.
Thank you so much.
Ambassador Qin: Thank you.