The Paper: This year marks the 15th anniversary of the strategic partnership between China and ASEAN. How will China take forward the relationship?
Wang Yi: As we celebrate the 15th anniversary, 2018 is of particular importance for the future of China-ASEAN strategic partnership.
The last 15 years have seen China-ASEAN cooperation go from strength to strength and bear rich fruits. For nine years running, China has been ASEAN’s largest trading partner. Last year, our trade exceeded 500 billion dollars and two-way visits totaled 40 million, all of which brought real benefits to our combined population of nearly 2 billion. Indeed, China-ASEAN cooperation is the most successful and dynamic in the Asian-Pacific region.
In the year ahead, we will continue to give the highest priority to cooperation with ASEAN, upgrade our strategic partnership and build a more close-knit community of shared destiny. We have three priorities. First, we will work out a new blueprint of cooperation. The proposed China-ASEAN Strategic Partnership Vision 2030 will lead to better coordination between the Belt and Road Initiative and ASEAN’s development plans. Second, we will foster new highlights of cooperation. Cooperation will be broadened in the political and security, economic and trade, and social and people-to-people areas, with more projects and outcomes in the pipeline. Third, we will forge new platforms of cooperation. Efforts will be made to build a Lancang-Mekong economic development belt, establish a cooperation framework with the East ASEAN Growth Area, support ASEAN community-building, and conclude the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership as soon as possible.
The Straits Times: The South China Sea is calm now, but there are still concerns over reports of China’s continuing militarization of its islands in the South China Sea. Are the talks with ASEAN countries for a code of conduct likely to be completed this year?
Wang Yi: When it comes to maintaining peace and stability in the South China Sea, China’s resolve is as strong as its commitment is deep. China’s approach to the South China Sea issue is a responsible one that takes into account the interests of the Chinese people, the facts of history, the imperative of regional peace and the international rule of law. This position is firm and consistent.
With situation in the South China Sea turning for the better, China and ASEAN countries face a golden opportunity. We all agree to develop a code of conduct in the South China Sea to preserve its hard-won tranquility. Last week, our officials held an inaugural round of consultation on the COC text and made encouraging progress. At least three more rounds have been envisaged for the remainder of this year. China and ASEAN countries are willing and able to draft regional rules on our own, rules which will meet our region’s imperatives and be adhered to by all.
There are also challenges in the South China Sea. Some outside forces are not happy with the prevailing calm and try to stir up trouble and muddle the waters. Their frequent show of force with fully-armed aircraft and naval vessels is the most destabilizing factor for peace and stability in our region.
It is useful to heed the wisdom of a Chinese verse, “Green hills cannot stop the river flowing; to the vast ocean it keeps advancing.” In the year ahead, China will work with ASEAN countries to seize the opportunity, broaden cooperation, prevent interference and overcome challenges. Cherishing what we have worked so hard to achieve, China and ASEAN countries will speed up the COC consultation, actively explore a mechanism of cooperation among the coastal states, and promote peace and cooperation in the South China Sea.
China Global Television Network: In 2018, for the very first time in 12 years, the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation will once again be hosted by China. What outcome do you expect from that summit? I am also wondering how China stays true to its policy on honesty and amicability towards Africa in the new era?
Wang Yi: General Secretary Xi Jinping once made a powerful statement: “China and Africa are friends tested by adversity. Such friends must never be forgotten.” So be assured: no matter how the world may change or what others may say, the profound friendship between China and Africa will remain unbreakable, and China’s promise of sincerity, real results, friendship and good faith will remain true.
As Africa’s brother and partner, China will always attach particular importance to the needs and interests of African countries. Africa’s concerns are China’s concerns, and its priorities are China’s priorities. Africa faces the twin challenges of maintaining peace and security and of promoting development and revitalization. In response to its needs, China will step up mediation in regional flashpoints. China will also enhance cooperation with African countries on unconventional security threats such as terrorism, piracy and natural disaster, and help them build capacity for ensuring their own peace and security.
In our new endeavor to build a global community with a shared future, Africa is an indispensable partner. China welcomes our African brothers and sisters to continue their ride on China’s fast train of development. The FOCAC summit scheduled for September will bring together Chinese and African leaders again, 12 years after their last gathering in Beijing. They will discuss China-Africa cooperation in the new era and focus on jointly advancing the Belt and Road Initiative and turning China and Africa into a community with a shared future. By aligning the Belt and Road Initiative with the UN’s 2030 Agenda, the AU’s Agenda 2063 and the development strategies of individual African countries, we will give wings to China-Africa cooperation to help it soar to greater heights.
Kyodo News: This year marks the 40th anniversary of the China-Japan Treaty of Peace and Friendship. Will we see an exchange of visits between Chinese and Japanese leaders? How do you see the future of China-Japan relations?
Wang Yi: In the recent period, Japan has adopted a clearer and more positive policy towards China, resulting in a precious improvement of relations. China welcomes this. If Japan does not prevaricate, flip-flop or backpedal, and instead comes to terms with China’s development and welcomes it, China will be willing to act in the same spirit and work with Japan to put our relationship back on the track of healthy and steady growth.
Forty years ago, China and Japan signed the Treaty of Peace and Friendship. It codified the political principles agreed in negotiating the normalization of Sino-Japanese relations, including handling history correctly and following the one-China policy. The treaty also enshrined our joint desire to live in peace and friendship forever. As a saying goes, never forget why you started, and you can accomplish your mission. Forty years on, at another crucial juncture of history, we hope Japan will have political credibility and act accordingly to cement the political foundation of our relations and give effect to the political understanding that “China and Japan see each other as partners, not threats”. I am hopeful that with the steady improvement of our relations, high-level visits will naturally come about, and peace and friendship will again be the dominant theme of China-Japan relations.
Phoenix TV: What is China’s view on the “Indo-Pacific strategy” pursued by the US, Japan, India and Australia? Do you see it as an attempt to “contain” China?
Wang Yi: It seems there is never a shortage of headline-grabbing ideas. They are like the sea foam in the Pacific or Indian Ocean: they may get some attention, but soon will dissipate. Contrary to the claim made by some academics and media outlets that the “Indo-Pacific strategy” aims to contain China, the four countries’ official position is that it targets no one. I hope they mean what they say and their action will match their rhetoric. Nowadays, stoking a new Cold War is out of sync with the times and inciting block confrontation will find no market.
Press Trust of India: Last year has been a very difficult one in India-China relations. How do you see India-China relations shaping up this year?
Wang Yi: Despite some tests and difficulties, the China-India relationship continues to grow. In the process, China has both upheld its legitimate rights and interests and taken care to preserve the relationship. Chinese and Indian leaders have developed a strategic vision for the future of our relations: the Chinese “dragon” and the Indian “elephant” must not fight each other, but dance with each other. In that case, one plus one will equal not only two, but also eleven.
The international situation is experiencing its biggest change in a century. More and more far-sighted people have come to realize that as the largest two developing countries become modernized – each with a population of more than one billion – China and India must do everything to empathize with and support each other and to avoid mutual suspicion and attrition. In this sense, mutual trust is the most precious commodity in China-India relations. With political trust, not even the Himalayas can stop us from strengthening friendly exchanges; without it, not even level land can bring us together. Let me put this to our Indian friends: our shared understandings far outstrip our differences and our common interests far outweigh our frictions. China is willing and ready to inherit and take forward our traditional friendship and be a friend and partner of the Indian people. I hope the two sides will be free from mental inhibitions and meet each other halfway. Let us replace suspicion with trust, manage differences through dialogue, and build a future through cooperation.
China Radio International: The 11 countries that make up the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership are expected to sign it today, and the CPTPP may take effect next year at the earliest. What is your thought on this?
Wang Yi: China is not a party to the CPTPP. However, China has been a strong advocate of trade liberalization and a key player of Asia-Pacific cooperation and economic integration. In 2014, China persuaded APEC economies to kick off in Beijing the process of establishing a Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific. China has also been working actively for the conclusion of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, a free trade pact that will cover more populations and involve more diverse economies than any similar initiative. China is positive about any open, transparent and inclusive arrangement that reinforces regional economic integration and a WTO-centered global free trade system, be it RCEP or CPTPP. We hope to see better communication, coordination and interaction between the various free trade initiatives in our region, so that they may complement one another, help resist trade protectionism and contribute to a more open global economy.
Radio France: Do you think France could give a new direction to China-EU relations?
Wang Yi: This year will mark the 15th anniversary of the China-EU comprehensive strategic partnership. The year started with President Macron paying a state visit to China and Sino-French relations in excellent shape. Then the visit of Prime Minister May kicked off efforts by China and the UK to upgrade their “Golden Era” of relations. We hope at the end of the year, China-EU relations will be as strong as we have started it. We hope France will make a substantial contribution to the furtherance of China-EU cooperation. Global governance has emerged as a new dimension of such cooperation, China and the EU have a joint responsibility to safeguard the global free trade system, and negotiation needs to be speeded up to conclude a China-EU investment agreement.
There are also some disagreements between China and the EU. But both sides have realized the need to put oneself in the other’s shoes and to be more open, tolerant and understanding of each other. China has always appreciated the importance of Europe. We support European integration and have confidence in Europe’s future. Given all the uncertainty around us, China is ready to partner with Europe to provide more stability and make the world a better place.
China News Service: Chinese people are speaking favorably of the consular assistance and protection they are getting, but they also expect more to be done. At the same time, there are appeals for a more rational understanding of consular service. What is your view?
Wang Yi: Consular assistance and protection seems to be a must-have question at my annual press conference. Indeed, it potentially concerns the interests and well-being of every Chinese and their family. Making a good job of it is the unshirkable responsibility of the foreign service.
Last year, as many as 130 million mainlanders traveled overseas. Given the growing magnitude of their consular needs, we adopted a people-centered approach and built a system for ensuring their safety which consists of six pillars, namely, legal provisions, institution building, risk assessment, early warning, awareness raising and emergency response. In 2017, the MFA handled more than 70,000 cases of consular assistance and protection, including evacuating Chinese tourists stranded by the erupting volcano on Bali, Indonesia and getting our nationals to safety from hurricane-ravaged Dominica. The 12308 consular hotline handled 170,000 calls, 100,000 more than in 2016. Prevention is the best protection. Last year, the MFA issued more than 1,000 travel advisories, which significantly reduced our citizens’ risk exposure even before they traveled abroad.
As China develops and interacts more with the world, the social etiquette and civility of its citizens are being enhanced. Nowadays they are more inclined to protect China’s reputation as well as their own rights. This new awareness has made our job easier.
In 2018, we will further improve the system for ensuring the safety of Chinese nationals abroad. Here I have three pieces of good news for you:
First, the MFA is working on draft legislation on consular protection and assistance. Public consultation will begin after the close of the NPC and CPPCC sessions. We welcome your input and suggestions.
Second, in addition to a dedicated website, the WeChat version of 12308 and the “China Consular Affairs” account on Weibo, we will soon launch the 12308 smartphone app to make consular services more accessible to the people.
Third, as from tomorrow, our diplomatic and consular missions around the world will slash consular legalization fees by as much as two-thirds. The fee reduction is expected to save Chinese citizens and businesses more than 10 million yuan every year.
TASS: What does China hope to accomplish at the Qingdao Summit it will host?
Wang Yi: The Shanghai Cooperation Organization was born in China, and the Qingdao Summit will be the first one after the SCO admitted new members. We welcome the SCO back to China and expect it to embark on a new journey in Qingdao. China looks forward to working with other members to achieve three goals at the summit:
First, making the SCO more cohesive. The Shanghai Spirit of mutual trust, mutual benefit and equal-footed consultation encapsulates the founding principle of our Organization. China will work with other members to uphold this spirit, enhance trust and solidarity, and build a more close-knit SCO community of shared future.
Second, making the SCO more effective. Our organization is driven by results-oriented, efficient and mutually beneficial cooperation. China will work with other members to promote its all-round development, including developing a five-year outline for the implementation of the Treaty on Long-term Good-neighborliness, Friendship and Cooperation, concluding or ratifying a number of resolutions or documents concerning our security, economic, environmental and cultural cooperation, and advancing Belt and Road projects in SCO member states.
Third, making the SCO more influential. Our Organization has a bounden duty to maintain peace and stability in our region and beyond. China will work with other members to help it meet international expectations, take a clearer stand on major international and regional issues, and play a more active role in regional cooperation and global economic governance.
To sum up, we will make the Qingdao Summit a new milestone in the development of the SCO and launch this new type of regional organization into a new era.
China Review News: Following the example of Gambia as well as São Tomé and Príncipe, Panama decided last year to switch diplomatic relations from Taipei to Beijing. Will Taiwan face “an avalanche of ruptured diplomatic ties”, as its media have feared?
Wang Yi: There is only one China in the world and Taiwan is an inseparable part of China. This has been the consensus of the international community for decades. Adhering to the one-China principle and not having official ties with Taiwan has become a generally observed norm in international relations. It is obviously a correct choice in line with the tide of history to establish diplomatic relations and carry out regular cooperation with the government of the People’s Republic of China, the sole legal representative of the whole of China. Such a choice would best serve the immediate and long-term interests of the countries and peoples in question. Of course it is the trend of the future, and no one can stop it.
The key to unlocking the cross-Straits stalemate lies in recognizing the 1992 Consensus and acknowledging that the two sides of the Taiwan Straits belong to one and the same China. The party that has locked the door must unlock it. The Taiwan authorities should return to the 1992 Consensus as soon as possible. This correct move will usher in a bright future for the peaceful development of cross-Straits relations.
Agencia EFE: The United States warned Latin American countries about the growing Chinese influence in the region. What is your response?
Wang Yi: China and Latin American countries are helping and supporting each other as fellow developing countries. Our cooperation does not target or seek to replace anyone, and China is not going to move anyone’s “cheese”, so to speak. China’s cooperation with the region has grown rapidly because it suits its needs, improves lives there and boosts its capacity for self-driven growth. During the last five years, President Xi has visited Latin America and the Caribbean three times, taking in ten countries. Our cooperation has deepened, expanded and moved up the value chain. China has become a key trading partner for many in the hemisphere. Chinese businesses and investors have created more than 1.8 million local jobs. The Chinese saying “nothing, not even mountains or oceans, can separate those with a shared goal” aptly describes the state of our relations with Latin America and the Caribbean. The vast Pacific Ocean binds us together, making us partners in cooperation, whatever may stand between us.
Xinhua News Agency: In his report to the 19th Party Congress, General Secretary Xi called for making all-round efforts in the pursuit of major-country diplomacy with Chinese characteristics, and for building a new type of international relations and a global community with a shared future. How do you envisage China’s distinctive major-country diplomacy going forward?
Wang Yi: In his report to the 19th Party Congress, General Secretary Xi Jinping emphasized that the Communist Party of China will strive for both the well-being of the Chinese people and human progress. To make new and greater contributions for humanity is our Party’s abiding mission.
A committed and responsible China will adopt a more visionary foreign policy. While securing an enabling environment for its own development, China will be concerned with the welfare of humanity and partner with other countries to build a global community of shared future. Our vision is to forge a new type of international relations that features mutual respect, fairness, justice and win-win cooperation and to build an open, inclusive, clean and beautiful world that enjoys lasting peace, universal security and common prosperity.
We will have a broader mind. No matter what stage of development it reaches, China will stand for the equality of all countries, large or small, and will respect different civilizations and systems. China will put the greater good before its self-interest, and oppose the practice of the big and strong bullying the small and weak. China will stand up for small and weak countries, and help less developed countries achieve better growth.
And we will play a more active role. China will strive to meet growing international expectations and approach global governance on the basis of extensive consultation, joint contribution and shared benefits. China will be more active in helping to reform and improve the global governance system, find more constructive ways to settle regional and international issues by political means, and forge more effective partnerships to address various global challenges.
An ancient Chinese classic teaches that “when justice prevails, the world will be one community”. We are determined to uphold our country’s sovereignty and dignity. We are determined to be on the side of international justice and human progress. We are determined to build world peace, contribute to global prosperity and uphold the international order.
The press conference lasted two hours and was attended by nearly 600 Chinese and foreign journalists.