|State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi gave an interview to Asharq Al-Awsat|
Recently, State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi gave an interview to Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper on the visit of Mohammed Bin Salman Al Saud, Crown Prince, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defense of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the third meeting of the China-Saudi Arabia High-Level Joint Committee. The following is the transcript of the interview.
1. What is your comment on the development of China-Saudi Arabia relations in recent years, in particular on their Belt and Road cooperation? How do you see the significance of this visit by the Crown Prince ?
Wang Yi: Friendship between China and Saudi Arabia has a long history, and bilateral relations have developed rapidly since the establishment of diplomatic ties in 1990. The two sides have enhanced political trust and offered each other firm support on issues involving each other's core interests and major concerns. In recent years, China and Saudi Arabia have maintained frequent high-level interactions. President Xi Jinping and His Majesty King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud have exchanged visits, and the two countries have established the comprehensive strategic partnership and set up the China-Saudi Arabia High-level Joint Committee. All this contributed to enhanced cooperation in all areas and to a stronger momentum of growth in bilateral relations.
China and Saudi Arabia have achieved fruitful results in practical cooperation as the two countries seek greater complementarity between the Belt and Road Initiative and the Vision 2030 of Saudi Arabia. In 2018, bilateral trade reached US$63.33 billion, and Saudi Arabia remained China's largest trading partner in West Asia and Africa for 18 consecutive years. The two sides have identified the first batch of key projects on industrial capacity and investment cooperation worth US$55 billion. The development of industrial clusters in Jizan is well underway, and groundbreaking was held recently on the US$3.2 billion Guangzhou Pan-Asia PET petrochemical project, which was the first investment project in the clusters. Major energy and infrastructure projects, such as the Yanbu Refinery in Saudi Arabia, the Panjin Refinery in China's Liaoning Province, the Rabigh Power Station and the Landbridge Railway, are being advanced steadily or under close discussion. Cooperation on new and high technology has delivered successful outcomes. A Chinese satellite installed with an optical camera of Saudi Arabia was launched last year, accomplishing the first lunar probe by an Arab country. Two Saudi Arabia-made satellites were successfully brought into orbit by China's Long March launch vehicle. There have been dynamic cultural exchanges between the two countries. The exhibition of "Roads to Arabia: Archaeological Treasures of Saudi Arabia" attended by both heads of state, the "Exhibition of Chinese Cultural Relics" in Saudi Arabia, the joint archaeological excavation which unearthed relics indicating the maritime Silk Road at the port of Al-Serrian, and the performance by the Chinese symphony orchestra and musicians at the World Heritage Site of Al-Ula are all vivid examples of exchanges and mutual learning between different civilizations.
Given the complex regional and international situation, the visit by the Crown Prince will go a long way to enhancing strategic mutual trust between the two countries, boosting practical cooperation in all areas and upholding peace and stability in the region. China attaches great importance to the visit and has extended high-level reception to the delegation. President Xi Jinping will meet with the Crown Prince and Vice Premier Han Zheng will co-chair with the Crown Prince the third meeting of the China-Saudi Arabia High-level Joint Committee. The two sides will sign a number of cooperation agreements on industrial capacity, trade, energy and shipping. I believe that the visit will achieve fruitful results, further substantiate and enrich the comprehensive strategic partnership between our two countries, and deliver real benefits to both countries and peoples.
2. What is your comment on the role of Saudi Arabia in upholding security and political stability in the region?
Wang Yi: As a big Arab and Islamic country, a major energy producer, and the only Arab member of the G20, Saudi Arabia plays an important role in the Middle East, and has made unique contribution to security, stability and common development in the region.
In the political field, Saudi Arabia follows an independent foreign policy advocating mutual respect, peaceful coexistence and non-interference in internal affairs between countries. It actively promotes friendly exchanges, and is involved in settling regional hotspots. In particular, it proposed the Arab Peace Initiative on the Palestine issue, which remains to this day the basis for redressing historical injustices and seeking a full and durable solution to this fundamental issue in the Middle East. On economic affairs, as a major oil producer and the largest Arab economy, Saudi Arabia pursues economic diversification by implementing the Vision 2030 and the National Transformation Program 2020, and strives for sustainable development of the country and economic rejuvenation of the Gulf region. On the security front, Saudi Arabia is committed to international cooperation in fighting terrorism and extremism, and has established the world's first counseling and care center for deradicalization. And on culture, known as the cradle of Islam, Saudi Arabia advocates dialogue and exchanges among civilizations and cultures, and the return to "moderate Islam". It actively hosts dialogues and forums on religions and civilizations to increase mutual understanding and cooperation among different civilizations.
China has all along attached great importance to the role of Saudi Arabia in regional and international affairs from a strategic and overarching perspective. China firmly supports Saudi Arabia in upholding its sovereignty, security and stability, in playing a positive and constructive role in the evolving regional landscape, in developing friendship and cooperation with countries in the region, and in making greater contribution to peace, stability and development in the Middle East and the Gulf region.
3. How do you see Saudi Arabia's efforts against terrorism and radicalization? How should China and Saudi Arabia cooperate in this field?
Wang Yi: Over the years, Saudi Arabia has developed a set of counter-terrorism and deradicalization measures suited to its national conditions and regional realities. These measures have played an important role in safeguarding Saudi Arabia's security and regional stability. Saudi Arabia intensified its fight against terrorist organizations, including cutting off the flow of funding for terrorism, playing an active part in international cooperation against terrorism and sponsoring the UN Counter-Terrorism Center. On deradicalization, Saudi Arabia condemned the extremists' perversive interpretation of Islamic teachings, encouraged religious tolerance and established multiple counseling and care centers to guide and reeducate those influenced by the extremist ideologies.
Both China and Saudi Arabia are victims of terrorism, and we have both been important participants in the international cooperation against terrorism. Our two countries have broad common ground on counter-terrorism and deradicalization. We both advocate enhanced dialogues between civilizations. We both oppose linking terrorism with any particular ethnic group or religion. We both stand for a holistic approach and reject double standards in fighting terrorism. And we both believe that the views of countries suffering from terrorism deserve closer attention and that the UN remains the main channel for international counter-terrorism cooperation. In the context of a grave situation on fighting terrorism and radicalization regionally and globally, China is ready to carry out policy dialogue and intelligence sharing with Saudi Arabia and strengthen our cooperation on related technologies, personnel training, stemming terrorist financing, fighting transnational organized crimes and sharing best practices of deradicalization to safeguard our common security.
Terrorism has long presented a huge challenge for China. Starting from the 1990s, terrorist organizations such as the ETIM have plotted and orchestrated several thousand violent terrorist acts involving explosions, assassinations, poisoning, arson and assaults. These incidents have inflicted heavy casualties and property losses on the people of different ethnicities across Xinjiang, and severely jeopardized Xinjiang's social stability and economic development. While intensifying our fight against terrorist organizations, China has drawn on the experience of Saudi Arabia and other members of the international community in fighting terrorism and radicalization, and set up vocational education and training centers in Xinjiang in accordance with the law. This is a creative and precautionary measure against terrorism and radicalization and represents China's meaningful effort to explore an approach for the global fight against terrorism. The measure is essentially in tune with Saudi Arabia's counter-terrorism and deradicalization efforts. The relevant measures are aimed at countering the influence of extremist terrorist ideologies. They are not targeted at any particular ethnicity or religion. They have been conducted strictly in line with legal procedures and in a way that effectively safeguards the rights of citizens. Thanks to these multi-pronged efforts, Xinjiang has achieved visible improvement in its public security. No violent terrorist attacks have occurred in the past two years, and people in Xinjiang feel much safer. Such an approach has been welcomed and supported by people of all ethnic groups in Xinjiang, including the Muslim community.
4. What will China and Saudi Arabia do to strengthen coordination and collaboration on international affairs to promote world peace and development?
Wang Yi: Being comprehensive strategic partners, China and Saudi Arabia have long had sound coordination and cooperation on major regional and international affairs.
China and Saudi Arabia are good partners in pursuing a new type of international relations. We both stand for equality in state-to-state relations and respect for sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity and for each other's core interests and major concerns and independent choices of social system and development path by people of all countries. We maintain close coordination and collaboration at the United Nations (UN) and other multilateral forums and share the view that the Security Council reform should help increase the representation and voice of developing countries. We have stood together against politicizing human rights issues and double standards and work together to uphold the common interests of developing countries.
China and Saudi Arabia are good partners in pursuing an open world economy. We both support an open, transparent, inclusive and non-discriminatory multilateral trading system and reject unilateralism and trade protectionism. The two sides have worked to advance negotiations on a free trade agreement between China and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), with a view to upholding free trade and delivering benefits to the people of China and the GCC countries. China supports Saudi Arabia's G20 presidency in 2020, and is confident that under its presidency, the summit, the first ever to be held in an Arab country, will be a success and will serve to champion multilateralism and the spirit of partnership, spearhead innovative growth, promote inclusive development and steer the course for global economic governance.
China and Saudi Arabia are good partners in promoting regional peace and development. It is our shared view that stability and development of the Middle East serve the common interests of the people of the region and beyond. It is important to remain committed to political settlement to regional hotspots and pursue dialogue and consultation to seek full, just and durable solutions in the context of the region's unique history, culture and religion. At the same time, development is the key to addressing many governance issues in the Middle East. China is ready to work with Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states to synergize our development strategies and pursue high quality Belt and Road cooperation, so that our development will become more interconnected and mutually reinforcing and deliver more benefits to the people of our two countries and other partner countries.
As the world's political and economic landscape undergoes profound changes, China is willing to work together with Saudi Arabia to make greater contribution to peace, stability, development and prosperity of the Middle East and the world and to the building of a community with a shared future for mankind.
5. What has China done to promote peace and security in the Middle East and facilitate negotiations on regional crises such as Yemen and Libya?
Wang Yi: Peace and security of the Middle East bear on the fundamental interests of countries in the region, and concern global stability and development. Lasting peace in the world would not be possible without a stable Middle East. As a permanent member of the UN Security Council, China has been closely following the peace and security situation in the Middle East. It has held an objective and just position and actively called for working toward a vision of common, comprehensive, cooperative and sustainable security in the Middle East. Working closely with regional countries, China has made its due contribution to regional peace and stability.
China has approached hotspot issues in a Chinese way and actively facilitated peace and dialogue among parties, playing a positive and constructive role for the political settlement of regional issues. On Palestine, China has been a staunch supporter of the cause of the Palestinian people. The four-point proposal on the Palestine issue put forth by President Xi Jinping in 2017 was warmly received in the region. At last year's eighth Ministerial Conference of the China-Arab States Cooperation Forum, President Xi explicitly reaffirmed China's support for the just cause of Palestine and called for efforts to renew the Palestine-Israel peace talks on the basis of the two-state solution and the Arab Peace Initiative. On South Sudan, China has consistently supported the peace process in the country and made it a priority to help South Sudan restore stability and development. On Libya, Yemen and other issues, China has been working alongside the international community to be a positive force for the early and peaceful settlement of these issues.
China has dispatched a total of 27,023 personnel to peacekeeping missions in Lebanon, South Sudan, the Darfur region of Sudan and Western Sahara. They have contributed remarkably to restoring peace and stability in those countries and regions and protecting the life and property of the local people. Thirteen Chinese soldiers have made the ultimate sacrifice for peace in the Middle East. China has also provided mine sweeping and other assistance to countries like Kuwait, Iraq, Lebanon, Yemen and Somalia, as part of the successful security cooperation between China and regional countries.
The Chinese navy fleets conducting escort missions in the Gulf of Aden have escorted more than 6,600 vessels passing through the Gulf of Aden and waters off the coast of Somalia, and rescued, protected and aided more than 70 vessels in danger. Their service has been highly commended by the international community.
China has also provided strong humanitarian support to refugees in relevant countries to rekindle their hope for rebuilding their home in peace even in time of conflicts. At the opening ceremony of the eighth Ministerial Conference of the China-Arab States Cooperation Forum, President Xi announced that China will provide an additional 700 million yuan of assistance to Palestine, Syria, Yemen, Jordan and Lebanon, discuss with Arab countries the implementation of programs totaling one billion yuan on maintaining stability, and launch a special program for economic reconstruction through industrial revitalization with a US$20 billion credit line for closer cooperation with countries having reconstruction needs. These concrete measures have been applauded by the people of regional countries.
All in all, when it comes to safeguarding peace and security in the Middle East, China has always been a force for justice and peace. As the Middle East continues to see complex changes with rising security challenges, China will step up communication and coordination with Saudi Arabia and other regional countries and together strive for lasting peace, security, prosperity and development in the region.
6. How do you see the situation in Syria? What do you think are the factors that complicate the situation? Is it possible to achieve a political settlement?
Wang Yi: Recent months have seen some major developments in Syria. Counter-terrorism efforts have yielded important results, security is improving significantly, and the humanitarian situation is getting better. There has been a buildup of momentum for a political settlement. Under the good offices of the Special Envoy of the UN Secretary-General for Syria, major progress has been made in establishing a Constitutional Committee. The consensus that has been reached so far among the various parties on the composition of the Committee has laid the foundation for further efforts to move the political process forward.
An early and proper settlement of the Syrian issue is crucial for Syria's stability, development and the well-being of its people. It also bears on peace, stability and long-term security of the region. China has always maintained that political settlement is the only way out for Syria, that the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of Syria must be upheld and respected, and that the future of Syria should be decided by its people acting in their own will.
We have noticed that in our pursuit of a solution to the Syrian issue, whenever the above-mentioned principles are followed in good faith, there would be smooth progress; otherwise, there would only be setbacks or even reversals. China supports the UN's role as the main channel of mediation. We have proposed China's solutions to the issue and sent our special envoy on missions of shuttling diplomacy to promote talks for peace. We call upon all parties in Syria to engage in inclusive political dialogue, advance the political process as soon as possible, and look for a solution that fits Syria's realities and reflects the concerns of all parties in a balanced way. Members of the international community, on their part, should seize the opportunities and make concerted efforts to create a favorable external environment for settling the Syrian issue.
China will work with the rest of the international community and continue to play a positive and constructive role in seeking an early and proper settlement of the Syrian issue.
7. China has scored remarkable achievements over the past 70 years since the founding of the People's Republic. In what way is China's success story relevant to other developing countries? What is its significance in the global context?
Wang Yi: China's most successful experience over the last 70 years is that it has embarked on a development path which suits China's realities and has the support of all its people, namely the path of socialism with Chinese characteristics. This path of development has been shaped by 90 years of struggle by the Chinese people in pursuing the great social revolution under the leadership of the Communist Party of China, by 70 years of tireless exploration since the founding of New China, and by 40 years of reform and opening-up.
China's development has shown that, like "all roads lead to Rome", there is more than one pathway leading to modernization and there is simply no such thing as a one-size-fits-all development model. The only way to find the right path of development is to open one's mind, be down-to-earth, proceed from national conditions and the aspirations of the people, and be responsive to the needs of one's country in the context of changing times. The success of China's development has broadened the avenues for other developing countries to achieve modernization, and provided experience to draw from for countries who are exploring their own development paths.
The development and rejuvenation of China, a big country with 1.4 billion population, represents a major contribution to the development of humanity. As a responsible major country, China never exports its social system to others. It firmly supports other countries including Saudi Arabia in choosing their own development paths, and stands ready to exchange governance experience with them and contribute China's insights and proposals for addressing challenges facing mankind.