Premier Li Keqiang met with the media heads from the Asian countries and regions, who were in China to attend the annual meeting of the Asia News Network, at the Great Hall of the people on May 31, 2016. Transcript (translated) of the discussion is as follows:
Li Keqiang: I’m very glad to meet you all. On behalf of the Chinese Government, I’m happy that Editors’ Annual Meet of the Asia News Network was hosted in Beijing and I extend my congratulations at the successful conclusion of the meet. The media houses participating in the Asia News Network influence the media not only in our region but in the entire world. We want the media to improve communication, build a bigger and stronger platform for Asia to express itself. I am happy to answer your questions.
Janviroj, Asia News Network Secretary General: Asia News Network figures among the largest News Networks of the world. We have 21 members from 19 Asian countries. We understand Asia better. We are delighted to have you here this afternoon to meet us. I will now invite some media executives to ask you questions.
Suthichai “The Nation” Multimedia Group founder (Thailand): China is developing very fast, its influence in the world is constantly increasing, Southeast Asian countries as friends and partners are very attentive to developments and changes in China. China is a big country; one can even say a superpower, huge in terms of landmass. It is inevitable for the comparatively smaller countries to worry during the negotiations, whether China will act as “Big Brother” and will take advantage of its position in politics, economy and other areas to promote and achieve its own goals. How will you reassure the concerned countries that China is “good brother” and not “bad brother”?
Li Keqiang: First of all, I would like to make two points clear. First, China is not a “superpower”, but a developing country. Although we are the world’s largest developing country and are at the forefront of world economies, but the per capita gross domestic product (GDP) is still ranked below 80 countries. Evidently, there is no basis for China becoming (being regarded as) a superpower, much less for us to even entertain the idea (of becoming one).
Second, in order to maintain harmony with its neighbors, China has never seen itself as “Big Brother”. China follows an independent foreign policy of peace and upholds the principle of “qin (closeness), cheng (earnestness), hui (benefit) and rong (inclusiveness) ” in its the peripheral diplomacy and treats all the countries as equal irrespective of their size. If there is a sincere desire between us, we can become good brothers and good friends. The question of big brother will not arise.
China’s neighbours along its borders and across the sea total up to 20 in number. It can be said to be among the nations with the largest number of neighbours in the world. We share a common destiny with them. China still has a long way to go to achieve (complete) modernization. It must have a stable regional environment and a peaceful international environment. Therefore China is fully committed to maintaining regional stability. There may be differences between us and our neighbouring countries, but that does not decide the course of our relationship, our common interests far outweigh the differences. China has always maintained the principle of equality and mutual respect and peaceful negotiations while dealing with differences with other countries and resolving problems.
Based on this principle, I believe, we can be good friends, good neighbours and even good brothers, given sincerity between us and our neighbours.
Bayuni, Editor-in-Chief of The Jakarta Post (Indonesia): In the forenoon today, we had a probing dialogue with the officials of Asian Infrastructure investment Bank responsible for the “One Belt One Road” initiative. I understand building Maritime Silk Route in collaboration with the concerned nations is an important part of the “One Belt One Road” initiative. I am from Indonesia. Indonesian government supports the initiative and believes it will help all nations in strengthening cooperation and peace. At the same time, I also see China is building up blue-water-navy. I feel these two send out conflicting signals about China’s intentions. Could you please explain the difference between the two?
Li Keqiang: Chinese initiative to build Maritime Silk Road and the strategies of the countries involved in this project, including Indonesia’s maritime power strategy, are all interrelated. The idea behind the Silk Road is peace, cooperation and development.
China pursues a defensive national defense policy. There is no conflict between the development of our Navy and the construction of the Maritime Silk Route because China has always maintained that all the countries should lawfully enjoy freedom of navigation and safety in the South China Sea and other sea territories. With the freedom of navigation and security, our trade and exchanges will further expand and we can cooperate in wider areas to ensure peace and security in the sea territories.
Please remember the Chinese tradition of “Do not do to others what you would not have them do to you”. Historically, we had been subjected to aggression, oppression, and therefore we do not want to see other countries have a similar experience. Our peaceful coexistence with other countries and the development of our defense forces, both are to safeguard national sovereignty and territorial integrity and also to maintain peace and security in the region.
Chon Shi-yong, editor-in-chief “The Korea Herald” (South Korea): In the wake of North Korean nuclear missile provocation, the Security Council has adopted a resolution with sanctions. It is now being implemented by the international community, including China. Do you think sanctions, if powerful enough, will make North Korea give up its nuclear missile program? If North Korea continues to pursue its nuclear missile program, will China step-up the sanctions? What will be China’s endeavor to ease tensions in the Peninsula?
Li Keqiang: China’s position on the North Korean nuclear issue is consistent and clear. We insist on maintaining peace and stability in the peninsula and pursue the goal of denuclearization of the peninsula. As for North Korea conducting a nuclear test and launching satellites, we adhere to a peaceful solution through dialogue and discussion. The UN Security Council has already passed a resolution and China as a responsible major nation and a member of the United Nations, will implement it sincerely and fully and safeguard the international non-proliferation regime.
Imposing sanctions is not the only way to resolve the issue. Several issues have been completely resolved through diplomatic means of peaceful negotiations. We have all along advocated negotiations between all the concerned parties, including the six-party talks. We hope the concerned countries will directly interact with the Korean side and push for denuclearization of the Peninsula. Chinese side will respect its word and will not spare any effort.
Volakhoun, Deputy Editor-in-Chief of the Vientiane Times (Laos): What do you think of the prospects of China-ASEAN relationship? What is your expectation?
Li Keqiang: China and ASEAN have always maintained very good relations. We have from the beginning supported the process of ASEAN unification and community building. China and ASEAN are interdependent and have a very strong complementary relationship. I will go to Laos this year in September and attend a series of meetings with the leaders of East Asia cooperation, including the 10+1 meeting of China and ASEAN leaders. I hope these meetings will help boost the development of China and ASEAN relationship.
This year is also the 25th anniversary of ASEAN-China dialogue relations. We want to enhance mutual political trust between China and ASEAN, synergise development strategies, expand pragmatic exchanges, and increase people to people contact through commemorative activities. ASEAN-China relations are on the whole progressing well. Our common interests are far bigger than China’s differences with any of the ASEAN members. We ought to further expand common interests and continue to transmit the message of jointly safeguarding regional stability and promoting regional development and make it clear to everybody that this region is able to maintain peace and stability. As for the differences between the concerned countries, both sides should use their ability and wisdom to settle them. ASEAN-China cooperation is the stabilising force of the region and has the potential of turning Asia into the world’s most dynamic economic region.
Abbas, editor-in-chief “Dawn” (Pakistan): I want to ask a question related to the development of South Asia. China has proposed the vision of “One Belt One Road” and has initiated bilateral cooperation projects related to China-Pak Economic Corridor in Pakistan. All of us believe that these projects will greatly transform the development of Pakistani society and its economic prosperity. Recently, we have also seen the construction of infrastructure like ports and highways etc. financially supported by India, being initiated in some regions of Iran and Afghanistan. How does Chinese side regard these projects? Do they perturb you or do you see them as providing healthy competition for promoting economic growth?
Li Keqiang: At present, world economic recovery is weak. According to World Trade Organization (WTO) estimates, this year could be the most sluggish year for global trade in the recent times. All the countries of the world have to make concerted efforts to promote world economic growth and expand trade volume. In other words, make the pie bigger.
According to China a good way to solve the world economic and financial crisis is to promote Trade and Investment Liberalization and Facilitation (TILF), therefore the emergence of a new economic growth point in any country is good news for China. All are likely to provide more opportunities to the Chinese enterprises. Competition is essential for growth in market economy. We welcome competition, as according to Gresham’s Law, good business cannot develop without competition. We don’t want to fall behind and hope for a level playing field in the world market. We would like to see the countries in South Asia develop peacefully. If Asia has to become the new engine of world economic growth, we must work jointly relying on all the regions including East Asia, South Asia and Central Asia.
China’s reforms, started 30 years ago, have achieved remarkable success in economic and social development, opening-up was very important among them. In a globalized world, it still holds the key to the international financial crisis. A trade or currency war cannot solve the problems created by the crisis.
Fernandez, editor-in-chief of The Straits Times (Singapore): My last trip to China was in the 1990s. Over the past 20 years, we are very pleased to see the achievements made by China throughout Asia, largely thanks indeed to the peaceful and stable environment that you just mentioned. Meanwhile, there still prevails instability and anxiety in the South China Sea. I would like to ask if China will act as an emerging power or a superpower leader while addressing this issue or actually put these things aside to realise the “Code of Conduct in the South China Sea ” with the concerned nations or solve through a neutral international channel?
Li Keqiang: Your question indicates you are a veteran reporter, but your face looks quite young (Laughter). This is a good thing; you can share the secret of your fitness with your colleagues.
I will repeat, China is not a superpower and has no intention of becoming one. We have always maintained the stand that countries, regardless of their size should cooperate with mutual respect and equality. So the question of “leader” (as mentioned by you) or “Big Brother” (as your Thai colleague said) does not arise.
As for South China Sea issue, China has adopted a constructive attitude. With due respect for history and international law, we proposed the countries in the region to unite and reach a consensus on the solution. Thus far only the “Declaration on Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea”, has maintained peace and stability in the South China Sea for more than 10 years. In the last two years, we heard proposals and opinions on the issue, the relevant countries took great interest in discussing the Code of Conduct in the South China Sea, and it can be termed as a continuation of the “Declaration on Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea”. China has taken active part in pushing this process. I believe that countries in the region are fully capable of maintaining regional peace and stability and also possess the wisdom to solve the problems prevailing in the region. Like the “Declaration on Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea” says that the sovereign states involved directly should hold friendly consultations and negotiations to resolve their territorial and jurisdictional disputes through peaceful means. We also propose putting aside disputes and taking the initiative for joint development. China has always firmly adhered to these principles.
Kumar, editor-in-chief of “The Statesman” (India): Recently Indian President paid a state visit to China. In my opinion, China and India have very frequent bilateral exchanges. But why these have not helped China and India to resolve their border issue?
Li Keqiang: We must first take into consideration the time since when this border problem has existed. It is a long standing issue inherited from the past. We cannot expect instant solutions to such an old and complex problem. We have to follow a process. It is like eating food, you have to eat morsel by morsel. Secondly, we need to look at the significance of border issue in the overall relations between the two countries. Now China and India both want to maintain stability and security in the border areas. They want to gradually solve the problem through negotiations and increase channels of communication for resolving any differences that may arise. China and India are fully competent to manage and control their differences. So the main focus of China-India relations should be how to further enhance our mutual political trust, expand pragmatic exchanges and increase people to people interaction. It is this win-win relationship between the two countries that politicians should particularly strive to promote.
History is giving China and India a great opportunity to demonstrate the power of Asia, at a time when the global economic recovery is weak. The population of China and India both combined stands at 2.5 billion, more than one third of the world’s population, which is such a big market! If China and India form a united force of cooperation, it would benefit not only the people of China and India, but also Asia and the rest of the world.
Janviroj: Thank you very much Mr. Prime Minister.
Li Keqiang: There are still many media representatives in the back row. Because of the time (constraint), I cannot answer all the questions today. Hope you understand. Finally, I would like to say a few words:
First, China is still a developing country. It still has a long way to go before it achieves (complete) modernization. Later, even if China achieves modernization, it will never seek hegemony still less bully other countries. Considering China’s cultural tradition and our bitter historical experience, everybody should be able to judge so.
Secondly, and as China’s goal is to achieve modernization, we need a peaceful international environment and stable neighboring environment. We need equal treatment and mutual respect with our neighbors and other countries of the world, irrespective of their size. Only then can we attain harmony and have the necessary conditions for development.
Thirdly, there are times when a person bites one’s own lips, (so) when neighbours interact (邻居相处), it can’t be that there are no differences (不可能没有分歧) and some knocking and bumping (磕磕碰碰）(with each other). But the key is that, we have to resolve the issues and differences with a gentle attitude (以平和的心态 => mild/ calm/ gentle sate of mind), and using diplomatic means and consultations .
I invite you to come to China frequently and hope you will continue to give a more objective and true coverage of China.
(Xinhua News Agency, Beijing, June 1)