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Chinese envoy for Darfur calls for fairer media coverage
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Speech on the First China-Arab Media Forum by Ambassador Liu Guijin, Special Representative of the Chinese Government on the Darfur Issue

(April 23, 2008 Beijing)

Ladies and gentlemen,

Firstly, I would like to express the honor I feel at being given the opportunity to attend this first China-Arab Media Forum, and to enter into communication with Arabian friends.

As Deputy Director of the State Council Information Office Mr. Qian has said, China and the Arab nations have a long tradition of interaction. Even before Zhenghe's voyages, over 600 years ago, China had both direct and indirect contacts with Arabic nations through economic and cultural links. There is a book I have read by a Chinese scholar where an interesting story recounts that the beautiful dresses of Cleopatra, the ancient Queen of Egypt, were made from imported Chinese silk. China’s Four Great Inventions were introduced to Europe and to other nations through Arabia, and in turn China learned from them such skills as the cultivation of cottons and watermelon.

Since the founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949, China-Arab relations have continued to advance. The China-Arab Cooperation Forum now provides a favorable platform for wide-ranging links between China and the Arab nations. This conference where we are gathered today, the China-Arab Media Forum, is one such channel.

Chinese people may now be conscious of Sudan's place in Africa. However, even five years ago few Chinese intellectuals would know of Darfur's place in Sudan. Until I became Ambassador to South Africa I myself had never heard the name "Darfur". I did not anticipate the close connections with Darfur that have subsequently developed.

I'd like to give you a little background in order to emphasize the importance of the role that the media play in their reporting of sensitive issues and conflicts.

As we are all aware, there are people in the world, especially in western countries, determined to associate events in Darfur with China, and even with the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games. This perplexes many Chinese, not least my own colleagues, with the result that I am often asked what exactly the issues in Darfur are. Where is Darfur? Why do events in Darfur have anything to do with the Olympics?

I always try to provide a coherent response to these queries.

I explain that some Western non-governmental organizations and the western media are uncomfortable with the level of cooperation between China and Sudan, particularly in such fields as the oil business. According to them, the objective of China's assistance to Sudan in oil exploration and extraction, along with two other Asian partners, is to provide the Government of Sudan with petrodollars which can in turn be used for the purchase of armaments from China. These will then be used to carry out the so-called massacres allegedly taking place in Darfur. Thus, the responsibility for these alleged massacres is China's.

My view is that there is no substance to these accusations. Companies have been exploring oil in developing countries for many years, far longer than China has. However, no western media or non-governmental organizations hold that their own governments should therefore take responsibility for internal issues in those countries where they exploit oil. This is a clear case of double standards.

We consider that cooperation in the oil business between China and Sudan is normal, beneficial, transparent, open and non-exclusive. Sudan is also open to working with western companies. For their own reasons they are reluctant to work with Sudan in this field. China, India and Malaysia have formed a partnership in this area, which in my opinion is of benefit to Sudan and to all of the people of Sudan, including those from southern Sudan.

China's weapons export policy is conservative, and limited. Our country adheres strictly to international regulations, and respects United Nations' requirements with regard to transparency in the matter of small arms exports.

Statistics from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) show that in 2006 America topped the world's weapons exports market, with nearly 30% of the total. Following them were Russia, Germany, France and Britain. With only slightly more than 2% of world conventional arms exports, China ranked just sixth.

Additionally, according to the latest report from the Stockholm Institute, revenues from US weapons exports amounted to US$7.5 billion in 2007. Russia, earnings of US$4.56 billion ranked second, followed by France, the UK, Germany, Italy and Spain. China ranked eighth with revenues of only US$ 360 million. Even supposing that all of this US$360 million had been sold to Sudan, this would not represent a significant amount.

Moreover, the Sudanese government issues an end-user statement on all small-arms imports from China, pledging that these weapons will not be used for any irregular purpose. China acts responsibly in these matters.

Additionally, some international organizations and campaigns, including the Save Darfur Coalition and the Olympic Dream for Darfur, have sent letters to me signed by numerous supporters. They demand from me public denunciation of events in Darfur – what they describe as massacres. Speaking with reporters from western countries, I have recognized their right to choose the words they use when covering happenings in their own countries. However, no authoritative numbers regarding the death toll in Darfur-related conflicts have yet been made available.

My words and comments are often quoted out of context by the journalists of certain media organizations. In some cases quotes have been used accurately but others have been deliberately distorted, for example through the addition of words I have never spoken. I will not be silenced by this behavior.

For instance, I have spoken of five elements needed to help resolve the Darfur crisis:

Firstly, the efforts of the Sudanese government, because Darfur is a part of Sudan.

Secondly, the efforts of insurgent parties, also described as a political movement, who need to commit to negotiations for a political solution to the problem.

Thirdly, the efforts of those countries and regions bordering on Sudan, who need to demonstrate sincerity in working with Sudan to solve territorial disputes.

Fourthly, the efforts of International Organizations such as the African Union and the United Nations, who need to reinforce cross-party consultation.

Fifthly, and finally, the efforts of all other countries around the world, especially the five permanent members of the UN Security Council.

And yet it is the case that these comments have been represented by some distorted reports as: "Ambassador Liu Guijin said today that the Sudanese government alone should be held responsible…"

Clearly I have enumerated five key factors in the issue – how then could the reports ignore four of them?

Furthermore, I think that Arab and African countries can understand the Darfur crisis more clearly than western countries, because countries who themselves have encountered similar problems have a better chance of understanding each other.

This became very apparent to me in the course of a visit to a North African country. During a meeting with that country's minister of foreign affairs, he said to me that he did not feel the need for further discussions on China's stance with regard to the Darfur crisis, because the position of the two countries on the issue was so close. The minister joked with me that our two assistants might each have read the texts of the other's statement before the meeting, so close in approach were our two positions.

My wish is that through the platform of the China-Arab Media Forum, the media of China and the Arab countries will make their voices and the voices of all the developing countries heard – that they will strengthen and spread the sound of these voices. Only by doing this can the interests of developing countries and African and Arab countries be better served.

Thank you.

(China.org.cn translated by Wang Wei & Zhang Tingting April 26, 2008)

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