CHINESE Premier Zhu Rongji was interviewed by Roger Parkinson, chairman and publisher of The Globe and Mail of Canada on the evening of April 2, 1999.
The following is the full text of the interview.
Q: We understand that yesterday you had a discussion late into the night about whether you would go on the trip to the United States and Canada or not. But now you seem to have decided that the trip will be definitely on. Is that true or not?
A: You are quite right. It is true that due to the latest developments, I did wonder whether I should make my visit as scheduled.
As I said during my press conference on March 15, although there is an anti-China current in the United States, I was still ready to go, and to make some explanations about certain questions and to tell the truth to the general public of the United States so as to promote mutual understanding between the two peoples and to push forward Sino-US relations.
However, the recent developments have been moving very quickly. First, we have seen the use of force against Yugoslavia. Second, the United States has decided to table a draft resolution against China at the forthcoming session of the UN Human Rights Commission in Geneva. And third, due to pressure from various sources in the United States, the US Government now appears rather reluctant to have an agreement with us on China's entry into the WTO, although there had been good hope of an agreement in the course of our bilateral negotiations on the subject. Given all this, we were asking ourselves what we could accomplish by going to the United States against such a backdrop.
In spite of these difficulties, President Jiang Zemin and the Chinese leadership have made the decision that I should make the trip to the United States as scheduled. What we take into consideration is the bigger picture of overall relations between China and the United States, and we hope that we can do something to soften this anti-China trend and maintain the growth of friendly and co-operative Sino-US relations.
But for me, the forthcoming visit to the United States will be no easy task. There are people in the United States who do not welcome me to their country because I have a voice different from that of the United States. There are also some Chinese who may not be very happy to see me visit the United States. Some people have even expressed their opposition to my US trip.
The Chinese media have already announced the date of my trip to the United States and Canada. I told your ambassador that after a few days of intensive work in the United States, I would like to relax for a few days in Canada. Having said that, I know that I may also encounter some demonstrators and protesters in Canada. But I still think I will feel at home in your country.
Q: Just now you said that one of your concerns is what is now happening in the former Yugoslavia, in Serbia, and Kosovo for example. So could you explain in detail what is China's real concern? For example, what makes you so concerned on the question of Kosovo? Is it because the military actions are not authorized by the United Nations or lack proper prior consultations? Or because you think that what Milosevic has done is not that serious and nothing should be done to him? What is the real concern of China in this case?
A: On the Kosovo question, President Jiang Zemin made statements on four different occasions during his European tour. That was very rare indeed. His statements made very clear the explicit position of the People's Republic of China on this question. The statements also reflected the serious concern of the Chinese people about this matter.
We demand an immediate end to all military actions. These military actions have already caused a heavy loss of lives and property, bringing about serious consequences. We don't think that military actions will solve any problems. They will only be a painful and dangerous process. This has already been proved in history.
We call for an immediate return to the track of political negotiations, because political negotiations are the only way which will lead to a solution to the Kosovo issue.
Q: Let me ask you a question, which might be a little philosophical. I remember that in one of his speeches President Jiang said that the Kosovo question is an internal affair of a country. And he also said that what he had seen was other countries' intervention in the internal affairs of that country in question, so he voiced his disagreement.
But from a philosophical point of view, when or under what circumstances, do you personally think or does the Chinese Government think, outside intervention may be allowed into what a government does to its citizens or some of its citizens? Now some countries are thinking that they should interfere in other countries' internal affairs. What is your view on that?
A: I believe that in the final analysis, the Kosovo question is an ethnic problem, which of course is an internal matter. Questions like this exist in many countries. You in Canada have the question of Quebec; the United Kingdom has the Northern Ireland question; and for China, there is the question of Tibet. Of course, these questions are internal affairs of the countries concerned.
It would not be possible for an outsider to pay no attention at all to such questions. For there would be comments anyway, and the general public and the world media would also comment.
But military actions cannot solve problems. We respect human rights, but we must not disregard the sovereignty of a country. If military intervention is used against a country for a human rights issue, that will create a very bad precedent in the world. With that, people would wonder whether foreign powers should take military actions against Canada, the United Kingdom and China over ethnic issues in Quebec, Northern Ireland and Tibet, respectively.
Q: What I want to ask about is when other countries may intervene if some kind of disaster or ethnic cleansing takes place in a country, say the military actions against the so-called ethnic cleansing in a sovereign state like Yugoslavia. Under these circumstances, should big powers and their leaders not intervene?
A: You have used very general terms to describe these incidents. I do not know much about the specific circumstances, so I am not in a position to make any comment.
Q: In the United Kingdom, which you have mentioned, it is not the British or Irish government, but some people from an ethnic group who have conducted terrorist activities. What is different in Yugoslavia is that it is the military who are conducting the ethnic cleansing campaign. How would you comment on that?
A: But who should be playing the judge? Now we do not have a world tribunal or world police to decide whether to intervene militarily.
Q: Who, do you think?
A: I don't think that anyone is in a position to make the decision. All internal matters or problems of a country should be left to the country itself for settlement. If we should refuse to recognize a country's sovereignty, I am afraid that would lead to war, even a world war.
Q: Discussion is going on in the United States on the deployment of an anti-missile shield in South America, North America and elsewhere. In this regard, the United States may seek help from Canada. Have you ever thought about what position Canada should take?
A: In our view, to establish the Theatre Missile Defence (TMD) system does not conform with existing international treaties on missiles. It will not serve the interest of world peace. On the contrary, it will only trigger an arms race. That is our comment. As to what view Canada should have on this question, that is your business. But China is firmly opposed to the inclusion of China's Taiwan into the TMD because that will mean encroachment upon China's sovereignty and also constitute interference in our internal affairs.
Q: The US Government is concerned about the missile launched by the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) aimed at Japan. They are also concerned about the missiles deployed by China against Taiwan. We would like to know whether you would remove the missiles so that the United States would find it unnecessary to deploy the TMD. Are you ready to use your influence with the DPRK to make the deployment of the TMD unnecessary?
A: I said at my press conference on March 15 this year that the United States has alleged that China had deployed about 600 missiles along its southeastern coast. But I said that I had no knowledge about that. I asked President Jiang about the matter today, and he said he had no knowledge about that either. So I do not know where the Americans have gotten the information. Here I am not saying that we have never deployed any missiles on our own soil. But this is something within our sovereignty. This is not a matter that should arouse any attention. Why should they take so much interest in it? Does it make any difference to deploy missiles along the coast or in Xinjiang? By highlighting the coastal deployment, they are simply trying to find a pretext for the development of the TMD.
As to what was really launched into the sky by the DPRK, a missile or a satellite, I really don't know. Some people said it was a missile, while others said it was a satellite. And the Americans did not make it clear either.
It is true that the DPRK has traditionally had a friendship with China, but it is a sovereign state. We do not have much knowledge about military forces in the DPRK. We hope to see continued peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula. We are doing our utmost to this end. That is all we can possibly do.
Perhaps the United States can do more. In fact, the United States should not overestimate the military power of the DPRK. I believe that the Americans know only too well what kind of missiles the DPRK has and whether the DPRK has nuclear weapons at all. It is our assumption that the DPRK does not pose a threat. It should not serve as a pretext for the development of the TMD.
Q: How do you think the United States would develop the TMD? How to get the needed money to do that? Canada would also finance the project. How will this affect China's policy towards Taiwan?
A: We don't know how the United States would develop the TMD. In fact, I have information from two different sources, one suggesting that the TMD is not a practically applicable system at the moment, and the other suggesting that the United States has already successfully developed the TMD with a high degree of effectiveness. I do not know which one to believe. The two sources have only one thing in common, that is, its cost is enormous. In any case, we oppose the inclusion of Taiwan in the TMD. Should that happen, it would be very dangerous.
Q: Why dangerous?
A: Didn't you get me? I said it will constitute an encroachment upon Chinese sovereignty. Taiwan is part of China.
Q: Could you please tell me something about the WTO? China is negotiating with the United States and Canada on its entry into the WTO. What is the crux of the problem in the negotiations? Which demands that Canada and the United States have raised are unacceptable to China?
A: The WTO negotiations have been going on for 13 years. I believe many issues should have been resolved by now. Recently, we have had bilateral negotiations with the United States and Canada. I believe we are coming very close to an agreement. In particular, in our negotiations with Canada, Australia and Japan, which have been proceeding more smoothly than those with the United States, we hardly have any disagreement concerning China's accession to the WTO. As for our negotiations with the United States, we still cannot reach agreement mainly due to political reasons on the part of the United States, by which I mean that the political atmosphere in the United States is not favourable to having an agreement with China. The main problem is with the US side.
China and Canada maintain a good relationship in a wide range of areas, including the political, economic and cultural fields. Of course, we still have some different views or opinions on human rights and on some other questions. However, it does not stand in the way of advancement of friendship and co-operation between China and Canada. So I have full confidence in the success of my forthcoming visit to Canada. I believe that through full and friendly discussions with Prime Minister Chretien and other Canadian leaders, my trip will result in greater understanding between the two countries and greater development of co-operation in various fields between the two countries.
Q: We know that US Secretary of Commerce Daley and the US trade representative have been here in China recently. And we have seen some reports that the Chinese and the US sides still have some differences. China and the United States have not reached agreement on certain issues, and it seems that no deal will be made on the WTO. Is there anything the United States is asking for that China cannot give?
A: In my view, Secretary Daley might not be very clear about the negotiations. However, his trip to China this time still accomplished the anticipated goal. The delegation he led, including the business group, came to China mainly to discuss with us co-operative projects in infrastructure development which include the areas of energy and information. I believe the discussions yielded rich results with a number of contracts signed. About any possible disagreements now still left in the negotiations between China and the United States, they cannot be explained clearly in a few words. Pending a final agreement, it would not be appropriate for me to unilaterally disclose the details of the negotiations.
Q: I wish you could.
A: Yes, I could. But should I disclose the details, I am afraid that the US negotiator, (Charlene) Barshefsky, would be furious. That would make it more difficult for us to carry on the negotiations.
But what I can say at this stage is that we have almost reached an agreement on market access and agricultural products. The Americans think that we have not opened our market wide enough, such as the securities market and telecom market. But I think they have not produced sufficient arguments to make their case.
There are still some questions we need to negotiate concerning the protocol of access. Generally speaking, I do not think that it is very difficult from an economic standpoint for us to agree on the question of WTO admission. It is a political decision for the United States to make to sign the agreement when it deems the political conditions are ripe.
Q: Another question, which is now becoming a political issue. That is the issue of the trade deficit. Canada's trade deficit with China is about US$6 billion and that of the United States with China is about US$57 billion to US$60 billion. In view of the slowdown of China's growth at present, what does China plan to do to redress such imbalance?
A: The question of the trade deficit is a very long story, and I don't think we have enough time tonight for that.
The only thing I can say is that the trade deficit that the United States has with China is definitely not US$60 billion. As for the trade deficit question between China and Canada, our statistics show that you are in fact in surplus. If we really had a trade surplus of US$60 billion plus US$6 billion, our foreign exchange reserves would be much bigger. At the beginning of last year, our foreign exchange reserves were US$139 billion and now they are only US$146 billion. The two figures are more or less the same. Where on earth is China's trade surplus? I can cite many other figures to support my argument. But I don't have enough time to do that.
The only thing I can say is that we should look forward and take measures to keep a better trade balance between us. In the process of negotiations on China's accession to the WTO, China has made many concessions and proposed a lot of measures. If we all make efforts, I am confident that our trade will be more balanced.
How could trade develop if we all trade as the United States does? It only sells us wheat and fruit, but not satellites or computers, which, by the way, cannot be regarded as high-tech products. They sell us nothing but just want us to eat their wheat and their fruit. Moreover, I cannot just buy wheat from the United States alone. I also have to buy some from Canada.
Q: More than some.
Q: Could you say something about China's economic situation for our readers? It seems to us that China's growth has slowed down and some serious problems have emerged. In the West, including Canada, you are called a great economic reformer. You have done some ground-breaking reforms in economic structure. But now people feel that the pace of reform has slowed down somewhat, for example, in housing reform and other reforms. Could you say something about that?
A: Last year China's growth rate was 7.8 per cent, which was fairly high indeed. The anticipated economic growth rate for China this year is again a high one _ 7 per cent. What counts is not the mere speed, but better economic results.
It is my estimation that this year China's growth rate could be higher than the projected 7 per cent. And even if it turns out to be less than 7 per cent, it will still be a sound development speed.
Reforms in China have not slowed down as some people outside China have claimed. This is not true. On the contrary, last year economic reforms in all areas moved ahead faster than planned.
Last year, we made unprecedented major accomplishments in the reform of State-owned enterprises (SOEs). In the past China's SOEs were not allowed to lay off redundant staff. They did not perform satisfactorily as a result of over-staffing. At the beginning of last year, 10 million workers at SOEs were laid off. In other words, they were unemployed, owing to the deepening of reforms and the impact of the financial crisis. But we have taken measures and established a social security system to make sure that the 10 million laid-off workers can have their basic needs met, and social instability has thus been avoided. By the end of last year, only 6 million of the laid-off workers had not found new jobs. Of course, the SOEs' performance last year was somewhat worse than that of the year before, but it was largely caused by the Asian financial crisis, which affected China's exports, and the catastrophic floods in China. This year the SOEs are expected to have better economic returns than last year. By the end of next year, most of the large and medium-sized loss-making SOEs will become profit-making ones.
Q: You still think that, by the end of next year, the goals set for these three years can be realized?
A: I have already declared that if I fail to achieve these goals, I will step down. In other words, I have offered my political life as a guarantee.
Q: I have a question on human rights. The United States has announced that it will once again table a draft resolution naming China at this year's human rights session. One year ago, China signed UN human rights conventions. But in the year after that, some pro-democracy activists were arrested. So what has really happened and why? Why is China afraid of freedom of the press and freedom of speech?
A: Nothing has happened. In fact the human rights situation in China has improved continuously. And none of us is afraid of freedom of the press or freedom of speech. In those aspects, we face different situations, have different ideas and a different understanding, which cannot be fully explained in a few words. Otherwise, there is no need to have a human rights discussion between China and Canada. Well, I am afraid that you would not be able to get ready tonight for your news release tomorrow if we go on like this.
Q: With due respect, let me ask another question, a private one. It seems that you have had a very hard childhood, because your father and mother died very early. So what has been your most important childhood memory? And has this memory later on played a role in your own family life?
A: My father died before I was born. And my mother died when I was 12. I relied on my own efforts to get an education, and this perhaps has influenced part of my personality. That is to say, I do not think that there are insurmountable difficulties. Please convey, through your newspaper, my sincere greetings to the people and government leaders of Canada. I hope that my visit to Canada will be successful, so as to give some impetus to the further development of friendly relations and co-operation between China and Canada. We attach great importance to Sino-Canadian relations and our friendship with the Canadian people. (Xinhua 04/08/1999)