Foreign Minister Speaks With the Press

Question: The Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced that Vice-Premier Qian Qichen will pay an official, week-long visit to the United States starting March 18. Could you comment on the specific arrangements for his visit and also the objectives of the vice-premier's visit? We also took note of the fact that his visit represents the first visit of a Chinese leader to the United States following the assumption of the presidency by Mr Bush. How do you evaluate the direction of China-US relations?

Answer: At present, there are a lot of interests in the world in the development of China-US relations. Indeed, this bilateral relationship is in an important period linking the past to the future. What I can tell you is that since the new government in the US took office, the top leaders of the two countries have always maintained touch. Both sides of China and the US adopt a positive attitude on the development of China-US relations and the further advancements of bilateral exchanges and co-operation in various areas.

Vice-Premier Qian Qichen is scheduled to visit the United States at the invitation of the US Government from March 18 to 24. His delegation will mainly stay in Washington and New York. His visit marks the first official meeting between the leaders of the two countries following the coming into office of the new administration in the US. Naturally, his visit represents an occasion for extensive and in-depth exchange of ideas on bilateral relations and a series of important issues concerning the international and regional situation of interest to both sides. The vice-premier will also meet with the representative figures of various committees and circles in the United States. We believe that the vice-premier's visit to the US will contribute to better mutual understanding between our two countries and will also contribute its due share on that basis to maintaining the stability and co-operation in our region and in the world.

The two countries have shared interests in quite a number of areas. However, we need also to acknowledge that in the China-US bilateral relationship, there also exists a number of issues and differences, some of which are quite outstanding, not least the Taiwan question. However, I believe as long as the two countries work together, and as long as the US side implements the one-China policy and acts in strict accordance with the three China-US joint communiques, and in particular, as long as the US side handles the question of Taiwan well, then China-US relations will be able to continue to move forward.

Question: This year, President Jiang Zemin will visit Moscow and you will also have an occasion to meet with the Russian foreign minister. Could you comment on the number of questions that will come up in the discussion? How do you see the status of the China-Russia relationship?

Answer: China-Russia bilateral relations have demonstrated a very sound momentum of development. This year, the two countries will continue to maintain a very active exchange of high-level visits. As far as I understand currently, His Excellency President Putin will visit China twice this year for the purpose of attending important international conferences. President Jiang Zemin on his part will pay a state visit to Russia probably in July. I myself will visit Moscow before the president's visit, mainly to make political preparations from the bilateral standpoint for the president's visit to Russia, which is coming up in July. During my visit, the two sides will prepare to initiate a new treaty between the two countries called "the Good Neighborly Treaty of Friendship and Co-operation" between China and Russia, which will be officially signed by the heads of state during the president's visit to Moscow. China and Russia have maintained very good exchanges and co-operations in the economic, scientific, technological fields, and in many other fields, including in military technological fields. Such exchanges and co-operation have yielded positive progress. As I mentioned to you earlier, the China-Russia relationship now is a new type and normal state-to-state relationship. It is neither an alliance nor targeted at any third country or third party. It is just a normal country-to-country relationship. The two sides also share a strong desire to be each other's good neighbor, good partner, and good friend, and the treaty which is going to be signed between the two countries exactly embodies such a spirit.

Question: I'd like to ask a question about China-Japan relations, particularly about the textbook issue. The Chinese Government has called on the Japanese Government not to allow the publication of relevant textbooks under review. According to the procedures for the publication of textbooks in Japan, the Ministry of Education in Japan can put forward suggestions for amendment. If such contents as whitewashing or negating the Japanese war of aggression are amended, would those textbooks become acceptable to the Chinese side. Would it be possible for Japan to publish those textbooks, or do you believe that there are too many problems with the textbooks that they are already beyond remedy. And, secondly, if the Japanese side does publish certain textbooks that are not satisfactory to China, what measures will the Chinese Government take, and what impact will that have on the development of China-Japan relations?

Answer: China has been following the various moves that Japan has been taking internally with regard to the textbook issue with serious concern. As a matter of fact, we have already made solemn representations on many occasions to the Japanese side through diplomatic channels, and we have made our solemn position very clear. I believe the nature of the so-called textbook issue can be put in very simple words. It involves the question of whether Japan can rightly understand and handle its past aggression, whether Japan can take concrete action to win the trust of its Asian neighbors, and whether Japan will continue to go along the road of peaceful development. So I believe herein lies the nature of the textbook question. I myself had personal experiences on two occasions concerning China's representations with Japan over the textbook issues. On these two occasions I was working in Tokyo. So the nature of the problem indeed was as I have described to you. On our part, we have done all that we should have done with Japan, and the relevant issues have been made very clear to the Japanese side. So to put this question in another perspective, as our friend from Kyodo News Service also mentioned, the reviews and finalization of the textbooks in Japan involves a very protracted and complicated process. However, I must point out that at the end of this process lies the Japanese Government. In other words, whether the content of the textbooks is acceptable, whether these textbooks will be published, the final decision still lies with the Japanese Government. Therefore, I believe that the Japanese Government should take upon itself its due responsibilities and obligations, and it should demonstrate that its past statement that has been repeated many times on the questions of history is really reliable and we can really take Japan at its word. So indeed in this connection, Japan needs to very appropriately handle the textbook question. Only in this way will the political foundations for China-Japan relations be safeguarded. We all know that it is very clearly provided for in the China-Japan Joint Statement that the question of history constitutes the political foundation for China-Japan relations. All in all, the government and people in China are now waiting and are now looking very closely at what Japan will do on this question.

Question: It is the view of outside opinion that since the beginning of last year, China has intensified its efforts to play a greater role in the world. What is your comment on that, and what do you think are the major foreign policy initiatives China will take this year?

Answer: China has always unswervingly followed an independent foreign policy of peace. We will always be a positive force for world peace and common development for all members of the international community. I believe with the development of China's economy, with the rise of China's comprehensive national strength, most naturally China will play an increasing role in world affairs.

In the new century, China will continue to make unremitting efforts diplomatically for its modernization drive at home, for the peaceful reunification of the Chinese motherland, for world peace, for closer international co-operation and for common development in the world. This year is the first year of the new century, and we have planned very active diplomatic initiatives in China. And so our diplomatic agenda is indeed very full. For example, not long ago we successfully held the inauguration of the Bo'ao Forum for Asia in Bo'ao, Hainan Province. This May, we will hold the third Asia-Euro foreign ministers meeting in Beijing. In June, there will be the sixth summit of the Shanghai Five in Shanghai. In October, we have a very major event coming up in Shanghai which is the ninth informal leadership meeting of APEC. And, naturally, it is quite imaginable that proceeding and following the APEC meeting there will be a number of very important visits to China by some leaders of APEC economies, and this year we will also have a number of important visits overseas and visits to China. I am confident that these important diplomatic activities and initiatives will serve to strengthen China's relations with various other countries in the world, and we will work towards better mutual understanding and closer exchanges and co-operations between China and these countries. It will also promote peace, co-operation and development both in the region China is in and in the world as a whole.

Question: This morning, the finance minister presented a new budget, and he also announced that the military budget will increase by 17.7 per cent. The reason he gave was drastic changes in the international situation. Can you elaborate what kind of changes he meant? Has it anything to do with the American plans for NMD?

Answer: I do not see any direct link with the US program for NMD development. Indeed over the years in order to ensure the financing for China's modernization drive, we have adhered to strict control of our defense spending. This year, indeed, it is an objective fact that the defense budget in China has been increased by a fairly big margin. This can be traced to the following two major factors. First, with continued progress in China's economic development, and with the continued rise of the living standards of our urban and rural residents, particularly with the rising per capita income levels among the people in China, it is most natural that there is the need also for us to maintain a rising income for our servicemen in tandem with the other rising income. Secondly, this defense increase comes from the need to modernize our national defense system and to introduce reform to our military structure. So these two factors have basically contributed to the relatively big rise in our defense spending.

In the meantime, however, I have to point out that although you might draw the conclusion just from a couple of figures that China's defense spending has increased this year; still, if you put China's defense budget in the context of the defense spending of other major countries in the world, you will realize that China's defense budget is the smallest. From the information I have gathered, this year, the military budget in the United States amounts to US$305.4 billion. And so our budget is only 5 per cent of the American budget this year. And if you compare China's defense spending with that of Japan, which is our neighbor, then it is only about 30 per cent of Japan's military budget.

Question: Since the new president in the United States took office, we found that on quite a number of fronts the United States is on the offensive against China concerning some aspects of China-US relations, including its plan to table a draft resolution in Geneva condemning the human rights situation in China. Would that not constitute an obstacle to the development of China-US relations and would that not exert a negative impact on bilateral relations? And secondly, besides criticizing the human rights situation on the Chinese mainland, the human rights report by the State Department of the United States also criticized Hong Kong's human rights record and also raised some concerns over Hong Kong's handling of the Falun Gong question. Have you felt the tendency under which the Hong Kong question is being internationalized?

Answer: On the question of human rights, we can see the United States putting on a show at Geneva Human Rights Commission session almost every year. A number of days ago, the United States once again officially announced that it would table an anti-China draft resolution in Geneva this year. In the meantime, it has also released some country-specific human rights reports involving China and quite a number of other countries. These documents released by the United States have mentioned more than 100 developing countries by name. However, these documents have not mentioned even one word about the serious human rights problems that exist within the United States. So what phenomenon can we call this? And to quote an old saying in Chinese, we might say this is the most typical example of "giving the county magistrate complete license to commit arson while forbidding ordinary people even to light their lamps." And also this is the most typical example of the US continued practice of double standards on the question of human rights.

Confrontation over human rights can lead nowhere. If the United States is intent upon continuing to go along this path, I don't think it is possible for the United States to get any better outcome than it has already got many times in the past.

We in China are firmly opposed to practicing double standards and politicizing the human rights question. In the same way, we are firmly opposed to interference into other country's internal affairs by making use of human rights. What has happened in Hong Kong in the more than three years following its return to the motherland fully corroborates that the central government of China has never interfered in the affairs which fall under the autonomy of the Hong Kong SAR. The SAR government in Hong Kong has also adhered to administering Hong Kong's affairs in accordance with the Basic Law, which has made it possible for our Hong Kong compatriots to enjoy a peaceful and contented life and to fully enjoy human rights, democracy and freedom. So in total disregard of the facts concerning Hong Kong, the State Department reports, particular the part concerning Hong Kong, is really making unwarranted charges against the human rights situation in Hong Kong. We would like to express our firm opposition and strong dissatisfaction.

It has been our consistent proposition that there should be international co-operation over human rights. Specifically speaking, there should be dialogues and exchanges in the human rights area which constitute the right method for handling the existing problems and differences over human rights. In conclusion, I would like to advise the United States side to get rid of its perverted way of handling this question as soon as possible and to return to the road of dialogue which is the right path.

Question: In the second half of February, Foreign Ministry of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) released a statement suggesting that if the new administration in the US continued to adopt a tough attitude against the DPRK, then the DPRK might consider redeployment of its missiles. How do you comment on the state of the DPRK relations? Would the souring of relations between these two countries lead to the redeployment of missiles by the DPRK side in your judgment? Also, President Kim Dae-jung of the ROK visited the DPRK last year. So there is a lot of interest as to when Mr Kim Jong-il will visit South Korea this year. Do you think you can share with us the time for Mr Kim Jong-il's visit to South Korea?

Answer: I do not see US-DPRK relations as that tense. The major countries surrounding the Korean Peninsula, even including the United States, will continue to work towards peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula. I do not think there will be a retrogressive step involving this important question which has a direct bearing on the future direction of the peninsular situation.

Concerning the visit, now that President Kim Dae-jung visited Pyongyang last year and was accorded such a warm welcome and grand reception by his DPRK hosts headed by Mr Kim Jong-il, I think Mr Kim Jong-il will indeed make the return visit to South Korea. It is only a matter of time.

Question: I was wondering as you work to craft relations with the new US administration, members of that new administration are discussing the quality and quantity of weapons that they may sell to Taiwan. I'm sure you well know that the decision on that is due in April. If those weapons include the AEGIS ship or ships, what effects will that have on relations between Washington and Beijing?

Answer: The Taiwan question is a very sensitive and very important question in China-US relations. In all frankness, what the United States side has done on this question is adequate to show that now the US factor is an important outside factor coming in the way of the peaceful reunification of China.

If the US side continues to fail to honor its commitment on this question, if the US side continues to insist on selling advanced weapons to Taiwan, including particularly the AEGIS missile destroyer and the Patriot III anti-missile system, then that will send a very wrong signal to the Taiwan authorities. It will encourage a very small number of people - Taiwan independent elements - to continue to engage in separatist activities. It will only seed their arrogance. And furthermore, such a move by the United States will endanger China-US relations, aggravate tensions across the Taiwan Straits and it will not work in the interest of the United States itself.

The US side should come to the recognition of the serious danger involved. It should rein in its wild horse which is right at the edge of a precipice.

Question: You mentioned that the Taiwan question is an important factor in the improvement of China-US relations, and namely if the Taiwan question gets properly handled that would work very much to better China-US relations. And my question is what impact do you think a better China-US relationship will have on cross-Straits relations? In this connection, the Vice-Premier will visit the United States quite soon, what do you think are the further messages the vice-premier will convey on the Taiwan question?

Answer: The Taiwan question has not been resolved until this day. There are mainly two categories of contributing factors. Firstly, within the island Chen Shui-bian has failed to recognize the one-China principle to this day. And the second factor relates to the outside factors, mainly coming from the United States. If the United States as an outside factor had not acted as a roadblock, then the Taiwan question would have been resolved a long time ago.

And concerning your second question, most naturally the vice-premier will have a full exchange of ideas with leaders of the United States over Taiwan question during his stay in Washington.

Question: President Bush announced that China is going to investigate its involvement in the establishment of a fibre optic system in Iraq and China denied it. What is the problem if this has already been approved by the United Nations?

Answer: Concerning your question, the relevant agencies in China have carried out some serious investigations. The result of the investigations is that Chinese enterprises and corporations have not assisted Iraq in building the system of fibre optic cable used for air defense. And as it is known to you, the Chinese Government has always been very serious, very strict and always very responsible in implementing the relevant UN resolutions on Iraq, and the Chinese Government has very clear- cut provisions which have been reaffirmed to corporations and enterprises many times around China, which prohibit any company and individual from engaging in any activities - economic activities or trading activities - which go against UN resolutions or UN Security Council resolutions on Iraq. In other words, all the enterprises and individuals in China must strictly abide by these resolutions, and so this time, these provisions have been once again reaffirmed to corporations nationwide. So indeed we in China have been very serious and responsible in this question and we have a very good record in the United Nations. So indeed there is a question for why the US side should all of a sudden put forward this question. In my view, I cannot but say there might be probably another factor at work, that is by spreading such information, probably what has been attempted is to divert the attention of the international community away from the unilateral bombing of Iraq by the United States and Britain not long ago in circumvention of the United Nations.

Question: In January, Vice-Premier Qian Qichen said that China will adopt a flexible policy toward Taiwan. Today, the finance minister announced a 17.7 per cent increase in military spending. How do you reconcile these two policies? Will it not seem to the people of Taiwan that the Chinese mainland is increasing its threat toward them?

Answer: I don't see any need at all for you to artificially link together the normal increase of our military spending on the one hand and the Taiwan question on the other hand, because these two questions really fall under very different categories.

Question: You mentioned that the informal leadership meeting of APEC is going to be held in Shanghai in October. What is your expectation for the leadership meeting there? Could you brief us on the preparations for that meeting? Will US President Bush come over for the meeting? Will he also visit China?

Answer: This year is the first year of the new century. It is also the first time in our history that we are hosting this very important international conference. Therefore the Chinese Government and Chinese leaders have given much importance to this leadership meeting. We have long time ago established a leading group with Vice-Premier Qian Qichen as the chairman and with the Party Secretary of Shanghai Mr Huang Ju, and Mr Zeng Qinghong as the vice-chairmen. Also under this leading group, there is an organization committee which is chaired by myself. We also have a secretary general who is Vice-Foreign Minister Wang Guangya. The vice-foreign minister is responsible for all the work of the secretariat and specific arrangements. So now all the aspects of the preparation are proceeding along a normal track. The secretariat in Beijing has already launched its joint work, and in Shanghai, the various preparations also long ago have fallen into place.

And the theme of this year's APEC meeting is "New Century, New Challenges, Participation, Co-operation, Promoting Common Prosperity." By the time of the conference, 21 leaders from APEC member economies will gather together in Shanghai for joint discussion of important issues related to APEC.

As I mentioned just now, there will be some official visits to China by important leaders from APEC economies during, before and after the APEC meeting itself.

Question: Mr Tang, I want to go back to the discussion of the AEGIS System and Patriot III you talked about earlier. How would China respond to a sale? Would you be unable to co-operate on missile proliferation, for example? Would you feel the need to increase your missile defense facing Taiwan?

Answer: With regard to your question, we have to look at the attitude of the US, because it is dependent on the US.

Today I really elaborated a great deal on this particular question. All in all, I hope the US will come to a sober-minded understanding of the serious dangers involved.

(China Daily 03/07/2001)