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Ambassador Fu Cong Attends EPC’s Sixty-Minute Briefing
2023-02-10 03:21

On February 8, 2023, Ambassador Fu Cong,Head of the Chinese Mission to the EU, attended the “Sixty-Minute Briefing” organized by the European Policy Center (EPC). The briefing was hosted by Shada Islam, senior adviser at the EPC. Transcript of the dialogue between Ambassador Fu Cong and Shada Islam is as follows:

Shada: Hello, everyone. Welcome and good morning. Thank you for joining our online policy dialogue with the Chinese Ambassador to the European Union, His Excellency Fu Cong. Ambassador, welcome to Brussels and welcome to European Policy Center.

Fu Cong: Thank you for inviting me. It’s a pleasure.

Shada: The rules of engagement are very clear. I’m shada Islam. I’m senior adviser at European Policy Center. It’s my pleasure to facilitate the 60-minute dialogue with the Ambassador. You will be able to ask questions online. You have a Q&A box. You’re used to it by now. So please put your questions there. And after a 30-minute conversation with the Ambassador, I will take your questions and ask the Ambassador what you want to know, as well as what I want to know.

Before we start off, let me just say a few words of introduction. Ambassador, you’ve been here now for two months. Your post was vacant for over 10 months, so we’re really happy that China has an Ambassador here in Brussels accredited to the European Union. You’ve hit the road running. You’ve been very, very busy. You’ve talked to EU policy makers, Parliamentarians, and also to a few journalists, I have to say. You’ve been quite upbeat, you’ve been saying that you want a new era in EU-China relations. But you’ve also been very frank, you’ve recognized and acknowledged that relations today are quite troubled and in quite a precarious state. And of course, also, we can’t talk about EU-China relations without talking about US-China relations, which have an impact on what happens here in Brussels as well. So Ambassador, before I start all the hard questions, because I have quite a few, I did want to ask you, how are you feeling these days? How’s it going so far in Brussels?

Fu Cong: Thank you, Shada. Let me first say that it’s a pleasure to be here, and it’s an honor to be in Brussels serving as an Ambassador to the EU. Indeed, I’ve been here for almost two months now, and I have kept myself quite busy, meeting with different people. And I must say that I’ve been quite well received by my European colleagues. And also, I want to take this opportunity to say that during all these meetings, the message I’ve been trying to send out is that China attaches great importance to the China-EU relations. We think that we are more partners than “rivals”. And also we believe the cooperation and partnership are the main theme of our relationship. My job here is to enhance the relationship and to improve the atmosphere, if you like, and then to achieve tangible results so that our relationship can be brought to a higher level. Because in our view, this relationship is so important, especially given the background of the profound changes that are taking place politically and also geopolitically, and also the world economy is actually going through a very gloomy period. So actually it is incumbent upon China and the EU to work together and to improve the world, if you like. 

Shada: Right, the world economy, we’re also coming out of a pandemic. And of course that’s the first question I wanted to put to you as well, (which) is that many of us here in Europe have been quite surprised by what we see as an overnight reversal of China’s “Zero-COVID” policies, and a number of people, including European businesses are concerned that that shows a sudden unpredictability in Chinese decision-making. So I was wondering about your comments on that. 

Fu Cong: Actually there is no unpredictability on this. First, let me say that this is not a sudden change of policy. Actually, for the past three years during the pandemic, our policy has been changing, especially in light of the pandemic situation. For instance, the protocol, or the guidelines, issued by the Ministry of Health in preventing and treating the disease have been upgraded or updated 10 times. This was the 10th version of the protocol dealing with the disease. So you can’t say that it is a sudden change of policy. And for the latest change, indeed, the reason why we have changed this policy from the dynamic zero(-Covid) policy towards lifting of the restrictions, especially on the movement of people, is that we see that Omicron, the virus, has actually mutated, and it is very transmissible but the virulence of this virus has dropped dramatically. And at the same time, the Chinese population has achieved what we call herd immunity through vaccination. And also we have taken that decision in light of the experience of other countries, including the European countries. And so it is not a sudden change of policy. And I do not believe that it shows any unpredictability, if you like. And after this reopening of China, I think people are quite upbeat about the Chinese economy. And this will have a very positive impact on the global economy as well. And also the people-to-people exchange and the tourism market are thriving. And the other day, I talked to the tourist people here in Brussels, they were quite upbeat about the prospect of Chinese tourists coming back to Europe. You know Europe is a very attractive destination for Chinese tourists.

Shada: Right. It’s been a big factor in EU-China relations, people-to-people discussions. Let’s talk a little bit about your hopes and aspirations for a new era, an improvement in EU-China relations. At the moment, there are quite a few points of discord. Of course China’s friendship with Russia is one major source of contention. There’s also disagreement on human rights and, of course, how to deal with Taiwan as well. But let’s start first with Russia and your Chinese declaration last year when the harsh and cruel war started in Ukraine, that there was “no-limits” friendship. Now, we’ve just heard that President Xi jinping will be invited to Moscow. There’s concern here, because this is, for us in Europe, an existential problem, and the concern here that China is not using its power, its friendship, its relationship with Russia to put pressure for withdrawal from Ukraine and to come to the negotiating table.

Fu Cong: Actually, our policy towards the Ukrainian crisis has been quite consistent. First, we believe that the territorial integrity of all countries should be respected, and that international law, in particular, the UN Charter should be respected. And also at the same time, the legitimate security interests of all sides need to be taken on board. And also, we advocate a peace negotiation. We will support and facilitate every effort aimed at achieving peace. These are the positions of China when it comes to the Ukrainian crisis. 

Just now you said that China is not using its influence, actually that is not true, because on the second day after the conflict started last February, President Xi and President Putin had a very important phone call. During that phone call, on the second day of the start of the conflict, China urged peace and called for negotiations. And later on, China’s position has always been that we need to put a stop to the fighting in order to stop the killing, because, as we speak, people are being killed. And also, when there was a lot of talk about the danger of the use of nuclear weapons, China has come up very clearly that China is opposed to the use of nuclear weapons. So we are using our influence to try to facilitate peace, not only talking to Russia but also to Ukraine. And I would say that we are talking to the Europeans as well. 

Frankly speaking, we are quite concerned about the possible escalation of this conflict. And we don’t believe that providing weapons will actually solve the problem. We are quite concerned about people talking about winning a complete victory on the battlefield. We believe that the right place should be at the negotiating table. So we called for a peace negotiation as quickly as possible, in order to put a stop to the fighting, so that the territorial integrity and security concerns of all sides will be taken care of.

Shada: Right, when President Xi jinping does go to Moscow, at least the kind of points that he will be raising. Is he going?

Fu Cong: Well that I don’t know. It has not been announced yet. And China and Russia, we have a multifaceted relationship, as I always say. It’s not the one single-issue relationship. So it’s natural that there are frequent exchanges of visits by the leaders, as we are planning to do with the EU. So I will not be surprised if President Xi goes to Moscow, but frankly speaking, I don’t have any news to announce today. Indeed, the messages I’ve been talking about just now will be conveyed to Moscow. There is no doubt about that. And we’ll urge the cessation of hostility. And we’ll urge a quick start of the negotiation.

Shada: Just one point, though. Ambassador, as you can understand, if that visit does take place, it does send a message to the rest of the world of China and Russia actually working together very closely at a time when Russia is clearly the aggressor in Ukraine. So this would be a very strong message to the rest of the world. Wouldn’t it?

Fu Cong: Again, as I said, China and Russia enjoy traditional friendship, and our relationship is multifaceted. Our relationship does not need to be dominated by one issue or to the exclusion of all other legitimate issues. We’re going to discuss many other things. And, of course, the situation in Ukraine is an unavoidable subject, I’m sure. But as I said, we will urge peace, and we will urge negotiation. That’s for sure. And that’s what we have to say at this moment. 

Shada: Right. So Ambassador, moving on to the EU-China relationship, which is very, very important as well. And, of course, we’ve had trouble on many issues. We’re living in a period of sanctions, Chinese sanctions on some of our Parliamentarians and some of our think tankers and European sanctions as well. This is over human rights discord in Xinjiang. You have said, and that’s been quite interesting, that there should be a simultaneous move by both sides to lift the sanctions. And I was wondering, you’re fresh, you have a new insight, you’ve come with new perceptions. How do you think this simultaneous removal of sanctions would actually work?

Fu Cong: Yes, indeed. Just now, you mentioned there are some points of disagreement between China and the EU, and there are some issues that China thinks need to be dealt with urgently and cautiously. The number one issue is the Taiwan issue. So even though you have not asked a question, I want to say a few words. 

Shada: Please do, because people are making a parallel between what’s happening in Ukraine and China’s intentions towards Taiwan.

Fu Cong: Now you mentioned Ukraine again. I must state upfront that the Ukrainian crisis and the Taiwan question are two completely different things. Ukraine is an independent state, and Taiwan is part of China. So there is no comparability between the two issues. 

On the issue of Taiwan, I must say that this one-China principle is a red line for us. I must repeat this very strongly because the adherence to the one-China principle is the basis of China’s relationships with all foreign countries, including the EU. I must draw people’s attention to this important commitment the EEC made when they established diplomatic relations with China in 1975. At that time, the EEC committed that the member states of the EEC would take positions on the issue of Taiwan that are acceptable to China. And also, the EEC committed that it would not develop any official relations with Taiwan, and it would not sign any agreement with Taiwan. These are very concrete and important commitments.

But nowadays, people seem to say as if a country or any foreign country has a right to interpret its own one-China principle. What we are seeing is that there is some erosion of these basic commitments. We see that the parliamentarians were visiting Taiwan, and also senior officials from the EU institutions were visiting Taiwan. And there was even some talk about signing an investment agreement between the EU and Taiwan. These are in direct contravention to the commitments that the EEC had made back in 1975, when the two sides established diplomatic relations. If these commitments actually were violated, this will fundamentally change or shape the foundation of our bilateral relationship. It is that serious. So I want to draw the attention of our EU partners to the seriousness of this. 

On the human rights you mentioned, indeed, we recognized that there’re differences on human rights issues. But I think, for all countries actually, who can oppose, who can say no to human rights, right? It’s how you interpret human rights. For instance, whether those human rights include the rights to development? 

And also, on specific issues, there are differences of opinion because countries have different backgrounds, and different histories and cultures. So when dealing with specific issues, the approach they take may be somewhat different from others. Naturally, there will be differences. We know that the EU countries have some concerns about China’s internal human rights issues. So do we vis-a-vis the EU countries. We also have concerns about the human rights situation in their countries. But how do we deal with these differences? That’s the key. And now we believe that the right approach should be through dialogue. We need to talk about these issues. And through these dialogues, we can create, enhance mutual understanding of the issues and explain our positions, and hopefully reduce misunderstandings. 

Another point on the human rights is that our differences on human rights need to be put in a proper place. It should not proliferate into all areas because China’s relationship with the EU is also multifaceted. If we allow these differences to proliferate to other sectors, that will make our relationship very difficult. That actually goes to the CAI, the Comprehensive Agreement on Investment.

Shada: I’ll come to that in a minute, Ambassador, if you don’t mind. But I just want to take you back to the issue of Taiwan. You’ve recently also had the new Czech President having a phone call with the Taiwanese leader, and you said this will fundamentally change our relationship. That’s quite an important, I would say, threat to the European Union. Taiwan is a member of the World Trade Organization. It participates as an observer in the World Health Assembly. I’m just wondering to what extent does this go. If as a member of WTO, surely we can have an investment treaty with Taiwan. 

Fu Cong: No, we will not accept a treaty. Taiwan in WTO is a separate customs entity, so it is not a country with which you can sign an agreement. This is different from a bilateral relationship based on treaties or official agreements. That’s different. On the issue of WHO, I used to work in WHO, so I know the background, the reason why the province of Taiwan, I would use the formal term, was invited to attend as an observer to the World Health Assembly was based on this one-China principle exactly. The reason why it is no longer has the right to send observers to the World Health Assembly is exactly because the Taiwan authorities refused to accept this one-China principle. And that actually deprived Taiwan (from being an observer), because WHO is open only to sovereign states.

Shada: Ambassador, I find it little difficult to understand how you can actually isolate the province of Taiwan as you were calling it from its international encounters and interaction. It is a very important manufacturer of microchips for instance, and also a player on the world stage increasingly in this relationship. So I was just wondering if it is the time to start having a more, let’s say, up-to-date approach towards Taiwan?

Fu Cong: Actually, China is not trying to block Taiwan into the world. Our position is that, it can maintain trade relationship and economic relationship (with other organizations or countries), anything that does not imply that Taiwan has the national sovereignty. That’s the basic point, because Taiwan is part of China. And indeed, you said the chips, Taiwan is a very important producer of semiconductors and quite an influential player in that area. We have done nothing to block that. On the contrary, the Taiwan authorities actually were trying to block the export of those chips to the mainland, right? We are not trying to block Taiwan from developing economic relations, but the problem is that they are trying to use every opportunity to raise it to the political level. When you have the president of the Czech Republic speaking to the so-called president of Taiwan, what does that imply, if not political in nature, right? 

Shada: I guess it would be a question of interpretation as well once again. 

Fu Cong: No, I can’t see how you can interpret otherwise, because they are calling themselves “presidents”. You can’t have a president if it is not a sovereign state, is it?

Shada: Our concern in Europe is increasingly, let’s say, assertive stance that China is taking towards the province of Taiwan, as you called it. Are we right to be concerned? Is there an increasing, let’s say, assertiveness, if not aggression towards Taiwan at the moment, a heightened sense that something could happen?

Fu Cong: No, I don’t think China is being assertive. China is actually taking the position that it has always taken in the past decades, and it’s only that we are speaking in clearer terms. When it comes to the assertiveness, we know that some people are saying that China is being tougher on Taiwan. People need to realize one thing: each time China takes strong positions, we don’t deny that, is in response to a provocation from the outside. The latest round is very clear,the former US Speaker of House of Representatives, Pelosi (’s visit to Taiwan). We actually urged the US side not to go ahead with that visit. And despite our repeatedly démarches, Pelosi decided to go anyway. So do you expect China to just sit there and see its sovereignty being trampled by another country just like that? Of course we’re going to take a strong reaction to this. But please remember that China has not provoked anything. It is in response to a provocation. So China is not being assertive.

Shada: Right. Ambassador, if we could then come back. We’ve talked about Ukraine. We’ve talked about Taiwan. But as you said, the EU-China relationship is multifaceted. And I want to come back to the economy, to this comprehensive agreement on investments, which is in limbo at the moment because of the simultaneous sanctions. And one of the things you said that I found quite interesting is you said, even if the CAI cannot be approved and ratified formally, perhaps some parts of it, because we’re talking about economic slowdown happening in the world, and we need to open markets, etc. And your Chinese Vice Premier Liu He told the Davos meeting very recently that China is back, opening for investments and being a stronger presence on the global stage. So what does that mean for the European Union and for China in terms of their bilateral relationship?

Fu Cong: Indeed, after the re-opening of China, if you like, thanks to the lifting of the restrictions on the movement of people, China is back onto the world stage. The 20th National Congress of the Communist Party of China actually laid out a grand blueprint for the next 5 years and even longer. And one of the biggest takeaways from that very important meeting is that China will stick to its policy of reform and opening up and its policy towards the market economy. This should be good news for the world economy. We encourage foreign investors to come back to the Chinese market. We’re actually doing a lot to promote trade. To be more specific, even during the pandemic, the trade between China and other countries has not been affected very severely, but the movement of people and the people-to-people contacts (have been). So we are encouraging people to come back to China. And our entrepreneurs are also going out to try to find investment opportunities.

And then the CAI. The CAI is an important agreement as a result of 7 years of hard negotiation. Both sides have shown great flexibilities. It is a mutually beneficial agreement. That point need to be borne in mind: it’s not as if one side was doing a favor to the other. We know that the world economy is not going through a very good time, and some European business people have some complaints about the access to Chinese market. But actually, this agreement is just to solve all these concerns, especially given the current circumstances. It is so important that when all economies are trying their best to use all leverages to actually raise up the economy. And this useful instrument is laying there in limbo. We don’t want to go back to the history of who was right and who was wrong in imposing sanctions, because that would be a futile debate with no result.

So what we think is that we need to look ahead. One way is to lift the sanctions simultaneously. We don’t need to go back to the origin. We are also practical. We say that, if for whatever reason, lifting the sanctions simultaneously may not fly, then we are also open to other initiatives. We are actually listening to initiatives from the EU side. Our proposal is that we leave the sanctions simultaneously. And if you think that is not good enough, give us your proposals, and we are ready to study them. But the principle should be that they should be based on mutual benefits. You can’t pick and choose from the agreement what is only good for you, while ignoring, disregarding those provisions that actually serve our interests. Because as I said, this is a package of 7 years of negotiation, anything that we can pick from this agreement should stick to the basic principle of mutuality. This should be mutually beneficial. Nowadays, the European people or the governments like to talk about reciprocity, and the principle of reciprocity should also apply here in this case.

Shada: So mutual. Also, China has been very supportive of Europe’s hopes, aspirations and plans for strategic autonomy. Ambassador, you’ve gone on record being quite critical of some of the trade defensive measures, which we would argue, are part of the strategic autonomy. I was wondering, how do you square that circle really? Shouldn’t the European Union be working as China is doing actually at the moment to reduce its dependencies on external suppliers of critical raw materials or critical equipment?

Fu Cong: First, let me say that we support the strategic autonomy of the EU. Actually, we have been saying that loud and clear. But your interpretation of strategic autonomy is quite, I would say, limited. In our view, when it comes to trade and economics, we should abide by the WTO rules, right? There are rules that need to be abided by. Frankly speaking, we are following those what they call the tool kits of the EU with quite some concern. We see that sometimes those tools border on protectionism, and sometimes they allow politics to interfere with trade too much. That is not strategic autonomy, frankly speaking. You will lose strategic autonomy by linking those political issues with trade issues. That’s how I understand the situation. If we are in business, let’s talk about business. Why do you need to have all those entrepreneurs study all these political issues? And some of the political accusations against China were actually based on misinformation, sometimes even outright lies. And then you ask the entrepreneurs to abide by some of the so-called rules that are based on the misinformation.

Shada: Can you give an example where you think your exporters or your manufacturers are facing these kinds of unfair rules? 

Fu Cong: For instance, in the case of Xinjiang just now you mentioned, there were so many outrageous accusations, the genocide being the most prominent one. I hope those people understand what genocide really means. Genocide means the massacre of Jews by Germany. Genocide means the massacre of the Indians in North America.

Shada: Genocide also means reducing a community or an ethnicity’s power and its population and its influence.

Fu Cong: That’s a very broad interpretation of genocide. Actually, in the case of Xinjiang, the Uygur population grew from 2 million...

Shada: Genocide also perhaps means controlling a community’s faith.

Fu Cong: Well, in the case of Xinjiang, first, let me say that the Uygur population has increased dramatically, from 2 million to 12 million. This is not genocide in our view. And when it comes to the faith, you can look at how many mosques there are in Xinjiang, so the people there can worship freely. And then the question is some of the regulations that the EU issued in terms of trade talk about forced labor and so on so forth. There is one that is being considered, you need to have a due diligence to show that there is no forced labor and so on and so forth.

Shada: Exactly. In the supply chain.

Fu Cong: In our view, this is not warranted because this will increase the cost for the enterprises, for the companies. And sometimes it will be open to all kinds of groundless accusations, which will, in turn, interfere with the business. 

Shada: Right. Ambassador, the due diligence is not just meant for China actually. It is broader than that. But let me come now to the questions. Let’s start with the economic side of things. There is a question about solar panels. Can you comment about reports of possible export restrictions on solar components? I was wondering if you heard of that, Ambassador. Is that something that is quite of concern? Obviously, at a time when we’re working towards renewable energies, and there’s also massive subsidies. So China has given massive subsidies to its companies over decades and considers them as barely independent from the state. So why should the EU not implement protectionist measures in support of state economy, state company, state dominated companies?

Fu Cong: I will comment on the subsidies first. Actually, when it comes to the subsidies, China is party to the WTO Agreement on Subsidies and has removed all the state subsidies that are prohibited under that agreement. So all the subsidies that China is doing is in compliance with the WTO agreement. That point needs to be borne in mind.

And secondly, actually we do not rule out or we do not think that all state subsidies are bad, because some of them actually can provide guidance for the companies in terms of investment. This will actually serve the purpose of a green economy, for instance. Right? But those subsidies need to be in compliance with international rules, namely the WTO rules. So when it comes to Europe, if Europe, at the end of the day, decides to provide subsidies to their companies, then we’ll have to study whether those rules were in compliance or in contravention with the WTO rules. And if the latter is the case, then we’ll take measures.

Shada: OK, so that’s another move that could come.

Fu Cong: Talking about the solar panel, frankly speaking, I don’t know what exactly this person is referred to.

Shada: There are reports that there are possible export restrictions on solar components.

Fu Cong: By whom?

Shada: By China.

Fu Cong: I don’t know. Then I have to reserve my comment because I don’t think how China will restrict. I don’t think this has been announced by the (Chinese) government. For us, the reverse used to be the case. Right? The solar panels exported to Europe, and to the US were actually severely restricted by the recipient side, not by China. At least it should not become a wholesale restriction on the part of China.

Shada: Right. The world is changing, Ambassador, as you pointed out on questions of subsidies, on export controls. We’re seeing also many export controls going into action. The US is doing so vis-a-vis China. It’s a changing trade landscape as well. Let me come back to the questions, because I think this is a very useful conversation. Ambassador, once again, thank you for being so frank and so open. There’s a question here asking about the China 14+1 cooperation with those countries of Central and Eastern Europe. It used to be 17+1, 16+1, and now it’s down to 14+1. So what are the perspectives? 

Fu Cong: Actually for us, we are ready to cooperate with all countries. This 17+1 dialogue was initiated, frankly speaking, jointly by China and some eastern European countries. And the purpose is for China to provide assistance in the building of some basic infrastructure. And there are some quite successful projects in that respect. We’ll be happy to continue with cooperation. But again, it takes two to tango. And when you really want to have cooperation, if the other side doesn’t want to maintain that corporation, it’s up to them. But our intention has never been (trying) to divide Europe. Let’s make that point very clear. And actually, those people who actually know the origin of this program told me that on the contrary, China initiated jointly with some countries this dialogue specifically to help some of the eastern European countries to develop their economy so that they can meet the requirement for joining the EU.

Shada: Right, so it’s a helpful tool. Let me just come back to that for a second, Ambassador, because the Belt and Road Initiative is also quite an important part of your work in cooperation with central and eastern Europe. The European Union now has its Global Gateway project which many see as a kind of rival or competitor for the Belt and Road Initiative. So the question would be, do you see any movement of synergies between the two? Do you think you can work together rather than being on separate rival tracks?

Fu Cong: Indeed. We know that the EU, I’m sorry for being so blunt, actually initiated this program as a counterweight against China’s Belt and Road Initiative. 

Shada: They never said so.

Fu Cong: Ok, good. I hope this is misinformation again. But let me say this, China sees this in a positive light. Indeed, we have many things that we can connect with each other. And the world is so big and the requirement or the demand for infrastructure is so great that no single country can monopolize or can meet the demands on its own.

Shada: It’s trillions.

Fu Cong: Exactly. So we’ll be happy to join hands with the EU in the implementation of both our programs in Africa, and in Central Asia. Actually I personally have already started some talks with EU officials on how we can cooperate in Central Asia.

Shada: And there’s a question here that actually might interest you.  And he talks about working together in Africa. And what is China’s position? And you’ve obviously said that could be something that you will share.

Fu Cong: Exactly. China is ready to join (hands) with anyone to help the African brothers to develop the economy.

Shada: Right, so there’s a kind of clarification coming in from one of our participants. And he said that he just wants to clear for you, and I think that’s perhaps something useful for you, the export restrictions that are causing some panic among certain businesses would affect wafers, black silicon, and so-called ingots. Without these materials, solar panels manufacturing is impossible. So that’s something for you to learn and to take forward.

Fu Cong: Actually, I know that, but it’s not the solar panel itself; it’s some of the raw materials if I understand this correctly.

Shada: Right. So here’s a question, saying you mentioned reciprocity, what does this actually mean? Should Chinese companies only be allowed to do in the European Union what European Union companies are allowed to do in China? Is that reciprocity?

Fu Cong: Actually, reciprocity is a principle that all sides need to abide by. But as to how to interpret this, I think it should not be like a tit for tat tactic, right? Our economies and structures are different. That’s why I say that China, the EU, and European countries, in general, are complementary to each other in economics. 

Shada: What China did, to be frank, on the sanctions issue? China did do the tit-for-tat.

Fu Cong: But that is only when it is right. But in economics, it is more complex, I would say, right?

Shada: Let’s move to the sustainable development goals and the global development initiative that China has taken, the Global Security Initiative, because both China and the European Union talk about multilateralism and how committed they are to that. And there’s a question here, what does China think about the plans or the hopes, I just have to make it more succinct, for reform in the multilateral institutions, like the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, as well as the Paris Agreement on climate action. So this is about supporting the sustainable development goals, which, if I am not wrong, are badly off track at the moment. 

Fu Cong: Indeed. Firstly, let me say that China advocates multilateralism like the EU. And when it comes to global governance, China is actually a strong advocate for reforming some of the major institutions, including the World Bank and IMF. 

Shada: So you’re continuing the Global Development Initiative that China has taken. That we don’t really talk about much.

Fu Cong: Actually, we have two major initiatives. One is the Global Security Initiative, and one is the Global Development Initiative. So the ideas are actually to enhance global cooperation, both in the development field and also in the security field. That’s the underlying principle. And the Global Development Initiative actually manifests itself very clearly in the Belt and Road Initiative. So these are all linked. But when it comes to security, we also believe that the world is undergoing profound changes in the security area now.

Shada: Exactly. We can see that.

Fu Cong: If you read President Xi’s statement on the Global Security Initiative, you can find that we advocate a cooperative security concept. So, security can only be achieved through cooperation and mutual security. You can’t have one side enjoying absolute security while ignoring the legitimate security concerns of the other side. That’s the key point. We also advocate the importance of abiding by international laws, in particular, the UN Charter. We don’t have any hidden agenda here. We know that some people say that China wants to undermine or reorganize the world.

Shada: And you’re not?

Fu Cong: We will not. Actually, we are advocating the commitment or recommitment, if you like, to the UN Charter. How can that be interpreted as reorganizing? When it comes to cooperative security and mutual security, these are some basic concepts that have been developed after the Second World War. And many of the other principles are based on these basic concepts. So we are not trying to reorganize anything. We want to make the world a better place.

Shada: But a better place where China has more influence.

Fu Cong: Well, we hope we can have more influence, but not at the cost of the entire global structure as some people accuse us of doing. No, that is not the case. Of course, which country would not like to see his country having more influence in the world, right? And it’s natural that as China develops, of course, we want to see China playing a bigger role in the international arena, and we will be in a better position to safeguard our legitimate interests.

Shada: Some would argue that China is already doing that, Ambassador, a number of international bodies, a number of international posts are already very, very much under China’s influence and control in the sense of authority.

Fu Cong: To say that they are under the influence or control of China is going a bit too far. Indeed, in certain cases, Chinese candidates have been elected as heads of organizations. But while China is No 2 in financial contributions and a big power politically, why can’t Chinese candidates be the heads of international organizations? If you look at the number of places, China is lagging behind. You look at how many US nationals are heads of UN organizations. You look at how many important places are occupied by the nationals of the UK and other western countries. If you compare that, China is lagging far behind. Actually, I used to work in the UN system, I know this whole picture that China is far behind compared to these western countries in terms of the posts China occupies in the UN system.

Shada: Ambassador, we are coming almost to the end of our conversation. So I have a question here, which is about export controls again, and it’s about your view on the Netherlands joining the US to implement technology export controls against China. This is the recent decision that was taken. So how do you see that happening? 

Fu Cong: First, let me say that we have not seen the content of this agreement. I don’t understand why they keep it so secretive. And secondly, we see that this is a typical example of politically interfering in the trade of technology and commodities. And we know that this is not in the interest of the Netherlands, not in the interest of European countries, and frankly speaking, is not in the interest of the US economically because the US companies are complaining about this. But for political and geopolitical reasons, the US is trying to block and decouple China from the global supply chains in order to contain China. I don’t think the world should allow this dangerous tendency to develop. If this tendency is allowed to develop further, it will lead to two paralleled...

Shada: Bifurcated world.

Fu Cong: Exactly. I don’t think it’s something that we should like to see.

Shada: But many are worried, and I know this is true in business circles in Europe as well, that China is already withdrawing. I know that you’ve talked about China being back, but there are also signs of dual circulation strategy and the rest of it. So aren’t countries, not just the US, aren’t countries actually looking inwards now?

Fu Cong: No. I know the dual circulation plan has received some attention. I would say that the outside world has wrongly interpreted our plan. When we talk about dual circulation, we indeed emphasize the importance of the domestic market. China is such a huge market, so domestic consumption should be one important driver for economic development. So there’s nothing wrong. And why shouldn’t we when we have such a huge market domestically? But it doesn’t mean that China is going to close its door to other countries. As I said, China is opening up further, and this message is loud and clear from the 20th national congress of the Communist Party. You can’t have a higher authority than this in our policy announcement.

So people or the world should rest assured that China will not close its door and the opening up policy will continue. If anything, the door will be opened further and at a higher level. Now we are talking about the institutional opening. That means foreign companies will be invited to participate in the standard setting and in formulating national regulations when it comes to economic affairs in China. And they will be participating in a more predictable and legally guaranteed manner in the Chinese economy. So these are very good news for foreign companies. There is no risk of closing up. That’s the message I want to convey.

Shada: Thank you very much. That’s a very encouraging message indeed in these very difficult economic times. We are almost 3 minutes away. And I just wanted to ask you another question that’s coming in. And this is something that we had noticed. And obviously, you’ve heard about it and probably had maybe been part of it, Ambassador, the period of wolf-warrior diplomacy, is that now over? Was it considered an error? Can we now look forward to less wolf-warrior diplomacy? 

Fu Cong: Actually, I don’t know what people mean by wolf warrior diplomacy. That may be because the Chinese diplomats are becoming more outspoken.

Shada: Right. We’re enjoying that.

Fu Cong: Exactly. So you should enjoy that, right? For us, and for all diplomats, one of the most important jobs or tasks is to win friends, right? That’s what we are trying to do. But at the same time, when China’s fundamental interests are at stake, it is also incumbent on all Chinese diplomats to stand out and do what we can to safeguard our national security and national interests. So that does not mean that the Chinese diplomats are wolf warriors. No, this is common to all diplomats. I don’t know what you call American diplomats when they criticize China on almost every single issue.

Shada: Right. We’re not going there yet. We were talking about EU-China relations. Thank you very much.

Now, to everyone who has asked questions, the Ambassador has answered many of them. So if I haven’t asked again about Ukraine or Taiwan, it’s because the Ambassador did, at the start handle those questions for a very, very long time, indeed. So that’s why some of your questions are not here, but I can tell you, Ambassador, many of the questions are coming in again about China pleading for the EU not to choose between the US and China, but in fact, China is choosing Russia or in disregard of international law. So these are the questions that we keep coming up with. These are some of our concerns. And I think it’s very important that all of them are expressed and voiced in our very frank and open conversation with you. One minute left for you. And I just want to ask you, what’s your big hope now for the next four years that you will be here? What do you hope to achieve?

Fu Cong: Two things. One is to improve the political environment between China and the EU. Secondly, we want to see some deliverables delivered, some tangible results, reaping from this very important relationship. So I’m working on both fronts.

Shada: Thank you very much for coming here to European Policy Center. Thank you for being very frank and open. You’ve sent some very strong messages. I think we’ll still have to digest and process them. And I look forward to further conversations with you, Ambassador. Thank you once again. And thank you, everyone, for joining us here today. Bye bye. 

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