In an exclusive interview to The Baltic Times Magazine, H.E. Ambassador of the People’s Republic of China, Liang Jianquan, said that, in recent years, ideological bias and strategies aimed at containing China's development have misled the people of European countries, including Latvia, in their view of China, which has become a prominent issue affecting the development of China-EU relations. “To develop a healthy and sound relationship between China and the EU, both sides need to establish an objective and rational mutual understanding, especially, given that people-to-people and cultural exchange between China and Latvia has always been active, and "Mandarin popularity" continues to heat up in Latvia, as it did prior to the pandemic,” the Ambassador underscored.
China has not condemned Russia for invasion of Ukraine. Why? Does China believe that the policies of the West are also partly to blame for the war in Ukraine? To what extent? So far, the predictions of analysts who said that China could take advantage of the war in Ukraine and crack down on Taiwan haven’t come true. Can you assure that no force will be used against Taiwan amid heightened tensions in the world?
China has always pursued an independent foreign policy of peace. On the crisis in Ukraine, China insists on determining its position and policy based on the merits of the issue itself, it maintains that the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all countries should be respected and protected and the purposes and principles of the UN Charter be abided by in real earnest, and stands for the settlement of the crisis through political and diplomatic channels. China maintains good relations with both Russia and Ukraine, and is also in close communication with the US and European countries, and is committed to playing a constructive role in the peaceful settlement of this crisis.
The Ukraine issue has a complex and special historical context, and it is no coincidence that the situation has reached this point. China promotes the vision of common, comprehensive, cooperative and sustainable security. China believes that the security of one country should not come at the expense of the security of other countries, still less should regional security be guaranteed by strengthening or even expanding military blocs. The legitimate security concerns of all countries should be respected. In the current situation, the international community should encourage and support Russia and Ukraine in having talks rather than fighting, and cool down the situation instead of adding fuel to the fire. The pressing priority is to keep the dialogue and negotiation going, avoid civilian casualties, prevent a humanitarian crisis, and cease hostilities as soon as possible. An enduring solution would be for all countries to adhere to the principle of indivisible security, respect each other, reject the Cold War mentality, refrain from bloc confrontation, and forge a balanced, effective and sustainable European security architecture through dialogue and negotiation.
To answer the second part of your question, Taiwan is an inalienable part of China's territory, and the Taiwan question is entirely China’s internal affair, which is different in nature from Ukraine being a sovereign country. I also noticed that some people have been trying to smear and attack China by linking these two unrelated issues since the outbreak of the Ukraine crisis. This is out of ulterior motives. The root cause of the tension in the Taiwan Strait is that the Democratic Progressive Party authorities refuse to recognize the one-China principle and attempt to change the status quo that both sides of the Taiwan Strait belong to one and the same China. The Democratic Progressive Party authorities have sought to create “two Chinas” or “one China, one Taiwan” to misrepresent Taiwan’s history and sever Taiwan’s roots. Some outside forces, in a bid to hold back China’s development, have condoned and abetted the growth of separatist forces for “Taiwan independence” and tried to challenge and hollow out the one-China principle. This gravely violates the basic norms of international relations and puts the peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait in serious jeopardy, all with evil intentions.
I must stress that the two sides across the Taiwan Strait share the same historical and cultural roots and belong to one and the same China. Taiwan’s future and hope lies in the peaceful development of cross-Strait relations and reunification with the mainland. Seeking foreign support to gain independence is a dead end. The scheme to use Taiwan to contain China is doomed to fail. Taiwan will eventually return to the embrace of the motherland.
Unlike the Lithuanian government which allowed opening the Taiwanese Representative Office in Vilnius, which drew China’s frustration and anger, the Latvian government did not follow into footsteps of Lithuania. Do you know why? Yet incredibly, Taipei’s mission in Riga has been operating for over 10 years now and, to our knowledge, Taiwan has not asked an upgrade of its status to the one in Vilnius. What do you make of it? Would it be right to expect China’s increased friendliness to Latvia and Estonia, another Baltic state, for their respect to China’s policy on Taiwan as opposed to very sour relations between Lithuania and China?
There is but only one China in the world, Taiwan is an inalienable part of China's territory, and the government of the People's Republic of China is the sole legal government representing the whole of China. The one-China principle is a widely recognized norm governing international relations and an overwhelming consensus of the international community, as well as the prerequisite and foundation for China to establish diplomatic relations with other countries. Lithuania's blatant violation of the one-China principle and betrayal of its political commitment made in the communique on the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries is the fundamental cause of the difficult situation in bilateral relations. The Lithuanian side should correct its mistakes as soon as possible, return to the right track of adhering to the one-China principle, and create conditions for the restoration and development of bilateral relations.
China was among the first countries to recognize the restoration of the independence of the three Baltic states, namely Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia. Over the past 30 years, China has always respected and supported the efforts of the three countries to protect national sovereignty and territorial integrity, and has never done anything harmful to the core interests of the three countries. Facts have proven that as long as countries adhere to mutual respect, seek common ground while resolving differences, and earnestly understand and respect each other's core interests and major concerns, bilateral relations can develop in a sound and smooth way.
Can you please talk about Latvian and Chinese relations over the past couple of years? What are the trade tendencies between the two countries? What will be the next step in cooperation between China and Latvia after the pandemic?
The year 2021 marks the 30th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties between China and Latvia. Over the past 30 years, with the joint efforts of both sides, bilateral relations have been moving forward with closer exchanges and cooperation in political, economic, cultural and other fields. In 2021, trade volume between the two countries grew by 10.2% year-on-year and three times that of 10 years ago, despite the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. China is ready to further expand imports from Latvia and promote a balanced development of trade between the two countries. We welcome Latvian enterprises to actively participate in the China International Import Expo and the Expo between China and Central and Eastern European Countries to expand channels for exporting high quality products to China. China supports Latvia in playing its role as a regional logistics hub and opening new shipping and air freight routes between China and Latvia. China encourages and supports Chinese enterprises to invest in Latvia. We believe that after the pandemic, bilateral exchanges at all levels and practical cooperation in various fields will be further enhanced.
What is so important about the Global Development Initiative proposed by Chinese President Xi Jinping?
Chinese President Xi Jinping solemnly proposed the Global Development Initiative during the General Debate of the 76th session of the UN General Assembly in September 2021. This initiative is another important public good that China provides to the international community amidst the historical challenge that COVID-19 has brought to international development. The Global Development Initiative gives top priority to development, embraces the people-centred core concept, and has identified 8 priority areas including poverty alleviation, food security, COVID-19 and vaccines, financing for development, climate change and green development, industrialization, digital economy, and connectivity. GDI aims at the accelerated implementation of the 2030 Agenda, strives for synergy with all relevant global, regional, sub-regional development initiatives and cooperation processes, aligns with national development strategies, explores new development space, taps new development potential, and contributes to achieve 17 Sustainable Development Goals as scheduled.
China's global development initiative aims to put development issues at the centre of the global cooperation agenda, support the international community to pay attention to the special situation of developing countries, and respond to the new challenges caused by COVID-19 and the new situation of global development, so as to consolidate consensus, mobilize resources, take action and forge synergy for accelerated implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
Do you call the Beijing Winter Olympics successful despite the withdrawal of some countries? Many feared breakouts of Covid-19 during the games, but you managed to rein it in. How?
With the joint efforts of China and the international community, the Beijing 2022 Olympic Winter Games and Paralympic Winter Games achieved a full success and met the goal of hosting two equal wonderful Games. We presented to the world a streamlined, safe and splendid Games, bringing hope to people beset by the pandemic and confidence to a world overshadowed by instability. Around 170 official representatives from nearly 70 countries and international organizations attended the Opening Ceremony, supporting China with concrete actions. We believe that the light of unity and cooperation converged by the Olympic and Paralympic Games will shine through mist and rain, and illuminate the path for humanity to jointly forge ahead into the future.
The Beijing 2022 Olympic Winter Games was the first comprehensive global sports event held as scheduled since the outbreak of COVID-19. Pandemic prevention and control was the top priority and the biggest challenge. In close cooperation with the IOC and IPC, China took scientific and precise prevention and control measures which ensured the safety of all participating parties through closed-loop management, and provided maximum convenience for athletes and all Olympic and Paralympic participants from all countries within the closed-loop.
How is China-CEEC cooperation evolving amid the attempts to push China out of many markets?
China is committed to the policy of opening-up, and its economy is deeply integrated with the world economy. An open China has provided important opportunities for the development of other countries. In 2021, against the backdrop of the continuing pandemic and rising trade protectionism, China's total foreign trade reached 39.1 trillion yuan with an increase of 21.4 percent. Facts have proven that in today's globalized world, the practice of isolation and exclusion aimed at curbing the development of other countries goes against the trend of the times and harm others without benefiting itself.
China has always attached importance to developing relations with Central and Eastern European countries. Ten years ago, China and Central and Eastern European countries jointly launched the China-CEEC cooperation mechanism. Over the past decade, this trans-regional cooperation mechanism has focused on practical economic and trade cooperation, adhered to the concept of openness and transparency and the principle of consultation and volunteerism. Starting from scratch, it has thrived and gone from strength to strength, and brought varying degrees of benefits to all parties involved.
The China-CEEC cooperation has nothing to do with defence and security or geostrategic intention, still less with any sphere of influence. This cooperation is conducive to the balanced development of Europe as a whole and the acceleration of European integration. At the same time, we have always emphasized that China-CEEC cooperation should abide by market principles and EU standards, respect the consensus of the participants, while the consensus on cooperation should be open to all parties, and the results of cooperation should benefit all parties. Under the new circumstances, China will work together with Central and Eastern European countries to explore new ideas and put forward new initiatives on the basis of reviewing and summarizing the process and experience of China-CEEC cooperation, while continuously adhere to the principle of extensive consultation, joint contribution and shared benefits, with the aim of facilitating cooperation in fighting against the pandemic and post-pandemic economic recovery and development, and inject new vitality into the China-CEEC cooperation and even the China-EU comprehensive strategic partnership.
Where do you see China-Europe relations in the foreseeable future?
Over more than 40 years, China-EU relations have grown from a small footprint to what they are today. They are rich in content and fruitful in outcomes that have benefited both peoples and the world. In 2021, the trade volume between China and the EU exceeded $800 billion for the first time, which fully demonstrates the high complementarity of China-EU economic and trade relations. More than 15,000 China-Europe freight trains have been launched, which have played a positive role in promoting international cooperation in fighting against COVID-19, ensuring the stability of industrial and supply chains, and promoting global economic recovery. In the first two months of this year, the trade volume between China and the EU grew by 14.8% year-on-year to $137.16 billion, making Europe become China's largest trading partner, which reflects the resilience and vitality of China-EU trade.
In the face of the world's unprecedented changes unseen in a century, the main tone of mutually beneficial cooperation in China-EU relations has not changed. Despite competition and systematic differences between China and the EU, cooperation and consensus far outweighs competition and differences. We are not rivals but partners. As two major forces, markets and civilizations in the world, China and the EU have every reason to improve their relations. The two sides should adhere to a correct understanding of each other, strengthen communication and coordination, respect each other, seek common ground while shelving differences and properly handle differences. We should oppose zero-sum games and protectionism, promote the continued smooth development of China-EU relations, and contribute more positive energy to the international community.
Do you see fewer Latvian students willing to take Chinese language courses amid the more wide-spread anti-China rhetoric?
China is a socialist country that adheres to its own development path. Facts have proven that this path has been successful, which not only brought long-term stability and sustained and rapid economic and social development to China, but also contributed to world peace and development. In recent years, ideological bias and strategies aimed at containing China's development have misled the people of European countries, including Latvia, in their view of China, which has become a prominent issue affecting the development of China-EU relations. To develop a healthy and sound relationship between China and the EU, both sides need to establish an objective and rational mutual understanding. We hope friends from the media will play a positive role and introduce China from an objective and fair perspective, and enhance the objective understanding of China to people from all walks of life.
People-to-people and cultural exchanges between China and Latvia has always been active, and the "Mandarin popularity" continues to heat up in Latvia. Prior to the pandemic, the number of students and tourists from both sides increased year by year, and art groups had constant exchanges during mutual visits and performances, creating a good social atmosphere for friendly cooperation between the two countries. Despite the inconvenience caused by the pandemic to face-to-face communication between the two peoples, including students, the two sides have maintained virtual communication, including online Chinese teaching and the "Chinese Bridge" competition held each year as scheduled. We believe that the people-to-people and cultural exchanges between the two countries will usher in a new spring after the pandemic. We welcome more young Latvian friends to learn Chinese, understand and introduce Chinese culture to the Latvian people, and bring Latvian culture to Chinese friends, so as to make positive contributions to the promotion of a China-Latvia friendship. At the same time, we also encourage more Chinese youth to learn the Latvian language. Beijing International Studies University has set up a Latvian Major to train professionals for exchanges and cooperation between our two countries.
What do you like most about Riga?
This is the third year of my working and living in Riga. Although my travel has been restricted due to the pandemic, it has not affected my love for this city. Riga is known as the "beating heart" of the Baltic region. It has the largest and best-preserved old town among the three Baltic countries. At the same time, the city also exudes an open, dynamic and fashionable modern atmosphere. I believe that my time in Riga will be a very precious and unforgettable experience of my life.