Ambassador Qin Gang Takes an Interview with NPR Morning Edition
Published: Jan 29, 2022 08:50 AM
Photo: Chinese embassy in US

Photo: Chinese embassy in US

On January 27, 2022, Ambassador Qin Gang had an interview with NPR Morning Edition's Steve Inskeep on Beijing Winter Olympics, China-US relations and issues related to Xinjiang and Taiwan. Part of the interview edited by NPR was aired on January 28.

Here is the full transcript of the interview:

Steve Inskeep: I wanna begin with the Olympics. Many people will know of course that this is the second time that China's hosted the Olympics, and last time was 2008. A lot has happened since 2008. How is China's place in the world different, if at all, than it was in 2008?

Ambassador Qin: China is undergoing a great transformation economically and socially. Since 2008 when Beijing held the first Olympics, China is becoming more prosperous, and the Chinese people are getting better off. All of the people have been lifted out of poverty. We are on a course towards common prosperity. And China's standing in the world is getting more important and prominent. China is playing a more important role in maintaining peace, stability and security. And we are working with all of the like-minded countries to build a community with a shared future for mankind.

So we are now welcoming the arrival of Beijing Winter Olympics. Beijing is ready. All the venues, stadiums, facilities are in perfect conditions, and organizing and operating work is well on the way. 2,000 athletes from around 90 countries are ready. A big quarantine closed loop is now in place to protect all the stakeholders in the loop from being contaminated.

One particular highlight of the Beijing Winter Olympics is being green. Just give you two examples. All the stadiums and venues will be supplied with green energy. And we use the cutting-edge technology of producing ice to reduce the (carbon dioxide) emission to nearly zero. So Beijing is ready. So we are confident to deliver a streamlined, safe and splendid Winter Olympics as we promised to the world.

Steve Inskeep: I think a lot of people would agree with you that China is playing a larger role in the world stage. But there's also been a change in opinion globally about China. The Pew Center tracks this in 17 different countries, they do routine polls. And in 2021, a Pew survey of these 17 countries found — there's a headline that I wrote down here — large majorities say China does not respect the personal freedoms of its people, and more and more people around the world believe that. Why do you think that opinion has changed?

Ambassador Qin: It's a one-sided observation. If you ask if people have freedom and human rights, you need to ask the people of the country itself. I can give you two figures, most recent ones. One is that according to Harvard University, Kennedy School, the support rate of the Chinese people towards the Chinese government...

Steve Inskeep: This is a survey done by Harvard that you had?

Ambassador Qin: Harvard, independently. (So the support rate) is 91%. This is the tenth year that Kennedy School of Harvard University conducted this kind of survey independently. Another figure, which is also most recent. Edelman, one of the largest PR companies, conducted similar survey among Chinese people. The result is the same.

Steve Inskeep: If there's such overwhelming support for the government, some people who are concerned about China would ask why is there a need for such widespread facial recognition software, Internet censorship and other means to limit speech and effectively control the people?

Ambassador Qin: That's a misunderstanding. Actually, Chinese people can have wide access to information on the Internet. There are over one billion  netizens in China, the world’s largest number of Internet users. Every day people can get access to different resources of information. And they can comment and they can exchange.

Steve Inskeep: There is an enormous amount of information. But if there's a controversial topic, it disappears from the Internet.

Ambassador Qin: Well, I think that we regulate the Internet according to law and in the interests of the general public. On the one hand, we let people get access to different information. On the other hand, we bear in mind the general interests of the public.

Steve Inskeep: Criticism of the government doesn't last very long online, right? It goes away.

Ambassador Qin: That's not true. So the government has many channels to solicit opinions from the people, including criticism. Every major policy, before it is published, is made public for comments. Among them are also criticisms and complaints. The government listens to and considers them, and corrects it if there is anything wrong.

Steve Inskeep: Part of that change in China's image that I mentioned seems to have to do with the policy toward Uyghurs in Western China. And the US diplomatic boycott also seems grounded in part. I want to mention that our correspondents have tried to approach this fairly. NPR correspondents have visited Western China. We've also interviewed people outside of China. We understand that it's cast as an anti-terrorism policy and that's a real concern. What we have found, though, is that people are imprisoned, that they also have been pressed to abandon their language, abandon their culture, abandon their religion. Can you explain why the policy needs to have gone so far?

Ambassador Qin: That's not a true representation of what has been happening in Xinjiang.

Steve Inskeep: It is what our correspondents have observed.

Ambassador Qin: There are fabrications, lies and disinformation around. The actual conditions, Uyghur people as other ethnic groups of people, they enjoy happy life. They enjoy the rights and freedom guaranteed by the Constitution of China. They are a member of the big family of Chinese nation. The so-called “genocide” or “forced labor”, these are big lies of the century. There's no genocide at all. People use sensational accusations for political purposes. I give you two figures. Over the past 40 years, the Uyghur population rose from 5.5 million to 11 million, more than doubled. The average life expectancy of Uyghur people in the past 60 years has increased from 30 to 72. So have you seen genocide in the world like this?

Steve Inskeep: Let's set aside the word “genocide”, though, and focus on the things that our correspondents have found: large numbers of people imprisoned, people encouraged to give up their language and culture. You acknowledge those things or not?

Ambassador Qin: You have to make a distinction between people breaking the law and being sent to prison and some other people being sent to the vocational training center.

Steve Inskeep: You are referring to what outsiders called camps?

Ambassador Qin: Those people breaking the law, the terrorists, of course, the destination for them is prisons with barbed wire and high walls. To keep the society safe, we have to bring them to justice. There is no problem, as you do in the United States. But for those people, to some extent, more or less influenced by extremist ideas, which is a driving factor to many people in any terrorist and separatist activities, we give them a chance. We use a measure to correct them. It’s what we call a preventive measure.

Steve Inskeep: Preventing them from having terrorist thoughts before they have them.

Ambassador Qin: Those people...not every Uyghur was sent to the school. But when we found some people, as I said just now, more or less influenced by extremist ideas, before they are getting worse, we send them to the school, giving them education on language and law and give them vocational training, so that when they finish, they can get a decent job with a good pay, so they can support themselves and they can support their families, so they will no longer be engaged into extremist and separatist activities.

Steve Inskeep: I want people to know, if they don't, that China is very diverse that Uyghurs are one of many groups we could look at, who are different from the majority of China in different ways. Is part of the goal assimilation? Ensuring that there is no group that is so separate or different from the large population of the country that it poses a threat?

Ambassador Qin: The goal of this policy is to make the society stable and safe, to make people without fear, without hate, that people from all ethnic groups live peacefully and calmly.

Steve Inskeep: I wanna ask about Taiwan, which is something that your Foreign Minister this week brought up with Secretary of State Antony Blinken. If people don't know, I want to remind them the United States has agreed with China that there is one China, that Taiwan is part of China. At the moment, of course, there are two governments. And the United States has argued that Taiwan's future should be determined by the Taiwanese people. Do you agree with that?

Ambassador Qin: No. I don't agree with that. The One-China principle is the most important foundation of China-US relations in the past decades. When the US-China diplomatic ties were established, the United States acknowledged that both sides of the Taiwan Strait belong to one China, there's only one China in the world, the government of People's Republic of China is the sole legal government representing China. This is a stipulation in the three Joint Communiques, which lay the foundation of diplomatic relations. But recently, we have seen the escalation of tension in the situation across the Taiwan Strait. This is because the Taiwanese authority is trying to seek independence agenda by borrowing support and encouragement of the United States and the US is playing Taiwan card.

Steve Inskeep: Playing the Taiwan card to contain China.

Ambassador Qin: To contain China. What does it mean? We talked about the three Joint Communiques. We talked about the one-China principle. The United States has been walking away, bit by bit, from this commitment, by increasing official links and upgrading them, by selling more advanced weaponry to Taiwan, and by sending soldiers landing on Taiwan. The one-China policy is being hollowed out by the United States.

Steve Inskeep: Is this what your foreign ministry means by saying the United States failing to keep its commitments, that the US has simply been too friendly to Taiwan?

Ambassador Qin: We have taken notice of President Biden’s words that the United States does not support Taiwan independence and the United States wants to see peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait, the United States will adhere to its one-China policy, but so far we haven't seen many actions to honor his words.

Steve Inskeep: There is much fear in the United States of an eventual effort by China to resolve this matter militarily, to attack Taiwan. Should Americans be concerned about the Chinese attack on Taiwan?

Ambassador Qin: People on both sides of the Taiwan Strait are Chinese. We are compatriots. The last thing we will do is fight with our compatriots. We will do our utmost in the greatest sincerity to achieve a peaceful reunification, which we believe is in the best interests of people across the Taiwan Strait, in the best interests of China-US relations, in the best interests of peace and stability in the region. But as I said a few minutes ago, that the Taiwanese authority is walking down the road towards independence, emboldened by the United States. So China will not commit to giving up non-peaceful means for reunification, because this is a deterrence to separatist forces, not targeting Taiwanese people. Let me emphasize this. The Taiwan issue is the biggest tinderbox between China and the United States. If the Taiwanese authority, emboldened by the United States, keeps going down the road for independence, it would most likely involve China and the United States, the two big countries, in a military conflict. China does not want to have conflict or confrontation with the United States. The United States does not want war with China. So, no war, no conflict is the biggest consensus between China and the United States. So let's work together to contain the separatist forces of Taiwan, to give peace a chance. Let peace prevail.

Steve Inskeep: In the time that I have left, Ambassador, I wanna ask about a couple of narratives that people lay out about the United States and China and see what you think of them. One is an American narrative. Americans in both political parties have said in recent years that the United States feels that it reached out to China, that it encouraged the opening to China, that it increased economic ties with China, in the hope that China would change, become more open, more democratic, more in line with the rules of the world. And there are Americans in both political parties who now feel that hasn't happened, that it hasn't worked out. That is the narrative here. Do you accept any part of that story?

Ambassador Qin: For people having the mind of changing China, from the very beginning, it’s an illusion. China is a nation of 5,000 years’ civilization. China is China. The United States is the United States. The United States cannot expect to change China at its will, and vice versa. We don't have the intention to change the United States. We don't have the intention to replace the United States. Both countries have our own agendas. Both countries have challenges at home. Both countries want to deliver better lives to people. So why not work together? Rather than trying to outpace each other or to suppress the other’s development?

Steve Inskeep: You're saying that if America is to continue its engagement with China, China will remain as it is?

Ambassador Qin: We have always advocated engagement and cooperation with the United States. But people, as you said just now, in this country have a lot of different opinions. You had better let the United States speak for itself. But we do believe that China's development is a big opportunity for the United States.

Steve Inskeep: There's another narrative about the United States. The idea that America is a great power that is now in decline. You can find people around the world who say that, you can find Americans who will say that. I'd like people to know, if they don't, you have worked closely with President Xi. If you think about his view of the world, do you think that he believes America is a power in decline?

Ambassador Qin: Nobody in China bets against United States. Everybody in China, including the Chinese leadership, believes that United States is one of the most important countries. And the relationship between China and the United States is the most important relationship. We must work well and not mess it up. We wish the United States well. But the question is: can the United States respect and accept China's rise as a positive force to maintain or to facilitate world peace and prosperity? Can the United States believe that China's rise will benefit other countries, benefit people in the United States and provide more business opportunities and more jobs?

Steve Inskeep: And the final thing, do you anticipate a period of greater difficulty between the two countries?

Ambassador Qin: We are at a very challenging time. What I'm here to do is to reach out to people of all communities in the United States, tell them China's intention and policy — of course a good intention and reasonable policy vis-a-vis China-US relationship— and (be) open-minded for all sorts of opinions. I want to listen. I want to deliver. And I want to help improve the relationship. But looking ahead, it's a bumpy road. Both countries are in the process of recognizing each other and finding an appropriate way to get along with each other. In China's belief, we hope that good relationship will be established based on the principles of mutual respect, peaceful coexistence and win-win cooperation. As I said, it's not easy, and it will take time. There will be a lot of difficulties. My role is to make this road have less pain, less difficulties and more certainty.

Steve Inskeep: Ambassador, it's been a pleasure talking with you. Thank you so much.

Ambassador Qin: Thank you for having me.