Exclusive: EU has no right to interpret one-China principle without China’s recognition: Chinese envoy to EU
Published: Mar 02, 2023 02:17 PM

Ambassador Fu Cong, head of the Chinese Mission to the EU. Photo: Courtesy of Chinese Mission to the EU

Ambassador Fu Cong, head of the Chinese Mission to the EU. Photo: Courtesy of Chinese Mission to the EU

Editor's Note: On the occasion of the one-year anniversary of the Ukraine crisis and more European leaders planning to visit China in the coming weeks and months, Global Times reporters Chen Qingqing and Bai Yunyi (GT) conducted an exclusive interview with Fu Cong, head of the Chinese Mission to the EU, who talked about China-EU relations, the impact of the Ukraine crisis on Europe, the position of European countries on the Taiwan question and the latest balloon row that has severely damaged the mutual trust between China and the US.

GT: Do you hold a positive attitude toward the recovery of China-EU relations in 2023? 

Fu: Although China-EU relations still face some difficulties, I am very optimistic about the recovery of the relations. 

First, the two sides share a very solid political foundation for cooperation. President Xi Jinping mentioned many times that China and Europe are two major forces upholding world peace, two big markets promoting shared development, and two great civilizations promoting human progress. Member of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee and Director of the Office of the Central Commission for Foreign Affairs,  Wang Yi also emphasized many times that friendship is the keynote of China-EU relations, and cooperation is the general goal of China-EU relations. He also mentioned in the just concluded Munich Security Conference that how China and Europe make a choice will affect the direction of the world. These all reflect how much we value China-EU relations. 

From the European side, both the leaders of the EU and the EU member states also attach great importance to EU-China relations. Shortly after the 20th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC), German Chancellor Olaf Scholz visited Beijing. Charles Michel, the President of the European Council, also visited Beijing in December 2022. Currently, we are actively planning with the European side in Brussels about the visits of European Council President Charles Michel and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen to China in the first half of 2023 for the China-EU leaders meeting.

In addition, some high-level consultation mechanisms such as the vice premier-level ones will soon resume. In the future, high-level visits between China and Europe will be very frequent.

Second, from the economic aspect, China and Europe are natural economic partners. When I came to Brussels, I often said to the EU that we are partners, not competitors, let alone so-called systemic rivals. The solid economic foundation of China-EU cooperation also serves as the cornerstone of China-EU relations. 

China and the EU have many things in common in their diplomatic philosophy. For example, we both advocate multilateralism and enjoy good cooperation in climate change, arms control and non-proliferation efforts. 

Of course, there are some specific issues between China and Europe that need to be dealt with. This is why diplomats on both sides should do their best to remove obstacles and solve these specific issues. However, the general trend of the positive development of China-EU relations is clear. 

GT: The EU-China Comprehensive Agreement on Investment (CAI) is still frozen today due to sanctions, which attracts the public attention. Do you think we could expect a resumption of the CAI this year? What are the key points to restart it? 

Fu: Against the backdrop of the current global economic downturn, the CAI should be put into practice as soon as possible, which will play a good role in promoting both economies and the global economy. That is why one of the very important tasks since I came to Brussels is to push the EU to ratify this important agreement as soon as possible.

We propose that on this issue, we should look forward, not tangle with the past, and lift sanctions simultaneously to make the CAI resume. Currently, the reaction from the EU is mixed. Some believe it's a good idea, while others think that the conditions are premature. 

I can't guarantee that the CAI could be unfrozen within 2023. But from China's perspective, we sincerely hope to iron out this problem as soon as possible. 

I also told the European side that if you find China's proposal may not fly, I hope you can propose a solution that you think can solve this problem. We are open to that. As long as the solution is based on equality and mutual benefit, China will consider it.

At present, we are communicating with the EU. We have received some positive feedback, but it still needs more efforts from both sides.

GT: What are the main difficulties? 

Fu: The simultaneous lifting of sanctions is the most straightforward solution. But some people in Europe are reluctant to lift sanctions on China due to ideological bias. They have some concerns about China's so-called human rights issues and argue that it will be difficult to lift sanctions against China, unless China improves its human rights condition.

However, we told the EU that, first of all, many of your perception on China's so-called human rights issues are based on misunderstanding and prejudice, which is unreasonable in itself. On this basis, you have imposed sanctions on us. We have taken countermeasures out of the perspective of safeguarding national dignity, which is only natural. 

At the same time, we believe that it is quite normal for China and the EU to disagree on human rights issues. We can calmly discuss and promote the resolution of some specific issues, reduce the differences on human rights issues, or clarify some issues. We are willing to make efforts in these areas. That is also why China and the EU have resumed the human rights dialogue. We hope that these efforts will help to "unfreeze" CAI.

I often say to the EU that if you have to wait until all the political and human rights differences between China and the EU are resolved before you develop economic and trade relations with China, when will that be? Therefore, we call on the EU to take a more rational attitude. There are other channels to discuss human rights concerns, and there is no need to link them with economic and trade issues. 

European lawmakers gather to vote at the European Parliament on July 6, 2022 in Strasbourg, France.Photo: VCG

European lawmakers gather to vote at the European Parliament on July 6, 2022 in Strasbourg, France.Photo: VCG

GT: When talking about difficulties that China and the EU have been facing in recent years, the Taiwan question is in the focus. Do you think in terms of what Europe has done on the question, is it close to shaking the foundation of China-EU ties? 

Fu: Concerning the Taiwan question, I want to emphasize that any position of the European side on the question must be recognized by the Chinese side. This is very important. 

Now some people in the EU always say "EU's one-China policy," as if their one-China policy is not the same as our one-China principle, or they have the unilateral right to interpret their one-China principle. But I stressed to them that the commitment of the EU made during the establishment of diplomatic ties actually included a very important principle, that is, the one-China position of the EU must be acceptable by China.

Some high-level officials in EU institutions and anti-China lawmakers visiting the island all violated the one-China principle. There are also European (Parliament) members proposing to sign a so-called investment agreement with Taiwan. If this happens, it will obviously be a major challenge of the political foundation of China-EU relations.

As to whether these negative developments have shaken the political foundation between China and Europe, my answer is that we must nip them in the bud to prevent them from shaking the political foundation between China and Europe. If the dangerous situation is not contained in the first place, it will evolve. Therefore, we always make it very clear to the EU that this is a "red line" for China and you should not touch it. Otherwise, China-EU relations will face serious problems.

I think they have also received the message. In every meeting with us, the European side always emphasize that they will not change the one-China principle. Many European officials said the first lesson they took when they became diplomats was the one-China principle, which is now part of their DNA and told us to be assured. 

However, it is true that some people will continue to blur and hollow out the one-China principle, which is something we need to be vigilant on and make timely representations with the European side. This is an important task for us here. 

GT: Recently, Wang Yi, member of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China Central Committee and Director of the Office of the Central Commission for Foreign Affairs, visited multiple countries in Europe and also visited Russia. The visit came ahead of the one-year anniversary of the Russia-Ukraine crisis and attracted much attention. What signal do you think those visits sent to the world? 

Fu: First, it is a signal of peace. Wang Yi made it very clear that on the Ukraine issue, our position is summed up in one sentence, that is, to promote peace. By visiting both Europe and Russia, the message is that China is promoting peace talks. 

China is very worried about the current situation. The crisis is now clearly escalating, and both sides are preparing for the so-called spring offensive or counterattack, which means more killings.

The arrangement of Wang's visit also sent another important message that China-EU relations should not be affected by the Ukraine issue. Due to various factors, the anti-Russian sentiment in Europe is now running high, and a lot of the emotional things are also reflected in their policies, and there are signs of anger at China. I think it's very irrational. 

As a major country, China has its own independent foreign policy and will not blindly follow the position and policies of others. It is not very rational for China to take an identical position with the EU on the Ukraine issue. 

It is true that we do not agree fully on some European positions on Ukraine. For example, many top leaders of the European side say that now is not the time to negotiate. Is this a rational approach? We cannot stand completely with the EU, but we do not want the Ukraine issue to affect the development of China-EU relations.

We have also made suggestions to the EU to promote peace talks. Diplomacy is not an emotional thing. People can have wishes, but they must also face reality. The art of diplomacy is to choose the lesser of two evils. This is what we have to work on. Otherwise, the war will protract. 

GT: We have noted that US President Joe Biden also visited Ukraine recently. Visits to Russia and Ukraine by China and the US have become the focus of much media attention. Are the two visits similar in nature?

Fu: [Visits to Russia and Ukraine, respectively] are clearly not preplanned. President Biden's visit to Ukraine was a sudden visit. Until he appeared in Kyiv, the outside world did not know that he was going. But Wang's visit to Russia was announced previously. We should not compare these two visits in terms of timing. 

Second, the positions of the two sides are also very different. Biden's visit focused on the Ukraine crisis and was intended to support the war to continue. Wang's visit to Russia is not only focused on the Ukraine issue, but also on all aspects of China-Russia relations, and the Ukraine issue is only one of them.

On the Ukraine issue, we have also taken a more fair and reasonable position. We will not take sides but promote peace talks. I think this is the main tone of Wang when talking about the Ukraine issue in Russia. 

Illustration:Liu Rui/GT

Illustration:Liu Rui/GT

GT: Do you think there is a possibility of negotiation in terms of resolving the conflict between Russia and Ukraine? In your view or the Chinese government, what is the biggest obstacle to ending the conflict?

Fu: Any war ends at the negotiating table. However, I think there is no desire for peace talks among the relevant parties, so I am pessimistic about launching peace talks in the short term. But I believe, after a period of time, they will finally come to the negotiating table.

Now the Russia-Ukraine conflict is a war of attrition with many scenes appearing to resemble trench warfare during WWI, which means a large number of frontline soldiers will die and civilians will be displaced. Rather than deciding to negotiate until realising that the war is unwinnable, it would be better to sit down and talk right now, instead of continuing to fight it out on the battlefield. 

But apparently, some people are fueling the fire. In my opinion, the biggest "black hand" behind the scenes is the US, and it is also the biggest beneficiary. As long as the Ukraine conflict continues, it will help the US with its policies of weakening Russia, controlling Europe and containing China. The American arms industry would make a fortune. 

GT: The US and the West seem to want to drain Russia through the war and push it back to a "second-rate country." In your opinion, if Russia really declines from a great power to a "second-rate country," will it be a disaster or a good thing for the world order?

Fu: First of all, there is a big question mark over whether it can defeat Russia. If the West is to defeat Russia, it would be a brutal and protracted war and a great risk to the world, given the fact that Russia is a major nuclear power.

I often tell my European colleagues, are you really willing to take such big risk to continue this war? We need to analyze the current situation calmly and realistically, and then adopt appropriate policies.

As for wishful thinking to bring Russia back to a "second-rate country" or even seek regime change in Russia, I think these are dangerous statements that can only escalate the war. That also completely exclude peace talks and would only cause more damage and killing. 

GT: Although you are focused on European affairs, we want to ask a question about China-US relations, because the world is really paying close attention to China-US relations. At the Munich Security Conference, Director Wang Yi and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken had informal contact. Do you think the China-US relationship can move on through the "balloon incident" after informal contact? Or will the "balloon incident" continue to have a relatively long-term negative impact on China-US relations?

Fu: From China's point of view, it is our policy goal to maintain sound China-US relations. That is indisputable. However, maintaining China-US relations requires the joint efforts of both sides. As we can see, both the sincerity and ability of the US to maintain China-US relations are questionable.

The so-called "balloon incident" was an accident, which China immediately explained to the US. The US said that China did not communicated with the US, which is itself false information.

At the very beginning, the US did not think it was a big deal. If not, why didn't shoot the balloon down before it drifted into its so-called sensitive area, but only after it had flown out of the continental US? This means that it is not very concerned about the so-called detection.

But the question is hyped because it fell victim to US partisan rivalry. Under the pressure of such battling, the US has taken an extremely irrational approach to hit balloons with missiles. It's almost like fighting mosquitoes with cannon. It is irrational. If the current US government really attaches great importance to China-US relations, it should take a more rational solution even in the face of some domestic pressure. So, we first doubt its sincerity.

Second, we have some doubts about its ability to maintain China-US relations. From the perspective of handling the entire issue, the US not only failed to provide a clearer explanation for irrational speech in the country, but instead fueled the fire, which only made the domestic public opinion field even more anti-China. Therefore, we doubt its sincerity and ability.

Whether the "balloon incident" can be turned over depends first of all on whether the US will continue to hype this issue. If it realizes its mistakes and stops hyping it, it will have a positive impact on the "gradual soft landing" of this issue.

GT: Last but not least, we would like to invite you to talk about China's recently released Global Security Initiative Concept Paper. What do you think is its significance? 

Fu: First of all, I think this is an important document from the Chinese side, and it is a further explanation of the Global Security Initiative proposed by President Xi in April 2022. We can see from this document that it is, above all, the promotion and inheritance of the UN Charter and the basic principles of international law.

Second, my feeling is that this is a "comprehensive body" of our positions in the field of international security, forming an organic whole and a complete plan of our positions and views on international security put forward on different occasions.

Third, the proposal of this document is also a further extension of President Xi's concept of a community with a shared future for mainkind. In fact, it is a further explanation of President Xi's important concept in the field of international security.

Fourth, this is closely related to the current situation, which is its outstanding feature. Proposing the concept paper at this time is closely related to the current international security situation we are facing. 

At present, the changes unseen in a century are accelerating, and the international situation is undergoing profound changes. Many unstable factors are superimposed. The Ukraine crisis in Europe is facing the danger of escalation, and the risk of nuclear proliferation in Northeast Asia is also rising sharply. 

In some non-traditional security fields, food security and energy security are also becoming increasingly prominent. Hence, we put forward the paper, which comprehensively expounded some of our major propositions in the field of international security, and has very important guiding significance for solving the current international security dilemma.