Suthichai Yoon, chief adviser of the Nation Multimedia Group (left), and Pana Janviroj, executive director of Asia News Network (middle), presents Changing Asia, a photo album published by China Daily, to Premier Li Keqiang in Beijing on Tuesday. Li met with a group of media executives from ANN.[Photo/China Daily]
BEIJING — Premier Li Keqiang met and had dialogue with senior editors from Asia attending the annual meeting of the Asia News Network (ANN) in China at the Great Hall of the People on May 31. The following is the transcript of their dialogue:
Li Keqiang: It’s very good to meet you all. Let me extend, on behalf of the Chinese government, warm welcome to you for coming to Beijing to attend the annual editors’ meeting and congratulations on the success of the meeting. The ANN members are media of influence not only in Asia but also around the world. I hope the members will strengthen communication and build a platform for Asia to make its voice better heard, and I wish you greater success. I am happy to answer your questions.
ANN Executive Director Pana Janviroj: The ANN is one of the biggest of its kind in the world, with 21 members from 19 Asian countries. Our motto is: we know Asia better. It is a privilege to have this meeting with you this afternoon. Allow me to invite a few colleagues to speak.
Suthichai Saeyoon, founder of The Nation of Thailand: China has been developing very fast and its influence in the world has been rising. Southeast Asian countries have followed China’s development closely as friends and partners. Meantime, China is a big country, or a superpower. Some small countries may feel that China may act as a “big brother” to use its political and economic muscle to advance its own purposes in negotiations. How can you make them reassured that China is not a bad “big brother” but a good “big brother”?
Li Keqiang: Let me first make two points. First, China is no “superpower”, but a developing country. Though being the biggest developing country with one of the largest economies in the world, China still ranks behind some 80 countries in terms of per capita GDP. We don’t have the basis to be a superpower, still less do we intend to be one.
Second, in developing relations with its neighbors, China has never posed itself as a “big brother”. China follows an independent foreign policy of peace, a neighborhood policy featuring amity, sincerity, mutual benefit and inclusiveness, and believes that all countries, big or small, are equals. We could all be good brothers and good friends when we share such sincere wish. There is no such thing as one being the “big brother”.
China has 20 neighbors, sharing land border with some and facing some across the sea. China has more neighboring countries than any other country in the world. We and our neighbors are entwined in a community of shared future. China still has a long way to go before it can achieve modernization, and we need a stable regional environment and peaceful international environment to reach this goal. Hence, China is committed to upholding regional stability. In the meantime, we do have certain disagreements with some neighbors, but these differences are not the mainstream of China’s relations with those countries, and our common interests far outweigh those differences. In addressing differences, China believes that countries should seek peaceful solutions through consultation on the basis of equality and mutual respect.
In keeping with such principles, I believe, China and all neighbors, in good faith, can be good friends, good neighbors and even good brothers.
Endy Mouzardi Bayuni, Editor-in-Chief of The Jakarta Post: This morning, we had a dialogue with head of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) about the Belt and Road Initiative. One important part is to build with relevant countries the maritime silk road. I am from Indonesia. My government has expressed support to this initiative, as it will help strengthen peace and cooperation between relevant countries. Meanwhile, China is making great efforts to build a blue water navy. They seem to send conflicting messages about China’s intentions. How would you explain such discrepancies?
Li Keqiang: China has proposed to build the maritime silk road, which can be aligned with the development strategies of relevant countries, including Indonesia’s maritime power strategy. Peace, cooperation and development have been the underlying spirit of the Silk Road.
China follows a defense policy that is defensive in nature. The development of our navy and the building of the maritime silk road do not conflict with each other. China has all along called for upholding the freedom and safety of navigation in the South China Sea and other maritime areas, a right enjoyed by all countries under the law. Freedom and safety of navigation provides enabling conditions for us to expand trade and exchanges, and engage in cooperation in wider fields for peace and security on the sea.
One should bear in mind that the Chinese believe in “not doing to others what one does not like oneself.” The Chinese people suffered aggression and oppression in modern times, and we do not want to see similar things happen to other countries. By living in peace with other countries and developing its defense capability, China is upholding its own sovereignty and territorial integrity and contributing its part to regional peace and security.
Chon Shi-yong, Editor-in-Chief of The Korean Herald: The international community has put sanctions on the DPRK for its nuclear and missile provocations. Do you think the sanctions are strong enough for the DPRK to give up its nuclear and missile programs? If the DPRK is still defiant, will China put more pressure on North Korea? What more will China do to ease the tension on the Peninsula?
Li Keqiang: China’ s position on the Korean nuclear issue is consistent and clear-cut. We are committed to upholding peace and stability on the Peninsula, achieving the denuclearization of the Peninsula and settling relevant issues peacefully through dialogue and consultation. The UN Security Council has adopted relevant resolutions in response to the DPRK’s nuclear test and satellite launch. As a member of the UN and a responsible major country, China will earnestly and fully implement the relevant resolutions and uphold the international nuclear non-proliferation regime.
To impose sanctions is not the only means to resolve the issue. The fundamental solution to many problems ultimately lies in the diplomatic means of peaceful negotiation. We always call upon relevant parties to carry out negotiations, including the Six Party Talks, and hope that relevant countries will talk to the DPRK directly to push for the denuclearization of the Peninsula. China will honor its commitment and make its due efforts.
Phonekeo Volakhoun, Deputy Editor-in-Chief of the Vientiane Times: How do you view the prospects of China-ASEAN relations?
Li Keqiang: China and ASEAN have maintained sound relations. From day one, China has supported the ASEAN integration process and its community-building. China and ASEAN are interdependent and highly complementary. This September, I will go to the Lao PDR to attend the ASEAN-related Summits, including the 10+1 Summit. I hope that this meeting will further boost China-ASEAN relations.
This year marks the 25th anniversary of the dialogue relationship between China and ASEAN. We hope that by holding a series of commemorative activities, China and ASEAN will further enhance political trust, synergize development strategies, and expand practical exchanges and people-to-people contacts. China-ASEAN relations are generally moving in a positive direction. Our shared interests are far greater than the differences between China and certain ASEAN member states. We should further expand common interests and continue to send the message of jointly upholding regional stability and promoting regional development to let people see that this region can maintain peace and stability. As for the differences between certain countries, the two sides have the ability and wisdom to resolve them. China-ASEAN cooperation is a force for stability in this region and will further unleash the potential of Asia as the most dynamic region for growth in the world.
Zaffar Abbas, Editor of Dawn of Pakistan: I wish to raise a question on South Asia. China has proposed the Belt and Road Initiative and launched in Pakistan cooperation projects under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. We believe that this will bring economic development and prosperity to Pakistan. But recently, Iran and Afghanistan are also rolling out infrastructure projects including sea ports and road, financed by India. Does China view this as an irritant to its own initiative or welcome it as healthy competition that will boost economic development in the region?
Li Keqiang: The world economic recovery remains sluggish. The WTO forecast that we may have a weaker performance of global trade this year than any of the previous several years. Hence, it is the common task of all countries to bolster growth and expand trade, in other words, to make the pie bigger.
China all along holds that one important way to emerge from the world economic and financial crisis is to promote trade and investment liberalization and facilitation. Hence, it is good news to China to see a new growth point in any country, as it may bring more opportunities to Chinese companies too. Competition is only natural in a market economy and we welcome it. Without competition, bad currency may drive good currency out of circulation and there will be no chance for good companies. We have no wish to protect the backward. What we hope to see is a level playing field on the big world market, and we also wish to see peace and development in all South Asian countries. For Asia to truly become the new engine driving world economic growth, there must be inputs from all parts and directions of the region, be it the east, south or central.
Opening-up has been essential for China’s achievements in economic and social development over the past three decades. To tackle the global financial crisis, one needs to stay open in this globalized era. To fight a trade war or currency war delivers no solution to the crisis.
Warren Fernandez, Editor-in-Chief of The Straits Times: My last visit to China was in the 1990s as a correspondent. It is great to see the development achievements of China and Asia in the past two decades, which is largely attributable to the peaceful and stable environment you just referred to. Meanwhile, we still have anxiety about the South China Sea. My question is: will China take the lead in a new form of superpower to put the issues behind us by reaching the COC with relevant countries, or seeking a neutral international solution?
Li Keqiang: Your question shows you are a senior journalist, though you look so young. (laughter) This is a good thing. You may care to share your secret with your colleagues.
I wish to emphasize that China is not, and has no intention to be a superpower. We believe that all countries, big or small, should work with each other on the basis of mutual respect and equality. So there is no such thing as China being a “leader”, or a “big brother” as mentioned by your Thai colleague.
On the South China Sea issue, China has taken a constructive approach, and calls on regional countries to find solutions through consensus building on the basis of respecting history and the international law. This led us to concluding the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC), an anchor for peace and stability in the South China Sea for over ten years. In the past couple of years, there has been suggestion and call from relevant countries for advancing the consultation of a COC, which can be viewed as continuation of the DOC. China has taken a positive approach to this process. I believe that regional countries have the capability to maintain peace and stability in the region and the wisdom to address the existing issues. Just as provided in the DOC, it should be the sovereign states directly concerned to peacefully resolve their territorial and jurisdictional disputes through friendly consultation and negotiation. We have also put forward the idea of shelving disputes and pursuing joint development. These are the principles that China has all along followed.
Ravindra Kumar, Editor-in-Chief of The Statesman of India: President of India recently paid a state visit to China. There seems to be much high-level interactions between the two countries. But why hasn’t the boundary question been settled?
Li Keqiang: We should first be mindful of the long history of the boundary question. This is a long-standing issue left from the past. Such a complex issue that has existed for a long time couldn’t be resolved in a short span of time. That would be too much to ask. This will take time, just as when one has his meal, he should eat one mouthful at a time. Second, the boundary question should be put in a proper place in China-India relations. Now both countries have the wish to maintain stability and security in the border areas and to seek settlement step by step through negotiations. There are also an increasing number of channels for communication in managing differences. China and India are fully able to properly manage their differences. China and India should stay focused on enhancing political mutual trust, expanding practical cooperation and increasing people-to-people interaction. This is the win-win relationship that both sides, especially political leaders from the two countries, should work to advance.
This era is presenting China and India a great opportunity. At a time when the world economic recovery remains sluggish, the dynamism of Asia is needed more than ever. With a combined population of 2.5 billion that accounts for 1/3 of the world total, China and India represent an enormous market. If China and India work together and forge synergy, it will deliver benefits not only to the Chinese and Indian people, but also to Asia and beyond.
Kumar: Thank you, Mr. Premier.
Li Keqiang: There are still more delegates sitting in the back row. Due to time constraint, we couldn’t have each and every one to ask his/her questions, and I hope to have your understanding. In conclusion, let me say:
First, China is still a developing country and there is a long way to go before it can achieve modernization. Even if it becomes a modern country, China will not seek hegemony or bully others. I believe this is only a fair conclusion that one draws when he takes into account China’s cultural tradition and historical experiences.
Second, to modernize our country, we need a peaceful international environment and a stable neighborhood. And China, its neighbors, and all other countries need to treat each other as equals and respect each other irrespective of the size of our country. Only in this way can there be harmony and the necessary conditions for development.
Third, as one’s own teeth may accidentally bite one’s lip, it’s only natural that neighbors may have differences or disagreements. The key is to keep the peace of mind and handle differences, through diplomatic means in a calm way. What’s more important is to put differences in a proper place. To blow them out of proportion would only hurt our common interests. The call of our time is peace and cooperation. We should keep expanding common interests, and in this process, differences and issues will be gradually resolved. I have faith in a bright future.
You are welcome to visit China often and I look forward to more objective and truthful coverage of China from you.