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Interview with Ambassador Liu Xiaoming On Nile TV International
2002/11/23

 

Ayman Salah: Good evening, welcome to Cairo Watch. I am Ayman Salah. The 16th National Congress of the Communist Party of China concluded this year with a view on reforms and also a view on electing new leaders. The old leaders gave way to a less aged leadership with an eye on modernization in a rapidly changing world and in the face of the rising challenges in the world we are living. With us tonight to discuss these reforms and their significance are His Excellency Ambassador Liu Xiaoming, he is the Chinese ambassador here in Cairo. Glad to have you on the show tonight

Ambassador Liu: Nice to be back.

Ayman Salah: Thank you very much, and also with us is Professor Mohammed Selim, Chairman of the Asian Studies Center in Cairo University. It is a pleasure to have you in the show, as usual.

Professor Selim: Thank you very much for the invitation.

Ayman Salah: Let me start off by asking Ambassador Liu the spirit of the 16th Congress. One of the thing that we were talking about earlier before starting the show is that usually the audience tends to focus on what is taking place in Europe, in the United States, the elections taking place there, the Republicans and the Democrats, the renewal of Congress, so on and so forth. But not so many really understand what is taking place in Chinese politics.

Ambassador Liu: Many western media including some local media here focus only on the change of the leadership, personnel side of this Congress. Of course this is important. But the most important thing, I would say, about this Congress is that this Congress laid down the guideline and goal for future development of China. One is that the Congress endorsed the important theory proposed by President Jiang, i.e. "Three Represents". I don't know how familiar you are with this. That is the Communist Party in today's China should represent the development trend of advanced productive forces, which means we give top priority to development, continue with the reform and opening-up; secondly, the Communist Party should represent the orientation of advanced culture of China, that means to carry forward the fine tradition of our national culture and draw on the strong points of other cultures in building China's socialist culture. And thirdly the Party should represent the fundamental interests of the overwhelming majority of the Chinese people. All these have been incorporated into the Party Charter. This is one of the most important contributions of the 16th Congress.

The second significance of the Congress is that it set a new goal for the country's development, that is to build a well-off society by 2020. You know, Deng Xiaoping mapped out 3-steps strategy of development for China, that is to double China's GDP by the end of the 80's and then quadruple it by the end of last century. We have achieved the first two steps. The goal for the third step is that we should accomplish China's modernization by the middle of this century. This Party Congress set a goal of building a well-off society by 2020 before we reach the 3rd step of modernization.

The third significance of this Party Congress, of course, is the election of new leaders. We are very happy to see the smooth change of leadership from older generation to younger generation. And that ensured the correct policy of reform and opening-up will be continued, it also ensured the stability in China. So that's why we say this Party Congress is very significant. It will go down in the history of China as a milestone not only for the party, but also for the country.

Ayman Salah: Definitely. Professor Selim, there is a very big difference between a diplomatic approach and academic approach, especially by the Center such as yours focusing on Asian Studies. When you look at what happened there in China, a number of goals have been set as to the future of the Party and Chinese society, as His Excellency clearly put. Would they be seen as conforming to the challenges of the times?

Professor Selim: I think so. Let me begin by agreeing with His Excellency on his assessment that this Congress will enter into China's history as a landmark. Because as you have indicated, Ayman, the Party is trying to cope with the new challenges of the 21st century. Now China of 2002 is not China that was 20 years ago. China now is an emerging power. China is facing tremendous domestic challenges. China is facing tremendous global challenges. The most important challenge which this congress was trying to cope with is a challenge of adjusting economic reforms with political reforms. That is you have an ever expanding Chinese economy and opening up that economy to in-pouring foreign investment. The GDP in China is rising tremendously, the GDP per capita as well. We have a new social class emerging in China, new entrepreneurs, people who like to have a say in the policy-making process. I think what this congress has done is try to bring these people into the party and turn the party into a truly representative institution of more social setup of China. That is a major achievement, because I think, had the party continue with its path to be restricted to represent only the working class, the party will be isolated from the new social groups that have been emerging in China over the last 20 years. His Excellency referred to the Three Represents theory, the last element of the theory is the party will be representative of broad elements of the society. This is the most important element in the theory, that the Party does not only represent peasants, or workers, it also represents new entrepreneurs. As a matter of fact, some of them have already entered into the party. This theory will open the party for these elements. That way, this party will help China to avoid a political bottleneck, i.e. the incongruence between political setup and economic setup. I think China has wisely managed this transition process, compared that, for example, with the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union was not able to achieve that. Gorbachev's major failure was inability to match economic reform with political reform. He tried to do a lot of things at the same time. And the Soviet Union collapsed. What China has done is over 20 years it achieved economic liberalization. Now it is beginning the process of political broadening-up, I wouldn't say liberalization, broadening-up of the Party so that it will have a smooth and stable transition.

Ayman Salah: That was something that was brought up by some observers who say that China is moving towards capitalism in terms of economy, but politically, the politburo remains to be operational by consensus.

Ambassador Liu: I would not use the word capitalism. I don't think China is moving towards capitalism. I think there is misconception there. Some people regard what China is doing is practicing capitalism. In fact, what we are doing now is socialism with Chinese characteristics. I think Deng Xiaoping has a very good line about this. He said, market economy or planned economy is just means of economy, not a benchmark to determine whether this country is a capitalist or socialist country. Since capitalist societies have both market and planned economy. Why should socialist country not have a planned economy and market economy?

Ayman Salah: Let me stop you there and just to draw a line. What you are saying is the Chinese Government or Chinese system is socialist system with 厖

Ambassador Liu: With Chinese characteristics.

Ayman Salah: With Chinese characteristics.

Ambassador Liu: That means though public ownership still play a dominant role in China, we have more and more diversified ownership in China, which include private ownership, collective ownership and foreign investment and joint ventures. We regard them all as the component parts of socialist market economy. The state sector controls the lifeline of the national economy. Though the price of some products is still determined by the Government, only five of them, like timber, salt, gold, cigarette and natural gas, 95% of goods are determined by market. The ratio of state ownership, collective ownership and private ownership is one third for each for these sectors.

Ayman Salah: They are equal.

Ambassador Liu: They are roughly equal. But still the public sector, including both state and collective, employs more people. Especially state-owned enterprises are the pillars of the national economy. The state sector plays a leading role in increasing the overall national strength. While we let the public sector play a dominant role, we also give full scope to the important role played by the non-public sector. We will continue to reform and improve market economy system. The idea is to incorporate what is advanced and what is helpful for developing China's economy. We believe China's life, the momentum of this development can be kept only through learning more from what is more advanced and what is well-accepted practice. So that is why we see China's entry into the WTO as a new opportunity for China's development.

Ayman Salah: That brings us to the other point. You are talking about economic transformation and you are clarifying this. Can we expect to see this on the political front?

Ambassador Liu: When I am talking about this new goal for China's development for the next 20 years, or the next 50 years, it is not only about economic development. Economically, China will double its GDP by 2010 and quadruple by 2020. And on the political front, China will continue its political reform, that is to develop the socialist democracy and improve the legal system so as to build a country under the rule of law. We will improve the system of people's congress, making it more effective and making the government more accountable to the people. We will also improve the system of multi-party cooperation. In China, in addition to Communist Party of China, we also have 8 other political parties. This system has been very effective in the past 50 years. We call it the system of multiparty cooperation and political consultation under the leadership of the Communist Party of China. Also we will continue to do the legal reform and judicial reform, to make the decision-making and law procedure more transparent and more accountable. The idea is to make people more actively participate in political affairs and decision-making in China.

Ayman Salah: Reform across the board.

Ambassador Liu: Yes, reform is going on across the board.

Ayman Salah: OK, we have a call on the line. We'll be back to your comment. Good evening. Your name and question please.

Viewer: Hala Salamany. How are you? I'd like to ask Your Excellency, two simple questions. Number one, I think you have mentioned the term of capitalism, which was contained in your answer to Ayman's question, why? Number two, how do you see western democracy? Thank you very much.

Ayman Salah: Thank you very much. Two points. One, we are talking about capitalism, you commented by saying that this is Chinese socialist system in a different perspective. Secondly, how would you perceive western democracy?

Ambassador Liu: I think I have already answered his first question, why we see China is still a socialist country, not a capitalist country, though we adopt the practice of market economy. I think there are basically three differences between China's system and western market economy system. Number one is public ownership; Number two is the Communist Party leadership; Number three is that our goal is to achieve common prosperity, i.e. to let the people get rich across the board, not few people getting richer and richer, but the majority of the people get benefits from the development of the economy. We call it the common prosperity.

On Western democracy, there is something we can learn from it, but I think any system can only be effective if it is congruent with national conditions of a given country. I think what we are practicing today is Chinese socialist democracy, which is represented by the National People's Congress and a broad participation of the Chinese people. In fact, in today's China, the political participation at the grassroots level is much higher than any western country you can name of. We have grassroots level democracy demonstrated by village election. The turnout is 99 percent, i.e. 99% of villagers participating in this political process to elect their village leaders, comparing with only less than 50% of participation in election process in many western countries. China's system, when it comes to election, is indirect election. The people elect representatives of the county in direct election, then the county representatives elect representatives of the provincial People's Congress. Then the provincial representatives elect the deputies of the National People's Congress and representatives of the National People's Congress cast vote to elect national leaders. That also applies to party election.

Ayman Salah: Right.

Professor Selim: Let me try to assert two major points before we continue the discussion. Number one, we should not forget that China is a very old civilization. It is a country with historical traditions. It is like Egypt. There are historical legacies that China has to cope with, historical cultural tradition, which became a part of Chines society, Chines politics and Chinese personality. Compared that with other so-called western democracies, which are 300 or 350 years old at most, so there is time difference here and China can not disengage itself from its historical legacies and traditions. Number two, China was subjected to tremendous imperialist rule during the 19th century. Remember the Opium War, which the British were forcing the Chinese to buy opium. Chinese have certain perceptions of western society. Having said that, China today has begun a process of incremental and gradual economic liberalization, let's use that word.

I have recently read, I think you will support me on that, Mr. Ambassador, in China Today, a very important article which said that China has introduced for the first time competitive elections at the rural level in Chinese villages. So today for the first time, it's not only the candidate of the Communist Party who is being voted over, but more than one candidate at the local level, that people choose between one or two or three or four candidates. This is very crucial element. I was very much excited about it and I am quite sure that over time this process will be broadened at the provincial level and then at the state level. The most important element of this process is its incrementalism. You have to appreciate that in a country of a total population of some like 1,300 million people, China is a continent. You are not talking about a country of 5 million people, 6 million people, but 1,300 million people.The most important objective or task of the Government, as one Chinese colleague told me, is to put onto table for 13 hundred million people each morning each omelet. That is very important. China has succeeded in doing that. Now China is moving to the next stage, that is the process of political liberalization. What western democracies are trying to do is that they are trying to put China into a certain timetable, which is not congruent to China's needs and interests. You have to open up now. You have to pursue a western-style multi-party system now immediately without being aware of tremendous consequences in a country of that size. I think it is quite important in the mind of the Chinese what happened to the Soviet Union when Gorbachev, as I said earlier, failed to fulfill the political transformation and ended up with Russia and the rest of republics in shambles today.

Ayman Salah: We are talking about the dynamics, when we say that China is going on a course that Your Excellency was saying, over the last 50 years proved to be successful. Now with the new leadership in power, how independent would the new leadership be vis-a-vis in the term of political science the old leaders. The old leaders have definitely set a path to pursue, and this path, according to the reading of the Chinese Government, is very successful. With the new leadership in power, what would you say will be their priorities and how affected would they be from the old leaders?

Ambassador Liu: I think what the new leadership is going to do is basically to continue with what has been proven effective and successful in the past 13 years under the leadership of the Central Party Committee with President Jiang Zemin at the core. Of course, the change of new leadership is significant. It added new blood and new vitality to the Party to make sure that what has been successful in the past 13 years will be continued. So why should we change it since it is effective and brings enormous prosperity to a country of 1.3 billion people. It is a big contribution not only to the Chinese people, but also to the world's peace, stability and prosperity.

Ayman Salah: Let me cut you off here. You just raised a question. You said why we should change it if it has been successful? Now with enormous attacks the Government receives around the world on human rights violation and issue of dissidents as they call them, the western societies, they tend to take a number of people and call them representative of a certain society in order to put pressure and when we talk pressure, we talk either political pressure or media pressure on a large scale. How does China take to such tactics that have been presented on the table?

Ambassador Liu: I do not know whom you are talking about, if you are talking about those anti-China elements, as we call them, these people are not happy about the development of China, whether they are Chinese living in foreign countries or they are foreigners. They would like to see China keep in poor conditions.

Ayman Salah: I am talking about not those anti-China people. I am talking about the pressure imposed by western societies on the Chinese Government by using such people. I am talking about such pressure, how does China respond to that?

Ambassador Liu: We made our position very clear to those western countries when it comes to the issue of human rights. Number one, we believe human rights issue belongs to the sphere of internal affairs. The human rights are protected mainly by the laws of specific countries. It can not be protected by foreign countries. We are very critical of those countries that ignore the remarkable progress on protection of human rights in China. They ignore the basic human rights are the right to existence, right for a better life, the economic rights, rights for development. If you compare China today, nobody can ignore the fact that Chinese people enjoy much better life than not only 50 years ago when China was a semi-colonial country under imperialist occupation and bullying, but also compared with what China was 20 years ago. The Chinese people enjoy not only a longer life梩he life expectancy doubled in the past 50 years梑ut also a much better life. The income of the Chinese people doubled and the quality of life is much better. Since the time is limited, I do not intend to give you the figures. I welcome your viewers to click the Chinese Embassy's website, so that you can see we have many fact to show how the Chinese people are living a much better life.

In terms of political rights, the Chinese people never in the history of Chinese nation enjoy today's freedom in terms of selecting their leaders, in terms of political participation, and in terms of voicing their opinions. Once you are in China, you can see China is a country with vigor, with vitality, and it is a dynamic society. It is not a picture painted by some media in western world.

Ayman Salah: With a call on the line. Hello. Your name and question please.

Viewer: My name is Dr. Mohammed Seweilan, director of National Institute for Middle East Studies. My question is for Dr. Selim. Dr. Selim, I agree with you on that Russians change their political system to resemble western regimes. However, China changes its regime of technology and economic system at first and now they try to change their structure of Communist Party. Dr. Selim, your comment on such experiment and its implications on China.

Ayman Salah: Thank you very much. I believe we touched on the first part of this question. Let's focus on the second part of Dr. Seweilan's question. What will be the worries at this stage?

Professor Selim: I think political reform can only succeed if you have a good economic basis. That has been the experiences of western power, they began the process of democratization after they had achieved economic development. That is the experience of so-called Asian tigers. They began the process of democratization after they had achieved economic development. So it depends on the country we are talking about. In China's case, they could be vulnerable to outside attacks. I do not think that country should worry about the outside criticisms of their policies, country should follow their own agenda, depending on their national assessment and pursuing that path. The question of human rights, Ayman, was used to embarrass the Soviet Union during the cold war. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, they are using the human rights card against China, thinking China will be pushed to certain steps that will lead to the collapse of China. I hope they will not succeed.

Ayman Salah: Final question because we are running out of time. Does China monitor the human rights violations around the world including the United States.

Professor Selim: That's a good question.

Ambassador Liu: I have said we think human rights should be taken care of internally. We are opposed to using human rights as a tool to get into other's internal affairs.

Ayman Salah: Is China monitoring human rights in the United States?

Ambassador Liu: The reason why China writes human rights report on the United States is because the U.S. writes human rights reports on every country but the U.S. So we think there should be someone to write human rights report for them.

Professor Selim: I want to receive a copy, Ambassador.

Ambassador Liu: Sure.

Ayman Salah: The Chinese Ambassador here in Cairo, pleasures to have you on the show tonight. Professor Mohammed Selim, Chairman of Asian Studies Center, Cairo University. Pleasure to have you here.

Ambassador Liu & Professor Selim: Thank you.

Ayman Salah: Thank you for being with us tonight. You are watching Cairo Watch. I am Ayman Salah. Hope you have a very good evening.

 
 
 
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