The Future of China and China-U.S. Relations: A Conversation With Liu Jianchao

Tuesday, January 9, 2024

Minister, International Department, Central Committee, Communist Party of China


President, Council on Foreign Relations

Forty-five years after the United States and China formalized relations, Minister Liu Jianchao discusses the two countries’ current relationship and the implications of the recent meeting between their respective leaders, Joe Biden and Xi Jinping, for global stability and cooperation.

FROMAN: Good morning, everybody. My name is Mike Froman. I’m president of the Council on Foreign Relations. And it’s a great honor for me to welcome you to our event this morning, “A Conversation with Minister Liu Jianchao,” who’s the minister of the International Department of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China. In addition to the people in the room today, the members of the room today, we have over four hundred CFR members participating virtually, and will have an opportunity to ask questions both from people in the room and from people on video as well. Minister Liu is going to give some short remarks. We’ll have a conversation ourselves. And then we’ll open it up to questions. It’s a great pleasure to welcome Minister Liu to the to the podium, please. (Applause.)

LIU: Dr. Michael Froman, dear colleagues and members, good morning. I wish to begin by thanking the Council on Foreign Relations for the kind invitation and Dr. Michael Froman for your kind words. The CFR is renowned for its global reach and also unique role in shaping American foreign policy. The Foreign Affairs magazine has been my must-read since I joined the foreign service at a very young age. The CFR has also contributed tremendously to the development of China-U.S. relations over the years. And also, I’d like to take this opportunity to express China’s deep appreciation for your sponsorship of the welcoming dinner for President Xi Jinping in San Francisco. So it is truly my honor and delight that Dr. Michael Froman, other CFR colleagues, and the great audience here, both in this room and online, for joining the conversation.

So now I’d like to share with you what China is doing at home and abroad. I’ll start with China’s domestic policy. For now, and a long time to come, the major and central task at home is to advance the modernization drive. The Central Economic Work Conference, concluded four weeks ago, reviewed China’s economic work of 2023 and planned for 2024, further clarifying what kind of development China pursues and how to achieve it. China must use high-quality development. Despite the achievements, China’s development remains imbalanced and insufficient. The extensive growth model, used to be followed that mainly pursued high speed, resulted in many problems. We therefore had to adjust the growth model, putting more emphasis on quality rather than speed.

High quality of development must be driven by innovation and technological progress. So that reminds me of January 1979, when comrade Deng Xiaoping and President Carter signed at the White House the agreement between the United States and China on cooperation in science and technology, providing institutional guarantee for the scientific and technological exchanges between the two countries, and ever since then achievement that we made in the joint research between the two countries on science and technology. China stands ready to work together with the United States to truly implement the San Francisco vision and bring China-U.S. scientific and technological exchanges back to the right track.

And very often I’m asked the question, will China ignore development as it talks more about security? Indeed, China has highlighted the importance of security, just as other countries do. We believe high quality of development can only be achieved in a highly secure environment. But what we pursue is a balanced and positive interplay between security and development. We will never ignore development. And it holds the key to solving all the problems and challenges in China. China pursues high standard opening up. Last year marks the forty-fifth anniversary of China’s reform and opening up policy. This policy has transformed China tremendously. I was born in the 1960s and I witnessed the sheer contrast of life before and after the policy was adopted.

China will remain committed to the policy and keep its door open. Going forward, China will continue to expand institutional opening up with regard to rules, regulations, and management to create a market-oriented, law-based business environment that meets the international standard. In the process, we will try to address the concerns of the American businesses, such as market access to the service sector, cross-border flow of data, and equal participation in government procurement. In the same mind, we hope that the United States keeps its market open and provides the Chinese companies with equitable, just, and non-discriminatory business environment as well.

So another question is, will China become more inward looking as it talks more about self-reliance? China has accelerated efforts to foster a new development pattern that is focused on the domestic economy and features positive interplay between domestic and international economic flows. But let me be very clear, for domestic circulation to function well it does need stronger international cooperation, more foreign trade, and better use of FDI. We benefited from these in the past. and China’s first joint venture automobile company, Beijing Jeep, was in partnership with the United States. And the first wholly foreign-owned company, W.R. Grace & Co., was also from the United States.

We understand that our success comes from not only our own hard work, but also the cooperation with the world. And we are determined to strengthen such cooperation. China pursues steady economic performance. In recent years, we have endeavored to keep our economy stable while taking incremental steps to sustain progress. We focus on creating a stable macro environment, securing people’s livelihoods, and avoiding big fluctuations in growth, employment, and inflation. In the same time, we have strived to make progress in high-quality development by transforming the growth model, optimizing the economic structure, and shifting the driving force, which in turn sustains the good momentum of steady growth for the long run.

Another question would be compared with the pre-COVID era, China’s economy is slowing down. I think that we need to put this issue in perspective and bear in mind two factors. Number one, China’s economic—China’s economic aggregate. For China, the world’s rate of 7.7 in 2013 means a $660 billion U.S. increase of economic aggregate, while 5 percent of growth in 2023 means a $900 billion U.S. increase of economic aggregate. That is to say, one percentage point of wealth now roughly equals 2.1 percentage points of growth ten years ago. Number two, the quality of China’s economy. Thanks to innovation, which has already become the primary driver of China’s economic growth, the quality of our economy keeps improving. On top of that, the vast market demand, stable macro policies, and ample room for monetary and fiscal policies, China’s economy has sound fundamentals and good potential.

And China pursues green development. We have made unprecedented efforts to advance green, low-carbon, and circular development. At present, nearly half of the world’s installed photovoltaic capacity is in China. Over 50 percent of all new energy vehicles in the world are now running in China. And one-fourth of the world’s total increase of forestation is contributed by China. Some people argue that, as the largest emitter of greenhouse gases, China should bear more responsibility in addressing climate change. Climate change is caused by both current and historical emissions. As developed countries contribute to over 70 percent of the global total accumulated emissions, they should show greater responsibility. Yet, China is trying hard to make the sharpest reduction in carbon intensity in the world and achieve carbon peaking and carbon neutrality in the shortest timespan in world history.

Colleagues, China’s strategic goal is grand, and yet simple. That is, to deliver a better life for more than 1.4 billion Chinese people. To achieve it, we are working hard to balance China’s modernization, and President Xi Jinping recently stressed during the Central Conference on Economic Work—or, sorry—on Work Relating to Foreign Policy, that China’s foreign policy in the new era should aim at creating a more favorable international environment for China’s modernization drive and building a human community with a shared future. China remains firm in pursuing an independent foreign policy of peace and is committed to peaceful development. China is the only country to incorporate its commitment of peaceful development into China’s constitution, and recently we have adopted the law on foreign relations, which explicitly stresses again China’s commitment to peace and the path of peaceful development.

Since the founding of the People’s Republic of China, we have all along have a good record on peace. We have never provoked a conflict or war, or occupied a single inch of foreign land. President Xi Jinping reiterated during his recent visit to the United States that China will not fight a Cold War or a hot war with anyone. People in Asia have our own way of dealing with each other, which values peace above everything else and seeks peaceful solutions to all disputes. China does not seek to change the current international order, still less reinvent the wheel by creating a new international order. We are one of the builders of the current world order and have benefited from it. We’ll continue to uphold the international system, with the U.N. at its core, and the international order underpinned by international law and the basic norms governing international relations.

The human community with a shared future is about an open, inclusive, clean, and beautiful world that enjoys lasting peace, universal security, and common prosperity. To build it, we have proposed the Global Development Initiative, the Global Security Initiative, and the Global Civilization Initiative as the strategic guidance, and the Belt and Road Initiative as a practicing platform. Colleagues, this year marks the forty-fifth anniversary of diplomatic relations between China and the United States. Looking back, we see that this relationship has brought tremendous benefits to our two peoples and other peoples in the world.

During the summit meeting in San Francisco, President Xi Jinping put forward five pillars for China-U.S. relations and the future-oriented San Francisco vision. What is needed now is not waiting or debating, but to act upon it. We should strengthen dialogue and communication. My visit this time is to have candid exchanges with people from across the American society on how to implement the San Francisco vision. We’re here to promote dialogues between the governments, legislators, and political parties of the two countries, as we believe communication is the only way of increasing common understanding.

President Xi Jinping has announced that China’s ready to invite fifty thousand young Americans to visit China on exchange and study programs in the next five years. As we speak, the government agencies in China, universities, and civil society organizations are gearing up to send out invitations. And my department’s also ready to join them, to invite your American political leaders to visit China and get some firsthand experiences. China and the United States should properly manage differences. Having engaged with each other for such a long time, both China and the United States know too well each other’s core interests and red lines than can never be crossed.

For China, the Taiwan question is at the very core of the core interests. It’s the red line that mustn't be crossed and we take serious the statements of the United States not supporting Taiwan independence. And we hope that the U.S. side will honor this commitment. We should expand mutually beneficial cooperation. Mutually beneficial cooperation brings benefits to our two peoples and adds certainty to our relationship. This is what we have learned from the past forty-five years of interactions, and something we must continue in the future. Our two countries can cooperate on a wide range of areas from trade, agriculture, to law enforcement, and artificial intelligence.

Take our corporation in fentanyl as an example. To support the U.S. endeavor to combat fentanyl abuse at home, China has scheduled all the fentanyl analogs as controlled substances since 2019, the first country to do so in the world. And during the summit meeting, the two sides agreed to put in place a working group on counter-narcotics for greater cooperation on all fronts. And we are looking very much forward to concrete and visible deliverables. China and the United States should work together to address common challenges.

The success of COP-28 has once again proven that China and the United States can accomplish big and good things when working together. As the world has entered a period of turbulence and transformation, people of all countries are counting on China and the United States to take the lead in resolving more global issues and offering more public goods. China stands ready to work with the United States to shoulder the responsibilities and make new contributions to human progress. So, I thank you very much for your attention. And I will be very much looking forward to taking your questions. Thank you. (Applause.)

FROMAN: Terrific. Thank you very much for laying that out for us. You mentioned the recent work conference, the foreign affairs work conference. Where, I understand, one of the issues discussed was how to make sure there’s a correct understanding of China as a trustworthy, lovable, and respectable country. Now, at the same time, President Xi was calling diplomatic relations a struggle. He asked his diplomats to engage in a fighting spirit. And he called for a diplomatic iron army. Are we likely to see a return to wolf warrior diplomacy? And how is that lovable? (Laughter.)

LIU: I don’t really believe that it’s—there has always been a kind of wolf warrior diplomacy. And there’s no talk about coming back to that—to that diplomacy. But when he talked about the kind of iron army, he really means that the diplomats, Chinese diplomats both at home and around the world, should stay disciplined and sort of—well, you know, disciplined in terms of making sure that they have very strong moral integration and work hard. So it’s not really something about a kind of “wolf warrior,” quote/unquote. So I don’t—so I think that the fundamental goal of China’s diplomats would be to contribute their efforts in making sure that China’s relations with other countries be warm and cooperative. And by that, we mean that we try to create a favorable international environment for China’s modernization.

FROMAN: Let’s talk about one of those relationships, the relation between China and Russia. When President Xi met President Putin, he allegedly said, “right now there are changes the like of which we haven’t seen for 100 years. And we are the ones driving these changes together.” What did he mean by that? What are those changes? And what does the—you mentioned in your remarks you don’t seek to create a new world order. But how do you see Russia and China working together to modify the existing world order?

LIU: I think that really—it’s not really limited only to China and Russia. I think that one of the features of the global transformation would be the collective emergence of the developing powers. I mean, economic rise of the emerging economies, including China, Russia, India, Brazil. So I think that basically where we are talking about the transformation will be in the rise collectively of the emerging economies. So certainly, China and Russia are part of the transformation powers. So I think that the China-Russia relations is strong, and we really—enjoy a good neighborly relationship, and also very strong strategic partnership.

So I think that the—such a relationship between China and Russia benefit not only Chinese and the Russians, because we do need each other, and we also work together to ensure that the international balance of power. And that will ensure the peace and stability on the Eurasian continent, and also the world at large. So I think that the—I think that the relationship is useful for the two countries, and also useful for the region and the world.

FROMAN: You mentioned in your remarks and now China’s—the importance China places on peace and being a defender of peace. China has also been very outspoken about the inviolability of sovereignty. How do you reconcile that with China’s support for Russia’s attack on Ukraine?

LIU: I don’t believe that the—you know, you when you say that China supports the military operation on Ukraine, because we do believe that the sovereignty and territorial integrity of a country must be respected. And the in the context of the Ukraine crisis, I think there’s more than that. And the security concern of a country, in particular in this regard—in this context, Russia, must also be very well addressed. So I think in terms of sustained peace and stability in the world, I think that there should be a balance of addressing all the concerns of all the countries in the world.

So I think that the Ukraine crisis is more complex than it appears today. So we believe that all the parties that are involved in the conflict and crisis should try to find out in a—in a peaceful manner how to bring an end to the crisis as soon as possible. Because we have already—the world has already suffered from the spillover effects of the Ukraine crisis. So I hope that the United States, and NATO members, European partners should work to find out what would be the right way to move about the Ukraine crisis.

FROMAN: But does that mean that you feel Russia should withdraw from Ukrainian territory?

LIU: Sorry?

FROMAN: Does that mean you—that China urges Russia to withdraw from Ukrainian territory?

LIU: I think that we do want to see an end. And I do believe that when we talk to the Russians, they are showing enthusiasm of having peace talks with Ukraine. So we support that.

FROMAN: Let’s talk about another region. You’ve got close relationships with Iran. You’ve been playing—China’s been playing more of a role in the Middle East, hoping to broker an agreement between Iran and Saudi Arabia. We now have Iranian-supported Houthi forces interrupting the flow of ships in the Red Sea. No country is more dependent on the free flow of products from one sea to another than China. Are you concerned about this? And are you urging Iran to urge the Houthis to stop interrupting this important trade route?

LIU: We do stand very strongly for peaceful, you know, navigation of cargo ships in that part of the world, because it’s essential for the world’s economy. But I not talking—or, I’m not commenting on your allegation that, you know, Iran is supporting the Houthis in this particular operation. I was visiting Iran about three or four weeks ago, where we were talking about the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. And the—I believe that the Iranians were moving about this conflict in a very prudent way. They say—they were telling me that we were not involved in any kind of support of Hamas in the fight—in the attack on Israel. And they did not really know beforehand that the attack was going to happen. So they don’t—they did not really give any military support or even military advice to Hamas. So I think that they are being very, very prudent in this regard.

FROMAN: So you don’t believe that Iran is—whether they knew about this particular attack—Iran’s supporting Hamas, and training them, equipping them, supporting Hezbollah, directing them, and supporting Houthis—you don’t see Iran playing a significant role in there?

LIU: I think it’s a very influential country in that region. But, you know, we don’t really have the specific information and intelligence about what is going on. But, you know, the Middle East issue is more complicated than just a Palestinian-Israeli conflict. I mean, there are religious factors, you know, racial factors, and, you know, ethnic factors, religious factors as well. So I think that the—that’s why we talk. We’re talking about a comprehensive security concept, when all these concerns and factors should be addressed. Because you can’t really say that we can, you know, fix up only one factor, while leaving behind all the other factors. So I think that the—even with the conflict between the Israelis and Palestinians, I think that the world should take a more effective action in stopping the conflict there, and also that the human will not suffer more the loss of lives and also suffering.

FROMAN: Let’s talk about U.S.-China relations. Particularly, as you said, it’s the forty-fifth anniversary of our normalized relations. We’re heading to an important—we are in an important year, including an election year here in the United States. Minister Wang Yi has said, “Cooperation is no longer an option but an imperative.” What specific areas of cooperation do you think the U.S. and China can work together on? And what would you expect to see as deliverables over the course of 2024?

LIU: I don’t really see any area where China cannot really cooperate with the United States. But if the two countries really have reasonable and correct perceptions of each other, good policies will be possible. So there’s a tremendous potential for, you know, the largest developed country and the world of the largest developing country in the world. So tremendous potential, as could be seen in our cooperation in the past. So I think the possibility and potentiality are all there.

But now, I think that it’s really up for the United States to develop the kind of perception of China based on good understanding and direct understanding of China’s strategic intentions. China does grow, and it has the right to grow in strength. And so China will naturally become more powerful in terms of its economy, its military, and many others areas as well. But China’s intention is basically to deliver a better life for the Chinese people. So we don’t really have any hidden agenda. Overtaking the United States is not our goal. So if we have that in mind, the kind of mutually beneficial cooperation would be possible.

And I think—I don’t really want to name the areas. You can talk about trade, economy, agriculture, law enforcement, even cooperation in addressing global challenges. And people around the world have strong expectations of the two countries to work together, and other parties in the world, to address the global challenges. Which is a must for China and the United States.

FROMAN: As you said, China’s commitment is really to deliver for its people. The economy has slowed down. It’s facing a number of challenges. One of the messages that President Xi and the Chinese leadership have been trying to convey over the last year is that China is open for business. They welcome foreign investment to come back. At the same time, there’s been a number of actions around the implementation of some of China’s new laws—the anti-espionage law, the data security—or, the data laws around national security, that have had a chilling effect on foreign investors. Executives being detained, offices being raided. It’s been a bit of a schizophrenic message that’s been sent. Can China do anything to clarify how it intends to implement and enforce these laws in order to give some clarity and greater certainty to foreign investors?

LIU: Well, I think that, in the first place, that there’s not—well, there should not be such unnecessary rhetoric, that such things still take place. Because anti-espionage law and other laws are necessary for China. And in the United States, you have even stricter espionage—anti-espionage laws. That is why the United States is using these laws to create barriers for foreign investment, including China’s. And the anti-espionage law is suddenly something that has been played out unnecessarily. And I have never heard of stories that, you know, any foreign business office has been raided. Well, on a groundless basis. And about the law, well, regulating the data flow is necessary for China. But we are ready to do explanation and also to do a job that will convince foreign businesses that China is the country that you can have good opportunities for development.

FROMAN: Let’s switch to Taiwan. And I’m going to do one more brief question and then open it up to the audience, so please be ready with your—with your questions. In 1975, Chairman Mao evidently told Secretary of State Kissinger—

LIU: 1979?

FROMAN: ’75.

LIU: Very good.

FROMAN: ’75, sorry, yes. (Laughter.) That, quote, “If you were to send Taiwan back to me now, I would not want it because it is not desirable. There are a large number of counterrevolutionaries there. A hundred years hence, we will want it.” Now, we’re a half a century away from 2075. What would Mao say about the Taiwan question in 2024? (Laughter.)

LIU: The unification of China, and also—has always—has always been the dream of the Chinese people, on both sides of the Taiwan Strait. So I think that this is the firm, and clear, and strong policy of the Chinese government and the strong aspiration of the Chinese people. So apart from that, I think there’s no need to explain our position the Taiwan issue. (Laughter.)

FROMAN: All right. At his dinner in San Francisco, President Xi said, “We’re ready to continue our cooperation with the United States on panda conservation.” When are the pandas coming back? (Laughter.)

LIU: I hope that they’re coming back as soon as possible.

FROMAN: And will they come back to the National Zoo in Washington, D.C.?

LIU: It depends on you. (Laughter.)

FROMAN: There is a David Rubenstein panda house at the Washington—

LIU: I hope that will be—I hope that will be here in the Council on Foreign Relations. (Laughter.)

FROMAN: Excellent. We’d be happy to—I’d be happy to give up my office for the pandas.

LIU: But let me correct you. If we give you a panda instead of a giant panda, you will be disappointed. Because there are two kinds of pandas. There’s a panda and giant panda. We’re talking about giant pandas. The black and white ones.

FROMAN: The black and white ones. Thank you. (Laughter.) All right. Well, look for giant pandas. Thank you for the clarification.

Let me open it up to questions. Yes, please. Yeah, here’s a mic coming to you. Please identify yourself.

Q: Thank you. I’m James Heimowitz from China Institute.

First, a big thank you. My first introduction to China was through—(inaudible)—as a small student studying to go over there as a young boy. And I’m delighted to hear you’ll be supporting the fifty thousand students that was proposed, we heard from President Xi.

My question to you is actually about Western media. We talked about misunderstanding and misperceptions that the U.S. has about China. And I think that the U.S. audience relies heavily on reporting from Western media. There’s a bad history, I think I’d say, between Western media and China. And it’s filled with mistrust and misunderstanding. I’m wondering if you agree that Western media is important to the way that the U.S. sees China? And if yes, what can China do to help improve that reporting and coverage?

LIU: Thank you. Very important to me, because I used to be the director general of the information department of the Foreign Ministry. So I was basically working with the foreign press, including the Western press. Very important indeed. And at time I think the total number of foreign journalists in China amounted to about eight hundred. So there’s quite a lot. Basically, in Beijing and some other correspondences in Shanghai and other places. I think that they play an extremely important role in serving as a bridge between the Chinese people and people all over the world. So people do read Foreign Affairs, people do read other journals, and magazines, and newspapers. And they, I think, also read online. Very important.

And we take—China has always been taking a very positive and supportive position on encouraging more foreign journalists to come to China and report, and to see China for themselves, and report China in a very accurate and objective way. Well, it’s true that we do have differences. When—even when journalists come to China, they do see China in a way that is different from our expectations, because we believe that China is like this but they are portraying in a different way. And that’s sometimes creates some difficulties. But that’s not the mainstream of things. So China is open not only to the business people, but also to Western, and global, and international media.

But there was some rows between China and the United States in some years before. And, you know, the Chinese media was here in the United States, a media organization labeled as foreign agents or foreign missions. That was wrong. So that was the kind of row between—a kind of difficult time between the Chinese government and the U.S. government in working together on media. But I hope that could—that could be mended. And also, governing foreign journalists reporting in China, there is also laws and regulations. For example, personally I was involved in shaping the law in 2008, right after the Olympic Games. And there was a lot of changes from the previous regulations, and really—which really paved the way for more accessible information in China.

But I hope that the—in this regard, China the Western media could really work in a more strong, cooperative way to make sure that our peoples will understand each other better through the media. So we take a very proactive approach towards that. Thank you.

FROMAN: Dan Rosen.

Q: Thank you very much. Dan Rosen, with Rhodium Group.

Coming back to your discussion of the performance of the Chinese economy. As you noted, China has now become a globally systemically important economy. And if the estimate of China’s growth is very high, that leads to big investments to feed China’s needs in places like Africa. Is there a concern and discussion in Beijing that an over-estimate of China’s macroeconomic growth could aggravate challenges in Belt and Road countries? We’re talking about Zambia a lot today, for example. Is that—if you can speak to this a little bit, the spillover effects of the quality of Chinese statistics at home on other more fragile developing countries? Thank you.

LIU: China actually has been working with the African countries for a long, long time, even during the difficult time of China’s economy, like in the 1970s. China was really offering a very useful helping hand to the African people and countries the building—at that time, even—you talk about Zambia, and certainly you know about the Tanzania-Zambia railway. So that is when China, even during the time when he was poor itself, we were trying to offer a helping hand. And then we’re now to the China’s policy of reform and opening up well, we are even working more close—more closely together with African countries.

So when you talk about Chinese economy, China’s economy now is doing well. And we are stronger than we used to be. We were much stronger than we were ten years ago. So that—ten years ago was the time when China’s Belt and Road Initiative was proposed. So we will now today, you know, we are in a very stronger and better position to work with countries that are involved in the Belt and Road Initiative in building the connectivity infrastructure, world trade, and things. So I think that the—we are not really exerting any burden on the countries that are involved in the Belt and Road Initiative. And actually, China’s assistance and China’s cooperation with these countries are really warm welcome by these countries.

So take, for example, the country where I used to work as ambassador, you know, Indonesia. Now we are seeing the launch of the Jakarta-Bandung bullet train. When I was there, it took me five hours at midnight to travel from Jakarta to Bandung. Now it took only forty minutes. So the car—the train was running at 350 kilometers an hour. Yes, a tremendous amount of money was spent all that rail—on that train and on the railway. But as the president put it—the Indonesian president put it, we should not only look at the cost of the railway, but we have to look at the benefits—financial benefits, economic benefits, social benefits.

So when we—when we have the train in there in place, you know, it means more than just building the railway itself. Because when it’s there’s—the railway is not there what people have in mind is that, you know, how much money that we’re going to spend. But when they have the railway, they’re thinking about how much money we’re going to make with that railway. So that’s the fundamental change of, you know, people’s approach towards this kind of connectivity building and infrastructure building. So I think a lot of people are talking about the debt problem of the African countries. And China is not the major contributor to the debt problem in that—in that continent. Thank you.

FROMAN: Yes, right here in front.

Q: Mark Rosen of Advection Growth Capital. Thank you for coming today, Ambassador.

Israel was the first state in the Middle East to recognize the People’s Republic of China in 1950. And over the more recent years, you have developed very strong economic relations with Israel. And in fact are its second-largest trading partner, and I think also manage part of the port of Haifa right now. Yet, after October the 7th, China has not yet condemned the terrorist attack on Israel. And despite the fact that you yourselves have been victims of Islamic terrorism in the past. Could you explain why that is? I understand that you have relations with the Arab countries, with Iran, et cetera. But you could still maintain those relations while still condemning that attack. And would you do so today?

LIU: Let me correct you. Well, let me say that we appreciate the fact that Israel was one of the first countries that recognized China. And for many, many years, China and Israel have really very good and cooperated, and warm relations with each other. And also our peoples share a lot of good emotions towards each other. So that’s the fundamentals of China’s relationship. And when it comes to general picture of Middle East crisis and Middle East issue, China does stand on the side of the Arab countries. I don’t need to explain more on that.

But what I want to correct you is that on the very first day of the October the 7th attack, China did condemn the attack on the civilians. So if you track the record, you will find that. But now, the overuse of force, and the obvious revengeful retaliation by the Israelis on Palestinians is something that is also unacceptable to us. And that results in tremendous humanitarian sufferings and crisis. So we do hope that the crisis, the conflict would come to an end, and the Israelis will stop, you know, behaving in such a manner, and so there could be a restoration of order.

And we—China does see eye-to-eye with many countries in the world that the two-country plan must be adopted. So when you talk about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, I do believe that the U.N. resolutions must be adopted. And, you know, the people condemning Hamas, this is correct in a way that the target on the civilians and attack them. But others other side, the Israelis should also think about their behavior in building fences, in the settling on the Palestinian land, on driving the Palestinian people out. So the Palestinian people, they should have the right to come back to their homeland, to restore their sovereignty, and also to establish their own country. So I think that a lot remains to be done. And there needs to be international consensus and also concerted efforts in the shaping of this. Thank you.

FROMAN: I’m going to go to our virtual audience for a question.

OPERATOR: We’ll take our next question from Trudy Rubin. Please accept the unmute now button.

Q: Hi. Thank you for doing this. I’m Trudy Rubin. I’m an international affairs columnist for the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Sir, the Taiwan elections coming up this week, everyone is very focused on how China will react to the results. If the DPP candidate, Vice President Lai, should win, China has denounced him as a separatist, but he says he would maintain the status quo and engage with China. What would be China’s reaction if the DPP should win this election?

LIU: Well, thank you very much for the—for the question. But at this juncture, what I want to say is that China’s position on the Taiwan issue remains clear, strong, and unchanged. So that’s what I’m going to tell you at this moment. Thank you.

FROMAN: Got it. Yes, the woman on the aisle.

Q: Good morning. I’m Katie Kingsbury from the New York Times.

First I wanted to affirm that, on behalf of my industry colleagues, we would welcome the opportunity to report more from China in the future. But my question is actually about China’s nuclear arsenal. Could you comment on what efforts China is undertaking to build its current arsenal, and what potential for cooperation between China, the United States, and Russia there is in terms of new rules around use and testing of those weapons?

LIU: Thank you. China does attach great importance to the nuclear security in the world. And China made it very clear that China will not—the on the very first day that China developed the nuclear bomb, we say that China will not be the first one to use the nuclear bomb. And China will not use the nuclear bomb against any country—a non-nuclear country. And, you know, we have the common consensus that nuclear war can never be won and must never be fought. And we are concerned about the—such a big arsenal of nuclear weapons in the world. But when it comes to the negotiations and dialogues, I think that the United States and Russia, which we’ll say is the largest nuclear arsenal in the world, should take the lead in having negotiations between themselves. Thank you.

FROMAN: Ian Johnson.

Q: Hello. Ian Johnson.

FROMAN: With the Council on Foreign Relations.

Q: I have a question about Hong Kong. This is something that a lot of foreign businesspeople are interested in, especially since 2019 and the protests then, and the adoption the next year of the national security law. Hong Kong’s status as an international financial center has somewhat declined. You can see this in the number of people, Hong Kong businesspeople and foreign businesses who have moved their operations, say to Singapore, et cetera. And I wondered if it wouldn’t make more sense now for China to show a little leniency toward people who were involved in the protests. I’m thinking especially of the entrepreneur Jimmy Lai. And also the announcement in December of the—that China put a bounty on five protesters who now live overseas. And simply from a pragmatic point of view, trying to restore confidence in Hong Kong as a financial center. Wouldn’t it make sense to sort of try to turn the page on that rather than keeping it in the international eye?

LIU: Thank you. Thank you for the question. I think that the—a number of aspects about this question. Number one is that actually Hong Kong, despite the bad time of a period of anarchy, and disorder, and violence, well, Hong Kong remains the financial center—number one. Number two, when you’re talking about practical terms, pragmatic terms, Hong Kong should be a place that is also ruled by law and is governed by law. So if there’s any company that is moving out to other places, it’s not because of the return to order, to normal in Hong Kong. If you suppose the incident, or the situation of 2019 continue, would the foreign companies staying or leaving Hong Kong?

So I think this is the logic. It’s very simple. So we don’t want to have the kind of situation where anarchy and disorder prevail in that part of the world because, you know, it’s disastrous for Hong Kong. So we managed to put order in Hong Kong. And I think that is welcomed by the foreign businesspeople as well, because this—their lives in Hong Kong are safe, the business in Hong Kong is safe. And Hong Kong will continue to be governed on the basis of the basic law, under formula of one country, two systems. So that remains unchanged. But if anybody trying to sabotage the order and the situation in Hong Kong, that will not be tolerated. And that will soon be, you know, dealt with in accordance with the law. Thank you.

FROMAN: Yes, in the—two thirds of the way back. No, behind you, I’m afraid. That gentleman. Then we’ll come back.

Q: Jeff Laurenti, Capital City Development Corporation.

It is nice that in response to Trudy Rubin’s question you indicated that the policy of Beijing toward Taiwan is unchanging and unchangeable. Although you have opened some civil relationships with the Kuomintang that the Communist Party had expelled from the mainland seventy-five years ago, but it does raise the question if one is seeking to bring the two sides together what space the Communist Party in China is prepared to give to the Kuomintang or any other Chinese National Party to operate on the mainland side. And if you could give some sense of where your relations with the Kuomintang or other political parties in Taiwan might be. And forgive me for asking about one fascinating item of your biography—an impressive biography—both at Zhejiang and at the Central Commission level for discipline inspection. Discipline inspection, is that like what federal prosecutors do to our politicians in New Jersey? Or is that enforcing ideological uniformity in some way?

LIU: Well, I prefer to take your second question. (Laughter.) China’s position on the unification of China is, as I said, it’s very clear. So long as the One China consensus is observed, there could be communications and talks between mainland and relevant factions in Taiwan. And we stand for peaceful development of cross-strait relations. And we do hope to see communications between the two sides on the basis of One China Policy and principle.

Yes. I started my career as a diplomat in 1986. And that led me up until I was ambassador to the Philippines and Indonesia, and then assistant Foreign Minister. Then there was a very strong campaign in the Communist Party of China on strengthening the building of the party. And one aspect of its campaign would be to fight with a stronger hand against corruption, because at that time corruption was really bad and rampant in China. And that was dangerous for the—for the party and for China, the country. And people hated that. And there was a phenomenon that, you know, some former government officials, civil servants, members of the Communist Party, when they committed corruption and become criminal suspects, they try to flee, to escape the punishment. So they ended up with fleeing China to other parts of the world.

And certainly the United States was one of their destinations. So I think that they decided to have somebody who is more experienced in international cooperation. And for this, obviously international cooperation in law enforcement. So then they chose me. I don’t know why, but that happened. So the CCDI, Central Commission of Discipline Inspection, is—there are two elected committees with the Communist Party of China. One is the Central Committee of the Communist Party, which is headed by—now by Xi Jinping as the general secretary. And there’s another elected committee, which is the Central Committee of Discipline Inspection. And the CCDI, the Central Discipline Inspection Committee, is under the leadership of the Central Party Committee. So there are two committees.

So basically, you could tell from the name, it’s more about discipline. It’s more about fighting corruption. It’s more about punishing people who are—who have violated the charter of the Communist Party of China, and also the people who violated Chinese laws. So, with regard to the corruption, it violated not only the charter of Communist Party, the discipline, the rules, it also violated the law. So then, when they flee the country, you know, in the—in the past nothing could be done about them. But then we decided to take them back with the support and help from our partners, our colleagues from other countries. Here in the United States, we did get help from the—from the Department of Justice and your then—what is it, Homeland Security Department?

FROMAN: Homeland Security.

LIU: Yeah, Homeland Security Department. So we managed to get them back on the basis of the U.S. law and on the basis of Chinese law. We did have really very useful cooperation with each other. You bring back—the taking back to China some of the criminal suspects. And that was really important in line with conformity with the international consensus on leaving no safe haven for corrupt people. So I think that is very good. And we got help. And we do express our strong appreciation for the law enforcement departments here in the United States for helping China in this regard.

But later on I was sent to Zhejiang province, and at the provincial level the same as the central level there’s also two committees. The Provincial Committee and the party Discipline Inspection Committee also. Do the same thing, but at the lower level. But I was chief of that mission in Zhejiang. And that gave me a lot of experiences. You know, I do believe that that job really bring justice to the people. Thank you.

FROMAN: We have a lot more questions but, unfortunately, we have no more time. Let me say, I think China is very fortunate, Mr. Minister, to have you in this position where you can explain independence policies. I go as far as to say, you’re a wolf warrior in sheep’s clothing. (Laughter.) Please join me in thanking the minister. (Applause.)


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