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Ambassador Liu Xiaoming gives an online interview to The Times

On July 16, Ambassador Liu Xiaoming gave an online interview to Catherine Philp, diplomatic correspondent from The Times. On July 18, The Times reported on the interview but failed to reflect truthfully what the Ambassador said and misrepresented China’s position on some important issues. In addition to making representations to The Times, the Embassy hereby posts the complete transcript of the interview as follows in the interest of accurate interpretation of the position of China.

Catherine Philp: Thank you very much for your time. Obviously, it's really a critical time, I think, for the UK-China relations. So much is happening, and obviously, the Huawei decision which you were talking about yesterday with the CER. I want to ask you - because you've been here for such a long time in London, ten years, it's a long time to be an ambassador - can you tell me, is this the worst you think the relations have been between UK and China? How are things changed over the ten years?

Ambassador Liu: I know you want to have a broader coverage of topics in this interview. You even want to talk about my diplomatic career starting from mid 1970’s, much earlier than you started your journalism career. But I think this is a better time for us to focus on Huawei, the more prominent issue before us. Yes, I've been here for 10 years and I've seen ups and downs in the relationship. I wouldn't characterize the current crisis as the worst. But I would say it's one of the serious challenges faced by the relationship. During my 10 years time here, I've seen the relationship continue to move forward despite twists and turns.

We had seen British leaders meeting with the Dalai Lama, the leader of separatist movement. We regard it as a departure from British commitment to one-China policy and regarding Tibet as a part of China. We have also seen British royal navy ship Albion invading China's territorial waters, which also caused big problem. It's a departure from British commitment to the basic norms governing international relations, that is, respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity.

Now we have new problems. Huawei is one of the biggest, I would say, because it's not only about one company. It's about China. I think some of your journalists even have a better picture than politicians. It's really about how UK regards China, and how UK treats China. Do they regard China as an opportunity, or regard China as a challenge or as a threat? Or do you regard China as a friendly country you can work with? Or do you regard China as a hostile country or a potentially hostile country?

Huawei has been given many labels, many names. Some call it a company from a potentially hostile country; some regard it as a high-risk vendor. Huawei has been here for 20 years, but all of a sudden, people found this company is a high-risk vendor, and they forget all the contribution Huawei has made.

Catherine Philp: You said Huawei has been here for 20 years, 2 billion investment has been made and a number of jobs have been created. You call that decision disheartening. What advice would you give to Chinese companies about any future investment when you look at what’s happened with Huawei?

Ambassador Liu: Chinese companies don’t even need me to give them advice. They can see. Huawei is an example. It used to be the shining example for China-UK win-win cooperation. I still remember that when Americans tried very hard to suppress Huawei, the British leaders told me, we are open. I spoke highly of British leaders, that the only Chinese company they can pronounce one hundred percent correct is Huawei. Even in their public speeches, they said, we welcome Huawei. That shows the different foreign policy the UK adopted. And that shows UK was open and free, you were really the flag bearer. That’s one of the reasons why there are so many Chinese companies coming here. In the past 10 years. Chinese investment in the UK increased 20 times. When I first came here, there was only 1 billion USD of Chinese investment. Now there are 20 billion USD Chinese investment. Now UK is the largest recipient of Chinese investment in Europe. So I think when Chinese investments come here, they are not only creating jobs, creating opportunities, promoting growth. What is more important is that Chinese companies have grown together with the UK.

Take Huawei for example. Huawei is the leader in 5G and China is a 5G leader,too. Now Huawei covers 40% of China's total market and they also have a 40% market share around world. The UK started developing 5G earlier, but you are relatively slow in terms of installation. But I think British people are very intelligent and are also very far-sighted. They know how to take advantage of the opportunities. This is a big opportunity for UK. I think your government has this ambitious plan to have a full 5G coverage of the UK by 2025 and Huawei wants to help and contribute. But unfortunately, you have this decision based on unwarranted accusation, and based on so called fabricated accusation about security risk. There’s even political manipulation. When you listen to American leaders, they tried to take credit for exerting pressure on UK. So I think UK really missed the opportunities.

Choosing Huawei is choosing opportunities and growth, and rejecting Huawei is rejecting opportunities and growth. I now would say, rejecting Huawei is rejecting the future. 5G really represents the future. I am no expert. Since Huawei problem emerged, I try to be a student of 5G and try to learn about 5G technologies. 5G is not only about the cell phone. It will improve the quality, clarity and speed. But I think 5G is really about everything, automation and economy, etc. Take the coronavirus for example. 5G plays a big part in fighting Covid-19 in China and Wuhan, by way of remote medication. Also, 5G covered all the hospitals. And it provides better protection for medical and health care workers. So 5G represents the future for not only the industry but also our daily life. I think UK has missed the opportunity to be a leading country in this area.

Catherine Philp: Thank you. Could I ask you another question -- something you raised yesterday about the reason why the British government changed its mind? As you would just say, British leading agency used to say that it was good, no problem with Huawei. You talked about the “China hawks”, and there is a China Research Group now in Parliament. They are pushing a much harder line against China. It was only several weeks ago that this group was formed. What do you make of it when watching it?

Ambassador Liu: There are some forces. I know that the UK is called a “free country” -- you can talk about anything you like, and you can have all schools of thoughts. The UK is really the birth place of all modern thoughts. There are also some extremist thoughts. But I think some politicians have their political agenda. I hate to name them and I think you know most of them, the outspoken ones.

And some people might thought that this is an opportunity to bash China. Now that they have American leaders, to them the so-called leader of the “free world”. When your political leaders worked with China for the “golden era”, for the benefit of the two countries, the main stream was about better relationship and strong partnership. Those people might not have a role to play then, but now they think it’s time for them to take advantage of the China-US “confrontation” or “frictions”. They can have a better show. They dance to the tune of the Americans.

So the important thing is that the national leaders should have a vision about what is in the fundamental interests of the country. They should not succumb to political pressure. They should not be led by these “China hawks” or “China bashers”. I would say that China-UK relations are too important to be kidnapped by those anti-China forces or anti-China-UK collaboration forces. Unfortunately from what happened to Huawei, it seems to me that they got the upper hand. They are happy. The American leaders tweeted. You know people are competing to take credit for this. That was very unfortunate. I think at the end of the day it’s the people who will pay the price.

I really do not think the British people would like to pay higher price for less-quality products. You might have heard business leaders expressing their concerns about the spike in price and the delay of 5G. At the end of the day, some people have to pay the bill. The government will pay the bill, but where will it get the money? From the tax payers. At the end of the day, it’s the consumers -- the ordinary people, who will have to pay the bill. Huawei has created about 26,000 jobs, and set up six research centres hiring about 300 to 400 researchers here. They just bought a piece of land in Cambridge and are going to build the optoelectronics R&D centre in the UK.

I think the British government’s decision has also broken the industrial supply chain. The UK does not have much manufacturing capacity, but you have talented people, technology and brain. That’s your advantage. And Huawei has the manufacturing power and also research people. China and the UK can work together on the high end of 5G technology, and the two countries can then match the strengths, grow together and be the leaders in the world. But now things have changed. I don’t think Huawei is still interested in making further investment. They have planned to invest another three billion GBP in research in the next three years. But things have all changed now.

Catherine Philp: So you don’t think they will make that investment?

Ambassador Liu: You want to phase them out. What’s the point for them to continue to invest here? By 2027, according to some people, there will be no Huawei in the UK. So I think you will miss many opportunities because of this decision.

Catherine Philp: Can I go back to the China Research Group? Because it struck me when it was formed that it's the same name as European Research Group. Some people say that for 40 years, even though Britain was in the European Union, Europe was a useful enemy, and you can blame anything on Europe. Now that's difficult because we left Europe. Do you think that there are certain political forces who want Chinese to be the new enemy?

Ambassador Liu: Absolutely. I think some American and European politicians are trying to blame China for everything, for the problems of their own making. Look what happened in the United States in terms of the fight against Covid-19. Their leaders still keep saying we have to deal with this problem; it’s transferred from China. China is an easy target. It’s an easy thing to blame China.

And also because of China being so successful, they are very jealous. It's difficult for them to compare things in the United States or in some European countries with the success in China. So they have to blame China for their own problem. What's more, some people want to start a “new cold war” on China. They found in China an easy enemy. I have been posted twice in Washington. I know you also spent some years in Washington, but that was much later. There are some “China hawks”- the hardliners - in America. When I was in Washington, people say they want to make an enemy in order to increase their military budget. If there's no enemy, they will certainly try to create an enemy. So that's a problem. And here in the UK and some western European countries, there are also forces who want to create an enemy. They want to make China an enemy and start this so-called “new cold war”. That is very dangerous.

In my many speeches, I said China is not the former Soviet Union. China has been around for 5,000 years without the United States, even without the UK. China has survived many setbacks and difficulties, twists and turns. Last year was the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China. We overcome all these difficulties. We made achievements from standing up, achieving independence and liberation, to getting richer, people's lives have been greatly improved especially in the past 40 years, and we contributed more than 70% of global poverty reduction. And now we are getting stronger. We want to take up more responsibilities that match China's status as the second-largest economy. When we first joined the UN, our contribution to the UN budget was minimal. But now we are the second biggest contributor to the UN budget, second biggest contributor to peacekeeping budget of the UN and the largest contributor to UN peacemaking missions among the five permanent members of the Security Council.

So we want to make more contribution to mankind and the world. But some people are not very happy because they do not like China’s system. They do not like the Communist Party. They think that China does not look like them. They are not happy when the country is getting stronger and prosperous, and its people are happier and richer. They are not happy with this. So that's a completely different concept. We adopt a concept of peaceful coexistence. We want to be friends with all countries.

Catherine Philp: On that issue, peaceful coexistence. You've seen the story that The Times reported this week that Britain is planning to send an aircraft carrier to the Pacific or the South China Sea. What's your reaction to that? What message do you think it’s sending?

Ambassador Liu: I think that will be a very dangerous move. First, UK is one of the permanent members of the UN Security Council. After Brexit, I think UK still wants to play an important role in the world. But that is not a way to play an important role. I think the UK should play a positive role in the world.

The South China Sea is peaceful and tranquil as a result of China's efforts to work with the other neighboring countries. We are working on COC (Code of Conduct in the South China Sea) and we hope that we can reach agreement on the final version sooner. Freedom of navigation is a fake concept. There's no problem with free navigation in South China Sea. In the past many years, nobody could give a single incident that the merchant vessels had been harassed or interrupted. 60% of China’s oil supply passes through the South China Sea. So China is the last country which would like to see instability and turbulent situation in this area.

Secondly, China also has its legitimate right to defend its sovereignty and territorial integrity. We have our rights that have been recognized by international law. But Americans keep sending their naval vessels traveling all the way from United States to South China Sea, only for the purpose to provoke, infringe and trample on China's sovereignty. So I don't want to see that the UK would like to gang up with the United States to challenge China’s sovereignty and disrupt the stability and tranquility in the region. I hope the UK after Brexit should play a role for peace, rather than creating turbulence and problems.

Catherine Philp: Thank you. Moving on to one of the other issues, another feature of the bilateral relationship at the moment, Hong Kong. I'm thinking particularly, obviously, China's has things to say about the BNO offer. China responded by saying that's a gross interference. I want to know particularly what you thought of the fact that already in the UK we have Nathan Law who has come here from Hong Kong. And Simon Cheng is here as well and he's talked about the possibility of setting up a Hong Kong parliament in exile. I wondered how Beijing would appeal or respond if that happened in Britain, if London became a place where these people who come from Hong Kong are organizing?

Ambassador Liu: First, I think BNO is a very bad idea. It is a response from the UK to the National Security Law (for Hong Kong SAR). This is a total misreading and misinterpretation of the National Security Law. This law is enacted for the purpose of plugging loopholes of the legal system in Hong Kong with regard to national security risk. In view of what happened last year, Hong Kong was plunged into chaos.

Any responsible government will take measures to address this situation. And Hong Kong Special Administrative Region has to, in accordance with article 23 of Basic Law, enact laws to punish or suppress the seven categories of crimes that endanger national security. But unfortunately, in the past 23 years, because of some opposition leaders and some troublemakers’ scaremongering, this law has not been enacted. But that does not prevent the Central Government from taking measures. This is true for any country, even here in this country. In the UK, it is the UK government and UK parliament that are responsible for national security in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. So the same thing can be said about China.

Hong Kong is part of China. It's our special administrative region. So this Law is about restoring order and responding to the outcry of the Hong Kong for chaos to be stopped. But the UK made wrong reaction to it. BNO will cause disruption in the situation there. The UK side keeps telling us that they too would like to see Hong Kong remain prosperous and stable. But this measure will not contribute to prosperity or stability in Hong Kong. It will do just the opposite.

Secondly, the UK goes back on its commitment. When we reached agreement with the UK, we have a separate document and the UK committed that they would not give right of abode to BNO holders. But now they have completely changed their position. So on the one hand, they criticize China for violating China's commitment -- and it's a false accusation against China. We told them we are still committed to “One Country, Two Systems”. “One Country, Two Systems” is our policy that has been incorporated into the national Constitution and the Basic Law of Hong Kong. It has nothing to do with the Sino-British Joint Declaration. On BNO, there is a very clear cut commitment from the UK. We exchanged an MOU. But now they want to walk away from their commitment. So there are two elements here.

I should also address the second part of your question, about a so-called parliament in exile, and if the UK permits them to set up this so-called parliament in exile. This is a group whose aim is separation of China, or Hong Kong independence. It's a completely anti-China organization with the purpose of sabotaging “One Country, Two Systems”. Now when we say “One Country”, it means Hong Kong is a part of China. But they make use of “Two Systems” to erode “One Country”, to achieve their purpose of undermining China, undermining “One Country”. But if the UK permits this kind of activities, the UK would take the wrong side of the argument. But not only that. It means the UK violates its commitment to abide by the basic norms governing international relations, that is, respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity. That will be another serious problem between China and the UK.

Catherine Philp: Will there be consequences for that from China?

Ambassador Liu: Of course. If you challenge China's sovereignty and support the forces against China, we'll certainly make our demarche with them and let them know that it's very dangerous for the UK to show support for anti-China activities.

Catherine Philp: What would be the consequences, as demarche is just a sort of complaint? Can you say anything concrete about this?

Ambassador Liu: We have to wait and see. But I already told you it's a complete breach of the basic norms governing international relations. We talked about so many issues, Hong Kong and Huawei. It's all about trust. It's all about how you look at China. If you regard China as a potentially hostile country, you would do everything, just as the “China hawks” and “China bashers” would take any opportunity to attack China. They’d try everything to undermine China and work against the interest of China.

At the end of the day, they will work against the interests of the UK, because I think that China-UK relationship is in the best interest of not only China but also the UK. I think our two countries have enormous potentials to work together for many things, not only bilaterally. We can deliver more tangible benefits to our people.

And also, I think our two countries can work together to contribute to world peace, stability, and so many international agenda, such as climate change, sustainable development, peace, UN affairs, G20 and international free trade. We have a broader agenda before China and the UK. We should be partners and friends. In order to do that, we need to build up basic trust and respect each other. That's the foundation of the relationship. Thank you. I think we have overdone our time. Your last question?

Catherine Philp: What about Partnership? One of the big partnerships we have currently is the very large number of Chinese students that come to British universities. But I think your Embassy has been accused by the Foreign Affairs Committee of trying to interfere in the academic freedom in British universities. So how do you respond to that?

Ambassador Liu: That is a fake accusation. Those people are still living in the Cold War years. I have contact with the Chinese students. There are 200,000 of them studying here. I encourage them to study hard. I believe they represent the future of the country and the future of China-UK relations. We encourage them to use what they learn to serve their country. Is that any problem? What if your ambassador working in China visited the university and gave a speech saying to your students that “you should study hard and serve your country”. Is this called interference in academic freedom? I think this is totally absurd. That shows the mentality of those people.

Yesterday, I answered the question, I don't know if you were participating online or not. People complained that China has become assertive. I told them China has not changed. That is our consistent position.

I think the UK is the country which received the earliest group of Chinese students, starting from 1972. Many of these students now occupy very important positions in China.

I think our ambassador then, our first ambassador in 1972, may have said the same thing to them. Among these people, you know, there are senior diplomats, chief scientists working in China. They are also working for better collaboration and partnership between China and the UK because they understand the UK. On the one hand, it's a big help for China's modernization. On the other hand, they are big promoters and contributors of the exchanges of academia and scientific research work.

Some people are “Cold War warriors”. They even try to pick a fight with me on this. That's my job as ambassador. I do not see there's anything wrong with that.

Catherine Philp: Thank you very much.

Ambassador Liu: China really is a country that I think the UK should attach importance to not only in words but also in action. My final word is: China is the UK's opportunity; We want to be friends; We want to be your partners; We want to have a win-win corporation with the UK. That's my conclusion.

Catherine Philp: Thank you very much.

Ambassador Liu: Nice talking to you. Goodbye.

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