|Lunch with the FT|
On Januruary 30th, FT publishes its interview with Ambassador FU Ying. The Transcript is as following:
Lionel Barber (B): The questions will be in three sections: firstly, your impression about Britain, secondly yourself, your background and thirdly, China and the world.
Fu Ying (F): First of all, thank you for choosing this restaurant. I read its background, it's very good. When people asked me what is the best English cuisine. I always tell them fish and chips and pudding. Maybe I can have something more to tell them.
B: Yes, this restaurant is very British. Well, You have been very helpful and kind during your tenure here. I will never forget the fact that you manage to secure the interview with Premier Wen, which is one of the highlights of my career. I have talked with many people about you and they are very positive about you. They said Madam Fu Ying is the first Ambassador to use wit and charm as a weapon. And you do have a sense of humour and you are quite different from the sort of stereotype Chinese diplomat.
F: I think there are some stereotyped views about the Chinese. A lot of Chinese are witty and humorous. The Chinese are very humorous people. There seems to be a barrier between us. And when I was a student here, I found that I couldn't get all the British jokes either. Probably because I have been a student here for a year and I was in Australia so I am more relaxed and I can get to this side of the barrier and try to see why there is a barrier.
B: Let's get back to this barrier a little bit later. Well, you are leaving at somewhat short notice, will you miss this country?
F: Yeah, very much. I think leaving is probably the most painful part for any ambassador on the post. Coming in, it takes time, but it is relatively easy; when leaving, all the good things would come out and hold you. I will take my last jog in the park, the last beer in the pub, the last walk on Oxford street… I feel sad when I realize it would be the last…but I think I will leave with a very good memory of this country. Do you know this Chinese writer, whose name is Wang Meng. He was Cultural Minister of China for some time. He wrote a lot about the places he traveled. I like his writing very much, very smooth, like drinking cold water in summer. He described London like this: going to London is like coming into an old familiar oil painting. That is the kind of feeling I get wherever I go in the UK, not only London, in other cities too. It is like something you already know, from readings or images.
B: What did you most like about your time in Britain?
F: Personally I really enjoy visiting the home museums of the great writers, such as Jane Austin, the Bronte sisters. I make an effort wherever I go to try to find out what is around. For a few hours, I will sneak out and visit the place.
B: I see. Yeah. It is because you are a great reader of western classics.
F: Most Chinese know the British writers. At the Jane Austen's, for example, I was translating for my driver. The curator asked me "could you translate my brochure?" He said a lot of Chinese visit the museum and he could not explain in Chinese. Of course I accepted it and we mailed it to him one week later. It is amazing so many Chinese are visiting there. She has a lot of fans in China.
B: So you have been to Dickens' home?
F: Yeah. For Shakespeare's home, I have been there so many times. In my three years, I have attended two birthday parades for Shakespeare.
B: So that's the positive side, please tell me other positive things that you would like about this country.
F: Really, the cultural side, the west end theatres, the football.
I love it every much.
B: You are trying to tell me you like football?
F: Yes, very much. And a friend of mine introduced me to Arsenal, he was so keen that I started to support Arsenal; I even have a T-shirt of Arsenal, 08.
B: I forgive you, I hate Arsenal.
F: Which one do you like?
F: Oh Spurs. I watched Spurs once, against Manchester United, and Spurs lost. I am going to tell you a story about my "diplomatic faux-pas" in the football stadium, as I later understood that the colour is very important for football.
B: Yeah. Arsenal is red, Chinese red.
F: That was the last weekend of November, Sunday, and it was very cold. And Arsenal was playing with Chelsea. I had a down coat, which is light blue. I have only one down coat, because of the cold weather, so I put it on. And I matched it with light blue jeans and bright blue scarf beautifully. I was satisfied with the outfit. But we I arrived, it was terrible!
F: Before entering, I already knew I made a mistake. It was awful, cheering for Arsenal in blue. My friend picked me up and he did not mention it, he did not say anything. British courtesy, isn't it?
B: You should have brought a little red flag with you.
F: As to the bilateral relationship part, I like the work I have done; I like the people I work with. British politicians, in my impression, have a good world vision. It is not by training, it seems to be part of them. They have a very strong sense of responsibility for the world. It is always pleasant talking with British politicians, because of their global vision, they bring you up and stimulate you to think at that level.
B: That is true to the Tories as well?
F: Both have this very strong sense. I read some of the books about past politicians, and I think they always thought a lot about the world; the global map was always there when they were thinking about politics, which is good. I think this country sets an economic example. The living standard is high, you have very strong services, a leading financial sector, and a dynamic creative sector. China is a late comer, which is just entering industrialization, fast but still at an early stage, I feel there is a lot we can learn from this country. With the help of UKTI, I visited about a dozen companies, I was amazed at your high-end manufacturing. I think that is what China should learn. What amazed me is that almost every company I visited is either trying to expand exports to China, or wanting to enter China. China is really on their radar.
B: If you have to list two or three things that you found less appealing about our country?
F: We Chinese believe in "Yin and Yang", two sides for everything. There is always an upside for everything and a downside, not necessary bad, but it may be called the other side.
B: I heard of a great story that you came up with. It was in London after the Tibet unrest, there were some comments about the protectionism and taking actions. You looked around the room and said with a sweet smile: Yeah, you should be a little bit careful, because you know, if you start restricting China's export, look around at your clothes, you will be naked.
F: Did I say that?
B: Yes, you did. It is very good, that is what I meant using humour to make an important point.
F: For the British, I wish they could think about the other side of everything. For example, I was attending a seminar on the rainforest, a very good seminar, I totally agree with the speakers. And I probably believe it is a serious issue that the world should address. The trouble for me was that it was held at a beautifully decorated room with wooden panels. Other ambassadors from the developing countries share my feeling, we do not understand how come the speakers sitting there do not realize that there is also another side of the problem, the market, the demand for timber, the consumers. It is good to lecture people not to cut down the trees, but you need to see how the people who have been lectured feel.
The sense of telling people to do things with your own standard, as a master, and the belief that your own standard, your own background, your own values are the best, and trying to measure everybody against them-that is what I feel, not only at lectures, but also on dinner tables. In China, Confucius said: if there are three people walking in front of you, one of them must have something to teach you. Confucianism is almost in our blood, it is so deep in our culture. Be modest, look around before you make a judgment. We joke among us about the British, maybe for some not for all: if there are three people walking in front of you, you must be their teacher.
B: Right. I see.
F: But I think it's probably part of your strong sense of justice,fairness, global responsibility. You and this country have a very strong compassion. I was so moved and touched during the earthquake in Sichuan, the donation box of the Embassy in one month received 2.3 million pounds. There were 13 policemen who rode bicycles all the way from Birmingham to our Embassy, 114 miles, to send their money. There was a boy, I still remember his name is Louis, Isaac Louis, like Isaac Newton. I think he was 19 years old, and he walked from Wales, 240 miles, collecting money all the way. As Ambassador I will never forget that. I think the outpouring of international understanding and assistance to China during the earthquake is not only a help, it is educational. It opened the Chinese people's eyes to the world. Now, in Haiti, Chinese relief team is part of the important international relief efforts. They were on the plane a few hours after they heard the news, it was quick, getting there, getting on the plane and ready to leave.
B: Let's come back to that, about the solidarity you said that is important in the earthquake. We will talk about your time in Britain during Thatcher years, that would be interesting. You were a student in Kent.
F: In the 1980s, we just opened up. There were a lot of students going abroad. It was impossible to have any private funding for a student, my mother would never come up with the money. And I was here on the commonwealth scholarship.
B: Commonwealth scholarship, which Mrs. Thatcher wanted to scrap.
F: Did she?
B: I think so.
F: And I was sharing one scholarship with another student, China wanted to send more students out, so we split the scholarship. And I was in terribly tight budget, I spent 100 pounds on the lodging, student dormitory ,25 pounds a week..
B: What year was this?
F: 1985 to 86. And then I had about 50 to 60 pounds to spend.
B: A month?
F: A month. And I cut my food at one pound a day, less than one pound a day. If I went beyond one pound, I would not have any money to buy books or whatever. Sometimes I went to the pub with the students, I had to cut down my ration for the rest of the week.
B: Now, let me go back to the start. You come from Inner Mongolia, but your family is Han Chinese.
F: No, No. They are actually Mongolian. As to my generation, 100%. There is always a discussion on this. My aunty wanted to marry a Han, the whole family sat down and discussed. The biggest concern was food habit. My grandma's concern was that if my aunty married a Han, if the Han did not like Mongolian food, my aunty would not have a happy life.
B: That is fun.
F: My parents are both bilinguals. My father writes Mongolian poems and Han poems.
B: How did you become a translator in the elite Translator's Department. And then you became Deng's translator.
F: We need another two meals for that.
B: No, no. I am not going to ask other questions. Just how did you do it?
F: It's a long story. You see, during the Cultural Revolution, the schools were closed. That's how I read all those books.
B: The classics.
F: The schools were closed in Huhhot, my hometown, it's the capital of Inner Mongolia. So the best passing time was really reading for us after the first months of excitement of not attending school.
B: But you were working in the field at that time.
F: Toward the later part of the Cultural Revolution, all the children, the students were asked to go to the countryside. I went to a farm, we did all kinds of things, we did farm work, we were building a factory.
B: You were how old then, 13 or 14?
F: I think I left for the countryside at 1970. It was really hard work, for two years. Very very physically stressed for the young. But I liked the life that a lot of young people were together, there was a lot of happy time too.
B: Where is the place that you worked in the field?
F: It was further to the west. Six or seven hours by train, in the mountains. The factory we built, I was told, was demolished, I felt very sad. We had wanted to go back to visit the factory last year.
B: Where is the factory, what is it called?
F: Wulashan. We were going to go back together last year but I was too busy, we thought of going back this year but were told it was demolished.
B: Then three years later, you applied to go to Beijing.
F: 1973. I think it was the first examination in the country after many years, since 1966.
B: The first one since 1966, when the Cultural Revolution really started. And you must have done very well.
F: OK, I did OK.
B: But there was no English test at all, wasn't it?
F: It was funny. I was working as an announcer, there were not many telephones at that time. So all the information was announced through the loudspeaker and there was a place we called the "Loudspeaker's Room". I was one of the staff working there, sending out information in the morning and lunch time, telling people about the rain and all those sorts of things. I was also a film projector. When the exam started, I was doing quite well. There was an interview after the exam. The professors came from Beijing and acted as interviewers. And I attended the interview. Because I was working in this station, I had a radio. And I think it was in 1968 or 69, English teaching started on radio. And I followed it,very elementary, like "I am a student, you are a teacher".
B: Was it BBC world service?
F: No, no, no, it was Chinese, Chinese English teaching. So when interviewed….I didn't know why I went to the interview. Probably the head of the factory thought I followed the lesson and might be able to pass the test. He wanted more people to do it.
B: But then you were allowed to take this exam. You did well enough to go to Beijing?
F: The interview was very funny. The examiner tried to test my English, which was so elementary that I only knew several sentences and that was all. So he asked me to follow and he pronounced it, A. E. I …and then he gave me a sheet of paper, a story about a farm worker and then said, "read it out". And I did as it was easy for me bcause I was an announcer and it was easy for me to pronounce with the right accent. So I went to Beijing to the university and spent four years there from 1973 to 1977. That was a period of upheaval in China, you remember and this also affected the universities. But anyway one thing was clear that China needed interpreters, diplomats and relations with the world. So we focused on study. We learned the language, and we learned history, international politics and a lot more.
B: But I was told that you then joined the translation department and became friends with Mao's favorite interpreter. That is correct, isn't it?
F:.I don't think Chairman Mao's favorite translator was there when I joined.
B: I've chatted with the translator for Madame Mao in Berkley, California. You know what? He told me a story. During the cultural revolution, he was invited and went to Zhongnanhai and was taken by a car at night. He went to a big hall and he didn't know where he was. All he could see was two or three people in the front row. There were a lot of seats and he felt it was the congress hall. And as he came closer, he realized it was Madame Mao. And you know what? He then sat down and they turned around, and she said you were going to be my translator. You know what happened then? They switched on the film and guess what the film was? Midnight Gamble. And he thought I can't believe it. I am translating Midnight Gamble. It was a banned film. And it was Madame Mao. What can I do? What do you think of his story?
F: I did a lot of translating like that, for film. That is how I improve my English.
B: For the leadership?
F: No, no. For my staff in the embssy.
B: Is it true that one of your best story is you did your translation for Deng Xiaoping? At one point, you were translating and you said he was 47 but not 74.
F: It is 48. It was for Mrs Bruntland, the former Norwegian prime minister. She was 48 at that point. And Deng Xiaoping was 84. So Deng Xiaoping probably thought she looked young, so he said, well, you looked very young. And she probably said you were not very old, or you were young, or you were also….something. And Deng laughed and he said, "I am already 84." and Bruntland said, you were not so old either. And Deng said I am already 84. So I was a bit confused. They were already standing up and shaking hands, saying so in a hurry, I translated Deng's 84 to 48. I thought I corrected it right away. It was Zhou Nan, who was standing beside him, the Vice Foreign Minister, who told Mr. Deng: she said you are 48 and Deng just haha…. And there was a great laugh. But Deng was great. Interpreting for him was really very exciting experience.
B: What event did you interpret for him? I mean, you didn't interpret the time when he said I am really pleased with one child policy, he will never have to invade Siberia
F: He never said it.
B: He didn't?
F: I don't think so. Deng is a very kind person and is very alert about the world. He is simple and great. So being interpreter, you have the advantage of observing a lot of things at young age. Many things I probably didn't understand at that time. But looking back, I understand them better.
B: Such as…give me one example.
F: They were concerned about their countries and their people. The calm way they look at things. China is not always being a welcomed party with the western countries in the world. Sometimes things that are said about China or responses to China are not very, I mean I will feel offended, I wouldn't understand why.
B: Well here's my story, I will tell you a little story. It's my favorite story about Boris Yeltsin. Leon Brittan was involved in a trade agreement with the Russians. And they had a problem with textiles and they were stuck, Europeans and Russians stuck in the negotiations. So he went to Moscow and asked to see Yeltsin. Yeltsin agreed. And he said, "Now we really want to get this trade agreement" and Yeltsin said, "Yes." And he said, "and Mr. President, I just don't understand what the problem is." He said, "I was negotiating with just the other day with Nicaragua. We didn't' have any problem. We agreed." At this point Yeltsin struck the table and said, "Russia is not Nicaragua." So you know it is that way of just misreading things? And you remember instances like that?
F: I think the Chinese are very calm.
B: Are they? They don't lose their temper?
F: I've never seen this.
B: No there must be time that they used to lose terrible temper.
F: Not in front of all the foreigners and guests at least.
B: So what do they tend to do then?
F: Throughout my interpreting career, there has been a consistent effort on the part of China to understand the world and to talk to the world at the leader's level. They tried very hard. I think that for China, when I was an interpreter, China was going through the transition, coming out of cultural revolution and going into reform and opening to outside world, without causing serious domestic turmoil, and the world was going through turmoil towards the end of the cold war. Not so much globalization when I was interpreter. China was really trying to understand and engage the world. I was interpreter during the Cambodian peace negotiations, the Paris Conference in the three years from 1989 to 1992. And I followed the whole process and I went to Cambodia for peacekeeping, trying to see it through.
B: What about this notion of, I don't know what it is in Chinese. But it's notion that, they say, can be sleeping in the same bed, but you have different dreams. China and the western world, while sleeping in the same bed we have different dreams.
F: There is certainly more awareness of the western world, Africa, and the eastern world. And there is an awareness that China is now very much part of the world. What happens in China is reported in the world. When I was a student in Kent, I spent hours reading the newspapers and couldn't find anything about China. And now hardly a day passes without news about China. So China is on the world stage, that's for sure. There is awareness and acceptance of this fact on the part of China, not only the leaders but at the public level well. And I think we also realize whatever decision we make, we need now to think what kind of impact it will make on the world. Even it may be the domestic issue, it still can affect the world. And likewise, whatever happens in the world can concern China and Chinese are everywhere and Chinese interests have spread beyond its borders. We have 45 million Chinese travelling abroad every year. So I think there is a different awareness. But on the other hand, there is also this frustration of not being understood.
B: Not being accepted?
F: Yeah. And coming back to the point we were talking about, you have your standard, and you use that standard to measure China, and every time you find China doesn't fit that standard, but China is never going to, isn't it?
China has such a long history of its own. We are the only continuous culture for 5000 years. When we talk about things, we easily go back to Confucius, to the ancestors. And China had about 200 years of a very sad history of foreign occupation and humiliation. That hurt China. That's why the Chinese remember the suffering more than the victory. So China has become a country that has a strong sense of crisis and adversity, or what we call "you huan yi shi". We always think about the possible bad side. It was prepared for the challenges.
I think one of the reasons of not being accepted is the political differences. The political system is like a roof. The palace of Westminster has a Gothic roof that looks beautiful. But if one wants to place it on top of every house, one should first understand whether the building underneath can sustain it. One may need to have same building before having that roof. This is what generates the sense of being imposed on from time to time in China's relations with the world.
The second is that I could see there is a big gap between how you see China from FT and how China sees itself. You may see China as probably the second in the world after the United States, but most Chinese do not see China as a power. So the issue is the gap between the expectation of China from the word "power" and the Chinese people's readiness of playing a role in the world, as they do not see the country as a power. I think the world see China from the aggregate, from total GDP and from Shanghai, from the big cities, from the fast growth of economy but the Chinese, they see in everyday life, the difficulties, the challenges, the pollution, all those domestic challenges, creation of jobs, millions of jobs, and the challenge of having a large territory.
B: It's crucial. I mean I just wander there's so much to talk about here. Let's take a contemporary example, it's found out from Google, where Google says, it wants to be in China, but it's under cyber attack, and it's also been obliged to follow admittedly the local regulations, but is censoring materials. And the western world does not understand why is Google under attack, why are other companies around the world under attack, cyber attack. What is the issue here?
F: I'm not following, so I don't know the inside story. But Google is certainly a news maker in China. I remember early last year Google China apologized for having a lot of obscene contents and they promised to improve. That's what I read. And then later in that year they were in the dispute with the China Written Works Copyright Society because it put a lot of writers, 500 writers' works online without their consent. And now Google says it's under cyber attack. Cyber attack is a problem in China and all over the world. And you probably know which country has the best hackers.
B: Best hackers?
B: Better even than the Chinese?
F: I don't think there is anything particularly notable about China on this issue. But about the censorship Google complains about, Google has been in China for four years. And I've seen the continuous reform in China in those four years, and there's definitely a further improvement in the transparency and in the services for Internet. So if Google could come in four years ago, and now there's continuous improvement and Google is finding fault, I don't think it's a clear picture. I don't know why it's being so politicized. But China is in the middle of reform, and most of things in China are in a process of being gradually improved. And the key thing is that the government has to respond to the development, the situation, and respond to, on the one hand, the importance of maintaining political stability, which is the key, which is really essential, a condition for China to continue to grow, and on the other hand, the changing horizon for the government, every government is confronted with this new challenge.
B: Indeed. But that's the critical thing you said, which is what you respect, which is political stability is crucial for the continuation of Chinese reforms, and so in a sense, we may have to censor the web, we may have to do certain things that you don't like in the West, but this is essential we keep reforming, raise living standards, and that's important for the government.
F: The correctness of policies in China has to be tested by the reality, not by how you feel but by the development in China. I think over the past three decades, compared with the previous three decades, China has found the right path and is finding the right balance between maintaining political stability while making changes, which is one of the most difficult challenges for the governments in the developing countries.
B: One China expert said to me the other day that it was really very important to understand that the present leadership, they experienced, and this includes yourself, they experienced the Cultural Revolution, the absolute chaos, the Cultural Revolution first hand, and nobody wants a repeat of that.
F: That's definitely. I remember the day…
B: And that's the stability, yeah, you remember the day, sorry?
F: I remember the day when people came to take my father away, a very tall man. He was looking at me in the eyes and said, "This is great democracy. Do you know what is democracy? " And I shook my head. So he said, "That's the trend of history. You will be swept away by the trend of history".
B: Why would you be swept away? Because you were a land owner?
F: No, but that's the first time I learned the word "great democracy".
B: He was taking your father away? Where did he go? Into a labour camp? Is it because he was an intellectual or be with an intellectual? Or he was a writer?
F: Probably. So democracy without the rule of law, or freedom without the rule of law, is anarchy.
B: Do you think you have the rule of law in China?
F: We are building it. I think basic rule of law is there. We have not seen such intensive law building in the Chinese history. The property law, the labour law, used to be very controvertial. It took long years to debate it, but we still adopted it. The opinions of the public were collected.
So I think the rule of law and the democratic decision making process have also facilitated the development of human rights. I remember in the '80s when I was an interpreter, human rights was a constant subject and the issues people came to China and raised were long lists, but most of the issues do not exist anymore. I don't think the outside world, the western world realise how much progress we are making.
It was an American, I was accompanying him visiting Shanghai, and he said, "you don't have freedom in your country". I said "What?" And he said, "Look, for example, you don't have the freedom of movement. You can't come and live in Shanghai". And I said "But I need the money to buy the train ticket. I need a coupon to survive in Shanghai." But now, look at China, two hundred and twenty million Chinese farm workers are living and working in the cities. We are producing plenty of food for everybody to move around. That's, I mean, that shows human rights cannot be separated from the economic conditions, affordability and cost of living.
B: Yeah. Why do you think that people should stop thinking that the leadership in Beijing got no secret plan? There are enormous domestic challenges that you outlined. China is such a big success story. Why sometimes you get the sense of people being insecure. Is it because it worries about territory integrity? Worries about the neighbourhood? Worries about…
F: Who is insecure? China insecure or outside world insecure?
B: I'm asking you.
F: About China having an ambition of ruling the world?
B: No. The Americans are definitely insecure about China. This is the first serious challenge since the Soviet Union. China doesn't have an offensive military power, it is defensive. The Americans are having to adjust to this, but at the same time the Chinese, as you say they are a bit insecure.
F: I wouldn't call it insecurity. I think it's a challenge. A challenge both for China and for the world. China was a strong manufacturer of the world. In the Ming Dynasty, or until the early 19th century, China was still one of the biggest manufacturers in the world, and China was never a global player. China never operated at the world stage. China was more a domestic power, introverted and populous. So it's the first time China is assuming this role. There's no history to go back to, unlike Russia. So for China, to understand the world, the rules of the game, understand and be able to manage this new role, to explain itself to the world. It takes time. We need personnel to do that.
B: you need interpreters, I mean the big word interpreter, not someone else, but somebody to interpret China to the rest of the world.
F: China has grown, but for the world, China is the new paradigm, and a new story to tell the world, new narrative. It's probably the first power the world is witnessing assuming that role through economic growth, by making for the world, making the toys, the shoes, ties, shirts, pure labour, and without military aggression or politically imposing its system around the world, without guns to open the market. We are trading with the world. For such a power to last, to be successful, we need a peaceful environment, we need a friendly environment, we need the rule of game of the world for fair trade. So China's foreign policy is for peace and cooperation. Because only in peace we can grow and only through cooperation we can work for the world.
For the other side of the world, they haven't seen such a power, and all the powers who came in the world destroyed. There would be power competition and then would be one power replacing another, so that was the old track. So I debated this with a lot of scholars, and for them, this new paradigm does not exist, can't be proved, can't succeed this way.
But for China, for the world, maybe it's a matter of choice. For China, there's no other way. China cannot go into war with other countries, because of the domestic, I mean, the weight is always heavier at home. First, we still have 60% of people in the countryside, and the disabled population in China is bigger than the population in UK, 83 million. So if we use the UN standard of poverty, the poverty population in China triple to 130 million, now it's 40 million at the domestic level. So this country will for a long time to come mainly focus on itself. And that's why the Kingdom, for thousands of years, has not been having an ambition for the world, so busy with itself.
And so China's reform is halfway. It's going to take another few decades for us to, maybe coming to the end the reform. So for the world, I don't think the world understands China. That's why it sets it a barrier. They don't understand China. They don't see China as we see China, because, maybe language is the problem and the stereotype.
B: Which do you think the stereotype is?
F: I think the stereotype is, I think the West, for western world, it's difficult to understand China both for political reasons and for cultural reasons. Culturally I think the West, a British scholar explained to me, the West and the occidental world has been dominating the global culture, political culture for hundreds of years, so they don't see there's another possibility. They don't see there is another narrative. So they have difficulties accepting China. That's what I said, they always believe their roofs are the best.
B: That is a good image. What do you think the western stereotype is of China? Arrogant?
F: Not entirely. I understand not only from conversing. but when I make a speech, people ask questions. I think they probably see China in a Cold War perspective, the other side of the Cold War. The Cold War has become something of a basket. Everything associated with the cold war – the western perception of Eastern Europe, or the former Soviet bloc…… People will put it on the head of China. They see China as terra-cotta warriors. Take climate change as an example, China has an emission intensity cut figure. It is a decision based on consultations among provincial heads and ministers. But in (Copenhagen) negotiations, some of the western countries think that China can change the figure because in the Chinese system, if leaders said Ok, everybody follows. They think the decision making process in China could be that simple. They don't realize there is such a democratic decision making process in China.
B: I think it is a collective decision. But I think it is a raw calculation of China's national interests, which everybody agreed on. And I think this is a brilliant job of diplomacy in …, so smart. You wait for all European to demand, oh, Please China, could you possibly do this? You got all developing countries on side, even the one that had reservation on your stance, and you got exactly all you wanted, which is no monitoring by outside because Chinese sovereignty is key. You played it brilliantly.
F: Well, what I am saying is that for people to say China can make decision that easily is not factual. Keep 1.3 billion people in one line is not easy. National interest is part of interests here. What is national interest? Interest of everybody. They are individuals. If for example, people in Gansu want electricity, telling them you cannot as you got to cut emission. You will get stuck where you are. You cannot do it. So Chinese government has reflected the interests of its own people, and that is not appreciated here. They think it's some kind of individual decides and everybody follows.
B: I see that. I understand that. Let me just take up that comment you made about cold war. Cold war, where we see you, China, I don't believe this is true, by the way. We disagree, but you say we have an old way to look at China through cold war lens. There is one area I agree ... Why you put up with this crazy individual, maybe it's not crazy in North Korea, it's so dangerous, it's bad for image, seriously heavily nuclear armed state. Why does China just do something about it?
F: You have developed your views about North Korea from your standard again. China is not telling North Korea what to do. China is not measuring North Korea according to our standard. North Korea is a neighbor, like any our neighbors. Afghanistan has a problem. The other neighbors also have problems. We have 1300 km common borders with 2 million Korean ethnic minorities on the Chinese side. It's a neighbor which we share lots of interests. 2 million ethnic Koreans. My driver is a Chinese Korean by the way.
B: Well, so, but they got nuclear weapons. It has been cheating international community.
F: If you talk with North Korean, they think they are cheated. For North Korean issue, I think, it's not that simple, not that simple. There is a history of relationship with the west. So, to treat this issue, we, our attitude is not coming in to tell, to judge the North Korean, telling them where they are wrong and where they are right. They have to find their own way, come out of it. We came out of our difficult time. So they should find a way to come out of their difficult time.
B: But people are starving in a nuclear armed state.
F: Well, from their point of view, if they don't have nuclear weapons, they would have been invaded by the United States. I don't believe that. But North Koreans need to believe that, not me. For nuclear issue, one of the difficulties is lack of trust between North Koreans and Americans. So for North Koreans, they think they would go nuclear if they are under threat; or they would talk if Americans are willing. But Americans, allowed chance, they would talk if North Korean are willing. They would not put the military choice off the table. So there are two choices. We think, the other two choices, Korea going nuclear and US using arms are equally unacceptable.
B: Clinton never gonna do that, I mean, that was the deal in 1994.
F: 1994 did not work out. American blamed North Korean for not delivering; North Koreans blamed American for not delivering. If you go to the field, you'll see, nobody delivered. So we think we started from scratch. We are not going to judge. So we should start from here. If they trust each other, let's move on. So they still don't trust each other. It's going to take long time. By the way I sometimes quote Hamlet, the famous quote "to be or not to be". I would say talk or not to talk, that's the issue. Because for us we don't support North Korea to go nuclear, nor support US using arms. We only support the talk. They give up the other two, keep the talking part.
B: Let's go back to China as a world power. This is the Martin Wolf piece. China says we don't want to be a hegemony. First question: but no country wants to tell the world they want to be hegemony. The second point is as China's economic interests grow, and its presence overseas expands, would people on the ground, what happens if there is a problem? As in Sudan? China would need to be able to come to the help of its citizens on the ground. So inevitably, China's presence would expand, and there will be a military presence too as China's interests outside its own country grow. Do you accept that piece?
F: No. Deng Xiaoping said many years ago China would never be hegemonic. One day should China become one, the world should stand up against China. This is very deep in our heart. Every diplomat knows that.
B: It would be too late, once you become a hegemony, that would be too late for people to stand up.
F: I think your view comes from your history, comes from your belief that there has to be a hegemony in the world. Years ago, I remember, in the 90s there were an American journalist who came to interview me, and his first question was, what do you think if Asian people do not accept China as a leader in Asia. It took me a while to understand this question. I said what makes you think Asia needs a leader, and China wants to be the leader? For me that was because the question was out of blue. China does not have that in our culture, in our political genes. That's number one.
Number two, he said, what work should China do? China should work with the world. China, in Darfur, we have about 400 people as peacekeepers. We send our military force with U.N. U.N. is the basic condition. Even in gulf of Aden and sea outside of Somalia, we send naval ships to protect the ships. That was also after the discussion with the U.N.
I think China would not be an occupying force in the world precisely because we suffered from foreign occupation. We don't believe in occupation. We don't believe in sanction. We don't believe in bulling other countries. We don't believe in treating other countries not as equal.
B: What about current, which is a shared problem of nuclear proliferation? That is a global question, that's not about bulling. That's not a question of just saying we respect your sovereignty. In fact, because we want to protect our sovereignty. Nuclear proliferation is a global problem. It is not just an American problem, or British problem.
F: We are part of the negotiations to try to find a solution. And for global nuclear disarmament, we propose all nuclear powers undertake not to use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear states, and no first use principle. That's probably a thorough solution. We are far from that. We play alone with other countries. You are seeing, that's why I say, a new paradigm. Your old theories are not working.
B: I was only quoting Martin Wolf. I didn't say I necessarily agree with that.
F: I know. Martin Wolf has lots of interesting views.
B: He does, he does. But in that sense, there is another reason why he will have lots of articles in Financial Times about G2. I keep talking to people. China has no interest in G2 arrangement because it is not interested in co-managing the world or the rest of the world with America. When you want to manage the world, problems at home …… Also, you want to be able to have more scope to pursue your own interests. You don't want to be tied to some G2 (arrangement). That's the case in Copenhagen, wasn't it?
F: No, I think you are leading me away from my part. China does not believe in bulling. But we do support international issues being solved through dialogues by the countries concerned. We do believing in finding the consensus. In Copenhagen, for example, every country tried to seek consensus. So there should not be one country to be the headmaster and everybody should follow that instructions. And if EU could do 30%, why would they come with 20%, and then conditioning the other 10% on other countries? Very funny. If you can do 30%, you do 30%. You cannot say I am damaging the world just because you are damaging the world. And China can do 40% or 45%, it's based on our calculation. We can do more if we have better technology. So all countries should do the best. That's negotiation, that's global solution.
What the world will become? It's a very interesting question. As a Chinese diplomat, I start to think more, and feel closed to the global issues now then before, for example. In the past, if G8 or G7 had a meeting, I thought that's thousands miles way. We read the news, that's all. Now China is part of G20. We are in the meeting and are expected to do part of the discussion of solving many global issues. In that sense, global issues are concerning us. That's why I think it is more important for us to solve this barrier as soon as possible. I think the west really needs to change its view of China. They need to have a cooler mind, and more, a kind of open mind. Open it up to differences. China also needs to understand the world better.
B: By the way, just one quick plan about bully. There is one exception. You won't like this. You disagree with this. But I mean if you talk about when you come to China's thesis, China's territory integrity, Taiwan, no doubts about, they are yours. China is very very tough. It's quite happy to say, on Taiwan, any arms deal, you do that, we can obliterate you.
F: Arms deal. Arms deal itself is bullying tactic. I thinks that's the legacy of the past. It should long have been removed.
B: Anyway, let's talk about the question of cooler minds. My own judgment we are in a slightly, not dangerous, but difficult period because it's a period of adjustment where we have to get used to the fact that China is bigger, more important, confident, and willing to flex its diplomatic muscles. This is a period of adjustment for us, yeah?
F: See, you can't say China is flexing its diplomatic muscles just because China disagrees with you. It's again based on your own standard. You are in the right. You are the headmaster. If China is defying, China is disagreeing with you, China must be wrong, and also your expectation of China is contradictory. You want China to have economic prosperity, and then political stability. You want China to be economically prosperous to keep on making for the world, and keep on consuming. And then you want China to cut down the emissions. How can we do the both at the same time? You see, China is making lots of things for you, and you have less emission, but you still emit more than China averagely speaking, and you want to cut down emission at such a speed.
B: I'm sympathetic to that argument.
F: The danger of the western's attitude, the danger of western difficulties, adjusting itself to China is hurting western image in China, because it gives rise to the belief in China among some people that you have an agenda.
B: You think that stokes Chinese nationalism?
F: I don't think nationalism is the right word. I think it gives rise to the negative perception of the west. Last Summer, I went back to my hometown Hohhot, surrounded by mountains. Those mountains used to be barren, grey colored. We call them big black mountain. Now the vegetation is amazing, trees, grass, flowers, that's really impressive. I went to spend a day there with my relatives. It was great fun. We ended up at the top of the mountain.
There is a weather observatory on top of the mountain. The person who runs the observatory and spends about half a year on top of the mountain offered lunch. He chatted about U.K. When I am in China, I ask everybody what is their impression of U.K. The head of the weather observatory first talked about Shakespeare and Dickens, but when he came to modern world, his face changed: Ambassador, you shouldn't have illusions, you can never never make them accept us. I looked around the table, everybody nodded. I wish I could invite him to make a speech here.
B: That's a bleak message given to the new EU. Actually I want to ask, I am truly honest. You have negotiated quite difficult issues. We had the Olympics, the host of Olympics. Was there a boycott? Was prime minister gonna go or not to the opening ceremony, this kind of stuff linked to the Tibet. Do you think that's the most difficult thing you handled here?
F: Yeah, these past two years probably were the most difficult years of my career. The ups and downs and the things I had to face. The Olympics was something from which I pursued many of my ideas, many of my thoughts, even now, and they are still influenced by the Olympics by that year. What happened in that period of the time? I was very surprised that those people in the west made such a misjudgment about Olympics and China.
For the Olympics, seven years ago from 2008, when China got the right to host the Olympics, my daughter, who was at secondary school, disappeared. I was so worried. She never left home like that. I couldn't sleep and waited for her. She didn't have a mobile at that time. I almost called the police. She came back at about 2 o'clock in the morning, sweating and face red with excitement. I asked her where she went. She said that did you go to sleep? You are a dinosaur. We got the Olympics, don't you know? We got the Olympics. On that day, I told my husband, we are old. We are losing touch with the reality. And for 7 years, children like her were reading, writing, singing, dancing, preparing for and expecting this day. And how many students are there in China? 200 million students. And every child has six adults: parents, grandparents, so that's the whole country.
B: That's a sense of national pride.
F: That's right. If the whole country wants something and that's also something the country waited for 100 years. Exactly 100 years ago, 1908 Britain had the Olympics. In 1908, China was in the middle of last kingdom that was terrible. There was a news magazine. One youth wrote an article asking three questions. I think that rings in this country for 100 years.
He said when are we going to send our first athlete? That is an easy question. The second question was almost crazy at that time. When are we gonna have our first gold medal? And the 3rd question is when are we going to host Olympics ourselves? It's a crazy question.
The first question was answered about 20 or 30 years later; second was answered in 70 years, 1984 in Los Angeles. And 100 years later this country is going to finally host its own Olympics. So, the support and enthusiasm is 100%, with selfless support and the volunteers. I think the outside world brought us all kinds of things, trying to stop the Olympics. They are not going to stop the Olympics. It's not only hurting the national pride. It's more than that. It's very insulting. I think some of the journalists who are very insensitive, are using the word humiliation. That's the last word you use on China. Humiliation refers to what happened to China100 years ago.
So, I think the people here know that: they wouldn't. So, coming back to us. My question is why. Why people don't understand that? Why people don't know us? We should reflect on ourselves. We should think why. And I think we are not doing enough in communicating. Before, there was a cold war. We couldn't communicate. Then, there was the political disbelief, political suspicion of each other. And now, I think, we shouldn't wait any more, and we should learn to communicate. We should tell the people what we think about, why we do things in the way we do, where we came from, and where we are heading for, and why we are not going to become hegemony. No Chinese would ever believe that we will become hegemony. Even using the term "power" among the Chinese is a very debatable issue. And we need to really come out and talk to the world and explain to the world in a way that the west can understand us.
On the other hand, I think the western world should also calm down and learn to see China for what China is. Not to keep on speculating. Putting their own color into this painting. Chinese painting is water color, fresh color, very light. If you put all the oil on it, you don't see the painting any more.
It's a challenge for both sides. Probably more for us. We should work harder. But the west needs to do that not for China's sake. It is for your own sake, for your image in China. The people, the younger people, the young generation in China have a more negative feeling about the west than my generation do, probably because we came through the past time. We probably know where your position comes from. But for the younger generation, when you are criticizing China for what it has done, you are just making noise and being unreasonable.
B: My son went to China. He went through Russia, Siberia, Mongolia. He really had a good time in Mongolia. And then he went through rural China. So he's been to rural China aged 18. But I have actually never been there. I have been to Beijing, Changchun and Shanghai. So the young people are interested.
F: Yeah. If young people communicate with each other, I think there will be more understanding.
B: Yeah. He said that the hospitality was great. They were very friendly. Much more friendly than we have expected.
F: The young people will be able to find that the people are the same. The issues coming down are the same, family, schools, health care, all the basics. I don't think there is any reason now to fight a war. I don't think there can be an excuse, because you will always hurt more people than you are trying to save. I think there should be a ban. When I was in a negotiation, I was very strong with the Americans and my response to military solution on North Korea was absolutely no. Whatever reason, whatever the excuse. When the Americans said, like what you said, how terrible the North Koreans are, I said I disagreed. They have lots of excuses. I said that is not an excuse for a war.
B: No, let me be clear. I certainly don't think it is an excuse for a war. "Terrible" is a big word. it's like "crazy". I happen to think that you've got to deal with nasty people in the world, difficult people. It's not an excuse for a war. In your new job in Beijing, you are going to be a Vice Minister. What does that mean?
F: I hope there will be more women Vice Ministers. Being a Vice Minister and an ambassador is different. A vice minister is expected to help the Minister to solve problems and identify problems.
B: What do you think in your career as a diplomat, if I have to sort out three singles things that you, with others, with other people, help to solve a problem, or help to make progress on a problem? What do you think? Obviously Cambodia, perhaps the peace-keeping?
F: Yeah, peace-keeping and negotiation in Cambodia. For me, it's very educational too.
B: So that would be one. What other things would you say?
F: I would say UK, the United Kingdom, three years in the UK. I think in terms of learning, doing things and accomplishing things, I would look back at the three years in UK as very rewarding. I managed to break some barriers, not a lot. I probably bring China one step closer to this country. I think I will be leaving with a few full stops, not commas, I opened things but haven't accomplished a lot. But the passage is open. And there are still a few question marks, which will be answered in future, I hope.
B: That's a lovely image. But I think you have done a lot, if I may say, this is a self observation of course, by helping to persuade Beijing, Premier Wen, to sit down and talk to the Financial Times for an hour and twenty minutes, and gave a very serious interview about the economy, which was very valuable.
F: Premier Wen likes to communicate with the world, and that was a good moment to do so. And you proved to be a serious interviewer. You see, sometimes some people come in with their own agenda and they have a framework and they just want to put others into their own framework. That is unfair for the Chinese, who are not so interested in playing all these games.
B: I'd like to listen to people. But you know, I did come up with a really good headline for the piece, you remember what the headline was, so it was….
F: Message from Wen
B: Well, I think it was thirty years ago that I studied Germanism, thirty years ago. I am a German and French speaker, fluent. I think I am going to university now to learn Chinese. And I had wonderful two years in Germany as a student, nearly two years. I read lots of literature on French. I will be learning Chinese.
F: I salute you for that. Chinese is a language widely taught here now. But I think it is important to know Chinese language, that's another way of understanding China. It's very different, its characters and words are full of meanings. For example, the Chinese word security, or peace, or calm, is a woman in a house. We have a woman in a house, we have security. And the state, a lot of people don't understand why in China we do not so much encourage individualism. In China, country is two characters, one is state, and the other is family. So put the state and family together, you have a country. For Chinese characters, every character has a meaning, it carries a meaning, sometimes philosophy. Peace is a rice and mouth, so when every mouth is fed, with rice, you have peace. And harmony, is a word and means everybody has a say, it's harmony. The freedom of speech.
I will leave you some food coupons. I am giving my coupons to the British Museum. And I want to give you this.
B: Oh, thank you, Madam Embassador.
F: It is from my mother. It is Mongolian, and it is national. So without this, I couldn't go to Shanghai. And my mother used to change for national because she wanted to travel. So she used to change it. But she would need more to change that amount. Mongolian coupon has Mongolia language. Two and a half kilos, this used to be very valuable. It is out of circulation, and the last print was 1993. In China, for 2000 years, until 1993, food was the preoccupation of China.
B: I accept the gift with great gratitude. Thank you every much. As I think I've said to you, I think it is a great pleasure to get to know you in London and I certainly want to keep in touch.