(MENAFN - Arab News) Chinese Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Li Chengwen has expressed his country's willingness to take Saudi-Chinese relations to a new height based on their long-term strategic interests covering various sectors.
The ambassador also told Arab News reporter Abdul Hannan Tago in an exclusive interview that China historically and in principle has never been an aggressive country but a peaceful state.
He said those who know the history of China will find that it has never committed aggression nor did it attack any country.
"In fact, China has suffered from colonial aggression several times. We never forget our sufferings that prevent us from dealing aggressively with other countries," the Arabist envoy said, referring to its role and place at the international level in general and the Asia-Pacific region in particular.
The following is the text of the interview:
Your Excellency, the vice chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPC) of China Ismail Tiliwaldi was received by the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah. What was this visit about?
Actually, it was a very important visit as was the second important official visit during this year. The first visit was in January made by Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao. The delegation of Ismail were welcomed warmly by the Saudi government during which they discussed bilateral relations with Saudi officials at the Shoura Council and also how the Chinese National People's Congress deals with matters of concern.
The vice chairman expressed his gratitude to Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah for receiving them on the second day of his return from abroad in the presence of Crown Prince and Minister of Defense, Prince Salman and high-ranking officials of the Saudi government.
Does this visit come within the framework of the G-20 as you are an important member of the Group?
This visit was not only confined to G-20 activities, although we commend the role of Saudi Arabia in the Group. The Kingdom successfully hosted the G-20's parliament speakers' conference this year in which China was actively involved.
How would you describe the outcome of this visit?
This visit was important in the context of the strategic relations between the two countries. It was a high-profile visit that resulted in further strengthening these relations.
Recently, you inspected the railroad project that is being implemented by Chinese companies at the Holy land of Makkah. What is your impression about the project?
Yes, I did visit the project and found that they are now ready to operate and provide the best services and performance during this Haj season to ensure utmost safety of the pilgrims who will travel by train.
They are working in full swing to provide services and facilities for the pilgrims coming from all over the world. The project, too, is a gift from King Abdullah to the Muslims across the world. It will really ease the traffic congestion besides ensuring pilgrims' safety and comfort.
I visited the places and listened to the employees and enquired about their welfare. They really put in a great effort as the shortest time interval between two trains is only 70 seconds. The project also has to be managed with the utmost accuracy to be done in the interest of the pilgrims' safety.
Chinese companies are required to maintain a strong work ethic and the utmost discipline. It is an onerous task for the management, which also has to ensure the safety of the equipment. I do follow up the matter with both field visits and through direct communication with the top executives who update me.
What is the current status of the project?
This year will be the last year of the project, which has been under implementation for the last three years under the contract. The first two years passed successfully as the Chinese firms further streamlined their performance to finish the work on time.
China has overtaken some other advanced countries in undertaking this historic and huge project. How did Saudi Arabia choose your country?
The choice for Chinese companies to implement the project through commercial tenders indeed reflects the keenness of Saudi Arabia and the importance of strengthening the relations with China. Because this project has a great social significance in terms of providing services to the Muslims as whole. Secondly, this is clear evidence of the high trust in the Chinese companies in terms of technology and their capability.
This capability made China earn the respect and trust of the Kingdom that has resulted in coming up with a series of cooperation agreements.
What other projects are you referring to?
We have petrochemical projects because Saudi Arabia has great ambitions in expanding and building chemical industries to meet its economy sustainable. The Kingdom will not only rely on exporting crude oil. It is now heading toward diversification of its economy by building and improving local industries. In this context, the two countries are seeking greater cooperation.
I noticed that during your tenure as ambassador the projects have increased. If we talk about figures, what is the current value of these projects?
Presently around 15 billion is the investment and construction value.
Through your diplomat tenure, what was your impression about the relations with Saudi Arabia?
Well, first we are keen and committed to enhance our bilateral relations with the Kingdom. We look at these relations with strategic outlook as we are always working for its enhancement to a higher level.
We attach great importance to the Kingdom for its role in regional affairs in the GCC and the Muslim world besides the G-20 as an important member.
We have joint interest as we in China are implementing our 12th Five-Year Plan and Saudi Arabia is implementing its 9th Five-Year Plan. Meaning to say, both countries have a wide range of interests to realize the development that would provide betterment for our people. In this context, there is a joint sense for further exchange of experience in development and increase mutual exchange in many sectors.
How do you see China's role and its place at the international level?
China is a permanent member of the Security Council and we attach great importance to international peace, stability and development. We shall always play a positive role in promoting peace and development of the international community. Besides, we also give importance to regional affairs, like the Syrian issue.
China firmly maintains that the current Syrian crisis should be resolved through political dialogue. China is a responsible country and a friend of the Arab people, including the Syrian people. China adheres to the purposes and principles of the UN Charter and the basic norms governing international relations. China is committed to upholding the independence, sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity of Syria, peace and stability in the Middle East, and peace and tranquility of the whole world.
China is deeply worried about the continued escalation of the Syrian crisis. In order to push for the political resolution of the Syrian issue, China has been actively working on the Syrian government and opposition in a balanced manner, urging them to earnestly implement Annan's "six-point proposal," relevant UN Security Council resolutions and the communique of the foreign ministers' meeting of the Action Group on Syria, immediately cease fire, stop violence, concretely protect civilians and dissolve crisis through political dialogue. China welcomes former Algerian Foreign Minister Brahimi to replace Annan as the UN-AL Joint Special Representative on the Syrian issue, and will actively support and cooperate with his political mediation.
How do you feel about the current uneasiness in Chinese-Japanese relations?
Actually, that issue could be of interest to friends of China because both China and Japan are important countries. Unfortunately, we found recently that Japan has raised the issue of Diaoyu Dao islands that caused a big problem in our bilateral relations.
Diaoyu Dao and its affiliated islands have been an integral part of China's territory since ancient times. China has indisputable historical and legal evidence in this regard.
Japan seized these islands in 1895 at the end of the Sino-Japanese War and forced the then-Chinese government to sign an unequal treaty to cede these islands and other parts of Chinese territory. After the Second World War, the Diaoyu Islands and other Chinese lands occupied by Japan were returned to China in accordance with the Cairo Declaration, the Potsdam Proclamation and other international documents.
By taking such unilateral action as the so-called island purchase, the Japanese government has grossly violated China's sovereignty. This is an outright denial of the outcome of the victory of the anti-fascist war and poses a grave challenge to the post-war international order and the principles of the UN Charter.
Japan's moves are totally illegal and invalid, which can in no way change the historical fact that Japan "stole" the Diaoyu Islands from China and the fact that China has territorial sovereignty over them.
The Chinese government is firm in upholding China's territorial sovereignty. China has filed a copy of the Chinese government's announcement of the baselines of the territorial sea adjacent to Diaoyu Dao and its affiliated islands to the UN. The Chinese officials have expounded China's solemn position on Diaoyu Island issue on many occasions of the UN. China has maintained contact and consultations with Japan on this issue through various channels and in different forms. China urges Japan to immediately stop all activities that violate China's territorial sovereignty, take concrete actions to correct its mistakes, and return to the track of resolving the dispute through negotiations.
Recently, we noticed that there are improvements in the negotiation between China and the Philippines? Please comment on these matters.
As you noticed that our vice foreign minister visited the Philippines during which they have discussed ways of how to resolve the dispute. We in China are keen to strengthen the traditional relations with the people of the Philippines on the basis of mutual respect and benefits.
We are committed to a good-neighborly policy with all and that is the principle of China. At the same time, we wish to resolve differences through a mutually acceptable political solution, which serves the interests of all parties.
We are committed to a policy of mutual respect which is the foundation of international relations. In this context we will not give up our right to defend our territorial integrity. At the same time we will deal with bilateral relations as much as possible in a spirit of good faith and good neighborly relations with everyone.
This good-neighborly policy with all was raised by the Chinese Minister of Foreign Affairs in his speech at the United Nations and on many other occasions.
We are aware of our age-old trade relations with the Philippines which also relies on China for many products. Will this relation help in a return to its normalcy?
I don't have all the details, but we welcome the recent move by the Philippine side and its desire on several occasions to improve relations with China. In return, China has reciprocated with a positive response that was manifested by the visit of the Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs .
Indeed, our trade and economic relations are growing stronger, but, at the same time, we believe that the only way to strengthen this relationship is through mutual respect for the other's sovereignty and enhance mutual trust. It is the principle of sovereignty.
We in China have a genuine desire to improve these relations because we are aware of our own responsibility in the region. China historically and philosophically has never been an aggressive country but a peaceful state. We always conduct our exercise of foreign policy on the principle of peaceful relations.
The security of the Asia-Pacific region needs joint efforts of all parties. Every single party must bear the responsibility for the protection and development of the region. China has a strong will and sufficient capacity to protect the country's sovereignty.
Based on the peaceful principle which is known to China, but nonetheless there are some countries which fear China's giant military power?
This issue has been raised for some time, I think, for several reasons. First, some parties are not comfortable with China's development. Secondly, there is a misconception in reading the history and values of China. For example, China's growth in the opinion of some is a threat to others based on old logic that if any country becomes strong, it must commit aggression against others.
But who knows the history of China he will find that it has never committed aggression and did not attack any country. China has suffered from colonial aggression several times.
As such, we never forget our suffering that prevents us from dealing aggressively with other countries. Indeed, there are some countries which feel apprehensive as result of misunderstanding China's civilization and history.
With the passage of time some will find that this logic is not realistic. China is always committed to peaceful development, and that if ever it changed its policy, China will suffer first and others later. We understand very clearly that if we discard the principle of peaceful development, there will be no benefit for China.