On 8 March 2015, the Third Session of the Twelfth National People’s Congress held a press conference at the Press Center of the Two Sessions. Foreign Minister Wang Yi was invited to answer questions from Chinese and foreign media about China’s foreign policy and external relations.
Wang Yi: Friends from the press, good morning. Today is the International Women’s Day. At the outset, I would like to extend sincere greetings to the female journalists and all Chinese women who show understanding of and support for China’s diplomacy.
On this day a year ago, the MH370 flight went missing. A year has passed, and the plane has not been located, but the search effort will continue. Today must be a tough day for the next of kin of those on board MH370. Our hearts are with you. Malaysia Airlines has started its compensation work. We will provide all needed service to every next of kin and help you uphold your legitimate and lawful rights and interests. With these words, I would like to open the floor to questions.
People’s Daily: Mr. Minister, you once said that 2014 was a year of harvest and all-round progress in China’s diplomacy. Could you elaborate on that? And what can we expect from China’s diplomacy in 2015? What are the keywords we need to watch?
Wang Yi: Indeed, 2014 was a year of harvest for China’s diplomacy. It was also a year of forging ahead and breaking new ground.
Under the leadership of the CPC Central Committee headed by General Secretary Xi Jinping, we successfully hosted the CICA Summit in Shanghai and the APEC meeting in Beijing, and left a deep imprint of our own. We took an active part in the resolution of global hot-spot issues, and played China’s role in international and regional affairs. We made energetic efforts to expand external cooperation, and our initiative to establish a Silk Road Economic Belt and a 21st Century Maritime Silk Road won support from a lot of countries.
It is particularly worth mentioning that focusing on building a new type of international relations featuring win-win cooperation, we are taking a new path of external relations characterized by partnership rather than alliance. By the end of last year, we had established different forms of partnerships with over 70 countries and a number of regional organizations, and basically established a global network of partnerships. One can say that China’s circle of friends and partners has widened and will continue to expand.
In 2015, we will continue to forge ahead and expand all-round diplomacy. While steadfastly safeguarding our national interests, we will work to expand the common interests we have with other countries in the world.
The keywords for China’s diplomacy in 2015 will be “one focus” and “two main themes”.
Our key focus in 2015 will be making all-round progress in the “Belt and Road” initiative. We will further enhance policy communication with other countries, expand the convergence of our shared interests, and explore effective avenues of win-win cooperation. The emphasis will be on promoting infrastructural connectivity, and building overland economic corridors and pillars of maritime cooperation. We will also promote people-to-people and cultural exchanges and cooperation, and speed up relevant FTA negotiations. We are confident that the “Belt and Road” initiative will win even more support and deliver even more “early harvests”, so as to catalyze the revitalization of the Eurasian continent as a whole.
In 2015, we will do a lot under the two themes of peace and development. We will work with the international community to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the end of the world’s anti-Fascist war, draw lessons from history, look to the future, and make China a staunch force for peace. The 70th anniversary of the founding of the United Nations will be a good opportunity for us to take an active part in the UN’s development summit and international cooperation on climate change. We will play a constructive role in helping to secure a post-2015 development agenda and a new international regime for addressing climate change that are in the interests of developing countries.
Beijing News: In recent years, more and more Chinese citizens have made outbound visits, and we see a good example of that during the just passed Chinese New Year. What will the Chinese Foreign Ministry do to facilitate the outbound visits of Chinese citizens and protect their legitimate rights and interests overseas?
Wang Yi: Last year, for the first time, Chinese citizens made over 100 million visits abroad, making them the largest floating population in the world. There are also more than 20,000 Chinese enterprises which have established a presence abroad, and millions of our compatriots are living and working in different parts of the world. The task and responsibility of protecting their rights is heavier than ever. We are always concerned with the safety and wellbeing of every one of our compatriots, and we will do everything in our power to protect and assist them.
Last year, the Chinese Foreign Ministry’s Global Emergency Call Center for Consular Protection set up the 12308 hotline. The hotline is a 24/7, all-time-zone channel of communication between overseas Chinese nationals and their loved ones back in China. Now no matter which part of the world you are in, if you run into trouble, you can dial this number and get prompt assistance from the Foreign Ministry and our diplomatic and consular missions abroad. In the half year since the launch of the hotline, we have received over 30,000 phone calls. Many of our compatriots say that this hotline is very reassuring for them, because they can feel that the motherland is always by their side. We hope more of our compatriots can know about this hotline and make good use of it. When in trouble, please call 12308.
In 2014, we also made important progress in visa facilitation. We signed visa exemption or simplification agreements with 24 countries, equal to the total of the previous four years. And nowadays, Chinese citizens can visit more than 50 countries and territories without a visa or by obtaining a visa upon arrival. You may remember the reciprocal visa arrangement which China and the United States announced last year. It means that if a Chinese or American person has a visa, then for up to five or even 10 years, he or she can travel easily between the two shores of the Pacific Ocean with just a passport and an air ticket. And let me tell you that China and Canada have just reached agreement on issuing visas to each other’s citizens with a validity period of up to 10 years. This agreement will go into effect tomorrow.
The effort to protect and assist Chinese nationals overseas is always a work in progress; it is never a mission accomplished. Wherever there is Chinese footprint, consular service must step up and cover that place. We will continue to work hard to improve the value of Chinese passports, so that our compatriots can more directly feel the dignity of being a Chinese and find it easier to travel abroad. We hope more and more of our compatriots can go abroad any time they wish and they can have smooth, safe and worry-free travels.
Lianhe Zaobao: Some people have compared China’s “Belt and Road” initiative to the Marshall Plan and say that China is tightening its economic bond with neighboring countries to pursue geopolitical, military and security interests. What is your comment?
Wang Yi: China’s “Belt and Road” initiative is both much older and much younger than the Marshall Plan. Comparing one to the other would be like comparing apples and oranges.
The “Belt and Road” initiative is older because it embodies the spirit of the ancient Silk Road, which has a history of over 2,000 years and was used by the peoples of many countries for friendly exchange and commerce. We must renew that spirit and bring it up to date.
The “Belt and Road” initiative is younger because it is born in the era of globalization. It is a product of inclusive cooperation, not a tool of geopolitics, and must not be viewed with the outdated Cold War mentality.
In pursuing this initiative, we will act according to the principle of wide consultation, joint contribution and shared benefits. We will carry out equal-footed consultation and respect the independent choice of other countries. We will be sensitive to the comfort level of other parties, ensure transparency and openness, align the initiative with the development strategies of other participants, and create synergy with the existing regional cooperation mechanisms. The vision of this initiative is common development and the goal is win-win progress through cooperation. If I may use a musical metaphor, it is not China’s solo, but a symphony performed by all relevant countries.