Nathan VanderKlippe (Beijing bureau chief for the Globe and Mail): This year, as you know, marks 50 years of diplomatic relations between Canada and China. I wonder when you look back, what do you see as the key achievements in that relationship? What do you think Canada has contributed to China in that time?
Lu Kang (Director-General of the Department of North American and Oceanian Affairs of the Chinese Foreign Ministry): You know that actually this year not only marks the 50th anniversary of our bilateral diplomatic relationship, but also the 15th anniversary of the strategic partnership established between our two countries. If we look to the past 5 decades, I have to say that for most of the time, actually we enjoyed great progress on many fronts in our bilateral relationship. For example, in the political area, you can see that before COVID-19, for most of the time ,we had very frequent high level contacts, even on regular basis. We also have over 30 high level mechanisms, I mean the intergovernmental mechanisms, covering most of the areas that we could have good cooperation. And in economic and trade area, China has long been Canada’s 2nd biggest trading partner, 2nd biggest importer and 2nd biggest exporter. And you know that actually the trade volume has been more than 400 times in contrast to when we first had our bilateral relationship. So that’s very important achievements.
And in comparison with the people-to-people exchange in the initial period, now, I mean before COVID-19, you have over 1.5 million people flying across the Pacific between our two countries (every year). Actually around 1 million from Canada, Canadian people, come to China. So you know that all those are something tangible that you could see in our bilateral relationship. But what’s most important in my personal view, actually is that we could establish a kind of practice or a pattern of behavior between our two countries, that this relationship has been based on, basically, on mutual respect and mutual benefit. So that’s why, that could explain very well in the past 5 decades for most of the time, despite all the changes internationally and in each of our respective domestic situation, you could see that this bilateral relationship still develops very quickly and benefits a lot to our two peoples.
Nathan VanderKlippe: The current Canadian Government came into power with goals for different kind of relationship with China, a more expanded relationship with China. There were exploratory talks to a different trade agreement that’s started, there were agreements for collaboration and cooperation in a number of different areas, including in research, in science, and in all these other sorts of things. And I wonder does the Chinese Government still see any of those goals as worthy of pursuing right now or is that all on hold?
Lu Kang: You know that about 4 or 5 years ago, I mean when our two governments started to discuss, to design a more prosperous future for bilateral cooperation, including those areas that you just covered, we believe that that will be beneficial to our two peoples, and to all the sections in our two countries. That is still the case, that’s still relevant I can tell you. Even after COVID-19, you can see that we are faced with new challenges, but we are still faced with new imperatives to make sure to guarantee the sustained recovery and development in our two countries. And how we could ensure that people are even more better-off after COVID-19. So you could see that although there are challenges, there are still good opportunities for us to explore and implement what we might agree or we have come to the point of agreement. But I also have to say that all these cooperation need right circumstances, you may know what I mean here. Actually there is the hurdle that we have to get over. In our view, that’s the political issue or in our view that’s the mistake by the Canadian Government on the Meng Wanzhou case.
Nathan VanderKlippe: So right now do you see Meng Wanzhou as blocking all other bilateral issues or do you think it’s still possible to work on other bilateral issues at the same time?
Lu Kang: This is an issue that not only the Chinese Government but the Chinese people have been unfairly treated, so this is an issue that has aroused strong sentiment among Chinese public. This is an issue that we hope the Canadian Government should really seriously take care of in order to pave the way for smooth cooperation between our two countries.
Nathan VanderKlippe: But is there any possibility to have other cooperation while Meng Wanzhou is still in Canada or is there no possibility for that?
Lu Kang: Of course you know that in recent two years, there are still connections through diplomatic channel between our two governments at various levels. And also for the common interests of our two peoples and even maybe for people at large, we also carried out some cooperation, connection between our two countries. But I have to say that this is an issue that could bring about more opportunity costs for the Canadian Government and for our bilateral relationship in general. Because without that, as I told you, there are a lot of areas, there are a lot of opportunities, potentials that we could explore more. But with this, we don’t have the right circumstances to explore further.
Nathan VanderKlippe: Canada has an extradition treaty with the United States that’s started in 1971, it’s almost 50 years old. In this case, the United States made a request, a lawful request to Canada, to arrest someone when that person arrived in Canada. Canada has an extradition treaty with the United States, under that treaty it needs to act. What in your view should the Canadian Government have done? How could the Canadian Government have responded to an extradition request like that, under its own law, without acting the way it did? Because when you look at it, that doesn’t look like a political conspiracy, that looks like the Canadian Government following its laws?
Lu Kang: Do you know how many bilateral extradition treaty does the United States Government have with other countries?
Nathan VanderKlippe: A lot.
Lu Kang: More than a lot, one hundred and eleven. Do you know how many governments the US Government has requested to extradite Madame Meng Wanzhou before the Canadian Government? More than dozens of. So you know that actually we heard the public remarks by some politicians or statesmen in the Canadian Government, saying that because you’re legally obliged by this bilateral treaty with the US Government. But there are some questions, at least there are 3 questions, I believe that the Canadian Government is supposed to tell the truth to the Canadian people.
First question, when the Canadian Government decided to detain the innocent Chinese citizen Meng Wanzhou, what specific articles of the Canadian legal system Madame Meng has violated? Even up to today, almost two years after she was detained, we didn’t get an answer whether publicly or through bilateral channels from the Canadian side.
Second, as I told you, the US side has bilateral treaty with 111 governments, and they did make the request to dozens of other governments to detain Meng Wanzhou, but none of them followed this ridiculous idea, until when Madame Meng entered Canada. So why the Canadian Government became the only one?
Third, you know that although we don’t think it’s a kind of judicial issue, we think it’s a kind of political incident, but we respect the wish of Madame Meng herself and Huawei to go through the legal procedure in Canada, and then when they come to this specific section of the “abuse of procedure”, the attorney team of Madame Meng requested to disclose some necessary documents, but then that was refused by the Canadian Government and by the Federal Court. So why? I think the Canadian Government has to draw a whole picture, a clear picture, and to describe the story in its entirety to the Canadian public instead of just misleading them. So these are the three basic questions that I hope the Canadian Government could answer.
Nathan VanderKlippe: I know that Meng Wanzhou, before she traveled to Canada, she traveled to other countries that also have extradition treaty with the US, and she wasn’t arrested there. But I’m not aware that the US made extradition request, you’re saying to dozens of other countries, including some of the countries Meng Wanzhou traveled to?
Lu Kang: Yes, including some of the countries (Meng Wanzhou traveled to). Of course because the Americans know that Meng Wanzhou did travel to other countries, including American allies, including those countries that the US side has bilateral treaty.
Nathan VanderKlippe: But I mean that has not been disclosed before, can you tell me the source of this information?
Lu Kang: Actually it’s for the Canadian side to tell the whole picture to the Canadian public.
Nathan VanderKlippe: I think when other countries, particularly Canadians with long history with China look at this, they say:oh, Canada sold wheat to China many many years ago when China was in need of wheat, that Canada has done things like sort of help to train judges or from the Chinese side, there has been training offered to executives and officials and the sort of thing. And they see, one issue, as coming, and they see China turning its back on 50 years’ of largely good relations. Why has the Chinese Government been so willing and so quickly to abandon all of those years’ goodwill?
Lu Kang: First, I have to say that I don’t agree that China has turned our back to the long friendship to the Canadian people. I don’t know whether you’re aware, last year when we celebrated the 70th anniversary of the People’s Republic of China, for the first time in our history, we awarded some foreigners with the Friendship Award, only six for the first time. And among the six, not only those friends that we’re very familiar with, but including a Canadian citizen.
Nathan VanderKlippe: That was Isabel Crook.
Lu Kang: Yes, a Canadian citizen. I don’t know whether you were a little bit surprised, because some of my friends actually told me that because at that time, everybody knows that because of the Meng Wanzhou issue, our bilateral relationship was at such low level, and through that, when you saw President Xi actually awarded the Canadian citizen of that very rare award, so you can see that Chinese people, Chinese Government never turn our back to the Canadian people. So I couldn’t agree with that. I have to say that we still cherish the traditional friendship between China and Canada. You might be also aware that today we mark the 75th anniversary of the victory of anti-fascist. And if you look back to that time, we also had good cooperation, we enjoyed the support from Canada. In China, when people talk about Canada, people could remember Dr. Bethune, so that’s still in our memory. No problem for that. But I still have to say that the current administration or the current cabinet in Canada, by making the mistake on Meng Wanzhou issue, actually did something very very wrong, and ruined the right or the necessary atmosphere that’s needed for further cooperation that could better benefit our two peoples.
Nathan VanderKlippe: Let’s take this out of government, let’s talk about people-to-people exchange or business-to-business exchange. If you’re right now a Canadian traveller, obviously COVID-19 is in the way, but somebody who is doing business, how could a person in Canada feel confident about building a business in China or building a relationship with China, when they see that a political event could cause very significant problems in terms of trade between the two countries, or even in terms of the personal security of Canadians living in China? It’s not just an issue for Canada, I mean Australia is in similar situation, we’ve seen other countries that have political disputes with China, I mean how can people in business in these countries trust that China will be a reliable partner for them when there are often economic reprisals that China takes for political issues?
Lu Kang: I have to say that for all those issues, I know you yourself raised some questions, some other people also make some questions. But if you look at the bilateral trade, the pattern in general, I don’t think people need to worry. Of course between two economies, each side might be involved in some disputes, then you can just go to the WTO, you can just try to find whether that’s against any WTO obligations or commitments. If that’s not the case, that’s just a kind of commercial or trade dispute, so go through the right procedure on that. I also couldn’t agree that people might need to worry about their safety when they come to China. As I told you, actually before COVID-19, there are around 1 million Canadians coming to China. I don’t hear very often that they’re worried about their safety when they travel in China. I know that in some media coverage, there are some sayings, there are some allegations, but I have to say that because some people don’t want to tell the Canadian public the whole picture, the truth, the right thing, so selectively they only focus on something, they try to make up some story, then to make up issues. For us, I can tell you, and through you to the Canadian public, China sticks to our opening to the outside world. We benefit a lot from our reform at home and opening to the outside during the past 4 decades, there’s no reason that China goes away from that. And we still believe that that serves China’s own interests, that serves the interests of not only Chinese people, but people at large.
Nathan VanderKlippe: Canada has now, in last 5 or 6 years, on two different occasions, there have been Chinese people who have been arrested in Canada, because they are wanted in the United States, and because the United Stated has made extradition request. In both of those cases, there were two Canadians who were arrested in China, we’ve now had over the past 5 or 6 years, four high-profile Canadians who have been arrested in China in the midst of extradition proceedings in Canada. And this is been widely described, widely criticized as “hostage diplomacy”. What are the objectives of “hostage diplomacy”? Why does China engage in this practice?
Lu Kang: When I was spokesman, I answered this question for many times, I believe you can still check the record. Actually for the Canadians you referred to, I understand you refer to the “two Michaels”.
Nathan VanderKlippe: Yes, but also Kevin and Julia Garratt before them.
Lu Kang: We made it publicly which specific articles of Chinese law they have violated, and everything is open, everything is transparent. But when we come to the issue of Meng Wanzhou, I kept on asking this question, what specific article of the Canadian law Madame Meng has violated? No. So you can’t compare these two at the same level. One issue, you have some foreign nationals violating China’s legal framework. On the other issue concerning Madame Meng, we still believe she is innocent. And even the Canadian side could not explain what kind of legal framework she has violated. So I don’t think it’s fair to compare them together, not to mention the so-called “hostage diplomacy”.
Nathan VanderKlippe: But they have been taken hostage, I mean is it purely a coincidence that Meng Wanzhou was arrested on December 1, and on December 10, both Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, in two different cities, were arrested. Is that purely coincidence?
Lu Kang: We have explained and I think relevant agencies in China have also explained actually all the procedures of the detaining of the two Michaels were transparent.
Nathan VanderKlippe: But the timing, if they are not hostages, then why were they arrested so quickly together on the same day after Meng Wanzhou?
Lu Kang: Actually for today’s world, that happens. This is what I can tell you, that happens. And you can’t just link everything together. Everyday there might be a lot of things happening between China and Canada, so if you try to connect everything together, you can always find something.
Nathan VanderKlippe: Wang Yi and Canadian Foreign Minister just met in Rome, one of the things that we heard from the Canadian side, but we did not hear from the Chinese side, this is why I’m asking you, was that there was an agreement to discuss consular access to Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, Canadian consular officials have not been able to visit them since January of this year, when will consular access be restored to them and what did China agree to?
Lu Kang: They did discuss that, I don’t know why the Canadian Government did not share with the public or share with the media the response from the Chinese side. Actually that was a question we also discussed here in Beijing between the Chinese Foreign Ministry and Canadian Embassy for quite a few times, and they know exactly what’s the reality. Ever since the detaining or the arrest of the two Canadian citizens, from the very beginning they were guaranteed all necessary consular rights or legitimate rights, including consular visits by the Canadian Embassy here. But the outbreak of COVID-19 changed a little bit not only in this area, you know it changed a lot in the daily routine of many areas. So that’s why, for the safety and security of the prison and all the facilities, some extraordinary and exceptional measures have been taken, that’s the exact reason. That’s not just targeted against the two Michaels or the Canadian citizens, actually that’s applied to all the prisoners in the similar cases.
Nathan VanderKlippe: But Cheng Lei, an Australian citizen who worked for CGTN was recently detained, the Australian Government has been given access to her, why is the Canadian Government not given access to their citizens?
Lu Kang:You can check with the Canadian Government. Not only the two Michaels were also given some extra exceptional treatment even during the COVID-19, but also we have already made special efforts actually to try to accommodate the request or the concerns by the families of the two Michaels, for example, to keep in contact with them. So there are a lot of arrangements, we have tried our best to make, even during COVID-19. I don’t know whether you’re aware, for example, for Michael Kovrig, when we were told that father of Michael Kovrig was in critical condition, we made special efforts, that was the only exception, to try to connect him with his father through telephone conversation. So I don’t know why the Canadian side didn’t mention this part of the story.
Nathan VanderKlippe: They haven’t. We reported that. I spoke with the family about the phone call. But in terms of meeting, what did your Minister agree to? Did your Minister agree to sort of allowing consular access?
Lu Kang: Minister Wang Yi made it very clear. First, he explained the whole situation we are facing today concerning this. Secondly, he simply mentioned that the consular channel between our two governments is still there and we can still carry out the necessary discussion to facilitate that.
Nathan VanderKlippe: Do you have any sense of when the consular access could be resumed? As Canadians, we see that the Chinese Government is talking about its success in controlling COVID-19. We see the number of cases that China reported across the country is zero for many days. So when people hear these men cannot see consular officials because of the pandemic measure, they would ask why the consular officials still can’t see these men when China is saying it has succeeded in controlling the COVID-19?
Lu Kang: You have to understand that it is a different environment and it is a different surrounding. And in case there might be something wrong, or even with just one incident, you know what kind of resources and arrangements that you have to make up for it? That is the same issue not only for prisons but also for military bases and many other special facilities and compounds. It is different. It is not just kind of normal public area.
Nathan VanderKlippe: I understand that. But the schools have reopened recently.
Lu Kang: Yes, with special arrangements and protective measures.
Nathan VanderKlippe: I can imagine the Canadian Government would be willing to consider other options.
Lu Kang: We never said their consular access were denied.What we have said is that even during the COVID-19, we tried our best, especially from humanitarian consideration, to accommodate the legitimate concerns of the two Canadian citizens and also the legitimate rights of the Canadian authorities. But I think it is just understandable during this unprecedented period of COVID-19, special measures could be taken. For example, for Canada, I don’t think it is getting back to business as usual or normal although you don’t have very high record of cases.
Nathan VanderKlippe: Yes, our border with the United States is still closed. One of the places there was possibility of some cooperation between China and Canada in the last 12 months was on Canadian testing of a Chinese developed vaccine, the CanSino vaccine.There was an agreement between the National Research Council of Canada and CanSino to test that in Canada. There were approvals on the Canadian side to test that. But when it came time for CanSino in China to get an approval to export that vaccine to Canada for testing, it was unable to get that approval. Why was it not able to get that approval?
Lu Kang: Development and put into use of vaccine is very important for fighting against the COVID-19. You can see that from the top level, the Chinese Government has already committed to international cooperation. President Xi Jinping has committed that Chinese Government would make our efforts to develop the vaccine and to facilitate their affordability for all the developing countries through international cooperation. Concerning this specific case you just mentioned, I don’t know whether you are aware that actually the company also made a public statement on that. We are not quite aware of the exact details. But you know that the Chinese Government is reaching out to many international partners, not just this region at home but also abroad.So you have to look at the exact details how they discuss the specific way of cooperation. I don’t see anything that people should fear that. It shouldn’t be politicized.
Nathan VanderKlippe: Was this punishment to Canada? Because everyone in Canada understands that this is a time of difficult relationship between Canada and China, and they see the partnership on vaccine testing that doesn’t work. So I think the natural question is, China once again attempting to punish Canada?
Lu Kang: It was just a cooperation or possible cooperation between a Chinese company and a Canadian company. That happens every day. So if the Canadian Government or some people in Canada believes that Chinese Government resorts to each and every area trying to block all cooperation between our two countries, as kind of punishment as you mentioned, that could not stand. Ever since the outbreak of COVID-19, there have been a lot of cooperation and mutual support between our two countries. For example, when China was in our very difficult time this first season, we received very generous support of PPEs from Canadian Government and society. On the other hand, when our most difficult part was over and Canada needed support from China, we doubled our supply of PPEs to Canadian Government and public. If that is the case as you mentioned, you cannot explain why Chinese Government could have just stopped everything between our two countries. Another thing I can tell you, just about one or two months ago, also during the COVID-19, China ,Canada and European Union still carried out cooperation on climate change and sustainable development,even at ministerial level. So, I still hope that Canadian Government should share with the Canadian public the whole picture.
Nathan VanderKlippe：But what was the specific reason this vaccine could not be sent to Canada?
Lu Kang：As I told you, that is just an exploration of possible cooperation between a Chinese company and a Canadian company or authority, whether it is successful or unsuccessful. That happens everyday .
Nathan VanderKlippe：We were talking about Meng Wanzhou earlier. She is in this extradition process in Canada. You asked about what crimes she committed in Canada. She is not accused of committing any crime in Canada. She is accused of committing a crime in the US. Canadian court has looked at this issue of double criminality and rejected her defence to allow the extradition hearing to go. So that has actually been considered by the Canadian court. Extradition processes in Canada can be long. There could be appeals take place. This could take several years. But history shows that 80%-90% people wanted by the US for extradition from Canada, the extradition is completed and the person was extradited from Canada to the US. If Meng Wanzhou is extradited from Canada to the US, what sort of reaction should Canada expect from China?
Lu Kang：We made it very clear to the Canadian side that this issue is not a judicial case. This is a political incident. This is just another Alstom story that the US Government tried to use its state power to suppress those competitive and successful companies. Unfortunately, the Canadian Government is the only one that helped the US Government in this kind of dirty game. So definitely this is something that became very very serious obstacle between our two countries. And definitely the Chinese Government and Chinese people are entitled to preserving our legitimate rights in whatever forms.
Nathan VanderKlippe：But things have been bad for the last 2 years. What happens if Meng Wanzhou is actually extradited from Canada to the US ?
Lu Kang：I am not here to prejudge anything. We seriously hope that we don’t need to go to that part.
Nathan VanderKlippe：We have seen some very difficult times between Canada and China. And we have seen difficulties between Australia and China. And more recently in the past week we have seen your Foreign Minister Wang Yi issuing threatening comments against the Czech Republic and the President of Czech Senate could pay a heavy price for his visit to Taiwan. Mr. Wang was in turn accused by the Czechs for bullying for those remarks. Is this the goal of China’s foreign policy to make other countries fear China?
Lu Kang：That is never our policy. And that is not the whole picture for Chinese diplomacy. I think people have to bear in mind, if you want to see the genuine picture of China’s diplomacy, you have to bear in mind the vast majority of the international community. You have to bear in mind that in the United Nations, there are 193 members. So please don’t just focus on a couple of countries. And even between China and those couple of countries, if you look back into the past record of history, it just happens that there are some issues. But the most important driving force that could get the bilateral relations between China and those countries back to the normal track, is whether the both sides could stick to the very basic principle of mutual respect, whether we could strictly stay committed to the letter and spirit of the United Nations Charter. This is most important. I understand it is very difficult if you just try to focus and highlight just each and every specific case. But you have to look at the reflection of the genuine international public community.
Nathan VanderKlippe：There have been a series of disputes between China and some other countries. There is a dispute between China and Japan over territorial waters. There is a dispute between China and Norway over a Nobel prize. And there is a dispute between China and South Korea over the installation of the THAAD missile system. Now there is a dispute between China and Australia partly over Australia calling for independent review of coronavirus and between China and Canada over Meng Wanzhou. But the THAAD system was installed. Nobel prize was given to Liu Xiaobo and Japan has not changed its stance on territorial disputes. And in Australia’s case, Australia continues to push not only for an independent review but also for other measures.In Canada’s case, Meng Wanzhou continues to go through the extradition process. In none of these cases did any of the countries change its behavior because of some reprisals China took, so why does China continue to pursue this strategy because it doesn’t seem like effective?
Lu Kang：First of all, I have to say that not only China, but countries like United States, like Canada, all the other countries are involved in some sort of disputes with some other countries. That just happens. Secondly, I think like every country, just like Canada and many other countries, we are entitled to preserving our legitimate rights. Especially when it comes to those essential part of our legitimate rights, like issues concerning sovereignty and territorial integrity. This is well known in international public community. You just couldn’t expect China to be silent on issues like Taiwan and territorial integrity. That doesn’t happen to any other country, not to mention China.
Nathan VanderKlippe：But the goal of taking actions is to achieve something. In none of these situation, do the Chinese actions appear up to achieve something. Why sort of block agriculture imports from Canada if that doesn’t actually change anything in Canada?
Lu Kang：Even if that didn’t happen or is not successful in one or another case, in general Chinese diplomacy has been very successful in creating an atmosphere that is conducive not only to the domestic development at home but also the cooperation with the vast majority of the international community. Of course we wish everything could be perfect and we are in harmony with everybody all the time. But that is not the reality of today’s world. We are still striving for that. That’s why China, in our diplomacy, still stick to sincere dialogue through bilateral channels. But there are always cases when the counterpart is not in the mood for dialogue but resorting to microphone diplomacy, as it happened between China and Canada. For a long time we believe that it is much more useful to resolve disputes and outstanding issues through constructive dialogue. But it takes two to tango.
Nathan VanderKlippe：How would you suggest other countries look at the disputes between Canada and China for the last two years? Would you suggest they look at it as a warning about the risks of doing something that make China anger? What lessons should they learn about how to deal with China?
Lu Kang：Don’t help the wrong person doing the wrong thing. That’s the first lesson they have to learn. As I told you, why Canada became the first one and only one that accepted, agreed and followed American instruction on this specific case？
Nathan VanderKlippe：My memory is that Meng Wanzhou travelled to I think France, Germany, Singapore and some other countries.
Lu Kang：I told you, around a dozen of countries.Among these countries, many are American allies also. And most of them have bilateral extradition treaty with the US. They also had so-called legal extradition obligation with the US.
Nathan VanderKlippe：You are saying in those travels Meng Wanzhou took in the 2-3 months before December 1, 2018, the US had made extradition requests to those countries.
Lu Kang：Actually the US political strategy against Huawei and including Madame Meng herself was not just made in those 2-3 months. They have made extradition requests to many of its allies, but none of them would accept this dirty game.
Nathan VanderKlippe：What you are saying is Meng Wanzhou was traveling around and the US had made extradition requests to the countries where she traveled before. Yes?
Lu Kang : Yes.
Nathan VanderKlippe : Those countries didn’t react on those requests?
Lu Kang : No.
Nathan VanderKlippe：Only Canada did?
Lu Kang : Yes.
Nathan VanderKlippe：Let me ask you about the two Michaels again. Why don’t just release the two men? Would China not stand to gain if you release the two Michaels?
Lu Kang：They were taken according to China’s legal framework. China is also a country under the rule of law. You cannot just say that it could be flexible in the legal framework. If that is the case in Canada, that is not the case in China.
Nathan VanderKlippe：If Meng Wanzhou is released by the Canadian court.
Lu Kang：We hope that could happen very soon, as early as possible.
Nathan VanderKlippe：If that happens, what happens to the two Michaels?
Lu Kang：They will be taken care of through China’s legal framework as I told you.
Nathan VanderKlippe：So if Meng Wanzhou is released from Canada, there is no guarantee that the two Michaels will be released in China?
Lu Kang：From the very beginning, we have told the Canadian public very clearly that those are two issues totally different by nature. So there is no reason why you should connect them together.
Nathan VanderKlippe：That is not what the Canadian Government understands.
Lu Kang：That is what the Canadian Government did not tell the Canadian public.
Nathan VanderKlippe：So the Canadian Government has been lying to the Canadian public about this.
Lu Kang：That’s what you said.
Nathan VanderKlippe：Let’s talk about something of bigger picture. Are we entering a new cold war?
Lu Kang：We don’t like that.
Nathan VanderKlippe：What term would you use?
Lu Kang：The whole world is changing drastically. It is still our strong belief that the vast majority of the international community don’t want to go back to the cold war. Why do we have to? In the post Cold War period, alongside the development of globalization, almost all countries and all peoples have benefited a lot. And there are still great potentials for further cooperation among all countries and peoples. So why should we go back to the cold war or cold war mentality? That only tears countries and people apart from each other,that might serve the interests of only a handful of politicians but at the costs of the vast majority of international community.
Nathan VanderKlippe：But is China not also pursing something like this? When you look at Made in China 2025, when you look at China Standards 2035, when you look at China’s dual circulation policy, all of these are government policies meant to increase more self-reliance. So is China itself pursing kind of decoupling strategy that would work in a Cold-War world?
Lu Kang：For each country, especially for those big economies, like China, Canada and the United States, definitely the government will design some sort of guidelines for the future development of industries or the whole economy. That is the same case with China. But if you look into the details of those documents or papers as you just described, in none of them there is a specific article or promulgation that China will only focus development that exclude international cooperation or partners. And all those criteria are set not only for foreign companies and trading partners, but also the same apply to their Chinese counterparts as well. So the Chinese Government might try our best to have a better explanation when it was promulgated and disclosed, but it is more important for people who really care about the development and policies of China to look into the details of that in exact words, instead of just copying whatever others might allege.
Nathan VanderKlippe: But for other smaller countries, when they look at these policies they might think why would we build a future strategy of increasing trade and business cooperation with China if the Chinese policy is focused internally for more self-sufficiency.
Lu Kang：How do you come to the conclusion that China’s policy aims for more self-sufficiency?
Nathan VanderKlippe：That is a very clear goal in terms of China’s internal supply in some areas that targeted in 2025 strategy. That is part of dual-circulation policy. It is quite clear.
Lu Kang：Can you please give me one article in the 2025 strategy that makes you come to the conclusion that China is more focused on self-sufficiency?
Nathan VanderKlippe：Well, I mean, there is discussions about the degree to which Chinese suppliers are able to supply certain important technological goods.
Lu Kang：If you look at the documents issued by other governments, definitely there are a lot of areas that some governments would focus more on some part of their industry. The crux here is whether it is against its commitment under the WTO framework. So if that is against the WTO framework, definitely that would be a change of policy. But if that is not the case, it’s just natural that every government might have its own priority to try to support the development of its domestic market or industry. That happens.
Nathan VanderKlippe：May I ask another bigger picture question. We have seen a real change in terms of the US commitment to international institutions. The US has taken dramatic action against the World Health Organization. The epidemic has been a time of change around the world. What is your expectation for how this epidemic period changes China’s role in the world?
Lu Kang：I don’t think I am in the position to say on behalf of other members of the international community. How does this change China’s role? So far as we are concerned, Chinese Government is still committed to multilateralism. We are still committed to the role of all the multilateral regimes, institutions with the United Nations at its center.Not only those institutions in physical terms, but also the spirit of the UN Charter. That’s actually the agreement that draw wide support in the international community. China is still on that track. We also hope all other members would be on that track as well. If that’s the case, we still stick to international cooperation. And as China grows up, definitely we are prepared to make more contributions to the international community in post COVID-19 era.
Nathan VanderKlippe : In the last 18 months in Canada, we have seen public opinion toward China grow much much worse. It is not just in Canada, but also in China’s most important trading partners. We have seen the public opinion polling of German, American, British, and French dramatic decline in terms of people’s favorability or approval of China.Does the Chinese Government see that as a problem? Is the Chinese Government willing to do anything to try to change those things?
Lu Kang：First of all, according to our own experiences in the past 4 decades when China opened to the outside world, we are always very serious in listening to the public opinion from the outside. That is still the case. For example, if there are some constructive opinions and suggestions from outside, I can tell you my Government is still prepared to listen. Whether we could do better. That could help us better serve Chinese people’s interests and carry out our cooperation with our international partners.That is not a problem. But there is another thing we have to bear in mind, if you look at specific polls or surveys, both you and I know how they are designed. Different designs and structures of the survey might come up with different opinions and conclusions. For example, I can also share with you some other polls which suggest that the Chinese Government led by the Chinese Communist Party enjoy the most or biggest support among its own nationals in comparison with all the other countries. We are open to any constructive opinions. On the other hand, if you look back to China’s own development in the past 4 decades, it is true that our development path is different from Canada or other important trading partners. It is also true that every now and then, every here and there, there were some obstacles, challenges or even difficult periods. But in general, it is a successful development path. It is successful in helping the vast majority of Chinese public better off. It is generally successful in helping China to be involved in globalization and integration in international economy. Of course, we are not perfect yet.We are prepared to make improvements at home and in our interactions with international partners. We are still prepared to listen to good and constructive suggestions.
Nathan VanderKlippe : I think, public opinion is public opinion, it can have real effects. It can affect how welcoming other countries are to Chinese trade, to Chinese investment and those sort of things . It matters, right?
Lu Kang : Yes.
Nathan VanderKlippe : Has some of the Chinese policies in terms of the ways it has treated other countries or even domestically, because in many countries, there has been concerns about Chinese domestic policies, whether that’s what’s happening in Xinjiang or what’s happening in Hong Kong. Is China concerned that those policies are creating a more difficult environment for China to operate in outside its borders？
Lu Kang : First of all, I have to correct you. Not many countries expressed their concern over what you called the Xinjiang or those kind of domestic issues. If you look at the voting pattern either in Geneva or in New York, maybe just a dozen of countries expressed their so-called concern. You raised a very good question,whether there could be some specific cases that China, by listening or interacting with the outside world, try to improve and perfect our own policies. I can give you one good example, that’s the China’s offer of the international public good, the Belt and Road Initiative. You know that, when this initiative was tabled, actually many people are just curious about it, not many people joined in immediately. But then we also heard some voices, I would rather take them as, whether it’s critical, constructive ideas. For example, this kind of cooperation between China and many other partners should focus more on green growth, more on climate-friendly. So you can see that on the second Summit of the Belt and Road Forum held in Beijing, if you look very carefully through the statement, the policy announced publicly by the Chinese leadership, you can see that those elements, those dimensions are well included in our policy. So that’s just one example that China has always been prepared to listen to the outside world and to improve, of course as we have always done.
Nathan VanderKlippe: As you know, there have been several issues in the last couples of years, where other countries have faced choice to act in a way that is more friendly to China, or to act in a way that is more friendly to the US. We’ve seen this on Huawei when it comes to the 5G networks, where the US has made a very clear case, and China has made a very clear case. We are seeing this perhaps in TikTok, we’re seeing this in more areas. And I wonder, what is your argument? Why should a country like Canada, when it’s faced with an issue like 5G, why should it choose the Chinese side, if it worries that perhaps China won’t be a reliable partner in the future, because there is another political dispute that China would once again create economic problem for Canada? Why would Canada choose the Chinese side then?
Lu Kang: In our policy, we never try to force any other governments to take sides between China and the other party that’s in question or in dispute with China. But we still believe that each and every government is a sovereign government, they are entitled to making their own independent sovereign decision on their policy choice. So I’m not here in a position to say on behalf of any other government, but if I could say something, I’d rather say that it’s not that difficult to take sides. Just take sides with the principles enshrined in the UN Charter. Just take sides with the vast majority of the international community. Just take sides with the basic norms governing country to country, state to state relationship. One good example based on that, you could just look at the voting pattern in most of the multilateral regimes. It’s not that difficult, Nathan.
Nathan VanderKlippe: So you’re saying most of the people at the UN vote for China?
Lu Kang:They vote for preserving, safeguarding of the principles of the UN Charter.
Nathan VanderKlippe：Some in Canada, and not just Canada, but other countries as well, have talked about a boycott of the 2022 Winter Olympics. I mean, for Canada, why would Canada not boycott the Olympics, if China is holding two Canadian people hostage? Why would Canadian athletes come to China for the Olympics?
Lu Kang: As I told you, there are always cases between two countries. But as I have already shared with you, before COVID-19, that’s a specific difficult part of period, there are around 1 million Canadian citizens coming to China every year. So if those 1 million Canadians are not worried about their safety, I don’t think Nathan you need to worry. And concerning the Winter Olympics, because Canada is very strong in Winter Olympics, I’m happy that actually China and Canada are also in discussion of some cooperation on that. Concerning what you mentioned, the call for boycott of the Winter Olympics, actually I don’t hear very much. There are always some noises, here and there, But I don’t think that’s a kind of wide cry from the vast majority of the international community. And I don’t think that’s in the interests of all the other countries.
Nathan VanderKlippe: Why not?
Lu Kang: Why? You should give me why it should be an issue.
Nathan VanderKlippe: Well I mean, if people feel threats to their safety or they feel that China is acting in ways that they don’t approve of. I think that’s how people would answer that question.
Lu Kang: Well, each country might have something that others don’t like. But you know that before COVID-19, not only the 1 million Canadians came to China on regular basis, even between China and the United States, every day there are over 15 thousand people flying across the Pacific. So why they don’t worry? So only just a few, maybe a couple of politicians, they cry a lot. And hopefully media will not just focus on them.
Nathan VanderKlippe: As you know, earlier this year, there were some Chinese diplomats, particularly in Europe, who made very strong statements. And those statements were sometimes criticized by their host countries and there was a lot of talk about “Wolf Warrior” diplomacy from China. And in the last couple of months, we haven’t seen as much of that. Wang Yi is in Europe, and there seems to be a real, sort of visible attempt to have a more moderate relationship between China and some of these other countries. Was “Wolf Warrior” diplomacy a mistake? Was that a wrong policy?
Lu Kang: I don’t know why you have to characterize in this way. But as I have already told you, for China’s diplomacy, the very purpose is to create a friendly environment for China’s interaction with other peoples. But when things come to the core interests of China, like those sovereignty, territorial integrity issues, I think China is entitled to speaking firmly on preserving our legitimate rights. I think that’s also the case maybe for Canada and for any other country.
Nathan VanderKlippe: But there are different ways in speaking firmly, right? And you think speaking firmly in ways that other countries see maybe as insulting, was that the wrong policy?
Lu Kang: Could you please give me just one example that the Chinese diplomat is trying to insult the host country, or the people of the host country?
Nathan VanderKlippe:Well I think in France, there was a feeling that the Chinese diplomat had spoken about the way France was dealing with COVID-19, and there was a sense that his comments were insulting to what France has done.
Lu Kang: Could you be a little bit more specific?
Nathan VanderKlippe:I think there were comments about France sort of abandoning elderly people.
Lu Kang: That was one case, If my memory does not fail me, there was one statement, because of a word used, that some French people believe that was not a proper word. I can tell you that it was just because of the interpretation. You know that it’s very unfair for Chinese diplomats, we always have to speak the other foreign language, not only abroad, but also at home in China, when we deal with our counterparts, and foreign journalists like you.
Nathan VanderKlippe: Indeed and I’m very grateful for that.
Lu Kang: But you speak very fluent Chinese.
Nathan VanderKlippe: You speak very fluent English.
Nathan VanderKlippe: There has been, as you know, there has been talk in a number of different countries, where you have Canada for example, has talked about broadening an alliance of liberal democracies, the US and Australia have talked about sort of making stronger ties among democracies, Japan has talked about becoming the 6th eye in the Five Eyes. Do you feel that Chinese policies are to blame for this? For example, the permanent court of arbitration has called some of China’s activities in the South China Sea a contravention of international law. Is it China’s policies that are pushing other countries to talk about more strongly working together?
Lu Kang: I think it’s clear-cut. It’s clear-cut that it’s not China’s policy that pushes all these kinds of move, it’s the American policy. For China, as I told you, that’s still the case for China, we stick to exactly our commitments within all the multilateral regimes. We are still committed strictly to the principles enshrined in the United Nations Charter. So for example, concerning the arbitration that you just mentioned, only a couple of countries, I can tell you no more than 20 countries, claimed that it was a kind of ‘international’ arbitration. But from the very beginning, it was not. It was set up outside the international framework. It was set up and actually financed by the one government. So by no means it’s a kind of international arbitration. If you just focus on some countries that try to support that arbitration, why you don’t look at some other 70 or 80 countries that share their opinions with China? So I think it’s unfair.
Concerning whether China would be worried that there’s some move organized by the United States trying to isolate China. First of all, of course we don’t like that. We still believe that today’s world should be a world focusing on cooperation, open to each other. But we are not afraid. As I told you, we are still confident that in general, the way we have explored in the past 4 decades, has been generally successful. Not only for China’s own development, but also for China’s cooperation with the outside world. Secondly, this kind of move, actually, I don’t believe they will get support of the vast majority of the international community, they will even not get support among the US allies. So on quite a few issues, some politicians in Washington D.C., even they themselves have agreed that actually some of their initiatives could not enjoy the support of their own allies, whether it’s in Asia or in Europe.
Nathan VanderKlippe: You’ve heard the word in Europe, systemic risk. And in Canada right now and in other countries, there is a process of examining what the policy toward China should be, what the Canada-China strategy should be. And of course one of the documents they will look to is some of the things that have been produced by other countries. What do you think of that idea, systemic risk? Does China and this idea of a China model, China saying we have a model that has worked and that could potentially work for other countries.
Lu Kang: When we say that? When we say that we have a model you have to follow?
Nathan VanderKlippe:Not that you have to follow but I think it has been very equivalent that there’s a model in China, that has been held up as a potentially successful mode, one that is development-focused, one that is infrastructure-focused and that sort of thing.
Lu Kang: You’re so familiar with China. That should not be your way understanding the Chinese policy. We always believe that of course the way of development we have explored is generally successful for China, but we never said that could also be applied to any other country, whether it’s big or small, whether it’s developed or developing. We never said that. Because we always believe that each country has its own background, each country has its own domestic situation, each country is supposed to find a way that could better fit its own domestic situation. We never said that anybody should try to follow the so-called, in your word, the China’s model. We never said that.
Nathan VanderKlippe: But is China a systemic risk to other countries?
Lu Kang: We don’t believe so. As I said, if you just focus on some odds, some issues between China and some other governments, that happens, among all countries. Of course as I said, we are always prepared to listen to our partners, if they have some concerns, if they have some worries, if they have some issues, or if they have some new ideas that whether we could explore more cooperation. So we always encourage more cooperation, we always encourage a better way, a more effective way to handle difficulties and disputes. We never believe that that should come to a kind of as you mentioned, a systemic risk. That’s not necessary.
Nathan VanderKlippe: I want to ask that in Canada, we have an opposition party, like most democracies do, which just elected a new leader. And the leader of this opposition has argued that Canada should take a much different, a much harder approach to China. He’s called China’s political system a “threat” to Canadian interests, he’s called for Canada to more directly support Taiwan including at international organizations, suggested that Canada do more screening of Chinese citizens and scholars that are doing sensitive research, to ban Huawei from 5G networks, to pursue some kind of partial decoupling from China. Given that China has been fairly hostile, I think like many Canadians would say, towards Canada over the last two years, why shouldn’t Canada also pursue a more hostile policy towards China?
Lu Kang: I think for all politicians, it’s very important for them to bear in mind what are the real interests of their constituencies. You can always hear public remarks from politicians everywhere. But it’s more important actually for the Canadians and other nationals to decide what kind of policy the government in question is supposed to carry out. I strongly believe, all politicians have their own judgments of the interests, of the real wish, of their constituencies. For example, when you mentioned that some politicians in Canada, they have a different opinion on China’s political system. I have to say that when the Canadian Government decided to establish diplomatic relationship with China 50 years ago, they know what kind of political system China has. That political system does not change. So actually, that kind of difference in our political systems did not prevent our two peoples communicating with each other. That kind of difference in our political systems did not prevent the commercial circle on each side to carry out win-win cooperation with each other. That kind of difference in our political systems never prevented the Canadian Government or the previous Canadian Governments, and including the current one, to carry out cooperation on international fora with the Chinese side on issues we have common interests, like climate change, like the UNPKO, so why it should be changed? On our side, we are not in that mood, we are not enthusiastic to change that. But it’s for the Canadian people actually to decide whether the politicians that they have elected should change or not.
Nathan VanderKlippe：But if a new Canadian Government were to take a different policy toward China, what kind of consequences will there be for that?
Lu Kang：Well I have to say, first, of course we’re still in the mood to explore further cooperation with Canadian side for the better-off of our two peoples. Of course we need the right circumstances, we still have the Meng Wanzhou issue here. Secondly, it’s always China’s consistent position that whenever things come to the core interests, China, just like all the other governments, we’re entitled to preserving our interests.
Nathan VanderKlippe：Speaking of consequences, I just want to go back, if Canada does extradite Meng Wanzhou to the US, and I ask, because I think historically, if you look at history, and if you look at the numbers of history, you have to look at that as a possibility, as a strong possibility. Should Canada expect there will be more measures taken by China against Canada?
Lu Kang：You repeat your question, and I can repeat my answer. Actually, I’m not in a position to prejudge anything, but really we don’t hope we would have to come to that.
Nathan VanderKlippe: Can I ask...I have to ask...I don’t know if you will answer but I’m going to ask. There have been a lot of frictions particularly in last 6 months between Beijing and Washington, particularly the White House. Does China think that a Joe Biden presidency would be a more reasonable presidency to deal with?
Lu Kang：Myself and my successors in LAN TING (the Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson’s podium) have said for many times that actually we’re not interested in other countries’ domestic issues, especially the campaign in the United States. We strongly believe that whether it’s Joe Biden or it’s Donald Trump, they are trying to design their policy based on their judgment of the real interests of the American public, if that’s the case. So if that’s the case, we hope that whoever goes into the oval office will carry out a policy that could help China and the United States continue the win-win cooperation between our two peoples.
Nathan VanderKlippe：We’ve talked about the two Michaels, but there have also been 4 Canadians who have been sentenced to death in China in the last two years.
Lu Kang：Because of the drug trafficking?
Nathan VanderKlippe：Yes, on drug charges, that’s right. But I mean their cases, some cases have been publicized in an unusual way. One of them, when he was sentenced to death, there was an invitation to the foreign media to attend the trial, which is not typical in China. In the other cases, the sentences have been made public by the media in China. Is China willing to put to death a citizen of Canada as part of the political dispute?
Lu Kang：It’s not a political issue. Drug trafficking. You know China very well, you know drug is a very serious issue in China, you know that it’s also somehow related to the bitter memory of Chinese people. So you know that this is something that not only the judicial agency in China should take care of strictly according to our legal system, that’s also something that I can tell you, the Chinese public might pay a lot of attention to. So concerning death penalty, I know that different countries might have different systems, might have different policies on that, but for those countries, including China, that still maintain this death penalty, actually they also carry out that very strictly and strictly within the International Conventions on Human Rights. That’s no problem. Different countries might have different priorities, different public might have different opinions on that, but it’s very important to respect the judicial system, the judicial sovereignty of other countries.
Nathan VanderKlippe：Let me ask maybe one last question. How do you think Canadians should view China? What sort of impression or opinion of China would you hope that people in Canada have?
Lu Kang：With your help, with the help of the Canadian media, I hope that the Canadian public could have a real picture of China, could have some perceptions of China in its entirety. It’s true that China has developed very quickly in the past 4 decades. But it’s also true that China is still a developing country. We’re not perfect. We’re very proud of the achievements we have already made, but we are also aware that there are a lot of challenges. Like President Xi Jinping said, we’re now committed to deepening our reform at home, but now we’re coming to the most difficult part, the hardest part of our reform. So there will be a lot of pros and cons, there will be a lot of challenges that we have to tackle with. Sometimes there might be some costs that we have to take care of. Through the whole process, today’s China is not the China 40 years ago, today’s China already benefits a lot from our opening to the outside, our cooperation with the outside. So we’re still committed to that. We hope that all the Canadian people could look at China not by some of the labels, I have to be frank with you, some of the labels put on China by some politicians in western countries.
Nathan VanderKlippe：A threat?
Lu Kang：A threat or like those politicians in Washington D.C. these days, they try to attack China on almost all the fronts, just because they try to highlight the ideological confrontation, they don’t agree with Chinese political system. Please Nathan, tell the Canadian public, China made these achievements in the past 4 decades, China has been a friend, a partner with many of the international partners in the past 4 decades, also under the leadership of the Chinese leadership, also within our own political system, so that does not make a difference. Today China is still prepared to work with our international partners. And I also want to say that for those who really want to understand China, they are always welcome to come and look at China in their own eyes, in person.
Nathan VanderKlippe：Thank you very much for your time.
Lu Kang：Thank you.