Cover Image: Chinese Ambassador to the United States Cui Tiankai delivers a speech in Washington DC, the United States, Nov. 21, 2019. (File photo: Xinhua)
On March 17, 2020, Ambassador Cui Tiankai took an interview with AXIOS and HBO.
Jonathan Swan: We are grateful for having you here. Mr. Ambassador, I want to ask you about a couple of things to the news before we get into the coronavirus.
Ambassador Cui: OK.
Jonathan Swan: On Monday night, President Trump, for the first time, referred to the coronavirus as the "Chinese virus". What did you make of that?
Ambassador Cui: Well, I'm not the spokesperson for the White House, but I think the World Health Organization has a rule when they name these new viruses. They will never give people the impression that the virus is linked somehow to a particular location, a particular group of people, or even a particular animal. They want to avoid stigma. So hopefully everybody will follow the WHO rule.
Jonathan Swan: The President of the United States isn't following it. Is there any message that you would want to deliver to him? He'll be watching.
Ambassador Cui: My message is very clear. I hope the WHO rule will be followed.
Jonathan Swan: Mr. Ambassador, on Tuesday, the Chinese government announced that it will be expelling all US journalists working for the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and the Washington Post from China. And they have 10 days to leave. What does the Chinese government have to fear from an independent press, Mr. Ambassador?
Ambassador Cui: I think I still have to give you the right facts. First, it's not expelling anybody from China. Their work permit as journalists will be terminated. Second, not everybody from these media. Some of their people will still be working in China. But most importantly, we are doing all this in response to the measures taken by the US government against our journalists here. So in a sense, we are compelled to do all these things.
Jonathan Swan: But so with respect, wasn't the first action the Chinese government expelling the three Wall Street Journal reporters because of critical coverage of the Communist Party's response to the coronavirus? And then the US government expelled, from our understanding, Chinese state-owned, they effectively made them cap their staff down this lower, from state-owned outlets.
Ambassador Cui: No, I think the fact is the Wall Street Journal ran an article with very insulting language on the entire Chinese nation. That caused a lot of anger among the Chinese people. So the government had to respond. Then the US government has taken actions against our journalists here, people who have never violated US laws, people who are just doing their professional jobs here. And they are expelled by the US government. Then we have to follow the principle of reciprocity. We have to respond.
Jonathan Swan: I read that column in the Wall Street Journal, and it didn't seem to me that there was anything that would violate a law. And it was really criticizing the government.
Ambassador Cui: That article is very insulting on the entire Chinese nation, if you know anything about Chinese history. I think a lot of people here in America did not agree with that title, with that kind of language. People were very upset here even.
Jonathan Swan: I'm sure people will disagree, Mr. Ambassador. I guess the question is whether it's a good idea to expel reporters because of something......
Ambassador Cui: Maybe the first question you have to ask is whether it's a good idea to write such an article at all.
For the full transcript of the interview, click for more details.