Photo via the Chinese Embassy in Sweden
Gui Congyou, the Chinese Ambassador to Sweden, gave an exclusive interview with SVT at the Embassy on the role of media and Swedish Media's reporting on China on 8 January. The following is an excerpt the interview.
Q: I would like to discuss the role of the media with Mr. Ambassador today. What do you think the role of the media is?
Ambassador Gui: I think the role of the media is to play a positive part and build a bridge of exchange, communication, understanding and cooperation between people, societies and countries. To this end, the media and media professionals should abide by the following norms. First, they should base their work on objective facts, not nonsense or twisted facts. Second, they should spread friendship, kindness, solidarity, and cooperation, instead of inciting hostility or hatred. Third, the media and media practitioners should bear corresponding social responsibilities just like all other professions.
Q: How would you describe the difference in working methods between Chinese and Swedish media?
Ambassador Gui: The working methods of Chinese and Swedish media should be the same. They all should follow the media professional norms mentioned above. The media and media professionals in our two countries should follow the mission of the media and journalistic ethics, and enjoy full freedom on this basis. Chinese media enjoy full freedom of the press while following the above-mentioned norms.
We will not comment on how Swedish media report on Swedish domestic affairs. We pay more attention to how Swedish media report on China. We have noticed that some Swedish media and media professionals are not following the above-mentioned three principles in their reporting on China. For example, some Swedish media always attack the Communist Party of China (CPC) and the Chinese Government for no reason. What is the basis of these attacks? CPC’s leadership in China was established by the entire Chinese people after 28 years of arduous struggle, driving away foreign invaders and overthrowing the decadent rule of feudalism and bureaucratic capitalism. The Communist Party of China leads the entire Chinese people to firmly follow the path of socialism with Chinese characteristics, and has achieved long-term political stability, rapid economic development, good living and working environment, and drastic improvement in people’s livelihood. This is a tremendous contribution made by the CPC to the peace, stability and development of the world. It deserves to be welcomed and supported by the media and people around the world, including the Swedish media.
You should notice that the Chinese Government, media and people never make unfounded accusations against the Swedish Government, media and people. However, some Swedish media have a habit of criticizing, accusing and smearing China. The Chinese Government and people have always been willing to develop friendly relations with Swedish Government and people on the basis of mutual respect, equality and non-interference in each other’s internal affairs. Some Swedish media and journalists always make groundless accusations and attacks on China, instigating confrontation, hatred and division between the two countries and peoples. It is hard to tell what their agenda is. The Chinese side has always been committed to openness, communication and cooperation. But some Swedish journalists refuse to talk with us, and do not want to go to China to see the real situation there, instead they sit in their office all day, trying to think of ways to slander China. These people remind me of Belikov in Russian writer Anton Chekhov’s novel Man in the Case, someone that isolates and closes himself up all the time. They do not want to look squarely at the fact that the CPC is leading the Chinese people in building Socialism with Chinese characteristics, a new system that is vibrant and promising. They do not want to see the diverse world and a progressing China, instead they only want to close themselves up, and imagine a world that is singular with only their presence. We sincerely hope they will step out of the self-isolated world, and face the diverse world and progressing China. We welcome those Swedish journalists to visit China and report about China objectively with what they see there. Recently SR aired a series of programs on China by its former correspondent in China. These programs are not based on one-sided logic or imagination, instead they are based on the words and thoughts of men and women in the street of China. I believe such reporting is more objective and we hope more Swedish journalists will learn from this SR journalist.
Q: A journalist from SVD says the role of the media is to check, supervise and control the government. What do you think?
Ambassador Gui: Of course, an important role of Chinese media is to supervise the Government and officials, by discovering their problems and making constructive criticisms on government policies. Chinese media has been playing such a role very well. Such supervision and criticisms need to be with good will and constructive. I can give you two examples. The first is that China is working hard to promote green, clean and sustainable development, address pollution and punish the companies that fail to meet environmental standards. Some emission violations were in fact exposed by media investigation. The second is that the CPC and Chinese Government have stepped up efforts to fight corruption after the successful conclusion of the 18th CPC National Congress in 2012, some corruption cases were also exposed by media investigation. In this sense, media play an irreplaceable role in enabling the modernization of national governance and supervision of government and officials.
Q: You were very active in communicating with Swedish media. How many times did you talk with Swedish media in the past two years?
Ambassador Gui: I cannot recall the exact number of times. In the first six months after I arrived in Sweden, all of our proposals to communicate with Swedish media were declined. After presenting my credentials to the King, I hoped to publish an article on Swedish media, to present my mission to build a bridge of communication between the two countries and two peoples and convey the friendship of the Chinese people to the Swedish people. The fact that all mainstream media in Sweden refused to publish the article, which has nothing but good will and friendship, is shocking to us. It gave us an impression that Swedish media do not want to accept friendship and good will from China. At the same time, in the face of constant unfounded criticisms, accusations and smears on the CPC and Chinese Government by some Swedish media and journalists, my colleagues and I were determined to conduct more communication with them, to explain the objective situation in China and invite them to visit China to look at the objective situation there. We hope to have good cooperation with Swedish media.
Q: Did such active communication make Swedish media’s reporting about China more positive?
Ambassador Gui: We noticed that some journalists still refuse to talk with us, which is not good. Meanwhile we also noticed some Swedish media outlets, like SR, are airing some programs that cover China more objectively, which is helpful for the Swedish public to learn about China objectively. We hope our communication with Swedish media will help the latter cover China in a complete, objective and truthful manner. We also hope those Swedish journalists will abandon their bias, stereotypes and pre-set agenda, and start interacting with the Chinese people out of good will.
Q: How many times did you have lunch or dinner with Swedish journalists?
Ambassador Gui: All my interactions with Swedish journalists are either like this conversation we are having or me receiving an interview at a Swedish press office. I do not recall having dinners or lunches with Swedish journalists. But of course if the two of you would accord me with such an opportunity, I would welcome it very much. I remember during Almedalen in early July 2018, SVT wanted to talk to me about changing its correspondent in China. But my schedule was too tight to squeeze in a formal meeting, so I had a working lunch with the executives of SVT. I had many conversations with SVT journalists in Stockholm, but we never attended a meal together. I would feel honored if you would like to invite me to a meal or accept my invitation to one.
Q: I talked with some editors and journalists from recognized Swedish media, and they are critical of the way the Chinese Embassy tries to influence how they write about China. What is your comment?
Ambassador Gui: Of course we hope some Swedish media and journalists will change the way they write about China, especially with all the unjustified criticisms, vicious attacks and smears against the CPC and Chinese Government. We hope these editors and journalists will visit China more, to write about China based on what they see with their own eyes and what the common people in China actually think. We hope they will show at least some basic respect for China and its 1.4 billion people, and not to try to interfere in China’s internal affairs. The frequent vicious attacks on CPC and the Chinese Government by some Swedish media and journalists reminded me of a scenario where a 48kg weight boxer keeps challenging a 86kg weight boxer to a fight. The 86kg boxer, out of good will to protect the light weight boxer, advises him to leave and mind his own business, but the latter refuses to listen, and even breaks into the home of the heavy weight boxer. What choice do you expect the heavy weight boxer to have? Some Swedish journalists do not want to go to China or open eyes to the real situation in China, instead they sit in the office all day and try to invent criticisms with hostility against CPC and the Chinese Government. Shouldn’t such a way of journalism be changed? Some Swedish media claim China lacks human rights. There are 1.4 billion people in China. Those media should go to China to see how the Chinese people live a happy life. Every year there are over 150 million Chinese tourists travelling abroad. If China was truly a place without human rights as some Swedish media have claimed, how can these Chinese tourists return home happily after what they visit abroad? It is hard for us to understand how those media and journalists could cook up the conclusion that China has no human rights. It is unbelievable!
Q: If I write an article on the Hong Kong protests, one that is critical of China, will it affect my visa to China as a journalist?
Ambassador Gui: First, you should not write an article critical of China because of the violent protests in Hong Kong. Sweden calls itself a “democratic country”. The so-called “protesters” in Hong Kong keep claiming they want “democracy”, but what they do is in fact vandalizing and arson. They even attack and kill other innocent people. What you should do is to criticize such extreme violence that severely violates democracy and rule of law. Those violent outlaws have been rioting for over half a year, and now some of them have started to make reflections and backed out. They hold a flag of “democracy”, but what they really do is totally against democracy. Instead, what the Chinese Central Government, Hong Kong SAR Government and police are doing is defending democracy. Imagine, if the same arson, vandalism, violence and killing happen in the streets of Stockholm, how will the Swedish Government and Police handle it? One should not have double standards, one set of standards on oneself, and totally different standards on China.
Q: Editor of cultural section of Expressen said your comments on the Gui Minhai case and Swedish Government are “threats”. What do you make of it?
Ambassador Gui: First, I think she lost rationality. Second, we give advice and warning, and never threaten anyone. Third, we are shocked by her total ignorance and disregard of law on the Gui Minhai case. In fact, we have repeatedly presented the truth of the case to people that are interested in it. In the late 1990s, Gui Minhai set up a fraudulent school in Gothenburg University, and promised the over 100 Chinese students he tricked to this school with a diploma. Gothenburg University did not recognize his fraudulent school and refused to offer diploma to the over 100 Chinese students, which consequently led to the suicide of two students. To escape legal punishment in Sweden, he fled back to his hometown in Ningbo, Zhejiang, and never dared to return to Sweden. In Ningbo, he killed a college girl while drunk driving without a driver’s license and fled. After several years he returned to China and turned himself in. The Chinese authorities sentenced him to two years imprisonment based on his crime of traffic casualties in accordance with law. Till today, he never made any economic compensation to the family of the college girl that he killed. After that, under the manipulation by some Swedish people, he started to illegally provide state secrets and intelligence to overseas, and was arrested again. With such a criminal and criminal suspect that committed crimes in both Sweden and China, some Swedish media and individuals use the case to grossly violate China’s judicial sovereignty and interfere in the Chinese judicial authorities’ lawful handling of the case, aren’t they too ignorant of law?! The fact that the Swedish Government supports, shelters and instigates those that interfere in China’s internal affairs and judicial sovereignty is highly unfriendly towards the Chinese Government and people, and of course such actions will incur consequences.
Q: It is a tradition in Sweden that the Swedish media outlets are not used to governments trying to influence them. What do you think?
Ambassador Gui: China never interferes in the internal affairs of other countries, and the Chinese media and people never make unfounded criticisms on foreign media and governments. As for the relationship between Swedish media and Swedish government, it has nothing to do with us, and should be dealt with by the Swedish media and Government themselves.
Q: You mentioned the series of programs on China by SR. Are there any other Swedish media outlets you think have fair and objective coverage on China?
Ambassador Gui: I hope all the Swedish media outlets cover China in an objective, fair and complete manner. We hope SVT will play a leading role in this regard.
Q: I hope so too. How many Swedish media outlets do you think report about China objectively and fairly?
Ambassador Gui: The situation is better than before.
Q: Do you think the way Swedish media report about China is different from the way they report about other countries?
Ambassador Gui: I never made such comparisons. Be it reporting about China or any other countries, I hope Swedish media will be true to their mission of journalism, follow journalistic ethics and not to try to interfere in the internal affairs of other countries. Honestly speaking, it is not only some Swedish politicians and media that are not in the position or ability to interfere in internal affairs of other countries, Sweden as a whole is also not in the position or ability to do so. If they do so, they violate a basic norm of international relations, which is non-interference in internal affairs of other counties. Some countries and people keep asking China to abide by rules-based international order, but they themselves have always been interfering in domestic affairs of other countries, willfully using force or threatening with force and using domestic laws to sanction other countries. They themselves do not follow international rules, how are they entitled to asking other countries to do so? Taking human rights as an example, Sami people in Sweden were subjected to very cruel treatment in the past. Why has the Swedish Government still not apologized to the Sami people? A few days ago I read that Swedish police said shootings took place in Sweden eight days out of ten in 2019. All year round there were several hundred shootings that killed 41 people. There are rampant robberies and thefts against foreign tourists and Swedish citizens around Sweden too, and people don’t feel secure. Certain people in Sweden are not entitled to judging or criticizing human rights in other countries. What they should be doing instead is to work to protect human rights in their own country at the first place.
Q: Some editorial offices say the Embassy writes letters to them, trying to influence the internal process of reporting and interfering in freedom of press? How do you comment?
Ambassador Gui: When they refuse our good will and invitation to visit China to see the real situation there, and when they refuse to talk with us but only hide in their offices to criticize and accuse China, why we are even not allowed to make some criticisms on them? What kind of logic is that! If I start this interview by patronizing and making unfounded and vicious smears against you, how will you react? But of course I am glad that today’s conversation is a friendly one in good faith. I don’t know if you have been to China before. I hope you and your colleagues will visit China more, point your camera at the men and women in the street in China, and listen to what they want to say.
Q: I hope to go to China to write business stories. It will be interesting. You mentioned you hope to invite Swedish journalists to China. SVT has correspondents in China. Expressen also hopes to send reporters to be posted in China, but the Embassy refused to issue a visa. Why?
Ambassador Gui: We welcome Swedish journalists to visit China to cover the country objectively, but they need to abandon their bias and pre-set agenda first and change the wrong way they report on China. They need to put their camera on the common Chinese people, listen to their thoughts and ideas, and learn about their life, instead of wearing colored glasses or even magnifying glasses to look for issues with China with bias and stereotypes. China has made tremendous progress, and certainly there will be various issues to be solved in the process of further improving living standards of the people. We hope foreign friends will report about China in good-faithed and constructive manner. Just like any other country, Sweden also has its own problems. We are willing to strengthen communication with the Swedish side, present our respective practices to address the problems in our social and economic development, learn from each other to deliver better development and a better life for our countries and peoples. We hope Expressen, especially editors and journalists from its culture section, will also act this way.
(Source: the Chinese Embassy in Sweden)