On 12th Aug, Ambassador Yi Xianliang was interviewed by NRK political journalist Philippe Bédos Ulvin on the Taiwan question.
Q: Thanks for the opportunity, Ambassador Yi. What is China’s principled position on Taiwan?
A: This is my 2nd time to receive NRK’s interview. It’s really my great pleasure, and please allow me to say hello and send my best wishes to the audience. With regard to the current topic, I do believe we should base on 2 principles. The first, one-China policy, it means just one China in the world, and the second, Taiwan is one part of China from all historic, legal and political background. I do believe you’ve already read the white paper the Chinese government issued two days ago. This might be good for us and for this interview.
Q: How high up on the list of priorities reunification with Taiwan is for China?
A: Taiwan is one part of China, the current situation is an outcome of a internal war before 1949. So, Taiwan is a part of China and that’s never changed. It’s just like Svalbard belong to Norway. Norway legally get Svalbard in 1920s through the Svalbard Treaty, or the Spitsbergen Treaty. Taiwan, from a long time ago, I think as least 2500 years, Taiwan is actually one part of China.
Q: Didn’t China and Taiwan first come together in the Qing Dynasty in the 17th century?
A. No, I don’t think so. As I said, Some Chinese from the mainland, such as Fujian and Guangdong, they already went to Taiwan to be the first residence.This happened 2500 years ago.
Q: Can you say something about Why Nancy Pelosi’s visit was considered an attack on territorial sovereignty. Can you explain your position?
A: China has diplomatic relations with more than 180 countries including US and Norway. While China and US set up their diplomatic relations there are 3 communiques, these are fundamental political and legal documents for the relations, one of the important issues is Taiwan. So, US commits to admit Taiwan as one part of China, and the one-China policy. As they committed, they will not have political ties with Taiwan. Like many other countries, culture and economic relations are allowed, but not political relations. Nancy Pelosi ranks the third in the US political system, and also, as per the US Constitution, the House of Representatives is one part of the US government. This maybe different from Norway and some others, but according to the US Constitution the House belongs to the US Government. So, Nancy Pelosi is an important politician in US political system. And she announced that this is official visit, she met with the so-called Taiwan president, and she deemed Taiwan as a country. So Pelosi violated their own commitment and crossed the red line. Not only the red line by us, but also the red line from US’s commitment on no political link with Taiwan. So, assuming Nancy Pelosi paid an official visit to Finnmark and has a talk with the governor, she called the governor the president of the independent Finnmark state. How about your reaction? This is the same.
Q: In response to crossing the red line as you said, China launched a very large scale military exercise around Taiwan which also lasted longer than the declared period. Does this not increase the tension around the islands disproportionately? And made the situation more dangerous?
A: This is a good question, but, it’s not a question for me, or for China, This is a question for US, also for Taiwan authority and the separatist. What is the tension? Before the visit , the US sent so many warships and planes to China’s surrounding areas, almost every day, in South China Sea, East Sea, and Taiwan strait. So the tension is already there, the visit upgrades, and serious worsens the tensions. Not only between the Taiwan Straits but also the region. So this tension is not only for the Chinese on both sides of the strait, but also the region. Such a visit continued to signal to the outside that US would like to take some provocative actions to promote the tensions in the area, and to promote some Taiwan politician’s efforts for independence. So this is the background, this is the origin of the tension. China has some military exercise in the strait and around the island. It’s legitimate and it’s our right. Because Taiwan is one part of China and in this area is China’s water. The exercise is just like your exercise in Barents Sea, in west Norway Sea. It’s quite normal and understandable. This should not be a surprise to the outside. This time we have a more significant size and more soldiers participating in the drill, but It should not be a surprise to the outside. If the provocative actions from the outside, or from the islands continues, I do believe the exercise or the military action will be more significant, the tension right now is not from the Chinese side or from the central government, the tension was made by the Americans and by the Taiwan separatists.
Q: Can we expect that in the future there will be more military exercise of this kind where Chinese ships for example are operating in what Taiwan authority called their territorial waters and Chinese fighter jets across the so-called median line, will we have more of this, or even larger scale in the future?
A: I must share my background with you. Before I came to Oslo, I was the Director General in charge of boundary and maritime affairs. So we had no any delimitation between the islands and mainland, it’s not necessary to have any delimitation, because we are the same country, China. So, the so-called Taiwan territorial water, the median line is totally none existent. So if Taiwan has territorial sea, it’s Chinese territorial sea, if they have EEZ (Exclusive Economic Zone), it’s China’s EEZ. So why the Chinese navy or air force or even, I do believe in the future, the army will also be there. This is normal, as I said, it’s the same, the Norwegian navy, air force, in your land, in Svalbard, in some other islands, in Bergen, it’s the same. This is the background. This is legitimate and logical. If one have no doubts about one China policy, and Taiwan is one part of China, one shouldn’t question on the waters or the territorial sea, this is beyond the background, and beyond the fundamental principles.
Q: You said the army will also be there?
A: Yes, maybe. I could not prejudge the process, but I’m quite sure about the outcome. I can anticipate the outcome that China will be reunified. But how long will that take and what measures should be taken. It’s not so easy for me or you to predict. But the outcome is that China will be finally reunited. We could not allow the current situation to continue forever. That is the will of the Chinese from both sides of the Strait. There are 23 million people in Taiwan, most of which support one China policy and support the reunification. Supporters of independence are just some separatist and politicians.
Q:What I have seen is that most significant part of the Taiwan population support status quo, the situation as of today, I am wondering is there not some fear in China that with the military exercises that the Taiwan population will become more entrenched and there will be more wanting independence?
A: Perhaps this is only some concern from some people. First, I do believe that the majority of Taiwan people support one China policy, and would like to see reunification. So this is the general trends. You said that the tension might have some impact on the consideration by some people. Well, I do believe this is a double-edged sword, I must be frank with you. If we have no any counter measures, some forces from the outside and inside, such as the separatists on the island, they will guide the island to be more pro independent, so we must take measure to stop such trends. Taiwan does not only belong to the 23 million people on the island, it also belongs to the 1.4 billion. If some people in Svalbard would like to be independent, or to be one part of Russia. Will Oslo agree? Will you allow them to have it? What happened in Spain, in the UK and some other places? Today, we are talking about modern politics, about the politics after WWII. Sovereignty, territorial integration are so important for all states, including Norway, US and others. Taiwan is one part of China, why some people and some countries would like to see a independent Taiwan. What’s the intention? I must say that is ill-intentioned, an evil intention.
Q: Have you ever had any dialogue with Norwegian authorities about Taiwan question?
A: Yes, of course. I have close relations with Norwegian politician, friends and the public. I managed to got out of Oslo at lease 2 or 3 times a year, to Bergen, Stavanger and some other cities, visited universities, companies, etc. So, I exchange with all friends, of course with the government officials, we had a quite good dialogue about this question. We believe Norwegian government and the people support China’s position, support the one China policy and consider Taiwan is one part of China. So this is quite clear, we appreciate the Norwegian side insist on your commitment, and on issues regarding sovereignty, territorial integrity and even security issues we support each other. So, this is quite important for our bilateral relations. As you know, more than 50 years ago, at that moment, China was not one part of the UN, China resumed the seat in the UN in 1971. Before that, Norway, time by time, have voted, for resuming China’s seat in the UN. Chinese people and government, we take this in mind and in heart, we appreciate Norwegian government and Norwegian people’s valuable support.
Q: I was wondering also more broadly how does China view its relationship with the West and most notably with the US in this past 10 years. How has this relationship evolved?
A: Good question. I am in the diplomatic system, for more than 30 years. I experienced some big issues, between China and others. Since we belong to different countries, different economics, and also sometimes we belong to different cultures, so we have differences. This should not be of surprise. This is quite normal. But the question is how to deal with the differences. I don’t think China has significant differences with the West. We are all human being. As human being, first we need food, health and house. Second, we need rules and law. And third, we need freedom. So this is human being. For all population, for all peoples, Norwegians, Chinese, Americans, Japanese, Indians, all the same. So come back to your question about the relationship between China and the West, according to my analysis, I have worked in the Netherlands for 8 years, in Sri Lanka for 3 years, in Norway more than 3 years and I have visited over 70 countries for meetings. People are good. But some politicians they are not so good. So, most of the differences and disputes, caused not by the people but by the politicians. You see what happened today, Pelosi, Biden and some others they have their own political interests and even family interests. Regarding China and the West in the past two or even three decades, white supremacy has come back. For the past two and a half centuries, white people are dominant in global affairs. But after World War I and World War II, and then we have the UN, so discrimination and white supremacy had a little bit going down. But in the past two decades, you talked about 10 years, it came back again. As the emerging economics, like China, South Africa, India, Brazil, Middle East countries, Latin American countries, etc. Their have collectively risen in economics. So the west, the Americans plus European countries, are worried about the challenge, they are worried that they would lose something. Actually, we are all human being, why they are so superlative in politics, in economic, in markets, in everything? They would like to dominate the globe. So this is the issue. For Chinese, we have 1.4 billion population. The fundamental task for the government is to meet the general needs of the people. And we do our best to improve their lives. This is the fundamental task. We have no additional resources to have some competition with any others including the West.In China, we have such a saying, I should have the meat, but not even the soup will be left for you. （我可以吃肉，但你不能喝汤）. This is what happened, this is the ideology for some western countries. Right now, even faced the problem in food security, shortage of energy in many countries. They still put a lot of money in war. Talk about climate change. Climate change is already a disaster for Norway. This year, almost in every lake, the water level is going down. People are talking about the electricity crisis, what happened? But they still have a lot of money for war, for confrontation with others. Norway may be a model for the West, it paid lots of money for humanitarian assistance to developing countries. Norway also carried out so many mediation for the disputes. When I was the Ambassador in Sri Lanka, Sri Lankans told me, “we found our peace, we finally ended the internal conflicts and there are two countries we should be thankful, one is China, the other is Norway. Why we make so many troubles for each other, we are all human being. I must say that the US is a trouble maker. From 2001, we go back for almost 55 years, between 1945 and 2001, in total the world have experienced 248 conflicts in more than 150 regions, you know how many initiated by the US? 201. So, this is the case. Yes, you are an ally of the US. In security and in politic, you have good relations with the US. We have no objection to that. Every country could be allied, could find partnership. But the allies should not be without sense of right and wrong. As Chinese, we always want to support the right side, we always support justice, this is us. In the past 10 years, you talked about the relation between China and the West, we faced the challenge from the US and western countries. But we tried our best, we have so many mechanism between the US and China, between China and European countries, and between China and Norway. So we try our best to solve the differences and disputes through dialogue. We will try our best to solve the tension and problems through peaceful way. But of course sometimes, if we are forced to the corner, we have to take some measures. So anyway, peace and peaceful way is still the priority for us, for the Chinese and also for the others.
Q: But you are willing to risk, for example, confrontation with the US if they would declare the support for an independent Taiwan, you would be willing to go as far as war?
A: Actually the ball right now is in the hands of the Americans not the Chinese. Taiwan is a province of China. If some outcome like you said occurred, the 1.4 billion people will stand straightly to face any risk, because this is the fundamental interest of the nation, and for both the mainland Chinese and Taiwan Chinese. I do believe the US will carry out its commitment. If the US would like to take some measures to damage China’s core interest or fundamental interest, then we have to act. But I do believe, it will not happen.
Q: Secretary General Xi has said that reunification is an essential part of national rejuvenation and this will happen by 2049. So is there a clear deadline for when Taiwan be reunited to China?
A: I believe this is a misinterpretation of the remarks made by President Xi. We never have a timetable for that. But we should not allow the current situation to be continued forever. We have no timetable, but if the Americans, the outside forces and the separatists on the island take more provocative actions, the unification time will be shortened, not in 2049, perhaps even tomorrow. We have a law for this. In 2005, we passed the Anti-Secession Law, if declared independence, it will be unification by non-peaceful way, it’s war.
Q: But wouldn’t the cost of launching invasion on Taiwan, the disastrous human suffering, the life lose out weigh the goal of reunification？
A: I do believe this is another question, this is a technical one. Non-peaceful way sometimes does not mean the whole range military action. This is a military issue, I am not an expert on this. But there are other countries also have such examples to unite their countries. So it is too early to prejudge the ways, the measures or the loses.
Q: The Chinese Ambassador in France said once the unification is completed, you will have to re-educate the Taiwan population. Is this an official position?
A: I could not comment on my colleague’s remarks. I have twice visited Taiwan, it is the same, same language, same characters and same culture with mainland’s. Of course we have different textbooks. I do believe that our policy is quite clear, that is “One Country, Two Systems”. You can see what happened in Macao and Hongkong as examples. This is a technical issue. Of course, sovereignty is non-negotiable and one country is without dispute. Based on these principles, anything can be talked. This is quite clear in the white paper. So, re-education or some others remarks, I don’t have comment on that. But “One Country, Two Systems” is the fundamental principle for reunification. I do believe, if unification do happen, the Taiwan people, they will get a lot, politically, economically, etc. The current situation or the status quo actually limited exchanges between the mainland and the island.
Q: But they would have to depart from, the system of free and fair elections. They have to change their political system?
A: I think after the unification, everything could be arranged and to be consulted, as what happened in Hongkong and in Macao. No big change except defense, foreign affairs, etc. These goes to the central government, the local authority can decide economy, culture and some internal political affairs. This is the key point of “One Country, Two Systems”.
Q: I wondering what would China do, for example, if the Norwegian member of parliament or member of government visit Taiwan?
A: Of course we totally object to that because the parliament member and also the politicians also belong to the government. We have no objection for the Norwegians to have some economic, cultural cooperation with the island. But in political area or if politicians touch this issue, it will be a serious issue. So we object to that. I think it should not happen.
Q: that’s all questions. Unless there is something you want to add?
A: I would like to take this opportunity to talk about the relations between China and Norway. I have been here for more than 3 years, I work hard with my colleagues, I really appreciate Norwegian government, people and also the parliament for your support to our relations and also for the Embassy to carry out our function. I would like to have more talks and dialogues with the audiences of NRK and all the media, because friendship between the peoples is the most important for our two countries. We belong to different political system, but I do believe we have more common values than differences. For example, I paid my first visit to Norway almost 30 years ago, in 1993. It was a study tour on climate change. I went to Nansen Institute here in Oslo and also Bergen, just for one week. This is my first look at Norway. Norwegian people is quite similar to Chinese, working hard, inclusive, friendly, and we all have family-driven value. We support peace, multilateralism, and we support settle of disputes through peaceful ways, through negotiation and consultation, and also, we support open market and free trade. So, we have so much in common, common values. Yes you are allied with some others, but I do believe China and Norway, we are partners. In the future, we face the serious challenges in energy, food, climate, health, and also poverty. So, how to deal with those challenges, we need cooperation among countries. Chinese stands are quite clear, we will cooperate with Norway in this regards. We had many projects in the past years, and we will continue to have these joint projects and joint cooperation. So right now as Ambassador, I’m quite happy with the relations, for its stable development and trade is going up, and it is beneficial to both sides. Right now in Beijing it’s easy to order Norwegian sea foods, yesterday my family member told me she ordered Norwegian salmon in the morning, and in the afternoon came to my house in Beijing. Pretty easy. Here, we can buy some Chinese goods, it’s the same. So we are human being, we are not animals, we should support each other, we should learn from each other, and we should live with each other, yes we have some differences, but differences always belong to some politicians not the people. Thank you.
Source: Chinese Embassy in Norway北京