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Charge d'Affaires a.i. Chen Wen's interview on World at One of BBC Radio 4
2019/05/25

On May 23, 2019, Chen Wen, Charge d'Affaires a.i. of the Chinese Embassy in the UK, gave an interview to Sarah Montague, presenter of World at One of BBC Radio 4. The transcript of the interview is as follows:

Montague: First about the decision expected soon from the British Government on whether the Chinese company Huawei can be involved in developing the fifth generation of mobile broadband here. Critics point to China's National Intelligence Law that was passed in 2017, that says organizations must support, cooperate with and collaborate in national intelligence work. President Trump called a national emergency over cyber security that has put Huawei on a blacklist.

Chen: I think the stand has been made very clear, that Huawei would not be asked by the Chinese government to provide any backdoor to China. It's very clear.

Montague: It would not, it has never been and would never be asked?

Chen: It has never been asked and would never be asked. That is very clear.

Montague: That's understood. But would not the Chinese law overrule that, if there is a law that requires companies to help with national security?

Chen: It is not China who has this long armed jurisdiction on other countries' soil. You know which country I am referring to.

Montague: The United States.

Chen: Right. You said that.

Montague: If the United Kingdom decided not to use Huawei in the development of the 5G network here, what would happen to that vote of confidence, the investment in the UK economy?

Chen: What kind of signals, do you think, this kind of gesture would send out to other investors and other Chinese companies? Is UK still open and still extending a welcoming arm to other Chinese investors?

Montague: So it would have repercussions on direct investment ? Of what order, of what scale?

Chen: Well, it is hard to predict at the moment. But I think it is going to be quite substantial.

Montague: Running into the billions?

Chen: I don't have the figure. I can not imagine the figure. But definitely the message is not going to be very positive.

Montague: Do you think that message is already going out?

Chen: We have witnessed some cautious moves. We certainly hope, as I said, that the UK government will make the decision independently based on its own national interests.

Montague: Now, the United States has decided that it is in its national interest to put the Chinese company Huawei on a banned list that you require a license if you want to do business with, which of course has prompted Google and ARM, the silicon chip maker British company, to stop doing business with it. How do you respond to that decision?

Chen: I think, definitely, it does not conform to the trend of the times, which is win-win cooperation, because we are living in a mutually dependent world.

Montague: I want to ask you about the question of espionage, because the argument that people have experienced this is based on the fact that there have been charges of industrial espionage leveled at Chinese individuals for their various involvement on line.

Chen: First of all, it is dangerous to securitize everything. This kind of mentality in the end, if you dig deeper, is a fear of China's rise. It is a misunderstanding of China's policies and intention.

Montague: You think it is paranoia.

Chen: I think it is a little bit hysteria. China is a country of rule of law.

Montague: You know that there are doubts. There are doubts not just from the America. They are from the others. Let's take the question of trade. It is over the approach of China thus far. There are many people who support what President Trump is doing on trade. They perhaps don't like the idea of heading towards a more protectionist world, but they do think that the playing field should be more level, that actually, China since joining the WTO, has really had the best of it, and it isn't fair on others. Do you accept that there might be something in that?

Chen: China has had a very good record in implementing all its WTO commitments. And the reason why eleven rounds trade negotiations have not yielded any positive results, the responsibility doesn't lie with China. It lies with the US.

Montague: So those who say, look, typically what you see happening is you have western companies perhaps go to China, they have to take some Chinese people onto their board if they get access at all to the Chinese market. And then what they may find is that their intellectual property, things that were invented and innovated in the West, is copied. It is a cut-and-paste economy. And then effectively, it is a sort of rip off. What do you say to people who say that about the Chinese approach to doing business?

Chen: We have reached a stage of development where we ourselves attach great importance to the protection of IPR. If there is one case that any foreign companies have complains about IPR and they provide sufficient evidence, I am sure it will be dealt with in accordance with law.

Montague: China has been accused of holding more than a million Chinese Muslims, the Uygurs, in what a UN committee called "mass internment camps", the Chinese call them reeducation centres. What about them?

Chen: Actually it is called vocational training centre. And the reason why we had this centre is, first of all, to respond to the call of the people. Since the last ten years of the 20th century, Xinjiang has been a victim of extremism, terrorism and separatism. So there were thousands of violent attacks, arsons, sabotage, incidents. As a result, thousands of people's lives were lost because of that and a lot of police officers lost their lives. The measures that we have taken are in response to people's call.

Montague: A million people, a million Muslims in what you called the vocational centre.

Chen: I don't know where you get those statistics.

Montague: What numbers?

Chen: I don't have the number with me.

Montague: What is your understanding of the scale, the numbers of people who are in the centres?

Chen: Of course, I can do a research and come back to you on that. Second, I would like to stress that this kind of vocational training centres really serve the people as well. For example, in the centres, they can study law, they can study vocations like hairdressing, to be waitresses, waiters.

Montague: Are you suggesting that those people want to be there?

Chen: Yes. It helps. It helps poverty alleviation. They go there on voluntary bases, because they have seen the benefits of it. If one person from the family goes into the centre, does the training, then the whole family could be lifted out of poverty.

Montague: So the fact that human rights group say there are people in these camps forced to learn Mandarin Chinese, to swear loyalty to President Xi Jinping, have to criticize or renounce their Muslim faith, is that not true?

Chen: If you have visited the centre yourself, then you will be able to give me the answer. If you haven't visited the centre, I am wondering where you collected the information, because there is so much misinformation around the world about Xinjiang at the moment, in many of the reports. We welcome all people without prejudice to visit the centre and see for themselves the life inside the centre.

Montague: So we can take up that invitation, and come and visit the camps that we choose?

Chen: You can certainly apply.

Montague: Your know there was an expectation in the West, perhaps, that as China became richer, that it might be keener on the Western model of democracy. Why do you think that it hasn't?

Chen: It depends on what kind of measures you use. We all know that democracy means the rule of people, or in another way, to reflect people's will in political decision making. Therefore, there are many ways to achieve that goal, to reflect people's political will in the decision making process. In China, for example, we have NPC, the National People's Congress. We have CPPCC, the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference. Annually these are the most important things in China's political life. So they are in a way China's form of democracy, what we call the Chinese socialistic democracy. Naming one form of democracy as the only model in the world, as the only democratic system in the world, is in itself against the spirit of democracy.

Montague: Interesting. Would you argue that you are just as democratic as the West?

Chen: Yes, not as the West, but a democratic country in China's own way with Chinese characteristics.

Montague: Thank you very much.

Chen: Thank you.

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