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Home > Topics > Riposte to Abe and Japanese Militarism
H.E. Ambassador Liu Xiaoming's live interview with BBC World Service

On 5th January 2014, H.E. Ambassador Liu Xiaoming had a live interview with BBC World Service Weekend program. Ambassador Liu elaborated on China's solemn stands on Japan's aggressive past and on the Diaoyu Islands, exposing the Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's attempt to revive militarism in Japan and calling on the international community to keep on high alert. The full text of the interview is as follows.

Julian: Mr Abe's claim has been brushed aside by the Chinese leadership. And now Chinese Ambassador to London Liu Xiaoming has called on the Britain and the United Nations to be on high alert against what he describes as Japan's growing militarism. Ambassador Liu is with us in the studio. Good morning.

Ambassador: Good morning, Julian.

Julian: What is your specific concern here?

Ambassador: We are very much concerned about this visit. Because, as you said, Yasukuni Shrine has long been the spiritual symbol and instruments used by Japanese militarists for their war efforts, in their war of aggression and colonial rule. The Japanese national leaders pay respect to this shrine which today still honors 14 A class war criminals including Hideki Tojo, who was not only responsible for launching a war against China, but also for attacking the Pearl Harbor, for declaring war on the United States, on Britain and the Netherlands. This is a man whose hands were stained with blood of millions of Chinese people.

Julian: I can see why the Chinese would be angry about it, but ultimately is it not an internal Japanese matter?

Ambassador: It is not an internal Japanese matter. It's not only we care about how Japanese leaders treat these war criminals. It's not only about their attitude toward the past. It's also about their attitude toward the future.

Julian: And what do you say their attitude is?

Ambassador: By paying respect to war criminals, they show no signs of repentance for the past aggression and colonial rule. And also it shows that they want even to, as their deputy Prime Minister asserted, that Japan would like to learn from Nazi Germany to revise the pacific Constitution. And Abe himself challenged the definition of 'aggression of Japan'.

Julian: Let's explore that for a moment, because you are saying this from the point of view representing a country that spends massively on its military, that has a relatively new President who says he wants to spend more on its military. Therefore for you to criticize the Japanese for even contemplating what you have just alluded to, it's surely double-standard.

Ambassador: I don't agree with you. Let's talk about China's defense. First of all, China is a large country. China's territory is about 25 times of Japan and population is ten times of Japan. Yet by per capita military expenditure, Japan is 5 times of China. Also, in terms of the share of military expenditure in GDP, Japan and China are about the same.

Julian: But China wants to spend more, let's just be clear on that.

Ambassador: Yes, because of the growth of the economy and because of enormous mission of China's defense. As I said, China is a large country to defend. We have 14 neighbors on land, 7 neighbors on sea. We have 22,000 km border line and 32,000 km coastal line.

Julian: I want to talk as well about the current dispute which I referred to at the top of the hour over a group of islands in the East China Sea, uninhabited islands, both China and Japan claim them. As part of that dispute, China has unilaterally declared air defense identification zone over a large part of that area. Inevitably, the Japanese will view that, will they not, as an act of aggression.

Ambassador: We call it Diaoyu Island. It is a long story. It has long been China's territory since ancient times.

Julian: You know the Japanese would dispute that.

Ambassador: They would dispute but I can talk about the fact. The fact is fact. It was not until 1895 when China lost war to Japan that Japan illegally seized it. As a result of Second World War, as a result of the Cairo Declaration agreed to by British, Chinese and American leaders that Japan had to return these territories, including Taiwan and Diaoyu Island to China. But in early 1950s, Americans took it over. It was not delivered because of the Cold War. They needed Japan. And in the 1970s, they transferred administrative power of Diaoyu Island to Japan. But, America still did not recognize sovereignty claimed by Japan. They still remain neutral.

Julian: In which case, what does this unilateral declaration of air defense identification zone achieve from your point of view other than make the dispute more acute than it is already?

Ambassador: It was not until the recent past. When China and Japan normalized relations in early 1970s, both leaders agreed to shelve the dispute. To use Deng Xiaoping's words when he visited Japan, he was asked about Diaoyu Islands, Deng said, I think our future generation will be wiser to find a solution. So they shelved this dispute. But in the recent past, Japanese took a lot of unilateral measures. It was Japan who took provocative actions. They wanted to purchase the island. They wanted to nationalize the island. We've been put into a position where we have to make response to what they are doing.

Julian: That's what you would use as a justification for declaring this unilateral air identification zone.

Ambassador: This is a normal procedure.

Julian: But at some point, either side has got to pull back from the situation.

Ambassador: You are talking about this air defense identification zone.

Julian: Well, more broadly.

Ambassador: Japan has established this kind of zone 45 years ago. They have been keeping expanding this zone over the past 45 years. And their so-called zone even got as close as 130 miles from China's coastal line.

Julian: I want to bring a guest in because I knew he is very keen to ask you a question. George Parker (political editor of Financial Times), you've been listening with interest.

George: Very much so. And I totally understand the painful history between your two countries and the upset you felt about Prime Minister Abe going to Yasukuni Shrine. But now you look at military levels in China versus military might of Japan. And China far outmuscles Japan. Are you saying that you still feel some kind of military threat from Japan?

Ambassador: You are talking about the figures of military expenditure. You ignored the fact that Japan is also expanding their defense budget. In the next 5 years, Japan's military expenditure will increase by 5%. And their military expenditure now is at a historical high over the past 18 years. That's number one. Number two. Military expenditure is an important factor to analyze the defense posture of a country. What is more important is the strategy of a country. America's military budget is much bigger than China. It is four times bigger and also in terms of per capita military expenditure, 30 times of China. Even Britain is 9 times that of China. But China is a pacifist country. If you look at the record of China, if you compare the record of China with Japan, you will see Japan is quite a different country.

George: But do you still feel a military threat from Japan?

Ambassador: Because we've been attacked and we've been invaded in history. In the First World War, Japan imposed a lot of unequal treaties on China. In the Second World War, the Chinese people suffered dearly at the hands of Japanese aggressors.

Julian: Do you still feel that military threat now is the question.

Ambassador: Of course. Because of the way they treat history, because they still respect the war criminals, because they want to revise the Pacifist Constitution. So we are very concerned about that.

Julian: Let me bring in Jyoti Malhotra from Delhi.

Jyoti: Good morning Ambassador.

Ambassador: Good morning.

Jyoti: Good to talk to you through the BBC. I am an Indian journalist based in Delhi. And I just wanted to say that in India we look at China as a great country and an ancient civilization. You're well on your way to becoming the world's number one economic power. But having said that, I'm just wondering why is that China has so many disputes with its neighbors, including with India. Our disputes of course go back to independence. And we have different views of our border, which is about 4,000 km long. You just talked about China being a pacifist country and yet only a few months ago, the Chinese PLA crossed the line of actual control and came into India. And you were there for 3 weeks at the Depsang plateau. Why?

Ambassador: First of all, I would say that we would like to have good relations with all our neighboring countries. We enjoy good relations with most of our neighbors. When it comes to a border dispute, we all have to recognize that China has been a victim of imperial power and suffered dearly from foreign aggression. I think most of these border disputes are legacies left by the colonial rulers. Having said that, we are very sincere in sitting down to have sincere, serious discussions and negotiations with our neighboring countries on these disputes, including with the Indian people. I am very pleased to see there has been progress in the negotiations between China and India in terms of boundary issues.

Julian: Do you want to come back to that?

Jyoti: Yes, Actually I would like to say, Mr Ambassador, there was an agreement between India and China in 2005 on the border. The agreement talked about the border disputes. But a couple of years later, China unilaterally withdrew from that understanding. And now there is no understanding at all.

Ambassador: I don't agree with you. You know, I'm here to talk about China-Japan relations. When it comes to dispute, you can't listen to the one side's story. We also have complaints about the conduct, about the actions from the Indian side. But I do not want to debate with you today on this issue. All I want to say is we are sincere in negotiating solutions acceptable to both sides.

Julian: Mr Ambassador, we do appreciate your coming in this morning. Thank you very much indeed for your time. Liu Xiaoming, who is Chinese Ambassador to the United Kingdom, reflecting on the events in the East China Sea.

* * *

BBC World Service is broadcast to 200 countries and regions around the world with an international audience of about 46 million.

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