Home > Embassy Events
Ambassador Fu Ying's Interview with BBC Radio 5 Live
2008/08/07

On 3 August, H.E. Ambassador Fu Ying was interviewed by Gethin Jones of BBC Radio 5 Live. Two commentators, Clemency Burton-Hill and Iain Dale were present. The interview ran as follows:

Jones: Joining me now is Chinese Ambassador to the UK. Good morning, Your Excellency.

Fu Ying: Good morning, everybody.

Jones: What would make a successful Olympics Games in your eyes?

Fu Ying: First of all, thank you, Gethin, for having me here. To have a successful Olympics, the medal count is important of course. People are watching. But equally important, if not more, is for China to play good host to the games, as the Chinese President said: all that the Chinese people want is to host good Olympics. If the games go well, and all the facilities operate and the competitions run smoothly, the Chinese people would be happy and think that the games are successful.

Jones: I know you are a massive sports fan. So should the games be more about sports, and more about smoothly run games?

Fu Ying: Yes, More than anything else, I think.

Jones: Even if the international media have restricted internet access -- they did not have free internet access at the start of the week. But even the population in China doesn't, why not?

Fu Ying: The concern about internet access has been addressed. And other complaints about the games will be addressed properly. But I disagree with the stereotyped views about internet in China. You probably are aware that China has overtaken the United States as the largest country in the number of internet users, which is 253 million, four times the population of this country. There are also 60 million bloggers. If one percent of them are active, it's a huge volume. Such big numbers mean that the internet is attractive to many people and their experience can't be bad.

Burton-Hill: It is my understanding that bloggers have to use euphemisms to evade the automated key word blocking tools that exist in Chinese blogger-sphere. Can bloggers be legitimately called bloggers in that sense?

Fu Ying: You have to ask Chinese bloggers if they are bloggers or not and if they enjoy it. Their number is increasing every day in China. In my own blog, the other day I had 5,900 visitors and many comments debating my article. Some of them disagree with me of course.

Dale: Speaking blogger to blogger--I have a blog too. Why is it that your government would not let the Chinese people read my blog? It's a political blog, but is not very subversive, I just write about British politics. Yet it's blocked by what is called the great fire wall in China.

Fu Ying: I am not aware of your specific case. But have you really tried it? I received some complaints from Guardian, for example, who said their website could not be accessed in China. We checked and it can be accessed.

Jones: Shall we go back to the Olympics? There was a lot of criticism of the IOC when Beijing was made the host city. The idea was with the eyes of the world on China its human rights record would improve. Do you think it has been the case at all?

Burton-Hill: Well, I think it's a very difficult question for someone from the outside to have an answer. The official line, I suppose, is that China has made inroads into improving the conditions of many people living in China. Also Tibet is a subject causing a lot of controversy. I think China should absolutely have been granted permission to hold the games. But I think the understanding was that more progress was going to be made on things like communications and the rest of it. And I think the supposition was that they will conform to the IOC's expectations on things like freedom of internet access. But just the idea of talking about difficult working conditions for journalists in China brings into sharp relief the restriction on ordinary Chinese citizens. The 20,000 foreign journalists now can have access to see sites, but the majority of the Chinese citizens still can't. I suppose progress has been made but not enough.

Jones: Going back to human rights and internet access, Your Excellency, has the negativity of the international press about the games in China surprised you?

Fu Ying: Yes and no. I think for the Chinese it's really puzzling why the international media are always so negative about China, and why they are so sour on everything that concerns China. But by now, after months of experience this year, many Chinese are watching with a big smile on their faces. They think that's probably what the western media do.

As far as the challenges in China are concerned, they are nothing new for the Chinese themselves. There have been some reports in British media about the hurdles and challenges in China. They are not even half as many as the Chinese leaders discussed with the Chinese people and are not even a fraction of what we debate among ourselves. The Chinese people always know that our country is confronted with huge challenges and difficulties and that they are not going to be overcome with just the Olympics.

The Olympics is a moment of celebration. We are having the largest international sports festival in our history. And it's a moment of celebration of the achievements of China. The country has gone through so much, it was invaded, semi-colonized, and had years of civil war and political turmoil. Now for the first time in history people are not hungry any more. It deserves a good celebration and people are happy.

Jones: And of course, the Olympics is essentially a sporting spectacle and we are looking forward to the games. How many medals do you hope China will win? More than America?

Fu Ying: It's hard and risky to predict. We had 32 in Athens which was a big jump from Sydney. And this is on home ground, of course there is higher expectation. But on the other hand, on home ground it can be more challenging for the athletes, as there is a lot more pressure. So the medal count starts from, hopefully, not under 30.

I saw a poll this morning on the Chinese web. It's about whether China can overtake the U.S. as No.1 medal winner. The percentage was 51% hopeful.

Jones: time will tell. Let me ask you this – we have seen protests from the athletes in the past, something like black-power protest back in 1968. What actions will the authorities take if something similar happens in Beijing?

Fu Ying: On situations like this, the IOC has its charter and rules. And the athletes are expected to abide by IOC rules.

Jones: I know you are a massive fan. We mentioned it earlier. Are you getting to watch any of the sports? Are you trying to make the diving?

Fu Ying: I will try to watch as many as I can. The first gold medal will come from shooting and China has gold medal hopefuls in shooting, Zhao and Du, for example. This will be followed by weight-lifting. China has a few hopefuls, too, including in the women's 48-kilogram.

Jones: Are you a fan of weightlifting? Excellency?

Fu Ying: I love every sport. I like to watch. It is really exciting to see people trying their best and the games bringing out the best out of them.

Jones: How much pressure is there on the Chinese athletes?

Fu Ying: Huge, especially for Liu Xiang the hurdler. Poor boy. He is one of the best-known athletes in track and field, in which China is very weak. He won the gold medal in Athens, which was stunning. There is lots of hope on him. And recently he faced serious challenge from a Cuban boy. I share the view of many that there should not be too much pressure on the Chinese athletes. I think they should enjoy the Games. It is once in a hundred years being able to compete on home ground. Being there, I think, is so exciting already.

Jones: I was there in China a couple of weeks ago. I saw the Water Cube. The stadiums look fantastic. What will happen to them after the Games? How will they be used?

Fu Ying: Many of them will be commercially managed. After-Olympic usage of the stadiums was discussed in Beijing one or two years ago. They will mostly be used as public facilities.

Jones: Obviously in London in 2012, can we learn from what China has been through?

Dale: I think we certainly can learn a lot from how they construct the stadiums and get all the facilities right, because the one message that seems to be coming back apart from the stuff about the internet is that the facilities are absolutely marvelous. Because at this time four years ago before the Athens Olympics were starting they hadn't actually completed a lot of the stadium. So I think there are lots of lessons that we can learn from China on that.

And I think we should start getting more positive about the games. The fact is that China has opened up massively over the last ten or fifteen years. And this games will help that process. The fact that the ambassador is sitting with us in a BBC studio in London is evidence of a bit of opening up.

Jones: I feel a little bad, Your Excellency, because you have to bring your own cup of tea with you. Maybe we can share that before you go.

Fu Ying: It is Gouqi. It is my favorite Chinese medicine tea. We were just having a traditional Chinese medicine week last week. And they brought very good medicine.

Jones: Maybe that's what the athletes need in Beijing. Thank you so much for joining us this morning.

Fu Ying: Thank you for having me.

<Print>