Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi held a live questions and answers session with journalists detailing China’s foreign policy. The session was done in both Chinese and English. I thought Minister Yang was very articulate and Chinese brand of international relations will be well received around the globe. I will highlight some points and also weigh in on the Reuters reporter’s questions.
On the question of Russia-China relations, Yang pronounced it a “strategic partnership.” I think that is very true. Russian leaders and Russian media narrate their relationship the same way.
On Africa and BRIC, Yang said that there are efforts underway to make BRIC a more formalized force in shaping development of the world; but not at the expense of the rest of the developing countries, Africa included. For example, he said BRIC will be inclusive. On responding to the journalist from South Africa, he said that the South African leader is invited and hoped to join the upcoming meeting of BRIC nations in China.
Specifically on Africa, Yang said that thousands of kilometers of rail and roads have been built with China’s assistance. For developing countries having an extra disadvantage due to their history and circumstance, it is important to help these countries level the playing field. More infrastructure is key to enabling sustainable development.
With the ASEAN+China FTA in effect, China now looks forward to advancing the ASEAN + China + South Korea + Japan free trade. Yang expects for a “peaceful, stable, open and inclusive relationship of Asian countries.” I think China’s trade volume with the East Asians may be 3x that with the U.S. soon. On the regions hot spot issues, he said the escalation of tensions is not helpful. In general, his point is that all players should work towards win-win and not take steps that escalate conflict.
On investments in European sovereign debt, Yang made the point that everything China does cannot necessarily be viewed in strategic terms. China will be criticized for things she does. She will be criticized for things she doesn’t do. Again, the point here is that nation-state behaviors should be viewed with the context of whether they are advancing this idea of “win-win” or not. If they are, the world is more peaceful and more harmonious.
A Reuters reporter asked about U.S.’s weapons sale to Taiwan last year and about recent “journalist beatings” in their coverage of the “unrest.” I thought Yang handled this question really well, and in my view, the Reuters journalist was publicly ridiculed in front of other international journalists.
Unsurprisingly, Yang addressed the U.S. weapons sale with the usual response: China resolutely opposes it because it harms the relations between the two countries. China would like the U.S. to abide by the three communiques which were basis for normalization their relationship. He says with the January Hu Jintao visit to the U.S., the overall climate in the China-U.S. relations is much better.
In response to the “unrest” and “journalist beatings,” Yang said that the Chinese people have just came off a happy Chinese New Years and a Lantern Festival celebration. People are in general back to norm at work. He effectively told the Reuters reporter to not focus on “creating news.” He said there is no journalist beating by Chinese police.
Yang told the crowd of reporters from around the world China’s policy about freedom of the press remains unchanged. He also asked that they abide by China’s laws and regulations. He assured everyone there is no policy change with respect to journalism in China. Bear in mind, in 2008, China relaxed media regulations, allowing journalists to freely report; provided they obtain prior consent from citizens before interviews. Also, provided they comply with Chinese ordinances in avoiding sensitive areas. These regulations remain unchanged.
With the call for “Jasmine” protests in China in specific locations throughout China, the Chinese government has issued rules to the international press to not fan this fire in those specific locations.
The controversy stirring in the West centers around a Damian Grammaticas, a reporter for the BBC, where he was roughed up and taken by Chinese police into questioning. I think he is taking this very personally, and he has become the story itself. BBC recently posted an edited video of him being roughed up by Chinese police. As expected, the story is echoing around the West.
One thing the BBC accidentally left in there in the beginning of the clip is the police saying in Chinese, “we have informed you not to film and you are still filming.” Watch the video clip for yourself. Grammaticas then later voicing over the video he was:
Drag by the hair . . . then slam to the floor . . . had my leg crushed at the vehicle’s door.”
Again, bear in mind China has issued ordinance for these journalists.
Thus, honestly, I have very little sympathy for Grammaticas. If the BBC wanted to comply with Chinese regulations, they’d simply leave the area when initially confronted. Let’s be real, Grammaticas was not interested in complying. I don’t see any “dragging by the hair” in the video. I don’t see “leg crushed at the vehicle’s door.” And I certainly don’t see him “slam to the floor.”
Granted, these could have happened and not having been caught on the BBC’s video camera. In that scuffle, I can see that Grammaticas getting roughed up. But, what is the chance of their video catching everything else except what Grammaticas claimed?
So, here we are, a Western journalist hell bent on “unrest” and “Jasmine Revolution.”
And, here we are, an international press community that can clearly see what the “Western” press is all about.
This is ridiculous. You can be the judge on how the world sees the situation.
In the BBC report I linked to above, apparently the Chinese police are trailing the BBC reporters in China. How else could China stop these people from making news?