[Dialogue] ‘Korea-China relations definitely entering new phase’

Chinese Ambassador to Korea Qiu Guohong. Korea Times photo by Shim Hyun-chul

Ambassador Qiu Guohong was born in Shanghai and graduated from the Shanghai International Studies University (SISU). He joined the Foreign Ministry in 1981 and previously served as ambassador to Nepal and director of security affairs. He is the longest-serving ambassador to Korea, after being appointed in February 2014. He is a fifth-tier master of baduk player and was second in a tournament hosted by the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Ahead of the trilateral summit among South Korea, China, and Japan in December, Hwang Jae-ho met Ambassador Qiu at the embassy’s reception room in Myeong-dong on Nov. 20 to discuss several pending issues between Korea and China, The Korea Times reported.

On October 1, China held a ceremony to celebrate the 70th anniversary of its founding, at Tiananmen Square in Beijing. What impression did you get from the celebration?

As General Secretary Xi Jinping pointed out, the celebration of the 70th anniversary of the founding of “New China” was a grand feast under the backdrop of the “Great revolution that could happen once a hundred years,” which the current world is facing. Through this, the People’s Republic of China informed the world that it is not only still standing tall in the Eastern world, but also developing in a healthier way.

Greeting the 70th anniversary, the New China has made a huge achievement, which is recognized by the world. The fundamental reason why China was able to succeed was that it chose the proper method that conforms to state affairs. It is “socialism with Chinese characteristics.” China will endeavor harder to realize its “The Centenaries’ goal” and build a “rich, democratic, civilized, harmonious and beautiful socialist modernization state.”

China recently held the Fourth Plenary Session of the 19th Central Committee of the Communist Party of China. What was the main content of the session?

The session was held in Beijing from Oct. 28 to 31, 2019, and Xi Jinping delivered an important speech. The session reviewed and adopted the CPC Central Committee’s decision on some major issues concerning how to uphold and improve the system of socialism with Chinese characteristics and advance the modernization of China’s system and capacity for governance. This points a clear direction for each sector of China’s internal and external construction.

The session also touched on China’s diplomacy. China will maintain its independent, peaceful foreign policy, as well as making it more concrete while enhancing “the community of a shared future for mankind.” China will first highly value peace, development, cooperation and co-prosperity, secondly, defend sovereignty, security and development interests steadily, and thirdly, safeguard world peace and promote joint development.

Where are further Chinese domestic and foreign policies heading?

China is still a developing country and GDP per capita is falling behind in world rankings. Domestic economic development still has room for enhancement and regional imbalances are also serious. Therefore, economic development is still the priority goal for us to value for a long period of time. In terms of foreign policy, China aims to build a “new type of international relationship” and “a community of shared future for mankind.”

China will maintain its diplomatic ideology of “building friendship and partnerships with neighboring countries” in the surrounding region significantly. China will continue to defend its legitimate rights and interests, but will not seek its own development at the cost of sacrificing the interests of other countries.

China is currently carrying out its “Belt & Road Initiative” (BRI) strategy. How do you assess the performance of BRI and its following challenges?

BRI is an initiative for international economic cooperation. It is to find new growth engines for global economic development by using omnidirectional links and communication among countries, based on the foundation of infrastructure construction. Through such cooperation, we will build a new stage of cooperation in the international economy. However, BRI is clearly a new concept that has only just begun.

Therefore, it is understandable that still many countries doubt, have concerns, and even misunderstand the idea of BRI. Nonetheless, we believe that these problems and challenges will be solved naturally if the BRI construction projects continue to be pushed forward and show tangible results.

Korea is concerned about the trade war between China and the U.S. What do you think about Koreans’ concern?

There is actually no winner in the trade war. Both the U.S. and China will have a severe shock to their interests, but it will also have a negative impact on other countries, including South Korea. China does not want a trade war, but at the same time is not afraid of it. The door to negotiations is still wide open. We are trying to resolve this economic conflict through dialogue and negotiations with the U.S. China’s attitude toward the trade war is to deal with its own affairs first.

China will continue to carry out higher levels of reform without wavering and will expand the scale of its opening. At the same time, China’s huge domestic market will open wide to the world. China will continue to prepare for external environmental uncertainties with a firm policy of expanding the scale of its opening and will provide China’s wisdom and measures to safeguard free trade and establish a more open global economic system.

Is there any change in China’s position on North Korea’s nuclear weapons and the Korean Peninsula? Will it still carry out the U.N. Security Council resolutions?

China’s position on the Korean Peninsula, including North Korea’s nuclear weapons program, is very clear and consistent. China supports the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, supports peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula, and supports resolving the issues through dialogue and negotiations.

The fundamental contradiction on the Korean Peninsula is a security issue and the reason why it is difficult to resolve is due to the lack of trust among the concerned countries. We claim that the concerned countries should move forward in the same direction, strengthening dialogue and negotiations in a way to “keep the peace, step by step” in accordance with the “double-track”.

At the same time, we must actively seek realistic ways to realize the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and a peace regime, and in the process, the reasonable concerns of the respective countries should be respected as well. As a permanent member of the Security Council and a responsible great member of the international community, China will faithfully implement the U.N. Security Council’s resolution on North Korea. However, if North Korea complies with and implements the UNSC resolution, the international community also needs to ease its economic sanctions to some extent.

How do you assess the current Korea-China relationship?

Since the establishment of diplomatic ties in 1992, Seoul and Beijing have gradually taken three steps: “cooperative partnership toward the 21st century,” “fully cooperative partnership” and “strategic cooperative partnership.” South Korea is China’s third-largest trade partner, the largest importer and third-largest exporter. Human exchanges between the two countries have already surpassed the 10 million people.

The number of students studying abroad in each country is also the most in the world. Although we cannot deny that there is a contradiction between Korea and China, we have resolved tentative contradictions such as the THAAD issue, and the current relations between the two countries have returned to the right orbit. China will hold hands with South Korea to move forward and seek to create a more beautiful future for bilateral relations through communication and cooperation.

Korea is looking forward to Xi Jinping’s visit. When do you expect his visit to Korea will be realized?

President Moon Jae-in has already invited Xi Jinping several times. And he has also accepted the invitation. However, we are only waiting for the right time and we are working on it. I and the Chinese Embassy in Seoul also hope that Xi Jinping’s visit to Seoul will take place soon. For now, we can expect fruitful results from the Korea-China Summit, which will be held during the Korea-China-Japan Summit in mid-December.

Hwang Jae-ho is director of the Global Security Cooperation Center, Hankuk University of Foreign Studies, Seoul. Ko Sung-hwah and Zhao Qingfeng, researchers at the center, assisted Professor Hwang with the article.

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