Wednesday, May 06, 2020

The Battle for the Hearts and Minds of Non-Chinese Peoples: Chinese Diplomatic Strategies Online and in Social Media

 Over the last several weeks Chinese diplomats have sought to engage their Western counterparts, as well as a wider Western audience.  The object is to respond to what may be viewed as the increasing threat of the narrative of Chinese liability for the damage caused in the West by the COVID-19 pandemic, its manifestation in the courts, and in the Western "marketplace of ideas." The issue is particularly delicate where relationships are either more important to or believed to be among equals to China. In those cases substantially more care must be taken to avoid the tactic adopted also playing into the hands of Chinese rivals by evidencing exactly what they might be accused of.  The truth or falsity of claims in this context, becomes an instrument through which the more important discursive battle is undertaken, one the aim of which is to drive the baseline judgments around which such information may be interpreted  in ways that align with the political agendas of either.

Two principal approaches have now become clear. One is the soft engagement, represented by Cui Tiankai, the current Chinese Ambassador to the United States. The other is a harder edged and more aggressive approach evidence by Lu Shaye, the current Chinese ambassador to France.  In a set of coincidentally simultaneous thrusts, both have sought to reach out. In the process they provide a nice opportunity to compare the discursive forms of response that China's Foreign Ministry has appeared to adopt, as well as the thrust of the defense that they have constructed top reverse the (perceived) threat of the American narrative.

They have undertaken this in strategic ways--the Chinese Ambassador to the United States by projecting his remarks through the Washington Post, a conventional left of center and internationalist news outlet owned by a sometime political enemy of the President and which represents the outlook of the pre-2016 ruling group (Embassy English version HERE; Chinese version HERE); the Chinese ambassador to France through the placement of an interview within L'Opinion (original French here; Chinese version here) also a conventional  pro-business, and pro-European but left of center publication whose owner emerged from the quite close inter-relationships at Le Figaro. The differences between these counter thrusts are not in their substance but in the way they are packaged. And they are significant.

Both follow along with a set of brief reflections on these efforts and their discursive significance. I suggest that the object of this back and forth is not so much to get people to believe certain things, but to manage the way people approach belief, and the premises used to interpret events and judge their value. In the act of judging value, it is hoped, it may be possible to advance the moral worthiness of those worth believing.  But in the process, those engaged in that activity reveal even more about themselves. That knowledge also opens a useful window on the back and forth that now characterizes this battlefield for global influence.

It has become apparent in the last several weeks that the battle over the perception of the "story" of the COVID-19 pandemic (and the role of leading states within it)--even more than the battle to save the lives and livelihoods of those affected (but who remain neither in control of the story, their destinies, or the decisions made by their respective vanguards the costs of which they will be asked to bear)-- has become the principal site of the global war (continuing, it seems almost uninterrupted since the Bolshevik revolution of 1917) over the supremacy of political-economic models.  

That war for supremacy (at least in the minds of its principal warlords) is played for quite significant stakes.  It will help define the new ideological basis of its principal combatants--the United States and China.  It will play a fundamental role in the ability of both to project that ideological basis outward through whatever mechanisms they have developed in furtherance of the projects of Markets-Liberal-Democratic or Communist Internationalism.  It will augment the appearance of the power and solidity of the ideology-secreting systems; and also of the leadership cores.  It will empower these warlords to continue to make the world in their own respective image, and thus remade, to ensure an alignment between the construction of their vision of the meaning of reality (and its moral value) both within and beyond their borders.

As a consequence, this is a battle the consequences of which are beyond measuring solely through the statistics they use to count the human toll of the pandemic--a pandemic whose reality they each seek to shape. It would follow, then, that the efforts of one must be understood as posing the risk of becoming a significant (note I do not use the word "existential" because it is not in the sense that the loss of this battle will impede ambitions but not unravel the political-economic system of the combatants). One can measure the extent to which the combatants view the effectiveness of their rivals to reshape the narrative of the pandemic (and thereby to cast them (the worthiness of their political-economic model,  their trustworthiness, and their integrity)  by the extent to which they respond to assertions of their rivals.  And one can tell at what level that response is aimed by both who is called on to respond, and where that response is placed.

China has been particularly sensitive to these issues--and to its mechanics. The effectiveness of the American effort is both baffling, and because it is baffling also a cause for significant concern (how does one respond to a thrust that one does not yet understand?).  The bafflement derives from what they see as a contradiction in the US--an American president who is despised by the formerly ruling intelligentsia (but who have not yet been purged) and their allies among elite managers of traditional news and influence driving media (also not yet purged) able to align their interest around opposition (for altogether different reasons to be sure) to the Chinese vision now dressed up and packaged for global consumption.

For China that poses a significant question of tactics (it certainly does NOT pose any question of self-reflection--the ideological line on which the Chinese narrative is based is currently beyond (internal and public) dispute).  The tactical questions might be important and worth devoting resources for several inter-connected reasons tat can be surmised  from recent activity on the Chinese side.  The first centers in the control of image as an affirmation of status as a first rank state. For China, the ability to control the image it projects or wishes to have projected abroad is not merely a matter of public relations.  It might well go to the notion that only states of the first rank have the clout sufficient to manage their own image and that such image control is important.  To lose control of image is to lose face. To lose face is to create internal issues of competence and external issues relating to the realization of Chines objectives in their relations abroad.   That sensitivity was recently evidenced in the rhetoric around the expulsion of US reporters (China complains its image is 'seriously tarnished' by American journalists and is retaliating against them).  It is also instrumentalized through the discursive trope of "hurting the feelings of the Chinese people" ().
In fact, “hurting the feelings of the Chinese people,” the phrase used by the carmaker, has a long history within the Chinese Communist Party. The phrase first appeared in 1959 in the pages of the CCP’s flagship newspaper, the People’s Daily, the offence at that time being a border dispute between China and India. And it has appeared numerous times since, not as a spontaneous outpouring of Chinese anger but as a way of registering state displeasure. (‘Hurting the feelings of the Chinese people’ is just a way of registering state displeasure; see also here, and  here).
The fact that it is  a trope does not change its importance as evidence of the role that image control especially as projected outward, is an important element of both internal and external policy. Only first rank powers can imagine deploying a politics of lèse majesté as a cornerstone of its foreign relations.

The Second centers the connection between challenges to image and the sensitivity, built into the core of Chinese foreign policy, that tends to view  (especially when politically convenient) foreign responses to assertions of Chinese power (including the power to manage its image abroad) through the lens of China's period of imperial decay and semi dependent status which started to end with the overthrow of the last imperial dynasty. Here,  attacks on image is conflated with efforts to reduce the status of China to conditions of semi vassalage and thus require defense--not just defense but a vigorous set of countermeasures to remind the world that China is no longer  a semi-dependent state.  The problem here is the cultivation of a way of looking at things at which any sort of engagement with Chinese image making abroad is always viewed through the lens of the "Unequal Treaty" period. The result is more a tendency to react and less one to engage (see generally, The Discourse of Unequal Treaties in Modern China) .    

The third centers on the alignment of image and the Chinese Communist Party Line.  That alignment has both an internal and an external component.  Both are connected to the fundamental premises that the positive image of China is a reflection of the authority, legitimacy and the success of the political-economic model, and that this model is itself a vindication and the product of the correct application of the CPC Line. To challenge the image, then is to challenge the authority of the vanguard or to question the manifestation of the CPC Line in the policies proceeding from the core leadership and implemented at the local level (习近平在湖北省考察新冠肺炎疫情防控工作 [Xi Jinping inspects new corona virus epidemic prevention work in Hubei Province]). Within China, of course, that connection is well known and well managed.  Sensitivities are most acute where that dissonance within image making in not merely internal but becomes useful to Chinese rivals (e.g., see Fang Fang (方方), Wuhan Diary (武汉日记) a controversial microblog diary now being distributed widely in the West; discussed in China’s coronavirus soft-power push will fail if it cannot defend freedoms – at home and abroad "She has been accused of treason-like behaviour, of betraying China by revealing the less-than-exemplary battle against Covid-19, deviating from the official narrative. Her critics say she is profiting from the sacrifices of the Chinese people and has passed the West a “knife” with which to stab China." Ibid.).  The resulting reaction again, and even more than the publication itself, terns to work at cross purposes with the object of image control (see, e.g., here, here, and here).  What might otherwise have gone relatively unremarked is made prominent by the attention paid to it by the state, an attention that perversely conforms  (and signals) its importance to China's rivals.

Outside of China the manifestation of this image making is intimately connected with the great New Era projects of the current leadership core. Among these are the Belt and Road Initiative, and the internationalization of the Chinese political-economic model as a useful alternative for developing states no longer satisfied with the liberal democratic free markets model. In effect, one does not speak to image making here as publicity or as the crafting of the story around which China may be perceived, or such perception may be managed to advantage. Rather here image projection is actually an important venue for meaning making in the sense of building a community of a shared future for Mankind, which is a cornerstone of Chinese New Era foreign policy built around a quite specific perception of China itself (Xi Jinping Report to the 19th CPC Congress; Part 13 ("We must keep in mind both our internal and international imperatives, stay on the path of peaceful development, and continue to pursue a mutually beneficial strategy of opening up." Ibid. and Part XII)). To a large extent, any success in challenging image making goes to the heart of the construction of the quite central policy of

But more than that, the image making is intimately tied to the authority and legitimacy of the political-economic model itself.  To challenge that image is to challenge the model and thus the legitimacy of the state and the leadership role of the vanguard party. That is viewed as threatening and potentially dangerous not just to China's external ambitions but also to its internal stability.  Yet that creates difficulties.  With respect to weaker states, China has sometimes overplayed its hand, and its pressure could backfire. "“They have a toolbox that only seems to have a hammer,” said Jörg Wuttke, the president of the European Chamber of Commerce in China, who is now himself in quarantine in his Beijing home after returning from Europe last Friday" (China Pushes Back as Coronavirus Crisis Damages Its Image). With respect to the more developed states, an aggressive pushback has had similar results.
Japan has pledged $2 billion to help companies move their production out of China because of concerns about the country’s reliability. President Emmanuel Macron of France questioned whether China’s response was a model for democracies to follow, disputing the narrative Mr. Xi’s acolytes have tried to spin. “Let’s not be so naïve as to say it’s been much better at handling this,” he said in an interview with The Financial Times. (China’s Aggressive Diplomacy Weakens Xi Jinping’s Global Standing).
The difficulty is augmented where the core leadership has now closely aligned its response to COVID-19 as the manifestation of the superiority of the Chinese political-economic model.  That perhaps necessary development of New Era thinking then presents a problem outside of China where the two might otherwise not have been buckled together, and increased challenges where rivals had already sought to do that.  In a sense, this alignment played into the hands of China's rivals for were desperate to make COVID-19 a referendum on the legitimacy of the Chinese system in ways that it was not in the equally tragic context of Italy, France, Spain or the United States.

Now one has the context in which the problem of the Chinese Foreign Ministry becomes clearer, and the appropriate path for the benefit of China more obscure. To their way of thinking, then, Foreign Ministry officials must defend the official narrative of COVID-19, because to avoid that is to concede the imperfection of its economic-political model.  It run the risk of reducing the status of China as a first rank power, and it threatens China's outbound ambitions. Because Westerners are not burdened by the same world view or the same way of imputing meaning to these contests, the Chinese response would necessarily appear (and would be internalized) as over-reaction, as coercive and defensive and as unnecessarily raising the stakes by conceding those stakes as set out by China's most dangerous rivals, particularly the United States.  And there is the irony.  The defensive postures embedded in the responses tend to lend support to the position of the more aggressive elements of American society and its political leadership at precisely the time that such an alignment least benefits China. China winds up fighting the battle of narrative on a field chosen by its rivals.

The response to the American audience by Cui Tiankai presents a polished and minimalist approach.  And it si made through a sympathetic organ whose very wealthy owner is a sometime rival of the President. It is one designed to appeal to the elite displaced by the 2016 election in the US and still powerful enough to represent a challenge to the post 2016 American political leadership. It seeks to make a common position with those elites by aligning their sensibilities about the character and motives of their opponents with China's (e.g. "Behind the mind-set of "always blame China" is a kind of dirty politics, championed by a few people who shift the spotlight for political gain. In their manipulation, China has to be wrong. "). It appeals to American elite multilateralism displaced after 2016. But then it drops the hammer by suggesting a series of (legal) analogies that were elegantly threatening in ways that spoke the language of that elite:  "There is no denying that the first known case of covid-19 was reported in Wuhan. But this means only that Wuhan was the first victim of the virus. To ask a victim for compensation is simply ridiculous. If that made sense, then who was to compensate for the fatalities of the H1N1 flu and HIV/AIDS? Who was to pay for the huge losses caused by the 2008 financial crisis? " Having made the threat, the call for trust sounds perfectly reasonable. In the process, the object is to redirect the discourse of the pandemic from the ideological to the pragmatic, and from politics to the self interest of the Americans. In an American style, the best way to disarm an argument of an opponent is to (as they now say) ghost it.  

Contrast the response of Lu Shaye.  Like Cui Tiankai, the appeal is made through a sympathetic organ.  And it appeals to an elite French sensibility--its easy and always fashionable anti-Americanism; who can resist?  The basic framework is the same but the French intelligentsia of a particular bent prefer their ghosts nice and meaty.  And they prefer their anti-Americanism raw and just below the surface.
Le problème se trouve dans certains médias. Parce que je remarque que, les médias français, j’espérais qu’ils soient indépendants, mais en fait, pendant cette période de lutte contre l’épidémie, ils n’ont pas fait preuve d’indépendance. Ils suivent toujours les médias américains. C’est un phénomène très bizarre, parce que dans mon impression, les Français sont indépendants, les médias français sont indépendants. Mais cette fois-ci, ils suivent toujours de très près les Américains. Chaque fois, les Américains lancent une accusation, jette une allégation, les médias français les rapportent certainement un jour ou deux jours après, ils hurlent avec les loups, pour faire grand tapage autour des mensonges et des rumeurs sur la Chine.
More importantly, it is necessary both to acknowledge the tone of the Chinese response, and to relabel it for better digestion.
Q : Certains reprochent à la Chine d’avoir une diplomatie « offensive » voire « agressive » depuis le début de cette épidémie, notamment depuis qu’elle s’est répandue en dehors des frontières de la Chine. Qu’est-ce que vous répondez à cette qualification d’agressivité en termes de diplomatie ? Est-ce que vous avez le sentiment que c’est exact ? Et si ce n’est pas le cas, qu’est-ce que vous en dites ?

R : C’est plutôt une diplomatie active. Les Chinois ne sont jamais agressifs. Peut-être vous avez l’impression que récemment, les diplomates chinois ont fait de plus en plus de réponses et de réactions aux médias occidentaux. Je pense que c’est normal, comme je vous ai dit tout à l’heure, les médias occidentaux lancent des attaques de plus en plus nombreuses envers la Chine. Mais ce sont des attaques dénudées de tout fondement. Si on laisse ces attaques et ses dénigrements répandre dans l’opinion publique des pays occidentaux, c’est très mal pour que les populations occidentales comprennent bien la Chine, connaissent bien la Chine.
On the one hand the approach suggests Chinese confidence--the willingness to add another voice to Western discourse as an equal player within the context of Western discursive openness.  On the other, the approach suggests the primacy of the inward conversation expressed outside the national territory and affected by the reaction of its international audience. Whether it is COVID-19 or something else, it almost always returns to the core big three issues that appear to define Chinese Foreign Ministry  views of China in the world and as itself: status and rank, the fear of lèse majesté, and the alignment of image and norm, of politics and propaganda, and of norm and discourse.
On s’aperçoit qu’il faut faire attention à l’image. Dans notre culture traditionnelle, les Chinois disent toujours : faites bien vos affaires, laissez les autres parler. Mais à l’époque actuelle, ça ne marche pas dans le monde. Même si on fait le mieux dans tous les aspects, si on verse de l’eau sale sur vous, ce que vous faites sera réduit à néant. Dans le monde la Chine est un bon exemple. Même si la Chine, avec des dizaines d’années d’efforts acharnés, est devenue deuxième plus grande économie du monde où des centaines de millions de Chinois sont sortis de la pauvreté, mais avec des propagandes de diffamations, des dénigrements des médias occidentaux sur la Chine, l’image de la Chine dans le monde occidental reste toujours très mauvaise. On accuse toujours la Chine d’être autoritaire, d’être totalitaire, de ne pas avoir de droits de l’homme, de ne pas avoir de liberté. Mais si le peuple chinois n’a pas de droits de l’homme, n’a pas de liberté, comment la Chine peut se développer si bien que ça ? Beaucoup mieux que la plupart des pays qui ont adopté un système démocratique libéral occidental. C’est une vérité. Cela veut dire que le récit des médias occidentaux est tout à fait contre la vérité de la Chine. L’image de la Chine décrite par ces médias occidentaux est tout à fait différente de l’image authentique de la Chine. On s’aperçoit de la gravité de ce phénomène. C’est pourquoi on a renforcé la communication avec l’extérieur, avec les pays étrangers. Mais pourquoi ce sont des diplomates qui montent au créneau ? A vrai dire, les médias chinois sont beaucoup plus faibles que les médias occidentaux dans le monde, surtout dans le monde occidental. Ils n’ont pas leur voix. Si les médias chinois sont aussi puissants que les médias occidentaux, ce ne sera pas la peine pour les diplomates chinois de monter au créneau pour faire la communication. Ce que les diplomates chinois font, c’est de défendre l’image de la Chine, de défendre l’intérêt national de la Chine.
This, at last get sus back to the principal issue--the construction and protection of the COVID-19 narrative, and China's vision of itself within it, that has been at the center of these image battles. The discourse of the two ambassadors suggests the two great elements of  Chinese discursive imperatives as they relate to both Chinese interior conversations, and to its engagements with foreigners.  In both cases the fundamental premise is one of the unity of image, of narrative with political theory and its expression through facts (action in implementation). Since facts cannot truly be understood inless properly interpreted, the entire exercise of narrative construction is political in a quintessentially Leninist way.  That is, facts acquire their meaning through their relationship to the underlying ideological framework within which they function, and that underlying ideological framework is manifested through the political line of the vanguard whose responsibility is to align truth and facts.  That is straughtforward enough (for Leninists anyway, though potentially highly contested by those adhering to different ideological-political models as their frame of interpretive reference). In the case of the COVID-19 narrative, the organization and "meaningfulnesdsd" of facts, therefore must align with the responsibility of the vanguard party, and the responsibility of the vanguard to successfully meet its responsibilities must be extracted from the facts.

But two additional steps are necessary to move from the ordinary application of Leninist principles in the construciton of narrative to the transformation of that exercise into an important point of conflict between systems.  The first is the determination (altogether innecessary as to the form and content chosen in this instance even within Leninist thought) to align the narrative with core notions of emerging New Era thought. The narrative acquires a superior importance internally precisley because it has been made more "meaningful"  in this way. The conseqeunce internally is that any effort to apporach the facts of the course of the pandemic within China is inevitably interprted as a direct assault on not just the political-economic model but on the authority and legitimacy of its political line and of the leadership core itself.

Even this, however, is not an out of the ordinary course of action within China's system (however much it does not align with pathways to meaning making in other political-economic systems).  It is the second step that is decisive in this case--the determinaiton to align this internal approach with the external relations of the state and its vanguard.  The internationalization of this form of meaning making almost guarantees conflict because it posits a direct challenge abroad to the meaning making (equally potent) of those states into which it is projected. But this is a lesson that should already have been well learned.  And to some extent it was. The experience of Soviet Communist Internationalism and its Comintern has given way to an all around system of expressing and projecting an exuberant pride in the accomplishments of the Chinese Marxist-Leninist system and offering it as a model for other styates in entirely different forms.  But even so, one might expect push back from other political-economic models who also have for their systems an equally compelling agenda.

But here is the difference: rival systems have been able to segregate their imnage making from the preservation of the core structures of its meaning making and internal dfisciplinary structures.  To the extent that all such actiosn are aligned, and to the extent that this alignment is also constrained by the historical and cultural responsive frameworks (through which counterthrusts by rivals is understood), the Chinese responses will be consistent internally with its own world of meaning making, but will be increasingly misunderstood in external venues where the audience is neithjer contrained by or particularly bound to a system of meaning making and a set of premises about how the view and express the world that is fundamentally incomprehensible. That, in turn, suggests,  either that the vanguard requires more effort to refine the forms of its political work to get with the times and the context in which it operates, or it suggests thatthere must be a necessary detachment from internal and external meaning making. It also suggests the need for better understanding of meaning making, and its relation to narrative and image, in the West. Here the fundamental sin is that of the hierarch institution that presumes everything can be understood only through their (collective) eyes. It is a sin easily committed (Western intellectuals and hierarchs of all political persuasions indulge to their detriment as well).

Yet for the West it suggests an easy target too irresistable to ignore. China makes itself an easy target--to attack the imagery and narrative of COVID-19 is to attack the political-economic model of China and its leadership core in a single and efficient way. And to guarantee that China will respond disproportionately because for the Chinese much more is at stake than for the West. And the resulting overstrike works to the benefit of China's rivals. Chinese counterthrusts matter less precisely because meaning making is diffused in the West, and it is hardly ever tied completely to Western fundamental ordering premises. Even the current debates among Western powers over the operation of the political-economic model do not invoke in a meaningful way contests over the fundamental premises of the system, only its meaning and application.  For the West such actions are merely focused on advantage; for the Chinese side substantially greater issues are at stake (in their own view of the world). And there lies the great disadvantaghe of ther Foreign Ministry's position in the current debates. More on the West in a later post.


驻美大使崔天凯:指责游戏该结束了 2020/05/06
















Ambassador Cui Tiankai: Blaming China will not end this pandemic

On May 5, 2020, Ambassador Cui Tiankai's op-ed "Blaming China will not end this pandemic" was published on the website of The Washington Post (also in the print edition of May 6). Here is the full text of the article:

Since January, China has fought a tough battle against the novel coronavirus and made remarkable progress. In this unprecedented fight, China spared no expense to save lives.

However, an unnecessary burden has been distracting our focus and undercutting international efforts to curb the virus: the absurd mind-set of "always blame China."

Simply put, for some people, China has to be wrong, regardless of the facts.

When China took the decisive step to lock down Wuhan, critics dismissed the move as a medieval practice that violated human rights, something typical of an "authoritarian" China. When China provided updates about the outbreak, they labeled objective facts as disinformation and propaganda. The nature of China's political system dominates the content of their attacks, and the Communist Party is the ultimate target of their barrage.

As China's situation improved, the number of confirmed cases and fatalities skyrocketed elsewhere. Promptly, a few American politicians switched to their default setting of blaming others, ignoring that China has done its best in responding to a new virus. They persistently accuse China of delays and coverups and some even demand a reckoning with China.

China was blamed for providing second-rate supplies with quality control problems. When measures were taken to ensure the products' quality, China was criticized for hoarding supplies and holding up exports. Conspiracy theories abound - and all point to China's "geopolitical strategies."

The World Health Organization has spoken highly of China's epidemic response, which led the conspiracy theorists to charge that China has either bought the WHO or exerted political pressure on the agency. Naturally, the WHO has been lambasted for taking sides and being incompetent.

Is China really to blame? Here are some facts:

First, China has taken strict measures and made huge sacrifices to keep the virus in check, which not only saved lives at home but also bought precious time for the world.

Second, China has done its best to share information about the virus. On Dec. 27, a doctor in Hubei province reported three suspicious cases. In the following four days, local and central governments conducted investigations on the ground. On Jan. 3 - within a week - China began briefing the WHO, the United States and other countries about the outbreak. On Jan. 12, China released the whole genome sequence of the coronavirus, which has proved critical for diagnosis and treatment of the disease globally.

Third, we shared information with the United States at the earliest possible time and have been supporting its fight against the disease. The two countries' centers for disease control and prevention and government agencies have been in close communication since Jan. 4, the day after China briefed the WHO. In their phone calls, President Xi Jinping gave detailed accounts of China's measures to President Trump.

By April 29, China had provided, according to our customs figures, more than 4 billion masks to the United States, or roughly 14 for every American on average.

There is no denying that the first known case of covid-19 was reported in Wuhan. But this means only that Wuhan was the first victim of the virus. To ask a victim for compensation is simply ridiculous.

If that made sense, then who was to compensate for the fatalities of the H1N1 flu and HIV/AIDS? Who was to pay for the huge losses caused by the 2008 financial crisis?

Behind the mind-set of "always blame China" is a kind of dirty politics, championed by a few people who shift the spotlight for political gain. In their manipulation, China has to be wrong.

It is this blame-shifting that needs transparency.

Blaming China will not end this pandemic. On the contrary, the mind-set risks decoupling China and the United States and hurting our efforts to fight the disease, our coordination to reignite the global economy, our ability to conquer other challenges and our prospects of a better future. The United States would not emerge as a winner from this scenario.

It is time to end the blame game. It is time to focus on the disease and rebuild trust between our two countries. As President Abraham Lincoln called for "the better angels" in his inauguration speech, I hope that the wisdom of preceding generations will guide us to choose the right side of history and work for our shared future together.


































Interview accordée par l'Ambassadeur Lu Shaye à L'Opinion

Le 24 avril, l’Ambassadeur de Chine en France Lu Shaye a accordé une interview exclusive à L’Opinion. Voici l’intégralité de l’interview :

Q : Au lieu d’être un facteur de rapprochement, cette crise sanitaire semble exacerber plutôt les divisions internationales. Quel est votre sentiment à cet égard ?

R : Pour répondre à cette question, il faut voir comment on considère ce problème. Par exemple, d’après moi, pendant la lutte contre cette pandémie, il y a beaucoup de phénomènes ou de signes de solidarité dans le monde. Par exemple, la Chine a fourni des aides à plus de 140 pays et organisations internationales, en fournitures et équipements médicaux. Et la Chine a partagé ses expériences de prévention et de contrôle de Covid-19 avec plus de 150 pays, y compris la France. C’est une solidarité de la communauté internationale, n’est-ce pas ? Mais bien sûr, il existe aussi des divisions et même des confrontations, surtout entre des pays occidentaux et la Chine. Mais cela n’a pas été déclenché par la Chine, c’est plutôt par des pays occidentaux qui accusent la Chine avec toutes sortes de prétextes.

Je remarque un phénomène : Dans tout le parcours de cette épidémie qui a commencé depuis la fin du décembre dernier jusqu’à aujourd’hui, ça fait déjà près de quatre mois. On peut diviser ce parcours en trois étapes. Première étape, c’était la Chine qui s’enfonce dans la crise de l’épidémie. La Chine s’est investie parfaitement ou complètement dans la lutte de cette épidémie inouïe, au point que nous avons fermé la ville de Wuhan le 23 janvier. Et pendant cette période, on peut dire que les médias occidentaux, même s’ils critiquent toujours la Chine et disent que le système politique de la Chine ne sera pas capable de faire face à ce fléau, et que peut-être il se passera un autre incident ou une autre affaire “Tchernobyl” en Chine, et qu’après cette épidémie, le pouvoir chinois ne pourrait pas tenir - ce sont des allégations des médias occidentaux à cette époque-là - mais à ce temps-là, j’ai remarqué que personne n’accuse la Chine de ne pas être transparent, de faire la dissimulation, ou d’être en retard à réagir. Personne. Et même des dirigeants occidentaux. Par exemple, le Président Donald Trump, au mois de janvier et février, a fait des louanges à quinze reprises de la Chine, il a apprécié beaucoup le fait que le gouvernement chinois réagit très rapidement, prenait des mesures très strictes et très complètes pour contenir cette épidémie. Et il a dit que les Américains ont fait une très bonne collaboration avec la Chine à cet égard. Et d’ailleurs, les faits étaient que la Chine a annoncé pour la première fois publiquement le 30 décembre dernier, et elle a fait savoir à l’OMS aussitôt. Et L’OMS, tout de suite, a communiqué à tous les pays du monde. Et ce matin, j’ai vu un reportage : le Directeur général de la Santé français, Monsieur Salomon a dit hier aux parlementaires que le Ministère des Solidarités et de la Santé a fait parvenir la communication aux différentes régions de la France le 10 janvier. Donc, cela veut dire que la France était informée dès le premier temps.

La deuxième étape, c’était à partir de la fin de février à la mi-mars. Les pays américains et européens sont tombés dans le fléau de l’épidémie. Les cas contaminés et les cas de décès augmentent très vite. Les médias occidentaux mettent leur accent dans les reportages sur leurs propres pays. Ils n’ont pas beaucoup d’énergie à reporter ce qui s’est passé en Chine. Donc dans les médias occidentaux, c’était une période, même très courte, calme.

Mais après, à partir de la mi-mars, toutes sortes d’accusations affluent vers la Chine, de la part des médias occidentaux. Toutes sortes d’allégations : le retard de réagir, le mensonge, la dissimulation, la non-transparence...

Cela veut dire quoi ? Cela veut dire que les accusations des médias occidentaux se font au fur et à mesure du développement de la situation de l’épidémie. Je peux être sûr que si les pays occidentaux ont réussi à endiguer cette épidémie, peut-être les accusations des médias occidentaux vis-à-vis de la Chine ne seraient pas comme cela. Mais vous savez, sur toutes ces accusations occidentales, le gouvernement chinois les a pris au sérieux, et on a fait à maintes reprises des éclaircissements sur toutes ces accusations, même si elles ne sont pas très précises, pas très réalistes, pas bien fondées et pas bien basées, on répond sérieusement à ces accusations.

Q : Mais comment vous expliquez le fait qu’il y a une espèce de pause dont vous avez parlé tout à l’heure, entre la première phase et la troisième phase ? Comment expliquez-vous qu’on soit passé brutalement d’un moment où on a salué finalement le travail de la Chine, sa transparence, le fait qu’elle a tout de suite développée et mis sur le marché le génome du virus, etc., à des allégations, à des critiques, au manque de transparence, même parfois à des théories du complot. Qu’est-ce qui a motivé, selon vous, ce changement d’attitude ?

R : Alors pour la première étape, ceux qui apprécient le gouvernement chinois, ce sont des gouvernements occidentaux, mais les médias accusent toujours, critiquent toujours. Cela veut dire que les gouvernements occidentaux ont reçu les communications et les informations de la part de la Chine. Donc, je pense que à ce temps-là, ils étaient quand même objectifs. Et maintenant, je ne sais pas pourquoi ils changent leurs mots, ils reviennent sur leurs mots. C’est aux gouvernements occidentaux de le dire.

Q : Comment analysez-vous la relation franco-chinoise au regard de cette crise ? Estimez-vous que Paris a fait preuve de justesse dans sa façon d’observer la gestion de la crise en Chine ?

R : Généralement dit, les relations bilatérales sino-françaises sont excellentes. Vous savez, la France est notre partenaire global stratégique. Depuis l’épidémie, les deux Chefs d’État ont eu trois fois de conversations téléphoniques et ils ont aussi échangé des lettres. Et les deux Ministres des Affaires étrangères ont eu encore plus de conversations téléphoniques. Les dirigeants de nos deux pays restent en contact permanent sur la gestion de cette épidémie. Le président Emmanuel Macron, le Ministre Jean-Yves Le Drian, tous les deux ont hautement apprécié la façon dont le gouvernement chinois gère l’épidémie, et ils ont apprécié aussi la solidarité dont les deux parties font preuve. Vous connaissez bien, pendant que la Chine s’est enfoncée dans l’épidémie, la France, le gouvernement français nous ont fourni des aides matérielles. Et après, quand la France fait face à la lourde épidémie, la Chine aussi, le gouvernement chinois a fourni des aides matérielles et spirituelles. Ce sont des preuves de l’assistance mutuelle entre les deux parties.

Le problème se trouve dans certains médias. Parce que je remarque que, les médias français, j’espérais qu’ils soient indépendants, mais en fait, pendant cette période de lutte contre l’épidémie, ils n’ont pas fait preuve d’indépendance. Ils suivent toujours les médias américains. C’est un phénomène très bizarre, parce que dans mon impression, les Français sont indépendants, les médias français sont indépendants. Mais cette fois-ci, ils suivent toujours de très près les Américains. Chaque fois, les Américains lancent une accusation, jette une allégation, les médias français les rapportent certainement un jour ou deux jours après, ils hurlent avec les loups, pour faire grand tapage autour des mensonges et des rumeurs sur la Chine.

Leur approche n’est pas favorable à la connaissance et la compréhension mutuelle entre les deux peuples. Parce que le peuple français ne peut pas obtenir des informations authentiques et objectives. Je ne dis pas que les médias français disent toujours les mensonges sur la Chine, mais une grande partie de leurs reportages sur la Chine ne sont pas vrais. Leurs journalistes postés en Chine voient toujours des aspects sombres, mais ce n’est pas l’aspect dominant de la Chine. Tout le monde le connaît. Par exemple, en France, dans la lutte contre l’épidémie, les médias français rapportent toujours des choses positives et encourageantes, qui donnent de la force et du courage, qui manifestent la solidarité. Mais à l’inverse, les journalistes français postés en Chine rapportent toujours autre chose. Cela donne une impression aux populations françaises que la Chine est un pays très mauvais, tout se passe là-bas est contre l’humanité, manque de droits de l’homme, manque de liberté... Mais si la Chine était comme ce que décrivent les journalistes postés en Chine, la situation d’aujourd’hui là-bas ne serait pas comme ça, n’est-ce pas ? Je pense que les médias doivent jouer un rôle positif dans la communication entre les deux pays, dans la compréhension entre les deux peuples.

Q : Il y a malgré tout une question qui avait suscité quelques réserves, y compris même au niveau du gouvernement français. Comme vous l’avez souligné, la France a apporté, et l’Europe a apporté une aide à la Chine au moment du pic de l’épidémie en Chine, et la Chine a fait de même. Mais on a reproché beaucoup en Europe, à la Chine, d’avoir fait beaucoup de publicités autour de l’aide qu’elle avait apporté aux Européens, qui était tout à fait une aide, mais en faisant beaucoup de publicité, alors que les Européens avaient été beaucoup plus discrets à la demande de la Chine dans la fourniture de cette aide. Qu’est-ce que vous répondez à ça ?

R : En fait, la Chine n’a pas fait expressément la publicité de notre aide vis-à-vis des pays européens. Ce que nous avons fourni est peut-être plus nombreux qu’ont fait les pays européens. Pour la Chine, à vrai dire, ce n’est pas une exagération. La Chine n’a pas fait expressément la publicité, mais comme on a beaucoup fait, les médias font des reportages que tout le monde connaît. Le gouvernement chinois n’a pas l’intention de faire la publicité. Par exemple, s’il y a un lot de matériel arrive à Paris, offert par le gouvernement chinois au gouvernement français, les médias font le reportage, n’est-ce pas ? C’est très normal. Mais comme ce genre de gestes sont de plus en plus nombreux, les reportages en la matière sont de plus en plus nombreux.

Et j’ai vu que certains accusent la Chine de coller toujours des slogans sur les lots de matériel, ce n’est pas notre création. Avant, sur les lots de dons des matériels du gouvernement français au gouvernement chinois, le Ministère des Affaires étrangères français a écrit aussi des slogans. Ils ont écrit des poésies chinoises là-dessus. D’après moi, c’est une expression de solidarité. Et vice versa, la Chine veut aussi exprimer notre solidarité vis-à-vis du peuple français. Ce n’est pas la publicité, c’est l’expression de la solidarité. Mais en ce qui concerne la soi-disant « diplomatie de masque » ou « la diplomatie de propagande », ce n’est pas nous qui le disons. C’est affirmé par des médias. Ils ont cette impression. Mais pourquoi ils ont cette impression ? Je pense que peut-être ils se sentent l’augmentation ou l’élargissement de l’influence de la Chine. Mais c’est un phénomène objectif, n’est-ce pas ? Bien sûr, tout à l’heure au début je vous ai dit que depuis le début de l’épidémie en Europe, en Amérique, la Chine a déjà fourni des assistances, des dons à plus de 140 pays. Oui, c’est une assistance et une aide de grande envergure. Même si la Chine veut cacher son geste et son acte, ce n’est pas possible.

Q : C’est vrai, tout à fait. Pour rester un petit peu dans cet état d’esprit, beaucoup de pays notamment occidentaux, -quand je parle de beaucoup de pays, je pense surtout aux Occidentaux - depuis quelques jours, utilisent un nouveau mot qui est la transparence. Ils demandent au gouvernement chinois d’être plus transparent. Tout à l’heure, vous avez évoqué la relation franco-chinoise en disant qu’elle était excellente. Mais la semaine dernière, par exemple, le Président Macron, dans une interview qu’il a donnée au Financial Times, a laissé entendre que la Chine avait quand même caché beaucoup de choses. Donc cette idée aussi de transparence existe comme demande de la part du gouvernement français. Qu’est-ce que vous répondez à ça ?

R : La transparence est toujours une excuse pour les pays occidentaux. En ce qui concerne les propos du Président Emmanuel Macron, j’ai déjà exprimé mon sentiment la semaine dernière. Je ne pense pas qu’il a une intention d’accuser la Chine. Mais en effet, il a dit qu’on ne sait pas tout ce qui se passe là-bas, c’est au gouvernement chinois de le dire. Mais il y a un contexte de ce propos. En effet, récemment, les médias occidentaux font une comparaison de systèmes, entre le système démocratique libéral de l’Occident et le système de la Chine. Ils collent une étiquette d’autoritarisme, de totalitarisme sur le système politique de la Chine. Je pense que le Président Emmanuel Macron veut éviter cette polémique. Il dit qu’il ne faut pas faire la comparaison entre les différents systèmes, même si les Chinois font très bien, mais nous, les Français et les Européens, nous pouvons faire aussi bien. Je pense que c’est très normal. Puisque les systèmes sont différents, on ne peut pas connaître tout ce qui se passe de l’autre côté. Comme les Chinois ne savent pas tout ce qui se passe en France. C’est mon impression. Je pense qu’il ne faut pas déformer, mal interpréter les discours du Président Emmanuel Macron.

Q : Certains reprochent à la Chine d’avoir une diplomatie « offensive » voire « agressive » depuis le début de cette épidémie, notamment depuis qu’elle s’est répandue en dehors des frontières de la Chine. Qu’est-ce que vous répondez à cette qualification d’agressivité en termes de diplomatie ? Est-ce que vous avez le sentiment que c’est exact ? Et si ce n’est pas le cas, qu’est-ce que vous en dites ?

R : C’est plutôt une diplomatie active. Les Chinois ne sont jamais agressifs. Peut-être vous avez l’impression que récemment, les diplomates chinois ont fait de plus en plus de réponses et de réactions aux médias occidentaux. Je pense que c’est normal, comme je vous ai dit tout à l’heure, les médias occidentaux lancent des attaques de plus en plus nombreuses envers la Chine. Mais ce sont des attaques dénudées de tout fondement. Si on laisse ces attaques et ses dénigrements répandre dans l’opinion publique des pays occidentaux, c’est très mal pour que les populations occidentales comprennent bien la Chine, connaissent bien la Chine. C’est pourquoi je pense que les diplomates chinois en Europe, bien sûr y compris l’Ambassade de Chine en France, estiment qu’il est nécessaire de répondre, de présenter la vérité de la Chine à l’opinion publique. Et bien sûr, on doit répondre aux accusations de ces médias occidentaux. C’est pour éclaircir leur dénigrement. Et comme auparavant, la Chine ne répondait guère aux attaques des médias occidentaux, cette fois-ci ils s’avisent tout à coup que les Chinois répliquent, rétorquent. Cela les a surpris. Ils ont l’impression que les Chinois ne sont pas défensifs, qu’ils sont offensifs, qu’ils sont même agressifs. Peut-être c’est leur impression. Mais à vrai dire, les réponses et les réactions des ambassades chinoises en Europe donnent quand même une autre voix à l’opinion publique de l’Europe. Et les gens en Europe peuvent faire leurs propres évaluations. Qu’est-ce qui est vrai, qu’est ce qui est faux ? Ils ont leurs propres évaluations. S’il n’y a qu’une seule voie sur la Chine, sur la situation de la Chine, ce n’est pas favorable pour que les peuples des pays européens puissent bien connaître la Chine.

Q : Tout à fait d’accord avec vous sur cette explication. Et comment vous expliquez ce changement finalement qui s’est opéré assez brutalement ? Parce qu’effectivement, comme vous le disiez, auparavant les critiques sur la Chine, il y en a eu très souvent. Ça fait des années qu’on n’a plus qu’une étiquette sur le pouvoir chinois, en l’accusant d’être autoritaire, etc. Mais rarement la diplomatie, les ambassadeurs, les diplomates chinois, répondaient. Et là, aujourd’hui, on est entré dans une phase où effectivement, on sent que maintenant, c’est fini, il ne faut plus se laisser marcher sur les pieds. Qu’est-ce qui a motivé cette évolution dans votre diplomatie ?

R : On s’aperçoit qu’il faut faire attention à l’image. Dans notre culture traditionnelle, les Chinois disent toujours : faites bien vos affaires, laissez les autres parler. Mais à l’époque actuelle, ça ne marche pas dans le monde. Même si on fait le mieux dans tous les aspects, si on verse de l’eau sale sur vous, ce que vous faites sera réduit à néant. Dans le monde la Chine est un bon exemple. Même si la Chine, avec des dizaines d’années d’efforts acharnés, est devenue deuxième plus grande économie du monde où des centaines de millions de Chinois sont sortis de la pauvreté, mais avec des propagandes de diffamations, des dénigrements des médias occidentaux sur la Chine, l’image de la Chine dans le monde occidental reste toujours très mauvaise. On accuse toujours la Chine d’être autoritaire, d’être totalitaire, de ne pas avoir de droits de l’homme, de ne pas avoir de liberté. Mais si le peuple chinois n’a pas de droits de l’homme, n’a pas de liberté, comment la Chine peut se développer si bien que ça ? Beaucoup mieux que la plupart des pays qui ont adopté un système démocratique libéral occidental. C’est une vérité. Cela veut dire que le récit des médias occidentaux est tout à fait contre la vérité de la Chine. L’image de la Chine décrite par ces médias occidentaux est tout à fait différente de l’image authentique de la Chine. On s’aperçoit de la gravité de ce phénomène. C’est pourquoi on a renforcé la communication avec l’extérieur, avec les pays étrangers. Mais pourquoi ce sont des diplomates qui montent au créneau ? A vrai dire, les médias chinois sont beaucoup plus faibles que les médias occidentaux dans le monde, surtout dans le monde occidental. Ils n’ont pas leur voix. Si les médias chinois sont aussi puissants que les médias occidentaux, ce ne sera pas la peine pour les diplomates chinois de monter au créneau pour faire la communication. Ce que les diplomates chinois font, c’est de défendre l’image de la Chine, de défendre l’intérêt national de la Chine.

Q : Ça veut dire qu’il faut renforcer le travail des médias chinois. Une avant-dernière question : il y a quelques jours, le Ministre français des Affaires étrangères, Jean-Yves Le Drian, dans une interview, expliquait et déclarait que le monde d’après, après la crise du coronavirus, serait peut-être pire que le monde d’avant. Partagez-vous ce pessimisme, d’une part ? Que faudrait-il faire pour éviter que ça se produise ? Et enfin, qu’est-ce que la Chine peut apporter pour ramener un peu d’harmonie dans ce monde qui semble, malgré tout ce que vous disiez tout à l’heure, quand même très fragilisé ?

R : Les Chinois sont plutôt optimistes. Bien sûr, le monde d’après l’épidémie ne serait certainement pas le monde d’avant l’épidémie. Mais cela dépend de ce que nous faisons. Nous devons faire des efforts pour que ce monde après l’épidémie soit meilleur que le monde d’avant. Je pense que cela demande la solidarité de tous les pays du monde, au lieu de l’affrontement, de la confrontation, qui se passent comme aujourd’hui. Vous connaissez, ce que la Chine préconise, c’est la communauté de destin pour l’humanité. Ce n’est pas un slogan, c’est notre vision, c’est notre souhait. Parce que nous pensons que c’est la seule solution pour que le monde soit meilleur qu’auparavant. Dans cette vision, on préconise la solidarité, la coopération, le respect mutuel. Et bien sûr, il y a le développement vert, le développement partagé, le multilatéralisme... Tout cela, ce sont des valeurs très précieuses pour l’humanité et pour tout le monde. Et je pense que la France est d’accord avec la plupart de ses valeurs. Je pense que ce sont des valeurs universelles. Mais je pense que ce ne sont pas tous les pays qui veulent agir comme ça. Il y a des pays qui ont toujours une idée de la guerre froide. Et ils ont toujours peur de perdre leur pouvoir, leur hégémonie. Ils soupçonnent la Chine d’avoir l’intention de leur succéder dans l’hégémonie mondiale. Mais à vrai dire, la Chine ne s’y intéresse pas. Tout ce que nous faisons, vous voyez, ce n’est pas prétendre à l’hégémonie, c’est pour promouvoir la coopération internationale, même dans notre initiative « la Ceinture et la Route », c’est pour promouvoir un développement commun aux pays en développement qui manquent de moyens, de ressources, de financement pour construire des infrastructures, pour créer des emplois. Maintenant, c’est la Chine qui a pris l’initiative de faire ça, mais nous espérons que les pays européens qui sont des pays développés puissent nous rejoindre. On fait ensemble. Cela sera beaucoup plus efficace. Je pense que cette épidémie nous a donné des leçons quand même. C’est qu’il faut poursuivre un développement vert et durable. Il faut poursuivre la coopération internationale. Il faut préconiser le multilatéralisme.

Q : Ma dernière question, vous avez dit dans vos derniers propos que les objectifs que défend la Chine sont partagés en grande partie par la France. Il y a un domaine dans lequel peut-être la Chine et la France ont beaucoup à travailler ensemble, c’est l’Afrique. L’Afrique est en train d’être touché progressivement par le coronavirus. C’est un continent qui a beaucoup plus de fragilités que beaucoup d’autres à travers le monde. La question de l’endettement des pays africains va se poser avec encore plus de difficultés, parce que si ces pays doivent lutter contre le coronavirus avec une économie qui est très fragilisée, avec un poids de la dette relativement important, dans quelle mesure Chinois, Français et plus généralement peut-être l’Europe peuvent travailler en commun pour justement apporter une réponse peut-être nouvelle pour le développement de l’Afrique ?

R : L’Afrique, c’est notre ami stratégique. Vous connaissez très bien les relations sino-africaines. Une fois sortie de l’épidémie, la Chine aide tout de suite les pays africains à lutter contre et à prévenir l’épidémie de Covid-19. Jusqu’à aujourd’hui, nous avons déjà fourni des aides à tous les pays africains qui ont des relations diplomatiques avec la Chine. Et nous avons déjà envoyé quelque 5 équipes médicales aux pays africains pour les aider à renforcer le système sanitaire contre cette épidémie. Les experts, les épidémiologistes chinois ont fait des échanges d’expériences aussi avec leurs collègues en Afrique. Vous pouvez vous rappeler qu’en 2014-2015, la Chine a beaucoup fait pour aider l’Afrique à lutter contre l’Ébola. On a même construit deux laboratoires au Sierra Leone et au Liberia. Cette fois-ci, c’est la même chose. La Chine n’hésite pas à voler au secours aux pays africains dans la lutte contre l’épidémie.

Bien sûr, l’endettement de l’Afrique, c’est un problème très important qui a duré depuis des dizaines d’années. L’endettement de l’Afrique ne date pas d’aujourd’hui. Il existe depuis leur indépendance. Et il a été accentué, surtout dans les années 80 du siècle dernier. Vous connaissez, en Chine, depuis la création du Forum sur la Coopération sino-africaine (FOCAC) en l’an 2000, nous commençons déjà à réduire, à annuler les dettes africaines vis-à-vis de la Chine. Ce mécanisme de coopération tient une conférence ministérielle tous les trois ans, et à chaque conférence ministérielle, le gouvernement chinois sort des mesures de réduction de dettes des pays africains. Et d’ailleurs, la Chine investit beaucoup maintenant et fait plus de crédits aux pays africains pour construire des infrastructures qui sont rentables, qui peuvent créer des valeurs, qui peuvent améliorer l’environnement d’investissement des pays africains. Et la Chine n’oblige jamais les pays africains de rendre l’argent. Même s’ils ne sont pas capables, on discute toujours bilatéralement pour mieux arranger les dettes.

Et effectivement, d’après des recherches des think-tanks des pays occidentaux, la part des dettes des pays africains vis-à-vis de la Chine ne représente pas une grande part dans leur endettement total. Généralement, cela fait autour de 10%. Peut-être pour quelques pays un peu plus haut, pour d’autres beaucoup plus bas. La plupart des dettes des pays africains sont dues aux pays développés, aux institutions financières multilatérales et aux banques privées. Ce sont de l’argent qu’ils ont emprunté dans le marché financier du monde. Donc, je pense que maintenant, à l’heure actuelle, bien sûr, on doit faire des efforts pour alléger le fardeau de la dette des pays africains. Récemment, le G20 a fait une initiative de suspendre le service des dettes des pays africains. Je pense que c’est une très bonne initiative. Le Président Emmanuel Macron a aussi fait une initiative. Mais je pense que maintenant, ce qui est le plus urgent, c’est d’aider les pays africains à renforcer leur système sanitaire pour mieux se prémunir contre le fléau, contre le prochain afflux de l’épidémie. Aujourd’hui en Afrique, il n’y a pas encore beaucoup de cas, mais cela ne veut pas dire qu’il n’y aura pas beaucoup de cas. Donc, on doit être vigilant. On doit faire des préparations.

Q : Tout à fait. Merci beaucoup.

R : Je vous remercie aussi. C’est une très bonne conversation.

China adopts active diplomacy rather than offensive diplomacy-Ambassador Lu Shaye accepted an exclusive interview with the French newspaper

On April 28, 2020, the French mainstream media "Residence" published an exclusive interview with Ambassador Lu Shaye in France. Ambassador Lu expounded his views on China's anti-epidemic and international cooperation, Sino-French relations, and China's diplomacy. The interview record is as follows:

Reporter: The new coronary pneumonia epidemic crisis does not seem to promote all parties to approach, but has intensified the international division. What do you think?

Ambassador Lu: It depends on how to look at this issue. In my opinion, in this fight against the epidemic, there are many signals of unity in the world. For example, China provided medical supplies and equipment assistance to more than 140 countries and international organizations, and shared anti-epidemic experience with more than 150 countries. Of course, it also includes France, which involves international solidarity. Of course, there are indeed divisions, even conflicts, especially between China and Western countries, but this is not what China has provoked, mainly because Western countries accuse China with various pretexts.

Looking back at the end of last year to the development of the new coronary pneumonia in the past four months, we can be divided into three stages. The first stage was that China was caught in an epidemic crisis. China devoted all its efforts to this unprecedented fight against epidemic and blocked Wuhan on January 23. During this period, although the Western media attacked China ’s political system and could not respond well to the epidemic, the epidemic could become a “Chernobyl” incident in China. The Chinese government would even fall after the epidemic—these were all Western media at the time The main argument-but at this time no one accused China of being opaque, concealing the epidemic situation, or delaying the fight against the epidemic. No one, not even Western leaders, blamed. For example, US President Trump, during January-February, he praised China ’s anti-epidemic actions 15 times, praised the Chinese government ’s rapid response, and adopted strict and comprehensive measures to control the epidemic. The United States and China have carried out good anti-epidemic measures. Cooperation. In fact, the Chinese government announced the case information for the first time on December 30 last year, notifying the World Health Organization for the first time, and the WHO notified countries around the world. This morning, I saw a report that Salomon, the head of the French Health Agency, said in the National Assembly yesterday that the French Ministry of Health notified the regions of the epidemic situation as early as January 10. In other words, France was informed from the beginning.

The second stage is from the end of February to mid-March. The outbreaks in the United States and Europe have occurred, and the number of infections and deaths has rapidly increased. The focus of Western media reports began to shift to their home countries. They did not pay much attention to what happened in China. This was a short period of calm.

The third stage is that since mid-March, various accusations against China by the Western media have come out all over the place, such as delay theory, deception theory, concealment theory, and opacity theory.

What does this mean? This shows that the Western media's accusations against China are constantly being renovated as the epidemic develops. I can be sure that if Western countries control the epidemic well, the attitude of the Western media towards China may not be as it is now. Although all the Western accusations against China are unclear, unrealistic, and unfounded, the Chinese government still attaches great importance to this and has made serious clarifications on many occasions.

Reporter: You just mentioned that there is a quiet period between the first stage and the third stage. How to explain this situation? Why did the West praise China ’s actions, information transparency, and the discovery and sharing of viral genome sequences in the first phase, but soon accused China of lack of transparency, and even some conspiracy theories? What do you think is the reason for this attitude change?

Ambassador Lu: In the first stage, it was the Western governments that praised the Chinese government. Western media have always been critical of China. This shows that the governments of western countries have received a notification from the Chinese side on the epidemic situation, and they have behaved objectively at this stage. I don't know why they are backtracking now. This needs to be explained by Western governments.

Reporter: How do you evaluate the relationship between France and China in the epidemic situation? Do you think the French side views China's response to the epidemic situation correctly?

Ambassador Lu: The bilateral relations between China and France are generally very good, and France is a comprehensive strategic cooperative partner of China. Since the outbreak of the epidemic, the two countries have made three consecutive calls and exchanged letters, and the foreign ministers of the two countries have made more calls. The leaders of the two countries maintained close communication on the prevention and control of the epidemic. Both President Macron and Foreign Minister Ledrion spoke highly of China's anti-epidemic measures and the spirit of solidarity and mutual assistance between the two countries. As you know, when a serious epidemic occurred in China, the French government provided assistance to China. When France faced the severe impact of the epidemic, the Chinese government also gave the French material and spiritual support. These are examples of the two countries' mutual help in the joint fight against the epidemic.

The problem is mainly in some media. Because I found that although I want the French media to be independent, in fact their performance during the epidemic was not independent. They always followed the American media. This is a very strange phenomenon. In my impression, the French media is independent, but this time the French media closely followed the United States. Whenever the United States throws out an accusation against China, the French media will definitely report a day or two later, and will follow the coax to hype up lies and rumors against China.

What they do is not conducive to mutual understanding between the people of the two countries, because the French people cannot obtain true and objective information about China. I am not saying that the media reports on China are all lies, but most of them are untrue. French media correspondents in China always see only the dark side of China, and this does not represent the mainstream of China. This is a well-known reason. For example, in the process of fighting the epidemic in France, the French media always reported some positive and inspiring news, which can boost morale and show unity. The French media correspondent in China reported the opposite. This gave the French people an impression that China was a very bad country, and everything that happened in China was inhumane, without human rights and freedoms. If China really portrayed these journalists stationed in China, China ’s situation today would be very different, would n’t it? I think the media should play an active role in enhancing exchanges between the two countries and mutual understanding between the people.

Reporter: There is a problem that even the French government has reservations. That is, France and Europe provided help when China ’s epidemic was the worst, and China also provided assistance to Europe, but many Europeans criticized China for its extensive publicity of its aid , And asked Europe to low-key publicity European aid. How do you respond to this?

Ambassador Lu: In fact, China did not deliberately promote aid to Europe. China's assistance to Europe may exceed European assistance to China. This is not an exaggeration. China did not publicize it deliberately, but because China has a large amount of aid and the media has reported it, everyone knows it. For example, if a batch of Chinese government aid to the French government arrives in Paris, the media will report it, will it? This is normal. As there is more and more such assistance, there are more and more reports.

I saw someone criticizing China for putting a slogan on the packaging of aid materials. This is not our creativity. The French Ministry of Foreign Affairs posted a slogan on the French government ’s aid to the Chinese government ’s anti-epidemic materials, which is an ancient Chinese poem. In my opinion, this shows solidarity and mutual assistance. Similarly, China wants to express its support for the French people through slogans. This is not propaganda, but to show unity. As for the so-called "mask diplomacy" or "propaganda diplomacy", this is not what we said, but some media said. They feel this impression. Why do they have this impression? It may be because they feel that China's influence is increasing or expanding. This is an objective phenomenon, isn't it? At the beginning of the interview, I mentioned that since the outbreaks in Europe and the United States, China has provided assistance to more than 140 countries. These aids are large in scale. It is impossible even if China wants to hide these behaviors.

Reporter: Yes, completely correct. Recently, many countries, especially Western countries-when I say a lot of countries, I think mainly Western countries-require the Chinese government to be more transparent. Just now, you mentioned that France-China relations are very good, but the French government also demands that China be more transparent. For example, last week President Macron said in an interview with the Financial Times that China still concealed many things. How do you respond to this?

Ambassador Lu: Western countries have always used the transparency theory as an excuse. Regarding President Macron's remarks, I have expressed my views last week. I don't think he wanted to blame China. He did say "I don't understand everything that happens in China, it should be the Chinese government." But this sentence should be viewed in context. In fact, the Western media have recently begun to compare the Western liberal democratic system with the Chinese system. They have labeled the political system of China as authoritarian and authoritarian. I think President Macron intends to avoid this kind of controversy. He said that "the different political systems should not be compared. Although the Chinese do well, the French can do as well as the Europeans." I think this is normal. Because of the different political systems, we cannot know what happened in the other country, just as China does not know what happened in France. This is how I feel. I do n’t think President Macron ’s remarks should be distorted.

Reporter: Some people criticized that since the epidemic began, especially after the spread of the epidemic outside China, Chinese diplomacy has become more "aggressive" or even "aggressive." Do you think this evaluation is correct? Still not true? What do you want to say about this?

Ambassador Lu: Rather, it is an active diplomacy. The Chinese are never aggressive. It may be felt that Chinese diplomats are responding more and more to Western media. I think this is normal. As I said earlier, Western media are attacking China more and more intensively, and these attacks have no basis. If these smears and attacks are allowed to spread in the Western public opinion, it is very unfavorable for Western people to understand and understand China. This is why Chinese diplomats in Europe, including of course the Chinese embassy in France, believe that it is necessary to respond, introduce the truth of China to the public, and clarify the stigmatization of China by Western media. Because in the past China has never responded to Western media attacks, this time the media found that China actually counterattacked and was shocked, so it believed that Chinese diplomacy was more "aggressive" and even "aggressive." Maybe this is how they feel. To be honest, the response made by the Chinese embassy in Europe provides another voice for the European public opinion community, and the public can judge for themselves what is true and what is false. If there is only one voice about China and the status quo of China, it is not conducive to the European people to really understand China.

Reporter: I fully agree with your explanation. As you said earlier, criticism of China by the West was very common in the past. For many years, the Chinese authorities have labeled the authoritarian government as “authoritarian”, but Chinese diplomacy, Chinese ambassadors and diplomats rarely respond as they do now. Now we have entered another period, and we should not stay where we are. So what are the reasons for the sudden change of Chinese diplomacy?

Ambassador Lu: We found that we should pay attention to the image. In traditional Chinese culture, Chinese people always say that they do their own thing well, regardless of what others say. But this doesn't work in today's world. Even if you do well in all aspects, you can't stand others splashing dirty water, and wipe out all the damage you have done. In the world, China is a good example. Even after decades of hard work, China has become the second largest economy in the world and hundreds of millions of people have been lifted out of poverty, but due to the slander and smearing of Western media, China's image in Western countries is always very bad, isn't it? The West always criticizes China for its "authoritarianism", "dictatorship", lack of human rights and freedom. But if the Chinese people do not enjoy human rights and freedom, how can China develop so well? Much better than most countries that practice Western-style liberal democracy? This is the truth. This shows that the narrative of the Western media does not conform to China's reality. The image of China portrayed by Western media is completely opposite to the actual image of China. This phenomenon is very serious. Therefore, we have strengthened communication with foreign countries. But why are Chinese diplomats rushing ahead? To be honest, Chinese media is much weaker internationally, especially in Western countries. They have no say. If the Chinese media is as powerful as the Western media, Chinese diplomats do not have to rush to communicate with the outside world. What Chinese diplomats are doing is to safeguard China's image and safeguard China's national interests.

Reporter: In this way, the work of the Chinese media should be strengthened. A few days ago, French Foreign Minister Ledrion said in an interview that the post-epidemic world may be worse than before. Do you agree with his pessimistic view? How to avoid this happening? How will China bring some harmony to this fragile world?

Ambassador Lu: The Chinese are more optimistic. Of course, the world after the epidemic is definitely different from that before the epidemic. It depends on how we do it. We should strive to make the world after the epidemic better than before. I think it is necessary to unite the countries of the world, not the attacks and conflicts like now. You know that China advocates the establishment of a community of human destiny. This is not a slogan, but our philosophy and expectations. Because we think this is the only way to make the world a better place. In this concept, we advocate unity and cooperation, mutual respect, and of course green development, shared development and multilateralism. These are valuable values ​​for humanity and the world, and universal values. France agrees with most of them. But I think not all countries are willing to do so. Some countries adhere to the Cold War mentality, worrying about losing power and losing hegemony, and doubting that China wants to replace its world hegemony. To be honest, China is not interested in this. What we do is not to seek hegemony, but to promote international cooperation. For example, the “Belt and Road” initiative is to promote common development, provide funds for developing countries that lack resources and means, develop infrastructure, and create jobs. China puts forward this initiative and also hopes that developed European countries will participate together. It would be more effective to do it together. I think the lesson from this epidemic is that it should promote green and sustainable development, promote international cooperation, and adhere to multilateralism.

Reporter: The last question. You just mentioned that France agrees with most of China ’s assertions. China and France have an area of ​​joint efforts, which may be Africa. Africa is gradually being affected by the epidemic, and this continent is more vulnerable than the rest of the world. The epidemic will make Africa's debt problem to China more difficult, because African countries have fragile economies and heavy debt burdens, while also fighting the epidemic. How should China, France or Europe work together to provide new solutions for African development?

Ambassador Lu: As you know, Africa is a good friend and strategic partner of China. You should have a good understanding of China-Africa relations. As soon as China controlled the epidemic, China began to help Africa prevent and control the epidemic. So far, we have provided medical supplies to all African countries that have established diplomatic relations with China, and sent 5 medical teams to help them strengthen the medical and health system and enhance their ability to fight the epidemic. Chinese medical experts and infectious disease scientists also shared their experiences with their African counterparts. As you may recall, from 2014 to 2015, China has done a lot to help Africa fight the Ebola epidemic. We have built laboratories in Sierra Leone and Liberia. This time it was the same. China helped Africa for the first time.

The African debt problem is also very important. This problem has been around for decades, and it didn't appear today. It can be traced back to the early days of African countries' independence. It began to become prominent in the 1980s. Since the establishment of the China-Africa Cooperation Forum in 2000, we have begun to reduce or cancel African debts to China. The Forum on China-Africa Cooperation holds a ministerial meeting every three years. At each ministerial meeting, the Chinese government will introduce debt reduction measures. In addition, China has invested heavily in Africa, especially in the field of infrastructure construction. These infrastructures have improved Africa's investment environment and are profitable, which is conducive to African countries' debt repayment. Even if African countries are unable to repay their debts, China will never force debts, but will reach debt arrangements through bilateral consultations.

According to research data from Western think tanks, China is not a major creditor country in Africa. China accounts for about 10% of Africa ’s debt. Some countries are higher and some countries are lower. The main lenders in Africa are developed countries, multilateral financial institutions and private banks. Basically, Africa borrows through international financial markets. Recently, the G20 Finance Ministers ’Meeting made a decision to suspend the debt repayment of African countries. President Macron also proposed an initiative to reduce debts in Africa. I think it is very good. However, I think the most urgent task now is to help African countries strengthen their medical and health systems and help them better cope with possible outbreaks. Although there are not many confirmed cases in Africa, it does not mean that there are not many in the future. We should remain vigilant and be prepared.

Reporter: Thank you very much for the interview.

Ambassador Lu: Thank you, our conversation is very good.

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