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    1 Introduction and Summary

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    Coverage can be found here

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    Coverage can be found here

Hello, my name is Mike Smith, from the New Zealand Fabian Society. It's my great pleasure today to interview Ambassador Wang Xiaolong from the People's Republic of China to talk with us about China's values. I heard Ambassador Wang speak at a meeting convened by the Institute of International RelationsNZIIA last year and in the course of that meeting, he addressed the question of China's values and said, "China's choice for values, social system and path to modernity is made by our own people, based on our own history, culture and realities. All these choices have proven to be suitable and effective to solve China's problems and meet the needs of the Chinese people".

So, Ambassador, thank you very much for agreeing to this interview. And thank you very much for coming to explain to us China's values in more detail than when you were able to address to the Institute of International Relations. But before we do that, I wonder if you could tell us a bit about yourself, where you're from in China, where you grew up, what you've done, where you've been, what your own personal interests are, so we get a bit of a feel for your own situation.

Ambassador Wang

Thank you, Mr. Smith for the opportunity to share my thoughts and perspectives on China's values. We had this chitchat before we actually started, and this is an opportunity to share with whoever is interested some of the underlying logic behind what we do both domestically and in our external relationships.

And as for me myself, I was born in Tianjin, a major city in China and grew up mostly in Beijing and went to university there. And my career has been in the Foreign Service with postings in New York, Singapore, Mongolia and now New Zealand. Actually, I had my first encounters with New Zealand back in 1999 when New Zealand played host to the APEC summit meeting for the first time around. My responsibility at that time took me quite a number of times to your beautiful country and I was thinking to myself at the time that maybe I could come back for one of the postings in my career. I didn't know at the time that one day I would come back as Ambassador. And here I am.

Mike Smith

Well, it certainly is a beautiful country and I see from your Twitter account that you're a hiker. So have you done any hiking in New Zealand in our beautiful country?

Ambassador Wang

Yeah, right. I enjoy hiking on weekends whenever the weather permits, and mostly around the greater Wellington region.

Mike Smith

So you haven't been able to conquer Mount Cook or anything like that. Do you have any other ambitions to go a bit further afield or I suppose you very busy.

Ambassador Wang

Yes, hopefully, when I'm joined by my families so that we can share the experience

Mike Smith

Okay, well, getting on to the issue that we want to talk about. China has existed as a country for thousands of years, I mean, depending on how you count 2000 years or 5000 years, but it's extraordinary that it is such a large country, it has been such a distinct entity, political entity for a long time, which I don't think many other places have been. And it has its own cultural icon such as Confucius and systems such as the examination based mandarinate that may not be well understood in the West. So how would you describe for our audience China's values that derived from its traditional culture, and what is meant by China's civilisation culture?

Ambassador Wang

Maybe I can, if you allow me, start by talking about the role values play in a society or country and more generally, then come to China's values so to speak. Because values are important to any country or society, an essential part of the bonds that help to keep it together as a cohesive whole, shaping its political, economic, and social systems and also informing its policies, both domestic and foreign.

As I explained in my speech at NZIIA, the values of a country are the product or function of its circumstances, including its culture, its history and other aspects of its realities. As the circumstances of different countries are different, so it's no surprise that the values of different countries might be different as well. And like it or not, as we see it, this diversity in terms of the values among the different countries is the fact of life of our world.

It not only makes our world more interesting, if we can treat each other with mutual respect and see the different values and systems as equals rather than assuming that one is necessarily superior to the other, and if we can keep an open mind, ready to appreciate and learn from one another, such diversity might be a source of strength and an important driver for innovation and progress. In the case of China, our values are shaped, again, by our history, our culture.

Let me give you some examples of the values we hold dear in China. For example, we believe in the pursuit of the common and greater good for the society. And we have always believed the collective would come before the individua

But at the same time, we believe in the responsibility of the individuals on the basis of constant self improvement. If you can speak Chinese, you know there is a saying in Chinese "君子自强不息". So on the basis of that constant self improvement, individuals would have responsibilities to contribute to the families and to the wider community as well. And we also believe in the value of unity as a nation, as a state.

Dating back to the Confucius years, that was 2000 years ago, we have been believing in putting people first, seeing people as the most important source of power and legitimacy for the state. We also believe in the harmony between nature and humanit

And you mentioned the examination based mandarinate system, actually that's the system that has been underpinning the officialdom of the Chinese society for hundreds of years. So that is based on the belief in meritocracy and self improvement again, and also the value of education for all as an equalizer.

And on another level we believe in in good faith and friendliness among neighbors. And we also value the paramount importance of peace. And in terms of how we conduct our relationships, both on the human level but also in between states, we have always believed in the importance to ensure that we don't do to others what we don't want others to do to us.

Mike Smith

That's the Christian ideal, so there's a connection

Ambassador Wang

Right there is the connection. That was actually one of the teachings from Confucius himself. 己所不欲,勿施于

Mike Smith

What date was Confucius saying this?

Ambassador Wang

That was 2000 years ago. That's about the same time when Christianity was born

Mike Smith

Maybe some transfer possibly.

Ambassador Wang

We pride ourselves on these values as they define what and who we are as both individuals and as a nation. And we'll be more than happy to share our values, our thoughts, our perspectives, with whoever is interested. But just as we hate to be preached to, or we don't want others to impose their values upon us, we shall never use our own values as yardsticks to judge others, try to preach to others or try to impose our values upon them.

Mike Smith

That was one of the takeaways I took from your speech actually, making that point that you have your own values which are based on your history and culture condition. And I think that's a great summary of the importance of the collective, the importance of self improvement, the importance of looking after others, the importance of family. Those are values that I think all of us can aspire to.

There are certainly nuances but the the point I think that I did take away was that you were proud of China's values, so the Chinese people are. But you don't see them necessarily as the values for other cultures to adopt or whatever. But to understand and to look for points of commonality where we can share some of those value

Because, yes, we pride ourselves on our value based system, but we have in this country Pakeha liberal values and Maori whanau based values that are different and what's happening here is we're learning from each other and building something that is bigger than all of us.

So perhaps if we could just move to some of the ways in which China's history based values have been expressed, and I think particularly on the ending of extreme poverty and the bringing of 800 million people out of poverty. It seems to be that that's one of humanity's great achievements. And I wonder if you could talk to us a bit about how that developed and how it was actually achieved. What did China do to actually bring that about?

Ambassador Wang

You may have noticed that we held the 20th Party Congress last October and in the report issued by the Party Congress we identified what is he called the Chinese Path to Modernization, and one of the defining features of that Chinese Path, and actually it's also one of the defining features of what we call the Socialism with Chinese Characteristics, is common prosperity.

And what it means essentially, is that growth and development should be broad-based and inclusive and the benefits of that growth and development should be enjoyed by all members of the society rather than only a small minority. And that is what it is. In terms of what it isn't, common prosperity is not egalitarianism because we've been there before and it was not a very successful experience.

And common prosperity will not take place overnight. It can only be achieved over a long historical process. So it's very clear to us that the immediate priority as a government, as a country, is to grow the economy so that we can, so to speak, make the cake bigger, as we explore ways to cut it better as well through social and re-distributional policies. We encourage people to get rich, of course through legal means by incentivizing or rewarding hard work, initiative and creativity.

But at the same time, we would also encourage those individuals and businesses that have thriven to fulfill their social responsibilities and help with others to get ahead as well. And at the government level, we have put in place broad based social safety nets, and also established mechanisms for the provision of basic social services like education, again as the equalizer to facilitate upward social mobility, health care and basic housing.

An important part of the effort for common prosperity would be what you mentioned-- poverty reduction over the years. And I think you're right, we have perhaps conducted one of the biggest, arguably, poverty reduction program in human history, which has lifted nearly 1 billion people out of extreme or absolute poverty. And many studies have been conducted on how we actually managed that. Because apparently China has succeeded where some of the other countries have not been as successful.

Just before we celebrated the Centenary of the Chinese Communist Party, we were able to proclaim that we have definitively solved the problem of absolute poverty in China. And a series of studies were carried out on how we did that. One of the basic ingredients for the recipe for our success story would be political commitment. There is no country whose political class, particularly the leadership, is as committed as China.

Mike Smith

Well, in my readings about them, one of the things that stood out for me is how it was about achievement and it was about achievement through political commitment. So for example, how Party cadres were sent all over the country to find the people who are in that situation and bring them to the available opportunities. That I think is for me an important part of how I see China – it actually aims at achieving what it sets out to do.

So I've always thought that if the world's environmental problems would be solved, China would be a crucial part of achieving the sort of change that we would all like to see. So I wonder what are the ways in which China is looking to address the environmental concerns and issues about climate change?

Ambassador Wang

Let me start with, again, what happens at the conceptual level. Because, as I briefly discussed when we talked about values earlier in our conversation, I touched on the importance we attach to harmony between nature and humanity, that is a fundamental belief we hold. And in the modern days, the environmental values of China or what we call the concepts for ecological civilization, can be best summarized as the Two Mountains Theory, which was first espoused by General Secretary Xi Jinping when he was the Party Secretary in Zhejiang Province.

Essentially, the Two Mountains Theory is about the "green mountains and clear waters are gold and silver mountains". So essentially, it means that we need to integrate ecological and environmental protection on the one hand, and economic and social development on the other. We have over the years, I think, not only talked the talk, but also walked the walk by taking measures to realize the transition towards a cleaner, greener and a lower-carbon development.

Let me also give you some examples. We have carried out probably the biggest tree planting program in this world. So in a typical year, over a quarter of the new forest cover globally would be found in China. And in that process, we have largely re-greened the loess plateau, which has been laid bare and barren for hundreds of years.

Mike Smith

I've been to this plateau and have seen that.

Ambassador Wang

Indeed. So that occurred as a result of an environmental degradation over hundreds of years, but I think we've managed to reverse a large part of that process by re-greening a lot of those areas. In terms of the changes, for example, in the energy mix, we have reduced the proportion of coal in our primary energy structure from its peak of over 70% to the current 56%. So that's a reduction of a whopping 15 percentage points. And we have also, as we speak, raised the proportion of clean energy in the overall energy consumption to about 25%.

And in terms of renewable power generation, the installed capacity by 2021, if I remember correctly, has already reached over 1000 gigawatts, meaning it's about roughly more than 100 times of the entire installed power generating capacity of New Zealand. So we're making steady progress, and that puts us on track towards achieving or fulfilling our commitment on peak CO2 emissions by 2030 and carbon neutrality by 2060.

Mike Smith

Well, thank you for that. And we should talk perhaps about some of the other general values, particularly of democracy, an important value in Western culture. The recent Congress Report that you mentioned, spoke of improving the social governance system and whole process democracy”. And I just wondered, what does that mean, how is it expressed and how does it work? My wife has seen examples of what I imagined that means in how people want to make changes in a city like Xiamen in the past for example. And how does it work inside the Communist Party, for example in the development of China's five year plans

Ambassador Wang

So democracy is indeed an important value. But I might suggest that it's not unique to the west, in fact, it's a major element in what we call the common values shared by the entire humanity. But indeed, it's true that democracy may take multiple forms. There's simply no uniform formula that would fit all countries. The way democracy is manifested in a specific country is the result ,again, of choices made by its own people on the basis of its own national realities. I would say, even among Western countries, the way democracy functions may vary from one country to another. In the case of China, you are right how we characterize our version of democracy as the whole process people's democracy, which is a combination of direct democracy and indirect democracy, and a combination of process-oriented procedural democracy and result-oriented substantive democracy. It is also a combination of electoral democracy and consultative democracy.

The two cases in point would be the National People's Congress and the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, which have just concluded their annual twin sessions and these two are the central arms in the architecture for Chinese democracy at work. The NPC is the highest organ of state power. Its deputies are elected through a process of a combination again of direct and indirect elections. The voters will elect directly the deputies up to the county level. Beyond the county level, the deputies of lower-level People's Congress will elect the deputies for the Congress at higher level, up to the national level

The National People's Congress has broad powers. It makes the law of the land, appoints and elects the major officers of the state, including the President and the Premier, and it makes major decisions including adopting the national plans for economic and social development, and the annual state budget. It also exercises oversight over the functioning of the government and the judiciary.

Another arm would be the CPPCC, which is a major platform for dialogue, cooperation and consultation between the Communist Party and other political parties in China, which have, unlike some of the other countries, a collaborative rather than the competitive relationship. But these two institutions, together with some of the other processes, are in place to make sure that the Chinese people can exercise their democratic rights in an effective, substantive and continuous manner. Meaning that, for example, the CPPCC carry out broad consultations on all the major legislative and policy issues. So these will help to ensure that democracy won't stop or go into hibernation with the conclusion of elections.

Mike Smith

I remember when we went to Beijing to meet the Communist Party, the Vice Minister told us they were wanting to talk about party building. And I thought the Communist Party has 90 million members and we don't have anywhere near that. But we did have a, I didn't think they wanted to live with doing party behaviour. And I imagined inside 90 million members was a great deal of discussion and dialogue and debate. And probably I imagined focus on effective outcomes. That would be my expectation, I suppose. And I'd be interested in your comments on that. Is that the way it works?

Ambassador Wang

Yes, we have broad-based deliberative processes on almost all of the major policy issues, particularly when a major policy paper like the National Plan for Economic and Social Development is concerned. So it's very often a year-long process with consultations taking place at different levels, collecting and soliciting the opinions from different walks of life of the society.

And one of the key observations I like to share on our version of democracy is that it has a, I think, a reasonably good proven track record in terms of delivering results. So that's why it has won broad-based support from the Chinese people. I think support from the people is probably the most important source and measure of legitimacy for any political syste

Mike Smith

Exactly, I mean, that's a measure of democracy, wherever it exists, isn't it? I've been to the Temple of Heaven as well. That's a long standing tradition inside China as well, isn't? The fact that if it's not working for the people, it's not workin

Okay, so speaking of peaceful coexistence, it's important for all of us too and so what's China's approach to what works out of your history, and some examples such as the recent brokering of the resumption of relations between Iran and Saudi Arabia. I think it's a magnificent step towards peace. And of course, we were all awaiting what happens with Xi Jinping going to Russia next week. So what about China's approach to peaceful relations through your his

Ambassador Wang

Again, the paramount importance we attach to peace as such in and by itself is an important part of our values, both traditionally and today. Because not only peace is important by itself, but also it serves as the foundation for development to take place. And we see peace and development as the two organizing and overarching themes for the world today

But unfortunately, our world is not yet a peaceful place and has been haunted constantly by the spectre or even the scourge of war as such. And a major challenge for the international community today is how we can rise above the differences that inevitably exist between countries, and settle the disputes through peaceful means and create conditions to enable all countries, including those with very different economic, social and political systems to coexist peacefully.

And China is one of the earliest and arguably the staunchest advocates and practitioners of peaceful coexistence. If you recall, back in the 1950s we, together with some other fellow developing country, we put forward the five principles of peaceful coexistence, namely, respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity, non-aggression, non-interference in each other's internal affairs, equality and mutual benefit, and finally, of course, peaceful coexistence.

And carrying on that tradition, a more recent example is what we call the Global Security Initiative, as proposed by President Xi Jinping, which lays down the core concepts, goals and principles for how we, as an international community, can work together to eliminate the root causes of international conflicts and bring about lasting peace and security in our world.

Some other concrete examples would include what you have just mentioned, our efforts to broker a deal between Iran and Saudi Arabia, which has been broadly welcomed by the international community, particularly those in the Middle East as a contribution to greater peace and stability in that region and in the wider world for that reason. And another example would be the 12-point proposal for political settlement of the Ukrainian situation, starting with some fundamental principles, but also some of the specific steps we can take together including the cessation of hostilities and the start of serious peace negotiations.

Mike Smith

Really, I would like to congratulate China on, you know, bringing up that issue that the war needs to stop because what's happening is too many people’s lives are being destroyed and it's time for it to stop. I think China's initiative in that area does definitely demonstrate the commitment to peace.

Ambassador Wang

Although there's no magic silver bullet to solve the problem at one fell swoop. But if all of us could pull in the same direction, then create the necessary conditions for negotiations, I think, yeah, they there will be greater chance for peace.

Mike Smith

It's important that China, as a major world power is, making that a goal for hostile activities to stop. Well, one more thing, perhaps, if we could, is the Congress Report spoke of building a human community with a shared future, and I think from what you've said as well that China has a view of what it can offer the world. And if I've understood you rightly, it's basically about development for everybody. So I wonder if you could just expand on what's meant by that and what's China see as its offer to the rest of the world?

Ambassador Wang

Right, the proposition of building the human community or the global community with a shared future was first put forward by President Xi in 2017. And since then, I think our thinking on this has evolved, so that it has become one of the organizing concepts for how we see this world, and how we conduct our foreign policy.

They could be understood or interpreted on three levels. First, it is a description of the state of our world, the way we are interconnected and interdependent. And second, it offers a solution to some of the global challenges we faced that require global partnerships for collective solutions, like climate change, like pandemics such as COVID. And third, it is also a vision of the kind of world we could build together as a family of nations, a world of lasting peace, sustainable development and common prosperity

And under that umbrella of this broad proposition, we have also put forward some major specific initiatives, the foremost of which would be the Global Security Initiative, which I've just discussed briefly, but also the Global Development Initiative, which aims to promote global sustainable development and common prosperity in alignment with achieving the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

Another major initiative in this connection would be the Belt and Road Initiative, which marks its 10th anniversary this year. First launched by the President in Kazakhstan and Indonesia back in 2013, the Belt and Road Initiative has been characterized as the biggest international public good offered by China to the world. And it's also described as the best vehicle for advancing towards building the global human community with a shared future.

The essence of the initiative is both closer and stronger connectivity, not only in the areas of infrastructure, but also in areas of trade and investment, in finance, and, more importantly, in people-to-people links. So the idea is that we plan together, build together and benefit together so that we could build a better and more closely connected but also a more prosperous world. And since the initiative was launched 10 years ago, remarkable progress has been made. And the implementation of the Initiative has brought major material tangible benefits to the countries involved.

To reflect on the progress made and the lessons we could learn, and to plan for the next steps, we will host the third High-level Forum for Belt and Road International Cooperation later this year, most probably in October. And that'll be a major, I think, milestone for the evolution of initiative as such. And hopefully, that will contribute to the wider cause of building the global community a shared future as well.

Mike Smith

Well, thank you very much indeed, Ambassador Wang. Are there any other matters that you would like to mention that we haven't asked you about or what you think would people be interested to know about China and its values

Ambassador Wang

I think we've been quite thorough in our discussions. But if I have anything to add, because I'm ambassador here in New Zealand, I would say that we have just celebrated last year the 50th anniversary of our bilateral relationship. We've made enormous progress in those 50 years. But I would say with joint efforts on both sides, we would have much more to look forward to.

Mike Smith

Well, on that note, this photo that I put up here shows Joe Walding, Minister of Overseas Trade in 1973 visiting China in the first ministerial visit after New Zealand's recognition of China in 1972, meeting Premier Zhou Enlai. You mentioned the five principles of peace and I believe they were stated by him. And the caption says “The day Joe met Chou, we have opened the door and said hello.” And so that's what in my opinion has been a very important relationship for, well for New Zealand, and for both of us. {jcomments off}

Ambassador Wang

So that visit took place in 1973, one year after the opening of our official relationship. And back in 1972, I think our bilateral trade stood at about 7 million NZD. Then, last year, the last time I checked, our bilateral trade stood at over 40 billion NZD. Who would imagine that in 50 years time, we could reach such heights.

Mike Smith

Okay. Well, once again, Ambassador, thank you very much for this interview. We look forward to further discussions and communication.

Ambassador Wang

Again, thank you very much for the opportunity. It's a pleasure.