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Ambassador Gui Congyou Gave an Exclusive Interview with Expressen on China-Sweden Relations
2020/12/23
 

On 18 December, Ambassador Gui Congyou gave an exclusive interview with Expressen journalist Mr. Leif Brännström on China-Sweden relations.

Brännström: Good morning Mr. Ambassador. Could you talk about your job as an ambassador?

Ambassador Gui: I am glad to take an interview with Expressen. The mission of an ambassador is to advance friendly exchanges and cooperation with the host country. China and Sweden share broad interests in many areas, and our bilateral cooperation has a solid foundation and good prospects. China is committed to open development for shared benefits, and Sweden is committed to open development and free trade, which points to our many commonalities for further friendly cooperation. The world today faces a series of new challenges and threats, including a spreading pandemic, increasing protectionism, surging terrorism and extremism and a warmer planet. All of them need countries around the world, including China and Sweden, to work together to address. China is committed to growing a friendly and cooperative relationship with Sweden, and hopes Sweden will work towards the same goal with us.

Brännström: I get the feeling from some reports I read that you are angry at Expressen.

Ambassador Gui: I wouldn’t say “angry”. We just hope Swedish media would cover China in an objective, complete and truthful manner, and do and say things that are in the interest of China-Sweden friendly cooperation. China’s development, like many other countries including Sweden, inevitably has its own problems, and the Communist Party of China (CPC) and the Chinese Government, faithful to putting people at the center, lead the Chinese people to work together to resolve these problems, and fulfill the aspirations of 1.4 billion people for a better life. We welcome suggestions and even criticisms on China’s development from other countries including from their media. China is broad-minded to take the suggestions and criticisms, but we categorically reject fact-distorting reports, malicious criticisms and smears.

We hope the journalists that are interested in China will visit China more to see the realities in China, and talk to the men and women in the streets of China, instead of sitting in the office and criticizing China just based on their imagination or quoting from anti-China media reports from the US and Australia. As an old Chinese saying goes, it is better to see it once than to hear it a hundred times. Our Embassy is willing to provide necessary facilitation for Swedish reporters that want to visit China. Have you and your colleagues travelled to China before?

Brännström: I have not been to China before, but a colleague of mine applied to visit China and still has not got a visa.

Ambassador Gui: It is mainly because of the pandemic. We will positively study your colleague’s visit as we assess the development of the pandemic, and provide facilitation when conditions allow. China is a country of 1.4 billion people, 9.6 million square kilometers, 5000 years of history, and has the world’s second biggest economic output. To report in China, one must be willing to spend time and energy to dive into the Chinese society and understand China’s development in a complete and objective manner. When covering China, one should not have a pre-set conclusion or agenda, and look for problems to fit the conclusion or agenda with magnifying glasses.

Brännström: The pandemic has been going on for a long time. How do you view Sweden’s anti-COVID 19 policies?

Ambassador Gui: The CPC and Chinese Government put people’s lives and health first, and adopted the most comprehensive, strict and thorough measures and managed to bring the virus under control in a little more than two months. Sweden has its own national realities. We respect the policies chosen by the Swedish Government. China never interferes in the internal affairs of other countries, and never points fingers at other countries’ internal affairs. We sincerely hope that the epidemic in Sweden will pass as soon as possible and work and life will come back to normal as early as possible. The Chinese side is willing to provide necessary assistance to the Sweden in fighting the virus in accordance with its need.

Brännström: Yesterday the King of Sweden announced that Sweden has failed in its fight against the virus. Do you agree with his comments?

Ambassador Gui: We express our deep sympathy to the Swedish people that suffered from the pandemic. Our deep condolences go to those that lost their lives due to COVID-19, and extend our deep condolences to their families. As I said, we will not point fingers at Sweden’s internal affairs. We support the Swedish Government and people’s efforts, and are willing to provide necessary assistance for Sweden’s fight against the pandemic. We also hope that Sweden can unite as one and defeat the virus as early as possible.

Brännström: How did you report to Beijing about Sweden’s COVID-19 situation?

Ambassador Gui: I reported what I just told you to Beijing.

Brännström: Mr. Ambassador, can you talk in depth about your views on Sweden?

Ambassador Gui: We applaud Sweden’s practices and achievements in green, environmentally friendly and sustainable development. I have talked broadly with people from all walks of life in Sweden, including from business, academic and innovation sectors as well as local governments, and most importantly the general public. I deeply appreciate the friendship of various sectors of Sweden and the Swedish public towards China. They are all eager to expand friendly cooperation with China. The mainstream public opinion in Sweden is completely consistent with China’s hope to develop friendly cooperative relations with Sweden, and that gives me confidence in the future of China-Sweden relations.

On the other hand, I also noticed some changes in Swedish society. For example, when I was studying at university in 1980s, I learned that Sweden was a country with high wages, high welfare, and high consumption. The society was so secure that it was like a paradise depicted by ancient Chinese classics, where people did not need to lock up their doors at night because it was so safe. Frankly speaking, the security situation in Sweden today may not be as good as it used to be. We have noticed that the Swedish Government, political parties and various sectors of society are very concerned about security issues and are actively taking measures to combat crime. We hope the Swedish Government will succeed.

Brännström: What do you think led to this state of security in Sweden?

Ambassador Gui: This is exactly what I want to know from you. As a Swede, you know this better than us, and we should learn from you.

Brännström: We need another discussion on this issue. There are an increasing number of Swedish people that view China negatively. According to Pew in the United States, 40% of people in Sweden hold negative views on China in 2004, and the number reached 85% this summer. What’s your comment?

Ambassador Gui: As I said, if one wants to understand the actual situation in China, it is best to go to China for oneself, as seeing is believing. It is also true for understanding the views of the Swedish public on China, which is to learn from the Swedish people instead of citing the United States or other countries’ polling agencies. There are ten million people in Sweden. You can go deep into Swedish society and directly learn about the views of Swedish people. I learned by talking extensively with Swedish people that they all advocate friendship with China and they all have a good impression of China. You mentioned this American polling agency. How many Swedish people were surveyed? Can it represent the wishes of all sectors of the Swedish society and the general public? What purpose does their poll serve? None of this is known to us.

Brännström: Do you think Swedish people have a more positive view on China than the poll shows?

Ambassador Gui: What I took away from the conversations is that the majority of Swedish public is friendly to China. They all support expanding friendly exchanges and cooperation with China, not the other way around. We hope that the Swedish Government’s China policy can represent and reflect the mainstream public opinion in Sweden, rather than be based on a poll conducted by certain US media or organization, with a specific agenda and on a limited circle of people. For example, if I ask you and your colleagues whether you support friendly cooperation with China, I think your answer must be yes.

Brännström: The diplomatic relations between Sweden and China are very cold. It is reported that you have been summoned by the Swedish Ministry for Foreign Affairs as many as 40 to 50 times, which is the highest record of summons of an ambassador. Why?

Ambassador Gui: First, I want to correct an inaccuracy in your statement. They are “meetings”, not “summons”. As I said at the beginning, the mission of an ambassador is to promote friendly exchanges and cooperation between the host country and the represented country, which requires extensive contact with people from all sectors of the host country. It is actually a good thing that I have met and communicated many times with colleagues at the Swedish Ministry for Foreign Affairs. This is exactly the mission of an ambassador. In fact, in 2018 alone, I met with colleagues at the Swedish Ministry for Foreign Affairs more than 60 times. Our dialogues were about how to focus on our commonalities and expand friendly exchanges and cooperation, and on how to manage differences so that they do not affect our friendly cooperation. This is a mission for both me as an ambassador and for the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Sweden. There is nothing strange about it. Some of the over 60 meetings were initiated by colleagues from the Ministry, and others by me, with a purpose to increase mutual understanding between our two countries and peoples, and to promote relations between the two countries. In fact, yesterday I was invited to the Ministry to meet with Swedish colleagues and discuss how to develop bilateral relations in the coming year. The attitude of the two sides at the meeting was positive, and the content of our discussion was in the interest of growing bilateral relations. We also hope to meet and communicate more with you, your colleagues and other friends from Swedish media. The more exchanges we have with various sectors of Sweden, we believe, the more beneficial it is to both sides.

Brännström: Huawei and ZTE are now excluded from Sweden’s 5G expansion. China is asking Swedish authorities to change their decision, but they will not change. What is your view?

Ambassador Gui: I have explained China’s position to the Swedish side many times. China hopes that Sweden will provide a fair, impartial, open, transparent, and non-discriminatory business environment for Chinese companies in Sweden, just like China provides a fair, impartial, open, transparent, and non-discriminatory business environment for Swedish companies. The Swedish military and security authorities and the PTS said that Huawei poses a “security threat”, but did not provide any evidence. Huawei has since long ago proposed that it can sign a “no backdoor” agreement with the host country, but there has been no response from the Swedish side. We urge the Swedish side to immediately correct the unfounded and wrongful decision. One should not keep lecturing on “democracy”, “justice”, and “rule of law”, but only lecturing others and never examining oneself. Upholding principles of market openness and rule of law, China has always provided a good business environment for foreign companies in China, including Swedish companies. We also hope that the Swedish side will truly implement the principles of openness and rule of law, instead of only shouting slogans and only shouting at others. Chinese people have been following one principle throughout our history--- we must do it first if we ask others to do something. I hope the Swedish side will do the same.

Brännström: Although the case has been brought to the court, the Swedish authorities insist on their positions. What do you say to the Swedish Government, such as Prime Minister Stefan Löfven?

Ambassador Gui: Our communication with the Swedish Government is smooth. We hope the Swedish Government will immediately correct the unfounded and wrongful decision and not follow Trump’s unreasonable and malicious suppression of Chinese companies. Trump is going to leave the White House. What do you think of him?

Brännström: I am a reporter and I have no opinion on this, but it is interesting to watch Trump’s press conference. What about you?

Ambassador Gui: We have no opinion on Trump himself. Whether he is in or out of the White House, it is an internal affair of the United States. China has no interest in it. The US is so powerful that no foreign country can decide who is president of the United States. We do not interfere in the internal affairs of other countries. What we care about is how to develop our own country and improve the living standards of 1.4 billion people.

Brännström: Regarding Huawei, the Swedish Government will not change its decision for the concern that Huawei is suspected of espionage. What’s your comment?

Ambassador Gui: Huawei has stated that it is willing to sign a “no backdoor” agreement. However, the Swedish side, instead of accepting the positive proposal, took negative measures to exclude Huawei, which we find hard to believe. I would like to reiterate that we hope the Swedish side will provide Huawei and other Chinese companies with a fair, impartial, open and non-discriminatory business environment, just like China does for the Swedish and other foreign companies.

Brännström: What if Sweden does not do so?

Ambassador Gui: Diplomats do not answer hypothetical questions. We do express our hopes though. We hope that the Swedish Government will abandon the unfounded and incorrect decision, which is the only right solution to the problem.

Brännström: I take your reply “very diplomatic”.

Ambassador Gui: Diplomats do not answer hypothetical questions. No one wants to see this “if” happening. Our task is to do the right thing and correct the wrongful decision.

Brännström: Mr. Ambassador, did you read the reports by the Swedish media about members of CPC infiltrating IKEA, Ericsson and some other Western companies in China?

Ambassador Gui: It’s total nonsense. It is a malicious smear on China and it will damage the cooperation between China and the countries concerned. We categorically reject it.

Brännström: Why are there such reports?

Ambassador Gui: Some anti-China individuals are constantly and maliciously looking for problems to damage China’s image, and obstruct cooperation between their countries and China. Their attempts are bound to fail. I have two suggestions for them----- go to China to see China for what it is, and stop their despicable smear and attack on China.

Brännström: A Chinese citizen who was sentenced to 20 months last year for espionage, is now out of prison and to be repatriated to China. Is he back in China now?

Ambassador: Maybe you did not read my interviews with other media. We have clearly stated our positions that we do not know this person, still less about what he has done in Sweden. He has nothing to do with the Chinese Government. The accusation of him being a spy for China made up by some people in Sweden is simply nonsense.

Brännström: He was detained in Sweden, and is to be repatriated to China. It would only make sense that China and Sweden should know about it.

Ambassador Gui: China has never sent a “spy” to Sweden. It is clear that we do not know this person. It’s only a unilateral action of some Swedish authorities, and has nothing to do with China. China is not interested at all in “spying” Sweden. As for the person you mentioned, I don’t know how some people in Sweden could invent such a story, and it has nothing to do with China. If you are only informed about China through the groundless accusations and attacks, you will be misinformed and misled. We welcome your and your colleagues’ interest in China. However, it’s strongly suggested that you should go to China. Maybe you will be surprised, since the real situation in China is totally different from all the slanders.

Brännström: Between 2009 and 2010, there was a verdict of a Chinese dissident. Do you know anything about it?

Ambassador Gui: No.

Brännström: Before we end this interview, let’s talk about a lighter and more joyful topic. What do you do in your spare time?

Ambassador Gui: I’m quite impressed by how much Swedish people love exercising. I also try to exercise every day, as our Swedish friends do. However, this year, the pandemic made it difficult to exercise outside. We hope the pandemic will be defeated soon, so that we can enjoy some outdoor exercises as we used to. As a friendly nation, we believe Sweden will undoubtedly overcome the pandemic. We wish the best for Sweden. In a globalized world, all countries share one future. No country thrives unless we all thrive. That is why China is guided by the idea of a community with a shared future for humankind, as we work with other countries.

Brännström: I lost a friend because of Covid-19. Mr. Ambassador, among your friends and family, is there anyone who died of the virus?

Ambassador Gui: I feel sorry for your loss. Let me express my condolences to you and the bereaved family. It is lucky for me because no one I know died because of the virus. We noticed that the Swedish Government keeps reminding the public of strengthening control and prevention measures, limiting gatherings, and avoiding face-to-face contacts. We follow the recommendations strictly. We hope that we will not have to wear masks for our next interview.

Brännström: It’s cold outside, just like our bilateral relations.

Ambassador Gui: For the time-being, yes, but spring will eventually come. As long as both sides work together for friendship and cooperation, we can feel the warmth despite the cold weather.

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