Chinese Prez Xi Jinping’s first interview after assuming office

Before paying a state visit to Russia, Tanzania, South Africa and the Republic of the Congo and attends the Fifth BRICS Leaders Meeting, President Xi Jinping gave a joint interview to ITAR-TASS and RTR of Russia, ETV of South Africa, Press Trust of India, Valor Economico of Brazil and Xinhua News Agency of China in the Great Hall of the People on 19 March. During the interview, he talked about China’s policies and positions on China’s bilateral relations with relevant countries, China-Africa relations, BRICS cooperation and China’s reform and opening-up. The following is a full text of the interview.

Xi Jinping: I will soon pay a state visit to Russia, Tanzania, South Africa and the Republic of the Congo and attend the Fifth BRICS Leaders Meeting in South Africa.

I am delighted to give this joint interview to the media from BRICS countries before the trip. Let me take this opportunity to extend, through you, my sincere greetings to the people of your respective countries.

This will be my first foreign visit as Chinese President. During the visit and the BRICS meeting, I will exchange views with leaders of the aforementioned countries and other BRICS countries on developing bilateral ties, international and regional issues of mutual interest and strengthening BRICS cooperation. I hope that this visit will contribute to the friendship between the Chinese people and people of these countries as well as the mutually beneficial cooperation between China and these countries and push the BRICS cooperation mechanism to a new level. I believe that with the joint efforts of all sides, my visit and the Fifth BRICS Leaders Meeting will be a success.

ITAR-TASS and RTR of Russia: Russia will be the first country that you visit in your capacity as Chinese President. What’s your consideration behind this decision? How would you characterize the level of development of the comprehensive strategic partnership of coordination between Russia and China as well as the current state and future prospects of Russia-China cooperation in the political, economic, cultural and other fields? We know that you know a lot about Russia and have read many Russian literature works. How do you see Russia?

Xi Jinping: China and Russia are each other’s major and most important strategic partners of coordination, and both countries accord priority to their bilateral relationship in their overall diplomatic agenda and foreign policy. The fact that I will visit Russia, our friendly neighbor, shortly after assuming presidency is a testimony to the great importance China places on its relations with Russia and to the high level and special nature of the comprehensive strategic partnership of coordination between the two countries.

With over 20 years of unremitting efforts from both sides, China-Russia relationship has grown into a comprehensive strategic partnership of coordination. The two sides have completely settled the boundary issue left from history, placed their political ties on a solid foundation, and supported each other on issues concerning their respective core interests. Two-way trade between China and Russia surged by 14 times in 20 years and reached a record US$88.2 billion last year. Cooperation on major strategic projects in energy, investment, aviation and space and other fields is booming, and cultural and people-to-people exchanges are dynamic. The two sides have had closer strategic coordination on the world stage and promoted democracy in international relations.

China-Russia relations have entered a new phase in which the two countries provide major development opportunities to each other and see each other as priority cooperation partners. When it comes to developing bilateral ties and addressing major international and regional issues, our two countries have many things in common and face many opportunities for win-win cooperation. To grow China-Russia relations at the next stage, we should focus on the following priority areas: First, we should consolidate mutual strategic and political trust and reinforce mutual support on issues concerning each other’s core interests. Second, we should expand practical cooperation. We should work to reach ahead of schedule the US$100 billion bilateral trade target set for 2015, enter into strategic cooperation on energy, carry out cooperation on major strategic projects, and deepen cultural and people-to-people exchanges and cooperation. Third, we should step up coordination and collaboration in international and regional affairs, firmly uphold the purposes of the Charter of the United Nations and the basic norms governing international relations, safeguard the outcomes of the Second World War and the post-war international order, and maintain peace, security and stability of the world. In short, China and Russia have the confidence and ability to translate the strength of their high-level political relationship into concrete results of practical cooperation that will benefit people of the two countries.

The people of China and Russia enjoy a long-standing traditional friendship and a solid foundation for people-to-people and cultural exchanges. Even when I was still young, I had read many works by Russian writers, such as Pushkin, Lermontov, Turgenev, Dostoyevsky, Nekrasov, Tolstoy, Chekhov and Sholokhov, whose works had a large impact on us. The Chinese people cherish profound goodwill toward the people of Russia.

I look forward to an in-depth exchange of views on further growing China-Russia relations with President Vladimir Putin and other Russian leaders. I have met with President Putin before. He attaches high importance to Russia’s ties with China. We found a lot in common during our talks, which I still remember vividly.

ETV of South Africa: You visited South Africa in 2010. It has been 15 years since China and South Africa established diplomatic relations. How would you assess the development of China-South Africa relations? What expectations do you have for future cooperation between the two countries?

Xi Jinping: I visited South Africa in November 2010. I had a very good meeting with President Jacob Zuma, and co-chaired with Deputy President Motlanthe the session of the China-South Africa Bi-National Commission. I was deeply impressed by the warm hospitality and friendship of the South African people.

The Chinese and South African people enjoy a profound friendship. The Chinese people stood firmly with the South African people in their struggle against apartheid. Over the past 15 years, relations between our two countries have achieved a historic leap from partnership to comprehensive strategic partnership. Bilateral cooperation in all fields has deepened and delivered fruitful results.

China and South Africa are both emerging markets and developing countries. We see each other as opportunities for development and pivotal partners in pursuing our diplomatic strategies. China-South Africa cooperation has been expanding and deepening and it has acquired growing strategic and global significance. South Africa is now the African co-chair of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC), and will soon assume the rotating presidency of the BRICS mechanism. This will bring about favorable conditions for our two countries to enhance cooperation in African and international affairs.

I look forward to an in-depth exchange of views with President Zuma on further growing our bilateral ties during my visit, and I wish the Fifth BRICS Leaders Meeting success.

ETV of South Africa: The Chinese and African people share a long traditional friendship. How do you see China’s role and influence in Africa? What role will China play in Africa’s peace and development process? Besides resources, what other areas in Africa is China interested in?

Xi Jinping: China and Africa are as close as one family. People of my age in China grew up in the warm atmosphere of China-Africa friendship. We all have a strong interest in Africa. We know by heart the names of the older generation of leaders of some African countries, and we are all familiar with the memorable stories of China-Africa friendship, such as the construction of the Tanzara Railway.

Both being members of the developing world, China and Africa share extensive common interests. In recent years, China and African countries have built on their traditional friendship and made notable progress in advancing their relations. While pursuing its own development, China has consistently supported Africa’s peace and development to the best of its ability and spoken up for African countries in the international arena. China-Africa cooperation has contributed to Africa’s growing international standing and attracted greater international attention to and input in Africa. No matter how the international landscape may change, China will continue to support and promote Africa’s efforts to achieve peace, stability, prosperity and development, seek strength through unity, and participate in international affairs on the basis of equality.

China sincerely appreciates and will always remember the goodwill of the African friends toward the Chinese people, especially their firm support and valuable assistance on issues involving China’s core interests and major concerns. When the torch of the 2008 Beijing Olympics arrived in Dar es Salaam, the City of Peace, the people of Tanzania welcomed it with dancing and singing like celebrating their own festival. In 2010, after a strong earthquake hit Yushu in China’s Qinghai Province, the Republic of the Congo helped build a primary school in the disaster-affected area, and President Denis Sassou-Nguesso personally named it the Chinese-Congolese Friendship School. This is a vivid example of the deep friendship of the people of the Republic of the Congo toward the Chinese people. There are many more such touching stories.

As the saying goes, “Numerous grains of earth make a mountain, numerous drops of water form an ocean.” As long as we keep advancing China-Africa cooperation, we will make even bigger achievements. I want to point out that China-Africa cooperation is all-around cooperation. China attaches importance to growing friendly relations with all countries in Africa irrespective of their size, strength or wealth. And China treats all African countries as equals and actively develops win-win practical cooperation with them regardless of their resource endowment. We will speed up the implementation of the outcomes of the Fifth FOCAC Ministerial Conference and strive for the comprehensive and balanced growth of our relations with Africa to the benefit of the people of both sides.

Press Trust of India: China and India have had long-standing exchanges. What policy will the new Chinese leadership pursue towards India? Will there be any change in China’s position on the China-India boundary question? How will China and India enhance cooperation both bilaterally and in international affairs?

Xi Jinping: China and India enjoy a traditional friendship. They are the two largest developing countries in the world, and their combined population exceeds 2.5 billion. To jointly follow a path of peaceful development and development through cooperation meets the common interests of the two countries. It will also do a great service to Asia and the world at large.

In May 2010, I had a very good meeting with President Patil during her visit to China. We agreed that we need to fully tap the huge potential of China-India cooperation and raise China-India relations to a higher level. In recent years, with concerted efforts of the two sides, China-India relations have made important headway. We have strengthened our friendly interactions by properly handling differences and seeking common development. China sees its relations with India as one of the most important bilateral relationships, and is committed to pushing forward the China-India strategic and cooperative partnership.

At present, both China and India are pursuing development at a faster pace. This has offered more opportunities for the two countries to boost mutually beneficial cooperation. We should seize these opportunities and take solid steps to bolster cooperation and exchanges in all fields and take China-India relations to a new height. First, we should maintain strategic communication and keep our bilateral relations on the right track. Second, we should harness each other’s comparative strengths and expand win-win cooperation in infrastructure, mutual investment and other areas. Third, we should strengthen cultural ties and increase the mutual understanding and friendship between our peoples. Fourth, we should expand coordination and collaboration in multilateral affairs to jointly safeguard the legitimate rights and interests of developing countries and tackle global challenges. Fifth, we should accommodate each other’s core concerns and properly handle problems and differences existing between the two countries.

The boundary question is a complex issue left from history, and solving the issue won’t be easy. However, as long as we keep up our friendly consultations, we can eventually arrive at a fair, reasonable and mutually acceptable settlement. Pending the final settlement of the boundary question, the two sides should work together to maintain peace and tranquility in border areas and prevent the boundary question from affecting the overall development of bilateral relations.

Valor Economico of Brazil: How would you assess the current state of China-Brazil relations? How will China increase its economic cooperation and trade with Brazil? Will China import more high value-added products from Brazil?

Xi Jinping: My last visit to Brazil was in February 2009, during which I had very good talks with President Lula da Silva. He later paid a visit to China and we met again during that visit. I care deeply about President Lula’s health and wish him well.

China and Brazil are the biggest developing countries in the eastern and western hemispheres respectively, and both are emerging markets. China values its friendship and cooperation with Brazil. Twenty years ago, Brazil became the first developing country to establish strategic partnership with China. Since then, China-Brazil relations have come a long way, bringing huge benefits to the two countries and peoples, creating opportunities for each other’s development and contributing to the building of a more just and equitable international order and international system.

China-Brazil relationship is now at its best in history and has assumed greater strategic and overarching significance. During the upcoming Fifth BRICS Leaders Meeting, President Dilma Rousseff and I will hold a bilateral meeting. I look forward to a sincere exchange of views with her on ways to broaden and deepen China-Brazil relations.

Business cooperation provides the material foundation of China-Brazil relations. China is now Brazil’s top trading partner while Brazil is China’s tenth biggest trading partner. As the two countries’ development interests are more closely interconnected than ever before, business cooperation is playing an increasingly important role in growing our economies and improving the wellbeing of our peoples. China will work with Brazil to further tap the potential of economic complementarities, improve trade mix and expand cooperation areas. The two sides may also harness respective strengths, boost mutually complementary industrial cooperation, and develop new cooperation models so as to elevate our business ties to a new high.

I am confident that with efforts of the two sides, bilateral business cooperation will make new breakthroughs in terms of both scale and quality, thus enabling our two countries to better achieve sustained development, adapt to new developments in the ever-deepening economic globalization and fend off international economic risks.

Press Trust of India: How do you see the impact of rising emerging markets and developing countries represented by the BRICS countries on the existing world architecture and global governance system?

Xi Jinping: A great number of emerging markets and developing countries, including the BRICS countries, have enjoyed fast economic growth. They have become an important force for world peace and common development, and played an important role in tackling the international financial crisis and boosting global economic growth. This is in keeping with the trend of our time towards peace, development, cooperation and mutual benefit.

The global economic governance system must reflect the profound changes in the global economic landscape, and the representation and voice of emerging markets and developing countries should be increased. In recent years, the G20 summits have played a prominent role and the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank have carried out quota reforms. These are important steps in moving forward reform of the global economic governance system in the right direction. Emerging markets and developing countries hope to see an improved global economic governance system that better meets the needs of global productivity growth and facilitates common development of all countries.

Xinhua News Agency: How do you evaluate cooperation among the BRICS countries? What expectation do you have on the BRICS Leaders Meeting in Durban?

Xi Jinping: BRICS cooperation will help make the global economy more balanced, improve global economic governance and promote democracy in international relations.

China hopes that through the Durban meeting, the BRICS countries will deepen partnership, improve cooperation mechanism, strengthen dialogue and cooperation in various areas, tap the potential of practical cooperation, and send to the international community a positive message of unity, cooperation and win-win results.

China supports the South African Presidency in prioritizing the establishment of a BRICS development bank, contingent reserve arrangement, business council and think tank council in preparations for the meeting. We hope that the meeting will produce positive results in these areas.

During the Durban meeting, a BRICS Leaders – Africa Dialogue Forum will be held. China supports BRICS countries in increasing dialogue and exchanges with Africa to foster partnership, safeguard common interests and realize common development.

ITAR-TASS and RTR of Russia: Looking ahead, what role will the Communist Party of China (CPC) play in the historical process of China’s development? Will it take new steps to push forward reform? Will there be new development in socialism with Chinese characteristics?

Xi Jinping: The mission of the CPC as China’s governing party is to lead the Chinese people in achieving greater national development and make lives better for the people. I have said, “To be turned into iron, the material itself must be strong.” In order to fulfill its mission, the CPC must strengthen its party-building and keep its advanced nature and purity. It must maintain close ties with the people, steadily improve the Party’s performance in leadership and governance, and increase its ability to resist corruption, prevent degeneration and ward off risks. It must continue to enhance its capacity in scientific, democratic and law-based governance and better serve the people.

Reform and opening-up is the defining feature and source of vitality of today’s China. It is crucial for our effort to build socialism with Chinese characteristics. Without reform and opening-up, China would not have come this far, and nor will we have a brighter future. I have stressed many times that reform and opening-up is an on-going process that must never stop. Issues that emerge in the course of reform and opening-up can only be resolved by pressing ahead with reform and opening-up. Under the new historical conditions, we must make new breakthroughs in reform in order to open up new prospects for development. We will enhance top-level design and overall planning, and advance structural reforms in economic, political, cultural, social and ecological fields in a balanced way. We should meet challenges head on and boldly sail through uncharted waters. We should resolutely remove all systemic and institutional barriers that impede our effort to pursue development in a scientific way, stimulate the whole society’s creativity and forge ahead with our undertakings on all fronts.

Just like one won’t find two identical leaves on one tree, we do not think there is “one-size-fits-all” experience in the world. Nor do we believe that a development model will stay the same forever. We will continue to develop and improve socialism with Chinese characteristics. The world is changing and so is China. Socialism with Chinese characteristics must also move forward in keeping with the changing circumstances and conditions. Only by keeping abreast of the times can China remain a dynamic country. We will draw on the fine achievements of all civilizations, but we will not copy the development model of any other country. China’s reform is about the self-improvement and development of socialism with Chinese characteristics. The only path that will take us far and bring us success is the one that is chosen by the Chinese people and suited to China’s reality.

Xinhua News Agency: China is now the world’s second largest economy. What change will this bring to the way China handles its relations with the rest of the world? You recently talked about achieving the Chinese Dream of the great renewal of the Chinese nation. What is China’s dream for the world?

Xi Jinping: Thanks to over thirty years of reform and opening-up, China has achieved substantial progress in economic and social development and the Chinese people’s lives have markedly improved. This is good for both China and the world. The Chinese people are patriotic. Yet we are also a people with a global vision and an international perspective. As its strength grows, China will assume more international responsibilities and obligations within the scope of its capabilities and make greater contribution to the noble cause of world peace and development.

It is true that China is now the world’s second largest economy, but its per capita GDP remains much lower than the world average and there is still a long way to go before China can become rich and strong. Some people in the world worry that China will seek hegemony and bully others once it becomes strong. Such concerns are unnecessary. China has reaffirmed its solemn commitment to the international community many times that it will unswervingly follow the path of peaceful development and will never seek hegemony or expansion. To use a Chinese idiom, “A gentleman never goes back on his word.” We mean what we say and what has happened shows that China has kept its word. In the meantime, we hope that all countries in the world will pursue peaceful development and work together to advance world peace and development.

The Chinese dream of realizing the great national renewal has been the long cherished dream of the Chinese people since modern times. After the Opium War in 1840, our nation was subjected to a century of foreign invasion and internal conflicts and our people endured untold sufferings and pain. The modern history of China is written with trials and tribulations. The Chinese people support the Chinese dream from the bottom of their hearts, because this dream is, first and foremost, a dream shared by the 1.3 billion people of China.

The Chinese people have valued the concept of harmony without sameness since ancient times. We hope that countries and civilizations will carry out exchanges on an equal footing, learn from each other and achieve common progress. We hope that people of all countries in the world can share the fruits of global advances in economy, science and technology and have their wishes respected, and all countries can make united efforts to build a harmonious world of enduring peace and common prosperity.

Valor Economico of Brazil: You are the leader of China. The world is eager to know more about you. For example, how do you feel being the leader of a big country with 1.3 billion people? What is your daily work and life like? How much time do you get to spend with your family? Could you share with us your personal experiences and hobbies? Brazil will host the football World Cup next year. Which team do you think will win the cup?

Xi Jinping: During my meetings with some foreign leaders, they asked me in amazement: How to govern such a big country as China? Indeed, it is not easy to govern a country with 1.3 billion people. To get to know the situation is already a difficult task. I often say, it takes much effort to know China and it is not enough to just visit one or two places. China has 9.6 million square kilometers of land, 56 ethnic groups and 1.3 billion people. Thus, to get to know China, one needs to avoid the mistake of drawing conclusions based on partial information.

As an ancient Chinese proverb goes, “Prime ministers used to be lowly officials; great generals rise from the ranks.” The system for selecting officials in China requires local work experience. For instance, I have worked in the rural areas as the Party branch secretary of a production team. I have also served in county, municipal, provincial and central governments. Extensive experience gained form working at the community-level enables an official to develop a people’s perspective and know what the country is truly like and what the people need. To accumulate experience and professional knowledge and enhance skills and capabilities in the course of practice is essential to doing one’s job well.

Much work needs to be done to meet people’s daily necessities, ensure smooth running of the society and normal functioning of state organs, and build and manage the governing party. As the people have put me in this position, I must always put the people first and keep in mind the deep trust they have placed in me and my heavy responsibilities. To govern such a big country with so many people and so complex national conditions, we, the leaders of China need to be fully aware of China’s reality and aspirations of the people, and treat our responsibilities with utmost care as if we are walking on thin ice or standing on the edge of an abyss. To quote a Chinese adage, “Governing a big country is as delicate as frying a small fish”. We must never slacken our efforts or be negligent in the slightest way, and we must fully devote ourselves to our work. People are the source of our strength. As long as we stand with the people through thick and thin and work with them with one heart and one mind, there is nothing we can’t conquer or accomplish.

As for my workload, you can imagine that being in a position like mine, one hardly has time to himself. There are so many things that I need to address. Naturally, I prioritize my tasks. Many hands make light work. Within the central leadership, we have an effective set of work mechanisms. We each have our own responsibilities and at the same time, we work together in concert to ensure that the job gets done and done well.

Although I am very busy, I try to find some leisure time. Whenever there is time, I would get together with my family.

I have many hobbies. I love reading most. Reading has become a way of life for me. I am also a sports fan. I like swimming and mountain climbing. I liked football and volleyball when I was young. I wish to congratulate Brazil on hosting the World Cup again. Unpredictability is what makes a sport match, especially a football match exciting. During the last World Cup, we had Paul the Octopus. I wonder if next year, there will be another octopus who can predict match results. The Brazilian team has the home-court advantage and I wish them good luck.