Interview with China's Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs 'The West Has Become Very Conceited'

Part 2: 'The Door to Dialogue' with the Dalai Lama 'Is Always Open'

SPIEGEL: The case of recently arrested artist Ai Weiwei, who is well-connected in Berlin, was seen in Germany as a provocation. Was it intentional that he was arrested shortly after German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle attended the opening of an exhibition in Beijing with Chinese officials?

Fu Ying: That's why I say you are conceited. You really take yourself very seriously. Why would a country like China decide on domestic matters and try to make them coincide with a visit by a foreign minister from a European country? I don't see the linkage. The case you are discussing is a legal matter. I am not really interested in this case.

SPIEGEL: If it is a legal case, then why wasn't Ai Weiwei publicly charged? Instead he disappeared for 81 days. The allegations of tax evasion don't appear to be very convincing.

Fu Ying: If you have such great interest in this case and believe there has been a breach of law or rules in his case, you may very well raise it. We can pass it on to the authorities. But how many more Chinese artists, writers, singers and movie stars do Germans know? Your view of China is very narrow and negative, and that's why we don't feel comfortable discussing human rights with you. Our understanding of human rights is based on the UN Charter, which guarantees political rights, the right to life and the right to development. But in your view, human rights seem to concern only some individuals who are subverting the state or are breaching laws.

SPIEGEL: Some of these people symbolically represent hundreds of others.

Fu Ying: But please try to put things into perspective. We have 1.3 billion people living in China. Since day one of our relationship with the West, human rights have been a subject for discussion. Many issues were discussed and solved and the content keeps changing. But today the Western understanding of human rights is used as an instrument against China, regardless of the fact that China has improved very much in this area, and no matter how intensively we are working on the issue.

SPIEGEL: Can you say anything more concrete about the Ai Weiwei case?

Fu Ying: He is being investigated and he has been released after paying bail. I don't have any further comment on him.

SPIEGEL: As one dictator after another was chased out in the Arab world this year, critical journalists, attorneys and human rights activists in China have been experiencing a wave of repression, with some even speaking of a "Chinese Winter". Does China fear a handful of activists?

Fu Ying: What was happening in the Middle East is an event that attracted attention all over the world. We, too, are trying to understand what led to these revolutions. As for China, I don't see any direct linkage. Again, it's the habit of some Western analysts to connect everything bad with China. If you think your society is strong enough to avoid infection by the Arab revolution, what makes you think that the Chinese society is so weak that it has to be infected? Eighty-seven percent of Chinese surveyed in a poll by the Pew Research Center in 2010 said the government is on the right track. In the US, however, recent polls show that a lot of people think the country is not on the right path.

SPIEGEL: China always shows pretty strong reactions when Western leaders meet with the Dalai Lama. You recommend that other countries should solve their disputes through dialogue. Why hasn't China succeeded in reaching an agreement with the Tibetan spiritual leader?

Fu Ying: Our difficulty with the Dalai Lama is his political views and demands for Tibet independence. If you read his website, you will see what he wants. In essence, he wants an independent Tibet.

SPIEGEL: He has explicitly rejected that, saying he doesn't want separation, but instead greater autonomy.

Fu Ying: Tibet is part of China. But, of course, the door to dialogue is always open. Dialogue is always welcome. I am glad more and more people are visiting Tibet, and more and more people understand life in Tibet better now.

SPIEGEL: Unfortunately, journalists are not allowed to access Tibet.

Fu: There is a bit of concern about the intentions and motives of Western journalists. Sometimes it's as if some of them come to a wedding and only want to inspect the contents of a dark corner. They want to show the world there is no smiling bride, there is no groom and no happy friends -- just darkness. They write about it extensively. They may be facts, but they are very selective facts.

SPIEGEL: The Dalai Lama has officially retired from his offices. Is this not a good point in time to seek a peaceful solution?

Fu Ying: The fact that he is withdrawing from his political offices shows that he does regard himself as the king and god in one and is thus the owner of Tibet. But those days are over. Tibet is finally undergoing development, and the region truly is doing better and better. So we will see whether the Dalai Lama can relinquish himself of his political demands.

SPIEGEL: It's not only Tibet which is developing at a fast pace. Lately, the West has been up to its neck in debts, but China has experienced fantastic growth. Has communism ultimately defeated capitalism?

Fu Ying: We are not the Soviet Union. During the entire Cold War, the West and the Soviet Union were at each other's throats. You each wanted to see the other side's demise; that was your strategic objective. But China was not part of your fight and we have always supported Germany's reunification.

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