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

Part 3: 'China Has No Intention to Rule the World'

SPIEGEL: As of the end of June, China held US bonds with a total value of $1.165 trillion and European bonds worth $700 billion. Economically, China is already a superpower today. What does that mean for the political balance of power?

Fu Ying: Many say that power is shifting from the West to the East, but we believe that it is a process of diffusion. It used to be within the Western world, but now it is also diffusing to a wider world. There is a need to reform the current world structure, which was built after World War II to the benefit of around 1 billion people of the developed world. China is only one of the newly emerging countries. Brazil is growing. India is growing, as are parts of Africa. In the future, 3 to 4 billion people will be coming into this process of wider industrialization. But that reform needs to be an incremental process that is achieved not through war and not through conflict, but through dialogue.

SPIEGEL: Will the West wind up on the losing side?

Fu Ying: You are currently experiencing difficulties, but you have gone through so many difficulties in the past -- Europe and the US -- and you always bounce back. We are also interdependent, and your loss is not necessarily our gain. We're in one boat. And we indeed worry when Western economies are experiencing difficulties. That's why it is good that German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy are taking the lead. Very recently, my colleagues and I discussed the future of the European Union. The prevalent view was that if you work together to address the current difficulties, then the EU will go forward to become more integrated. If you do not, the euro zone might collapse.

SPIEGEL: What would it mean for China if the financial crisis in the West extends to other regions?

Fu Ying: Everyone would suffer.

SPIEGEL: Many observers believe that the legitimacy of the Chinese government hinges on its economic success. In the event of an economic crisis, would you need to be worried about your country's stability?

Fu Ying: Do Western governments change their multi-party system during an economic crisis? I don't think so. Why should we be worried? Having said that, our reform is an ongoing process and we will continue to move forward.

SPIEGEL: For a long time, the West believed that the developments in China were a win-win situation for everyone involved. Now, however, the impression is solidifying -- even within international institutions like the World Trade Organization -- that the Chinese want to shift the balance of the global economy to their advantage. The long-term policy of keeping the Renminbi artificially undervalued is just one example of this that is often cited.

Fu Ying: China has no intention to rule the world. But if you continue to see yourself as the center of the world, if you see yourself as the monopoly of all truths, all the right beliefs and all the right values, then you will always find it uncomfortable when you realize that the world is diversified. There are different values and cultures. And if you believe you have won the Cold War, then the Cold War is finished, over, done. We are living in a new world. Get down off your high horse of being on top of the world. Come down to be equals and join us on a level playing field instead of creating a new rival in the style of the Cold War.

SPIEGEL: You maintain very close relations with leaders like Kim Jong Il in North Korea, whose people are starving because he refuses to open up his country, or North Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir, who is being sought for crimes against humanity. What is your philosophy regarding this?

Fu Ying: Our own sufferings in history have taught us that we should never try to impose on other countries or support others to impose. We have a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council; we have hundreds of Chinese UN peacekeepers in Darfur, Sudan. If every time you don't like the leader of a country and then move in and intervene, that would lead to chaos. Think of your own experience in intervention, which is not always successful.

SPIEGEL: You're referring to the military deployment in your neighbor country, Afghanistan.

Fu Ying: You need to reflect on your own experience.

SPIEGEL: China weakens institutions like the United Nations, in particular, because you frequently water down joint resolutions against Iran, North Korea or Syria, whose President Bashar Assad allows the army to fire against his own people, to the point of ineffectiveness. Where are the limits to China's tolerance of human rights violations?

Fu Ying: The case of Iran is part of the whole security situation. That's why we have the five-plus-one discussions on Iran. In the case of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, we have the six-party talks. I believe patient diplomacy will pay off in the end.

SPIEGEL: With regard to Iran, this patience could result in us losing a race against time in the end.

Fu Ying: We don't have a better solution.

SPIEGEL: Given differences of opinion like that, how are powers like China and the USA supposed to cooperate in dealing with global challenges like cyber security, financial stability, food security and nuclear proliferation?

Fu Ying: We need to overcome the wall of distrust. If we only allow ourselves to be led by our own views, our own feeling, our own emotions, even our own values, then we will only create more problems. Be it peacekeeping missions or the protection of shipping channels off the coast of Somalia or climate change, I think you will find China to be an enthusiastic participant in world affairs.

SPIEGEL: How does it feel to be viewed as a new economic superpower?

Fu Ying: It is flattering.

SPIEGEL: Does it make you nervous, as well?

Fu Ying: Not at all. We don't view ourselves as a superpower. You are not going to see a USA or a Soviet Union in China. You are going to see a culturally nourished country with a big population, being more content, being happy, being purposeful -- and it will be a friend to the world. There is no reason to worry about China.

SPIEGEL: Madame Fu Ying, we thank you for this interview.

Interview conducted by Susanne Koelbl in Beijing.

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