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Ambassador Liu Xiaoming Gives Exclusive Live Interview on BBC's Andrew Marr Show

Submit Time:27-02-2020 | | Zoom In | Zoom Out

On 9 February 2020, H.E. Ambassador Liu Xiaoming gave an exclusive live interview on BBC ONE's Andrew Marr Show about China's fight against the novel coronavirus epidemic. The full text is as follows:

Marr: The Chinese Ambassador Liu Xiaoming is joining me now.

Ambassador: Thanks for having me.

Marr: Ambassador, welcome. Can I ask you first of all to update us on the number of people infected in China so far as you know and sadly, the number of people who have died?

Ambassador: According to the latest figures by midnight Beijing time, the number of death cases is 811 and cured cases is 2,649. That is very encouraging. That means the number of cured cases is 3 times of the death cases. That means the effectiveness of the treatment. And also, we have seen that the confirmed cases for the first time exceed the suspected cases. That means the hospitalization rate is coming up. You know, we built 2 hospitals within 10 days. These figures show the improvement of the treatment and hospitalization.

Marr: Is it the impression that the rate of infection, however, is still increasing?

Ambassador: Yes, the rate is increasing. But I think people should not panic. If you compare the fatality rate, -- currently, it is 2%, much lower than the Ebola which is 40%, and even lower than SARS which is 10% -- there is no reason to panic. The Chinese government has adopted the most comprehensive and strict, unconventional control measures.

Marr: You've done some extraordinary things as a government. You have effectively quarantined, you put a roadblock as it were around whole cities. And big parts of the transport system and the economy have closed down while this is going on. Can I ask you, how long is this going to have to go on for?

Ambassador: At this moment, it is very difficult to predict when we are going to have the inflection point. We certainly hope it will come sooner. But the isolation and quarantine measures have been very effective. So far, the most cases are concentrated in Hubei and Wuhan. Hubei is about the size of England plus Scotland, and the population is about England plus Wales. So this is such a large area.

Marr: 65 million people, therefore, around about that?

Ambassador: It's 59 million. The measure has been effective. Otherwise, it will spread out to the other parts of China. And also, I think the Chinese people are making contribution not only for the safety of life and health of ourselves but also to that of the world people.

Marr: Indeed. Is the Chinese government ready to take the same kind of measures in other places in China, other cities?

Ambassador: It depends. I think there are some prevention and control measures taken in other parts of China. But, you know, China itself is different. 80% of the cases are concentrated in Hubei province. But people have to be cautious. So there are prevention and control measures taken in other parts of China.

Marr: There was the very difficult case of the young doctor Li Wenliang, who was the first person who alerted people that there was something strange going on, a new virus that was worrying and unknown. And the Chinese authorities arrested him and gave him a notice of admonishment and they were very, very tough with him. They said if you are stubborn, refused to repent and continue to carry out illegal activities, you will be punished by the law. And then sadly, he died. Do you think the Chinese state has made a mistake in that case?

Ambassador: I would correct you here. It's not Chinese authorities. It is local authorities. Chinese authorities as a matter of fact, we have a supervision committee. It has sent an investigation team down to Wuhan to find out what was really going on. People feel very sad. I tweeted to express my condolences and paid tribute to Dr. Li. He will be remembered as a hero. He will be remembered for his bravery and contribution to the fight of this disease. But he is one of the millions of the Chinese medical doctors and nurses. We have so many of them on the forefront of this battle.

Marr: Many of them are being heroic at the moment. But nonetheless, he was very open about the need for openness. Is this the moment where the Chinese state looks into the situation and says we need to be more open and move more quickly when it comes to this kind of situation.

Ambassador: We are open. We shared all the information about the practice, the cases of disease. We welcome international cooperation as well. We believe this virus is the enemy of mankind. So people of all countries should work together to fight against the common enemy. And also, we work very hard with British scientists. So my Embassy tries very hard to facilitate Chinese scientists working with the British scientists to develop medicine and vaccine.

Marr: A very simple question is that if the Chinese state, with all its power and the way it operates, can't stop this from spreading -- now it's out of China, it's going to spread everywhere, isn't it?

Ambassador: We will try our best. But I still want to caution people: don't panic. If you compare what is going on in China, this coronavirus, with H1N1 in America that spread to 214 countries. Now this virus has spread so far to 25 countries, and Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan. We believe this virus is controllable, preventable and curable. So we are confident that with the strong leadership of the central government of China, with the people of China united behind the government and with the broad support of the international community, we can beat this virus and win the battle.

Marr: You also know of course that China is very, very important in the entire world economy. Lots and lots of companies, from Apple, making iPhones, to car-makers and fashion companies, are already seeing problems in the supply chain and they are asking, I'll put this brutally and simply, when will the factories reopen?

Ambassador: Certainly. There is an impact on the economy. But I think the impact is temporary and short-term. The government now works very hard to encourage people to restore production. You said at the very beginning that we have waged a people's war, so the whole country has been mobilized. And I think, you have to keep the confidence in Chinese economy, because the fundamentals of the economy are still sound. IMF, World Bank and many respected economists in the world believe in the long-term Chinese economy is very resilient.

Marr: There is going to be a very, very acute short-term hit to the economy. Lots and lots of companies are worried. I will ask again, do you know when Chinese factories will reopen? When will iPhones be manufactured again?

Ambassador: I can't answer for iPhone. But I think the big smart phone producer Huawei is working round clock. I know you WILL ask me about Huawei. But they are doing very well in China. In China, we have a saying. Do you speak Chinese?

Marr: I speak no Chinese, as you may have noticed.

Ambassador: The Chinese word for"crisis"is the combination of two words, crisis and opportunities. We always believe there are opportunities in crisis. So we will try our best to turn crisis into opportunities.

Marr: Let me ask you about the opportunities here. As I said right at the beginning, there is a sense the Chinese state was hiding things and a lot of people were highly skeptical about the Chinese state when it said this or that. And I ask again, is this a moment when the Chinese Communist Party and the people within China look at the situation and think we need to be a much more open society than we have been? This is a moment of change in turn?

Ambassador: We didn't hide anything. If you talk to the WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros, he spoke highly of the efforts made by China. We shared information with the WHO, shared information with countries like the UK and other relevant countries and regions. They all spoke highly of China's transparency and openness.

Marr: And if I may just interrupt for a second. In Wuhan, about 20 million people were in and left the province after it was known that this virus was out on 22 January. In other words, right at the beginning there was not enough speed and the local authority did crack down on Dr. Li. Are they going to be punished for that?

Ambassador: You know, this is a new virus. People do not know it well. It will take some time for people to understand it. But once people realize the risk and danger, people will be mobilized. You have to adopt a reasonable approach. Dr. Li, as I said just a moment ago, he did a marvelous job. People paid tribute to him. And the central authorities sent an investigation team to find out what was really happening. I will get back to you if you would like to have a conclusion to find out what really happened. Those who had misconduct will be made accountable for their conduct, to be held responsible for the handling of this case.

Marr: Ambassador, you said I was going to raise Huawei and I am, absolutely. Because there are five leading conservative MPs who are competing with other conservative MPs to reverse the decision to ensure Huawei is kept out of the system, because they see Huawei as, first of all, absolutely connected to the Chinese state and being unreliable when it comes to transmissions and secrecy. This is part of our national infrastructure, they say, and there's no way China would allow a British company to be absolutely at the centre of their national infrastructure in the same way.

Ambassador: I think they are totally wrong. What they are doing is a kind of witch-hunt. Number one, Huawei is a privately owned company having nothing to do with the Chinese government. The only problem they have is that they are a Chinese company, and that's the problem. China is more open, as we get back to your original argument, since the reform and opening up. China has run a market orientated economy, and one third of Chinese economy is privately owned. The other one third is owned by foreign and joint ventures. So Huawei is an independent company and the leader in this area. I think the reason why the Prime Minister decided to keep Huawei is he has a very ambitious plan for the UK. He wants to have 5G coverage in the UK by 2025. Huawei can be of great help.

Marr: But the price he paid for that was the incandescent anger of Donald Trump. How do you respond when you heard Donald Trump absolutely blasting Boris Johnson? Were you pleased when he jumped to your side of the fence?

Ambassador: I will leave the Prime Minister to deal with President Trump. I always say Great Britain can only be great when it has its own independent foreign policy. So I do hope that the Prime Minister will stay with his decision, because I think it is in the interest of the UK. It's also in the interest of China-UK cooperation. The important thing is that it is in the interest of maintaining British image as the most open and free market economy in the world. Although we are not 100% satisfied -- the 35% percent cap does not show your principle of free economy and free competition -- I think it's a good decision.

Marr: Ambassador, thanks very much indeed for talking to us.