Chinese ambassador YANG HOULAN joined his office in Nepal a year ago. Since his arrival here, many new developments, including the dissolution of the Constituent Assembly, have taken place. Chinese premier Wen Jiabao visited Nepal in December 2011 during his tenure. At a time when Chinese investors have been showing interest to invest in Nepal, the Chinese ambassador gave a written interview to KESHAB POUDEL. Excerpts:
After Nepal turned a federal republic four years ago, how do you see Nepal–China relations at present?
The international situation has gone through dramatic changes in the recent years while Nepal is in the course of political transition, during which uncertainties are increasing. But the friendly relations between China and Nepal have steadily developed as China-Nepal relations have solid political, social and civil foundation. Both China and Nepal abide by the Five Principles of Peaceful Co-existence. We treat each other as equals, respect and trust each other, and sincerely assist each other. The relationship between our two countries has set a good example of state-to-state relations.
Early this year, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao paid a successful visit to Nepal and brought the bilateral relationship to a new high. Following that, Chen Zhili, Vice Chairperson of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress and President of All-China Women’s Federation also visited Nepal. Recently, Fu Ying, Vice Foreign Minister, came to Nepal for the ninth round of diplomatic consultations and the two sides agreed to speed up implementing the consensus reached by Premier Wen Jiabao and Nepali leaders. With growing exchanges and cooperation in political, economic and cultural fields, the China-Nepal Comprehensive Partnership will have a bright future.
During a recent visit of China's high level delegation, what issues did Nepalese and Chinese officials discuss?
During her visit, Fu Ying, Chinese Vice Foreign Minister, called on Prime Minister Dr. Bhattarai, and Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs Shrestha, and co-chaired the ninth round of diplomatic consultations between the two countries with Foreign Secretary Durga Prasad Bhattarai in Kathmandu. The two sides exchanged views on extensive issues, such as bilateral relations, international situation and regional affairs, and reached broad consensus.
Fu spoke highly of the bilateral relations and expressed appreciation for Nepal's firm pursuit of the One China policy. She reiterated that China will support Nepal's efforts in safeguarding independence, sovereignty, territorial integrity and national unity and is willing to work together with the Nepalese side to actively implement the outcome of Premier Wen Jiabao's visit to Nepal, and make the Year of China-Nepal Friendly Exchanges a full success and achieve greater progress of bilateral pragmatic cooperation. The Chinese side abides by the principle of noninterference in other countries' internal affairs and wishes Nepal complete the peace and constitution-making process at an early date and achieve peace, stability and prosperity.
The Nepalese side said that the bilateral relations enjoy a long history and profound foundation and the two countries have been promoting exchanges and cooperation in various fields. Nepal sincerely thanks China for its support and help over the years and expects to benefit from China's economic development. Premier Wen Jiabao's successful visit to Nepal has set up a solid foundation for the long term development of the bilateral relations. The Nepalese Government will firmly pursue One China policy, and will never allow its territory to be used for anti-China activities by any forces. Nepal hopes to expand cooperation with China in economy and trade, investment, tourism, culture and other areas, enhance cooperation in international and regional affairs and achieve common development.
It was reported in the Nepalese media that China also expresses its willingness to sign Bilateral Investment Protection Agreement (BIPPA). What do you say on this?
Trade and economic relationship is one of the important aspects of the China-Nepal Comprehensive Partnership of Cooperation. China will continue to encourage competent and well-established Chinese companies to invest in Nepal and help Nepal achieve the economic and social development. If we could sign the BIPPA, it would create a fairer and more friendly environment for the Chinese enterprises, expand mutual cooperation, promote common development and benefit the two countries and their peoples.
During Chinese prime minister Wen Jiabao's visit to Nepal, Chinese government proposed so many economic and development packages to Nepal, what are the states of those packages?
During Premier Wen Jiabao’s visit, leaders of the two countries reached broad consensus on friendly cooperation, making an overall planning for the future development of bilateral relations. The two sides signed several agreements, issued a Joint Statement, and declared 2012 as China-Nepal friendly exchange year. The two sides are working together to materialize the outcome of the visit.
Recently, a high level Nepalese delegation visited China to talk with Three Georges Company on West-Seti Project. How do you look at it?
The West-Seti Hydropower Project is very important to the economic and social development of Nepal. I noticed that all sectors of Nepalese community expected much of it. However, immediately after signing the MoU, some negative speculation came up in Nepal’s media, which has drawn much attention of the international media. This time Nepal sent a high level delegation to visit China and discussed with Three Georges Company on West-Seti Project showing Nepal’s strong will to push forward the project. If the project could be implemented smoothly, the power shortage problem of Nepal would be relieved, and the social and economic development would be highly promoted. I hope the two sides could resolve problems concerned through friendly negotiations and create conducive environment for the project.
Despite Nepal's geographical location between two economic powers of the World, Nepal is unable to take economic benefits from its neighbors. How do you see the possibility of making benefits in the future?
Both China and India are the world's largest developing countries as well as the emerging economies. As a neighbor of both countries, Nepal enjoys geographical advantages. China hopes the political parties of Nepal could meet the fundamental interests of the nation and the people's common aspiration, complete the peace and constitutional writing process as soon as possible, realize the long-lasting stability and rapid economic and social development.
After completion of Rasuwagadhi-Syaphrubeshi road, there will be another connecting point between Nepal and China. How will it help to increase bilateral trades and relations?
During the past few years, both China and Nepal have been trying to expedite construction of roads and trade ports between the two countries. The interconnection of the roads would further promote trade and people-to-people exchanges and realize common development of the two countries.
Whenever there is political instability in Nepal, anti-Chinese forces try to create problems for China. As Nepal has been passing through a prolonged course of political instability, don't you think it will encourage anti-Chinese forces in Nepal?
China and Nepal have been always trusting each other, supporting each other and respecting each other’s core interests. Both sides keep close contact and cooperation on the security issues. China respects the independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Nepal, as well as the developing path chosen by the people of Nepal. Nepal always firmly pursues One China policy, and never allows any force to use its territory for any anti-China activities. It's a clear-cut position taken by people from all walks of life in Nepal. Nepal’s government, political parties and society are all very clear about that. Therefore, I’m confident on the further development of China-Nepal Comprehensive Partnership of Cooperation.
How does the Chinese Government see the ongoing political course in Nepal?
Currently, Nepal is at a crucial juncture of political transition and faces a historical task of writing constitution. Though there are disputes on some issues, I feel that all parties want to achieve the goal of peace, stability and development. As a friendly neighbor, China always sincerely supports Nepal's stable development. We hope the various parties in Nepal could reach consensus through active consultation and dialogue. China supports Nepal's efforts in completing the peace and constitutional process at an early date, and respects the social system and development path chosen by the Nepalese people. We would also like to see a stable, united and prosperous Nepal.
You have been visiting different parts of Nepal and meeting local people. How do you see people to people relations between China and Nepal?
I've visited many parts of Nepal during my stay. I'm deeply touched by the profound friendship of the Nepalese people towards China. China and Nepal have a long history in culture exchanges. Today, a lot of wonderful stories are still widely spread among the two peoples. Carrying forward China-Nepal friendship has been deeply rooted in the people's heart.
In recent years, the people-to-people and cultural exchanges have been rapidly expanded. Early this year, during Premier Wen Jiabao's visit to Nepal, the two sides jointly declared the year 2012 as the "China-Nepal Friendly Exchange Year". A 100-member youth delegation from Nepal visited China in May. Next year, a 50-member Chinese youth delegation will come to visit Nepal. The exchanges among social, cultural groups and media also have been increased. Confucius Institute, Confucius Classrooms and Chinese volunteer teachers in Nepal are very popular in Nepal. Last year, the personnel exchanges between the two sides reached more than 130,000. Now, 3,000 students from Nepal are studying in China. The bilateral cooperation in the fields of culture, education and tourism has maintained a very good momentum.
Despite Nepal and China being neighboring countries, Nepal is yet to lure tourists. Is there any possibility to increase the number of Chinese tourists?
Nepal is rich in tourism resources. Lots of foreign tourists come to Nepal for sightseeing. Last year, the Chinese tourists in Nepal exceeded 100,000, 140% more than that of the previous year. Although China and Nepal have operated four direct flights, two highways which pass through the Himalaya, it still can't meet the demand of the rapid growth of the visiting Chinese tourists. Meanwhile, it's also a big challenge for Nepal's tourism infrastructure including hotels and Chinese tour guides. We hope Nepal's relevant departments could strengthen coordination and cooperation to speed up its tourism development.
How can Nepal benefit from growing infrastructure in Tibetan Autonomous Region bordering Nepal?
China always attaches great importance to the infrastructure interconnection projects with Nepal. The road linked Rasuwa-Jilong was opened at the end of last year, the two sides have begun to discuss how to bring it into full play. With the extension of Beijing-Tibet railway to Shigatse, people also have expectation on extending the railway to Nepal. The Tibet Autonomous Region pays great attention to its friendly cooperation with Nepal and has been actively promoting the development of relevant infrastructure. I believe that the infrastructure construction and interconnection projects in border areas will help to promote the stable development of the two sides. It will also create better conditions for the cooperation between China, Nepal and other south Asian countries.
A few years back, Nepal even used roads in Tibetan Autonomous Region to supply essential commodities to Nepal's remote northern parts. Is Nepal still using the roads?
The transportation in the northern parts of Nepal is not convenient. China has always been providing necessary facilities to Nepal in this regard according to the bilateral agreements.