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May 20th, 2014
02:30 PM ET

The following is a full transcript of Christiane Amanpour's interview with Chinese Ambassador to the U.S. Cui Tiankai.

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN HOST: Ambassador Cui Tiankai, welcome to the program.


AMANPOUR: You have spent much of the last 24 hours in conversations with, I suppose, your own capital but also with the White House and the State Department.

What is the nature of those conversations?

What have you been saying at the State Department and the White House?

CUI: Well, I'm in constant contact with both the White House and State Department on the issue concerning the relationship.

AMANPOUR: Right, but -


CUI: And are we talking about any particular issue?

AMANPOUR: Yes, sir. I'm talking about the very major issue that has risen over the last 24 hours and that is that the United States has indicted five members of the Chinese army on an array of charges of stealing commercial and trade secrets.

What is your reaction to that?

CUI: You see, it's really amazing to see that some people still believe they have the moral high ground and credibility to accuse others if we consider the Snowden revelations and so on, so forth. And people still can do that.

It's a bit incredible.


CUI: I think – I think the fact is China is a victim to such cyber attacks. There has been persistent and large-scale attacks on China's Internet, on China's government institutions, schools, universities, companies and even individuals. And these originate from the United States. So we have always requested the United States to give us a clear and thorough clarification. But we still have none of it yet.

AMANPOUR: The United States seems to be making a distinction between what it, I guess, does, which is national security, eavesdropping, surveillance, spying, hacking and what it's accusing you and the Chinese government of doing, which is commercial cyber attack, commercial hacking and also stealing trade secrets.

What is your reaction to that?

CUI: I don't know how they can make a distinction between such activities. How do they explain the attacks on Chinese companies, universities and even individuals?

Is that for national defense? Or is that for other purposes?

AMANPOUR: Well, let me ask you this, then, to react to the specific charges. The United States, as you obviously very well know, has laid out a detailed indictment and it has labeled 31 counts, which could carry a maximum of 277 years in jail. And it is asking you - and this is what the FBI is saying, the FBI director, if we fabricated all this, then come over to Pittsburgh and embarrass us by forcing us to put up or shut up and we will put up.

That is a direct challenge from the FBI director.

So if you're saying the U.S. is hypocritical, if you're denying what the United States is charging members of the Chinese PLA with, why not face the music, face the charges, send them over to Pittsburgh and have a jury, have lawyers and defend yourselves?

CUI: And why don’t they come to Chinese court and explain themselves?

AMANPOUR: Well, that -


CUI: You see Christiane, there used to be a working group on cybersecurity between the two governments. And it was agreed that the two governments should work together to fight such cyber attacks because it would certainly hurt the interests of both countries if we allow any cyber attacks to continue. And we requested the United States to provide us with any evidence they have. And we will certainly pursue these cases in accordance with our own laws.

But they have never done that.

AMANPOUR: Well, let me ask you then -


CUI: I don’t think that this is a very constructive approach.

AMANPOUR: - is -

CUI: Yes, please.

AMANPOUR: Is this working group still set up? Is this one of China's retaliatory measures that it has now been disbanded or suspended?

CUI: Because they have undermined the very basis for this - for this working group, the very basis for the working group is the commitment of both sides to work to address these measures, to address these issues through cooperation and dialogue. And now they are taking unilateral action. They really undermined the very basis of the working group.

AMANPOUR: This is a first; many people are in fact surprised that the United States government, after working sort of with you and this group over the last two years, has chosen to make this very public legal charge and indictment against members of the states, members of the PLA.

But apparently, this is a very detailed indictment and it lists people, you know, charged with conspiring to commit computer fraud, accessing computers without authorization, for the purpose of commercial advantage among other things.

Again, I know you're denying it, but why don't you take advantage of the court system and if there's nothing to hide, then you'll be exonerated?

CUI: We are not only denying all these false charges. We are also demanding some clarification from the U.S. side about cyber attacks on China. And they owe us such an explanation and clarification.

I hope they could also come to China's court to explain themselves.

AMANPOUR: All right. Well, we seem to be in a tit-for-tat verbal charges between capitals. These here on our map are the six U.S. companies that allegedly China has been hacking into for the purpose of stealing intellectual property and gaining competitive advantage.

Amongst them are very famous companies, U.S. Steel, Westinghouse, Alcoa and three other companies.

There's a question also, along with these charges of getting trade secrets. What about the charges that actually China is also preparing and prepared for infrastructure attacks against key elements of U.S. infrastructure? Those have been alleged in the past and some people, for instance, the former CIA director, has said that, you know, we're possibly in the midst of a cyber Pearl Harbor.

CUI: I think the fact is China's infrastructure is under attack, attacks originated from the United States. So we also have a long, long list of very good and well-known Chinese companies that have been attacked by such activities originating from the United States. So I think it would be constructive and practical for two governments to work together on these issues, to address these issues together, not to exchange accusations like this.

I don't know why the United States made such a decision.

AMANPOUR: Well, it has made a decision, as I acknowledge, it has surprised quite a lot of people -


CUI: And certainly it's a wrong decision.

AMANPOUR: - and it -

CUI: It's a non-constructive, it's a wrong decision.

AMANPOUR: - and it surprised a lot of people in governments around the world.

But you say the only constructive way to get through this is to work and talk together.

But if this working group has been disbanded and people believe that China will take more retaliatory steps, how on earth are going to be able to discuss this? Is that now, you know, confined to the past?

CUI: We were very supportive into the working group and we made our best efforts to make sure that the working group would have a good start. And they did have a good start. But it's clear, the U.S. charge is to get rid of this working group. They have chosen another course of action. And it's not our choice. We're just responding to a decision, a wrong decision, taken by the United States.

AMANPOUR: They, of course, allege in this indictment that it is the unit of the PLA called Unit 61398, the news of which broke last year in Shanghai, that is responsible for this organized hacking into trade secrets. I know you deny this and I'm not going to get you to admit it, presumably, on the air.

But the last time we spoke, you said that it was in China's interest to maintain a stable and healthy relationship with the United States, which is the biggest world power.

Is that still possible? And how will you get out of this?

CUI: This is still our position. This is still our hope. Whether this is possible or not, is not entirely up to us. We have to have corresponding efforts by the United States. China itself cannot guarantee that relations will move on the right track. We - it requires efforts by both sides.

AMANPOUR: Can you tell me what the next moves by China will be? The foreign ministry has summoned the U.S. ambassador to China. It's demanding that the United States retract these charges and this indictment.

If it doesn't, what will China do?

CUI: Our next action will depend on the next action by the United States.

AMANPOUR: Do you think that this is the beginning of a overt cyber war and a long-term cyber Cold War?

CUI: We certainly don't want to see that. We are strongly opposed to that. But we cannot impose our choice on others. They have to make the right choice themselves.

AMANPOUR: Ambassador Cui, you just, if you wouldn't mind, stand by; we're going to take a short break and we're going to come back and discuss more regional issues between the U.S. and China and also indeed the notion of Russia.

On the outs with the West, President Vladimir Putin is in China for a meeting with the Chinese leader. Is Putin also pivoting to Asia? Our conversation with Ambassador Cui Tiankai when we come back.


AMANPOUR: So Ambassador Cui Tiankai, let me ask you precisely about this issue of the Russian president now meeting with President Xi in Shanghai and obviously there seems to be a great urgency on the part of Vladimir Putin to conclude an energy deal with China.

This has been going on for a decade and you haven't been able to do it and haggling over the cost.

Do you think now it will happen?

CUI: Well, I think actually there are frequent and regular high-level exchanges between China and Russia, because the two countries are each other's biggest neighbor. We have ties of all kinds between the two countries. So such a regular high-level visit is just normal and President Putin is in Shanghai for a state visit and also to take part in an international conference.

AMANPOUR: Right. You say it's normal, but you do accept that it's happening in the context of Vladimir Putin on the outs with the West; he has made a point of saying, look, China is going to be a much bigger economy very soon than the United States. It's going to be the superpower very soon, as if to say, hey, you in the West, we don’t need you. We'll conclude our business with China.

Is that how you see it?

CUI: I think it was the American press that first said China is going to be the biggest economy in the world, although we ourselves don't quite believe that. But I think that President Putin will be coming to China despite whatever happens between Russia and the West because he is our biggest neighbor.


CUI: We have very friendly relations with Russia.

AMANPOUR: You do have very friendly relations with Russia. Of course, it was the World Bank who said that recently about China growing to overtake the U.S. economy; the IMF disagrees and you obviously disagree.

But let me ask you this, if China is such a pal of Russia's as you say, why then has China been studiously careful not to overtly take Russia's side, for instance, in the Security Council over the annexation of Crimea, over what is going on in Eastern Ukraine?

Do you agree with the annexation of Crimea?

CUI: We always follow our foreign policy that is independent, that is for peace, stability and development in the world. So we will make our own decision on the rights and wrongs of the issues themselves. We are not following any country's position.

AMANPOUR: But just - you normally vote with Russia. You normally cast a veto together or you vote together; you have done over Syria and any number of issues that come to the Security Council. You didn’t in this regard.

What worries you about what's happening in Crimea and in Eastern Ukraine, in that region?

CUI: Well, first of all, if you check carefully the voting record of China in the United Nations Security Council, you could see a record of independence based on principles, not based on any other country's position. That's quite clear.

Number two, we are indeed worried and concerned about the situation in Ukraine and that part of the world. We want to see the situation calm down and the Ukraine people could really decide their own development path and their own destiny. And we hope between Russia and the U.S. and Europe, you could - you can work things out through dialogue and a consultation.

We don't want to see any escalation of the situation there.

AMANPOUR: Do you think that message President Xi will deliver to President Putin?

Hands off; let the Ukrainians -


AMANPOUR: - do it.

CUI: I think this is our position all along, and we have made it public all the time. There are no secrets of the Chinese position.

AMANPOUR: Let me move onto President Obama and the pivot to Asia; as part of his tour of allies in Asia last month, he stopped very close to your region; he did not go to China. And his mandate, according to his officials, was to reassure allies of the U.S. support in all matters while not to threaten China.

Do you believe that President Obama achieved that?

CUI: Then you have to check the public opinion in China.

AMANPOUR: I'm asking you as a government official. So tell me.

CUI: Yes, I'm not questioning the intention of the U.S. government. I'm looking at the effect, the results of the U.S. policies towards Asia, towards China and what they have done and said recently. And honestly, I think the key to this rebalancing is to maintain a good relationship with everybody in Asia Pacific, including particularly China. And in this sense, I think this policy of rebalancing might need some rebalancing itself.

AMANPOUR: Well, let me play you something that President Obama said in Tokyo regarding the Senkaku Islands, the islands that you call the Diaoyu Islands and what he said standing next to the Japanese prime minister, Mr. Abe.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Our treaty commitment to Japan's security is absolute. And Article V covers all territories under Japan's administration, including the Senkaku Islands.


AMANPOUR: So he's basically saying there, do not interfere; we will defend our allies if necessary.

What's your reaction to that?

CUI: You see, the Diaoyu Islands, they are always part of Chinese heritage. This is quite clear. And we have maintained this position all along. So it is certainly China's sovereign right to defend its territorial integrity.

AMANPOUR: Many people are very worried that this will be the spark that turns a tense relationship in the region into a hot shooting war.

Do you believe that that is possible anytime soon?

CUI: We are also worried about such a possibility and we are against it. That's quite clear. We don't want to see any conflicts in our neighborhood.

But it will not entirely - it will not be entirely up to us, you see. Other people have to have the same constructive attitude and policy.

AMANPOUR: Right. But they sort of criticize you for using the airspace and even what's going on in Vietnam right now, having an oil rig in waters that are clearly claimed by one and disputed. You're even having to send - you're even having to send ships to evacuate your citizens from Vietnam.

Why is China sort of tweaking everybody's nose over these issues?

CUI: Now let me get the facts straight on the issue with Vietnam. First, the Chinese companies operating only 17 nautical miles off a Chinese island and it's 150 miles from the Vietnamese coast, that's number one.

Number two, this is our only oil drilling operation in the area. But Vietnam is operating more than 30 such drilling operations, all in the disputed areas. Unlike our only one, we are doing it in undisputed areas.

Number three, we have only civilian ships, government ships there. But the Vietnamese have military vessels, armed vessels. That - these are the facts. And also you mentioned what happened, what is happening still in Vietnam, they are attacking foreign companies; they are burning down factories; they are killing innocent people there. I think what is happening in Vietnam is of the same nature as what is happening at the sea. This is quite clear.

AMANPOUR: As what's happening where?

CUI: At the sea. They are attacking our company ships -


CUI: - they come all the way - they cross 150 miles, come all the way to attack us.

AMANPOUR: All right. Ambassador Cui Tiankai, thank you so much for joining us today.

CUI: Thank you.

AMANPOUR: Let me get it right; I'm sorry. I mispronounced your first name.


AMANPOUR: Ambassador Cui Tiankai -



AMANPOUR: Ambassador Cui Tiankai, thank you very much indeed for joining me.

CUI: Thank you. This time it's much better.



AMANPOUR: Thank you.

How do you think this is going to resolve itself, Ambassador? This U.S.-China situation, particularly?

CUI: Well, there's no other way out. I think it will have to have a dialogue and a consultation. But first of all, the U.S. have to withdraw its wrong decision. Otherwise, because the U.S. took the first step and it has to take a right step.

soundoff (32 Responses)
  1. Alister Wang

    Ambassador Cui has said what we want to say.

    May 20, 2014 at 9:51 pm | Reply
    • josh

      Which is what?

      May 21, 2014 at 12:48 am | Reply
    • Blade

      May 26, 2014 at 10:09 am | Reply
  2. Catter

    Remember that what China call disputed water is due to illegal U-line it draws out and no country recognize that. According to international sea law 1982, Vietnam has 200 nautical miles of EEZ. Although China has illegally control the paracel islands after a bloody battle with Vietnam in 1974, the islands has no necessary condition to possess 12 nautical miles of territorial water according to international sea law 1982. Definitely, there's no way to draw a 200 nautical miles around the islands. The position of oil rig lies deep inside the Vietnamese EEZ and outsite the islands' water. This is totally different with the disputed islands.

    May 20, 2014 at 10:32 pm | Reply
    • YU WEN

      Is what you were complaining just now has some relevant relationship between the news item here?Besides,before you know the truth of the news, do not make any comments.OK?

      May 21, 2014 at 9:28 am | Reply
      • Huy Nguyên

        This is one of the videos Vietnamese Government released which show the China send out the Military battleships, aircrafts to the oil rig 981. China ships try to run over Vietnam marine police ships. Look at the clip bebow or you can search on google, youtube for more

        May 21, 2014 at 4:55 pm |
      • Catter

        Read again both the transcript and my comment please. If you doubt, please refer to UNCLOS 1982!

        May 22, 2014 at 5:07 am |
    • Richard LE

      Thank you Catter,
      Your comment is absolutely correct. I'm so disapointed to hear what the Chinese Ambasador to the US said. I believe that in the next few days, there will be further video and picture evidents form international reporters, who are at the sence right now, showing what are exactly happening. And I think that Amanpour should have another discussion with Vietnamese officials to bring a balance view to the CNN audiences. That is the most vital principal that such a welknown media corp like CNN should follow.

      May 22, 2014 at 9:43 pm | Reply
  3. Dexu Kong

    The above YouTube video is the perfect evidence that China did not send their military vessels to Vietnam. Instead this footage looks like taken from the Vietnam military vessel, watch closely at the end of the video.

    May 21, 2014 at 9:28 pm | Reply
    • Kate M.

      What do you see at the end of the video? A gun? LOL.... Stop creating facts on the ground like Chinese government officials, will you? 🙂

      May 29, 2014 at 5:00 am | Reply
  4. Tuan Huynh

    1.- The islands that Mr Cui Tiankai mentioned belongs to VN and were took over by China using force.
    2.- The rig is placed within VN EEZ: If you dispute that then why China is afraid to go to International Court ? Why not agree to respect the resulting decision from an International court? It is just because China is in the wrong? Similar to the dispute with Philippines: China refused to go to International court?
    3.- It is non-sense that small countries that are 100 times weaker than a superpower dare to invade the superpowers territories.
    China is using force to try to establish a fait accompli.

    May 22, 2014 at 9:57 am | Reply
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