Winter 1994 (2.4)
Interview by Svetlana Turyalay
Translated from Russian by Jamal Pashayev
The People's Republic of China (PRC) was among the first nations which established diplomatic relations with independent Azerbaijan. What interests does the PRC have with Azerbaijan?
China's first priority is to develop good relations with all countries. Ever since the collapse of the USSR, China has considered all former Soviet Republics as good neighbors. China immediately acknowledged the independence of all the republics of the former Soviet Union and established diplomatic relations with them.
What path has brought you to Azerbaijan as the Chinese Ambassador?
My diplomatic career is closely related to the Soviet Union and Eastern European countries. I was appointed to the Foreign Ministry at the end of 1950s. I have personally been involved in all negotiations between China and the former Soviet Union from 1964-1988. I worked in the Chinese Embassy in Moscow for four years and then another three years in Chinese embassy in Bulgaria. After the collapse of the USSR, I became Chargé d'Affaires of China in Azerbaijan. Since then I have been appointed to Azerbaijan as Ambassador.
More than a thousand years ago, Azerbaijani territory was part of the famous "silk route". How did this link effect the culture and traditions of the Azerbaijani and Chinese people?
Many centuries ago, the "silk route" connected our people. The starting point of this route was in China and the territory of ancient Azerbaijan was a very important intermediary point. Since those times economic and cultural ties exist between our people because of the "silk route".
This explains some of the similarities in traditions that are shared between the Chinese and Azerbaijanis. For example, both countries have well-developed silk and porcelain production. Both have an affinity for rice and tea. Even the classic literature shows there were ties: one of the "beauties" in the poem "Seven Beauties" by Azerbaijan's famous poet Nizami was Chinese.
There was much movement along the "silk route" as is evidenced today that many Muslims moved to China during that period. Nowadays, you'll find them living in many cities and provinces of China and even in the capital, Beijing. They usually live in areas which were historically part of the "silk route". Thus, it is evident that the "silk route" has influenced the culture and traditions of the people both of China and Azerbaijan.
How has President Heydar Aliyev's visit to China effected relations?
In March of this year, President Heydar Aliyev came to China for an official visit and met with Chairman Dsan Dsemin, and Prime Minister Lee Penn. A joint document was signed defining five principles of peaceful co-existence between our countries.
For example, Azerbaijan acknowledged the government of People's Republic of China as the only legitimate government, and Taiwan as a part of China. Azerbaijan agreed not to establish official relations with Taiwan. The Chinese government, on the other hand, supports all efforts of the government of Azerbaijan for defending (its interests) toward national independence and the development of its economy. The Chinese government acknowledges and respects the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Azerbaijan.
What is the position of China on the problem of Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict?
China is a permanent member of the UN Security Council. It should be noted that Chinese representatives have voted in support of all four resolutions regarding Nagorno-Karabakh.
China hopes that all four UN resolutions will be realized and hopes that the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan can be solved peacefully. The cease-fire has been in place almost for four months and we hope it continues. We also hope that both sides will use this moment and achieve an agreement for bringing this conflict to an end. We support all the efforts of the world community toward a peaceful solution to this conflict.
How rapidly is China developing today?
Beginning in 1979, when we began the policy of reform, the economy in China was developing at a very fast rate. From then until 1993, our economy grew at an average rate of 9.3%. The National Product has increased 4.8 times.
In 1992, our reform passed into a new stage. During 1992-93, production increased 13%. Our government regards this rate as too fast. Therefore, it was decided last year to hold the rate of economic development and increase production by only 9% in 1994. The past years' successes were achieved by political reforms. The purpose of our reform is to create a system of a socialist market economy by the end of this century.
There is no general model for economic development. Each country must develop its own, taking into consideration the realities and characteristics of its own particular society.
How is Chinese business represented in Azerbaijan?
For the past two years, since the establishment of diplomatic relations, economic relations between our two countries are gradually developing. Recently President Heydar Aliyev visited a radio factory in Baku and was shown the live TV production. This live technology is the result of collaboration between the Chinese company, Tun-guan, and Baku's factories. Television sets from China are being sent to Baku for $210. Once assembly is completed in Baku, they can be sold in Iran or Turkey for $350.
President Aliyev also viewed samples of electric devices produced in Azerbaijan in collaboration with Chinese companies. Chinese agricultural specialists are helping to increase rice production in Azerbaijan. So there are many areas where we can collaborate with mutual profit.
In your opinion, how could economic relations between the two countries be strengthened?
One of the greatest difficulties occurs when large deals cannot be made directly with the client, but must go through intermediary companies. For example, Chinese companies have bought tens of thousand of tons of Azerbaijani cotton, not from Azerbaijan, but through an English company. I have talked about this problem with the Prime Minister, the Deputy Prime Minister, and the Minister of Agriculture of Azerbaijan. We don't need a broker in the cotton trade.
There are other examples of that kind. For example, iron which is mined in Azerbaijan is first sold to Georgia and then afterwards to China. Azerbaijani air conditioners are sold to China via a Russian company. Of course, transportation continues to be a problem that we need to solve.
What is happening in the areas of culture, science and education exchange?
We have begun to take the first steps in this direction. Already there are Azerbaijani students studying in China. Art ensembles from China performed concerts in Baku last year. Unfortunately, the biggest problem is related to the limited finances of the Ministry of Culture in Azerbaijan. But some Chinese companies have assisted in paying the expenses for the Azerbaijani representatives.
How do you see Azerbaijan's future?
Azerbaijan is blessed with vast reserves of natural resources. And I find the people very sincere and friendly. But, of course, this is a very difficult period for this country so I hope it passes very quickly. In order to foster economical prosperity, there must be peace and political stability. Oil contracts will stimulate this development and, in turn, bolster the entire economy of Azerbaijan.
From Azerbaijan International (2.4) Winter 1994.
© Azerbaijan International 1994. All rights reserved.