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China's Ambassador To U.S. Reflects On 70 Years Of Communist Party Rule

Cui Tiankai, China's Ambassador to the U.S., at NPR in Washington, D.C.
Mhari Shaw
Cui Tiankai, China's Ambassador to the U.S., at NPR in Washington, D.C.

As China celebrates the 70th anniversary of the Communist Party's rule, China's ambassador to the U.S. says that it's thanks to that very system that his country has climbed the ranks of global leadership.

"We have had our own setbacks over the years," Cui Tiankai tells NPR's Steve Inskeep. "But generally speaking, as a whole, we have gradually found a path for China's development that works for China."

"China has grown into the second largest economy in the world from a very low base. We have lifted something between 700 million to 800 million people out of poverty," he adds.

The celebration of the Communist Party's seven decades of power comes at a time when China is facing immense challenges both at home and abroad. The country recently recorded its slowest economic growth in nearly 30 years, which has been aggravated by a prolonged trade war with the United States.

Meanwhile in Hong Kong, protests have endured for 17 weeks. Demonstrators who had been protesting a controversial extradition bill that has since been pulled are now calling for universal suffrage. Cui denies that Beijing influences the leaders available to the voters of Hong Kong to choose from — even though Beijing signs off on anyone who runs for elections in Hong Kong — but he says, "No one should try to challenge China's sovereignty over Hong Kong."

China also continues to contend with a U.S. military-bolstered Taiwan just off its shores and faces great criticism from the international community for its treatment of ethnic minorities, particularly the Uighurs and Hui — all while continuing to implement their lofty Belt and Road Initiative across the globe.

Cui believes both the U.S. and China could make greater efforts to understand one another.

"Our strategic intention is very simple: We want our people to have a better life," he says. "We are not here to challenge or try to replace any other country. We have no interest in global dominance or hegemony; we just want our people to have a better life."

Interview Highlights

On China's domestic security apparatus

I don't think that we are doing more in China than what you are doing in the United States. You have so powerful [sic] security agencies protecting Americans. We have to protect our Chinese people. I think that both are legitimate. Today's world is not that safe. We still have terrorism, you have so many shooting incidents here. So what is the responsibility of the government?

On President Xi's move to do away with presidential term limits

The change of the constitution just removed the term limit for the president. But actually for the leader of the party, the Party General Secretary of the party's Central Committee, there was no term limit. And this is just to coordinate the two because normally one person would take up both posts.

So it's just a kind of coordination. It does not mean that we have in the constitution any life term [of the presidency] for anybody.

On a resolution for the Hong Kong protests

People in Hong Kong may have different views, they have to solve these problems themselves. But the bottom line is that nobody should challenge China's sovereignty, nobody should resort to violence.

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Steve Inskeep is a host of NPR's Morning Edition, as well as NPR's morning news podcast Up First.
Ashley Westerman is a producer who occasionally directs the show. Since joining the staff in June 2015, she has produced a variety of stories including a coal mine closing near her hometown, the 2016 Republican National Convention, and the Rohingya refugee crisis in southern Bangladesh. She is also an occasional reporter for Morning Edition, and, where she has contributed reports on both domestic and international news.