“Making China’s voice heard“

SOCIETY met with the newly accredited Ambassador of China, H.E. Mei Qi, to talk to her about the China-Austrian relations, her country’s involvement in Africa and the importance of communication for diplomacy.

by Gertrud Tauchhammer

Since March 2023, you are Ambassador of China to Austria. What are your impressions so far? Which goals did you set yourself for your term here and how would you characterize the relations between Austria and China?

Austria is a beautiful country with a vibrant culture, social harmony, and a high level of development. I feel honored to have the opportunity to work here. Since arriving in Vienna, I have been warmly welcomed and received by friends from various sectors. I am deeply moved by the longstanding friendship between China and Austria, which is one of my most profound impressions thus far.

I have set goals for my tenure in Austria that can be summarized by three words: communication, cooperation, and consolidation. To elaborate further, my objectives revolve around promoting exchange, expanding collaborations, and strengthening friendships.

Despite the considerable distance between China and Austria, the exchanges between the two countries have a long-standing history that continues to thrive. Over the past half-century since the establishment of diplomatic relations, China-Austria relations have weathered the changes in the international landscape and have consistently maintained a positive development momentum. The two countries have achieved fruitful results in pragmatic cooperation across various fields.

I am happy to see the current robust face-to-face interactions between individuals from China and Austria. The Chinese Embassy in Austria and myself are committed to making unremitting efforts to promote close personnel exchanges, expand pragmatic cooperation, and enhance the strategic partnership and friendship between China and Austria.

Between 2019 and 2022, you served as Chinese Ambassador to Equatorial Guinea. How are you looking back at this term? Which experiences and encounters had a lasting impact on you? What did you learn about diversity there?

My posting in Equatorial Guinea has enriched my professional career and life experiences. In the past, I had primarily overseen European affairs, with limited knowledge of Africa. However, my experience in Equatorial Guinea allowed me to have a close encounter with the colorful history, culture, and local customs of Africa. It provided me with a deeper appreciation for the world’s diversity, as well as a profound understanding of the far-reaching impacts of brutal slave trade and colonial history on African countries. Additionally, I gained insight into the strong aspirations for development among the African people today.

In the process of modernization, countries are different in history, culture, social system and development path. Blindly copying the model of others would be ill-fitted for one’s own conditions, and imposing one’s way of life upon others would entail endless troubles. There is no one-size-fits-all development paradigm. It is crucial to find a development path that aligns with the country’s own conditions in order to bring genuine well-being to the nation and its people.

China invests heavily in Africa – what are the motivations for these investments? What is special about the African market? How does the Chinese approach differ from the one of Europe?

China and African countries share similar historical experiences and a common mission for development. Over the past 50 years, China and Africa have established mutual trust, provided assistance to each other, and walked hand in hand, forging a distinctive path of win-win cooperation and setting an example of South-South cooperation.

China and Africa enjoy a profound traditional friendship. China has always followed the principles of sincerity, real results, amity and good faith and upholding justice while pursuing shared interests when conducting pragmatic cooperation for mutual benefits and win-win results with African countries. In our perspective, Africa is a big stage for international cooperation, not an arena for major-power rivalry. China is ready to engage in trilateral or multilateral cooperation in Africa with all countries including Austria on the basis of the „Africa-proposed, Africa-agreed and Africa-led“ principle. Together, we aim to make substantial contributions to peace and development in Africa.

Communication is an essential aspect of diplomacy – why is it so important? How do you personally prepare for cultural differences in communication? What is the importance of communication and how is it connected to peace, in your opinion? What is your approach on learning a new language?

Communication and exchange can enhance mutual understanding between individuals and countries, clear doubts and misunderstandings, reduce miscalculation, and deepen mutual trust.

Frankly, cultural differences are often present in communication, but these differences are an integral part of cultural diversity. I strive to understand the cultural differences between China and Austria by reading books, newspapers, watching videos, and engaging in conversations with colleagues and friends. I value dialogue and communication, particularly face-to-face interactions. I will make every effort to engage and communicate extensively with friends from various sectors in both China and Austria, fostering mutual understanding and friendship between our two peoples.

The knowledge of Scandinavian languages that I have acquired has been beneficial for my German language learning. In my daily life and work, I also strengthen my German language learning through media, mobile applications, and seeking guidance from colleagues.

You are the first female Chinese Ambassador in Austria – is this the start of a new type of diplomacy?

I am honored to be the first female Chinese ambassador to Austria. Looking back at history and casting our gaze globally, it is not a novelty that many Chinese ambassadors in various countries are women. This reflects China’s longstanding commitment to promoting gender equality and the comprehensive development of women. As the Chinese saying goes, „Women hold up half the sky.“

Regarding the new paradigm of diplomacy that you mentioned,  the Report delivered to the 20th National Congress of the CPC emphasized the importance of “telling China’s stories, making China’s voice heard, and presenting a China that is credible, appealing, and respectable.” This is the direction we are striving to pursue.

Photos: SOCIETY/Karakan