Cui spoke with CNN’s Fareed Zakaria in an exclusive interview on Saturday, after a dizzying few days in the souring relationship between the US and China.
In response to claims by some in the West that under President Xi Jinping, China has become more assertive, expansionist and repressive power, Cui said “people have to fully recognize the realities of today’s world.”
“We certainly have the legitimate right to build our country into a modernized, strong, prosperous country, like every other country in the world,” the ambassador said.
“I think that the fundamental question for the United States is very simple,” he said. “Is the United States ready or willing to live with another country with a very different culture, a very different political and economic system … in peace and cooperate on so many and still growing global challenges?”
Critics of the law say it undercuts political and legal freedoms that have existed in Hong Kong since Britain handed the former colony to China in 1997.
The law introduces four new crimes: secession, subversion, terrorist activities and collusion with a foreign country, which carry maximum sentences of life in prison. It also puts foreign citizens who criticize the Chinese government anywhere in the world at risk of jail if they set foot in the city — even if they are just transiting through its airport.
But Cui repeated what many mainland Chinese and Hong Kong officials have said in recent weeks: that the law upholds the “one country, two systems” framework that governs Hong Kong, and will make the city “more stable.”
“People could have a more predictable, safer environment to do their business in Hong Kong. That’s the real purpose of this law,” he said.
Washington’s sanctions on Chinese officials include the freezing of their American assets and a block preventing US nationals from conducting business with them. Those sanctioned by the US also face visa restrictions, preventing them and their families from entering the US.
Cui denied that there have been any mechanisms such as sterilization or any attempts at forced population control of the Uyghurs.
“I don’t know how absurd all these fabrications can go,” Cui said, adding that people were basing their perceptions or judgment on reports of “questionable sources.”
South China Sea
Cui said China “will not participate in such a ruling” and it was “not based on very solid, legal ground.”
“We have a very strong position on our sovereignty on the territorial claim in the region. And our claims have very strong historic and legal foundation. But still, we want to solve all the disputes with other countries, with other claimant countries through diplomatic negotiation,” he said.
Cui blamed US intervention in the South China Sea for destabilizing the region.
“Without outside interference, the situation in the region was cooling down,” Cui said. “But, unfortunately, countries like the US particularly, the United States, is trying very hard to intervene, to send their military, to strengthen their military presence in the region. The intensity and the frequency is so high.”