|Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Zhao Lijian's Regular Press Conference on March 17, 2021|
Macau Monthly: On Thursday, the US and China will have a high-level dialogue in Anchorage, Alaska. It is reported that the US will engage with China with an increasingly strong hand and will express deep concern over China's actions on a series of issues including human rights. What's your comment?
Zhao Lijian: We noticed the messages released by the US side recently as the high-level strategic dialogue draws near. China will also make clear its position in this dialogue. We believe it is crystal clear to the US side that China is resolved in safeguarding its sovereignty, security and development interests.
We hope that, through this dialogue, the two sides can follow through on the consensus reached between President Xi Jinping and President Joe Biden in their phone call on the eve of the Chinese lunar new year, work toward the same direction, manage differences and bring China-US relations back to the right track of sound development.
Xinhua News Agency: It is reported that China's medical team and China-assisted anti-epidemic medical supplies and COVID-19 vaccines left Nanning, Guangxi for Comoros today. Can you give us an update on that?
Zhao Lijian: China and Comoros are good friends and good brothers. Since the establishment of diplomatic ties nearly half-a-century ago, we've both remained true to our original commitment to sincerity, friendship and mutual assistance amid the evolving international landscape. China-Comoros relationship has become a model for equal treatment, solidarity and cooperation between countries of different size.
As Comoros faces a worsening COVID-19 situation, China, relating deeply to our Comoran friends, worked to help ease their immediate difficulties. We've conducted close cooperation under the China-Africa pair-up hospitals mechanism. Besides, at the request of Comoros, a Chinese medical team from Guangxi set out to join the fight with the same humanitarian devotion as Chinese medical personnel assisting Africa. They will be arriving in the capital Moroni today with vaccines and medical supplies. This is another concrete step China has taken to make vaccines a global public good and one more vivid illustration of China's principle of sincerity, real results, amity and good faith toward Africa.
In the joint fight against the virus, what China provides to Comoros and other African countries is not only vaccines and supplies, but also more importantly Chinese people's friendship. We will continue to work with African countries including through vaccine cooperation, so as to defeat the virus together, advance post-pandemic common development and deliver benefits to the two peoples.
The Paper: A WHO spokesperson said on March 16 that a report on the origins of the novel coronavirus compiled by a delegation of experts who has traveled to China will be released next week. What is China's expectation for the report? How will you respond to voices accusing China of withholding information and denying the experts full access to raw data?
Zhao Lijian: I am unaware of the details. The relevant work has been carried out between experts from China and other countries. It seems that the WHO maintains close contact with these experts. In fact, the primary conclusions, findings and suggestions of the joint origin-tracing study were already announced by the mission at a joint press conference on February 9.
With regard to data sharing, Chinese and foreign experts have talked about this many times. After China and WHO agreed on the Terms of Reference (TOR) in July last year, China organized a large number of institutions and manpower to carry out data collection, collation, and analysis in accordance with the suggestions of the foreign experts. In the process of the joint mission, the Chinese and foreign experts also carried out a joint analysis of the data.
China Review News: The United States and Japan issued a joint press statement after holding their "2+2" Security Consultative Committee on March 16 saying that China's behavior, where inconsistent with the existing international order, presents challenges to the international community. They also expressed concerns over issues relating to Taiwan, the South China Sea and Xinjiang. I wonder if you would like to comment on this?
Zhao Lijian: The US-Japan joint statement maliciously attacks China's foreign policy, flagrantly interferes in China's domestic affairs, and attempts to harm China's interests. We deplore and reject it and have lodged stern representations with both countries. I would like to stress the following:
First, there is only one system in the world, and it is the UN-centered international order; there is only one set of rules, and it is the basic norms governing international relations with the UN Charter as its cornerstone. The US and Japan are not entitled to define what the international order is, still less to impose their standard on others.
Second, China is always an important force to safeguard world peace and promote common development. We have established partnerships with 112 countries and international organizations, joined more than 100 inter-governmental organizations and signed over 500 multilateral treaties. China now stands as the largest contributor of peacekeepers in all the permanent members of the Security Council. The US is accustomed to upholding double standards and cherry-picking with international law and international rules. During its nearly 250 years of history, there were only 16 years when it was not at war. It also runs hundreds of military bases all over the world. The international community has its fair judgement as to who poses the top threat to world peace and security.
Third, China's position on issues relating to Taiwan, Hong Kong, Xinjiang, the South China Sea and the Diaoyu Island is consistent and clear. Our resolution and will to defend national sovereignty, security and development interests is rock solid. China's sovereignty over islands in the South China Sea and the adjacent waters, the Diaoyu Island and its affiliated islands is indisputable. The South China Sea is more than 8,300 miles away from the continental United States. Despite the distance, the U.S. side has repeatedly sent warships and military aircraft to the South China Sea for military drills and close-in reconnaissance, without a break all year round. It is the United States that has been flexing muscles and practicing coercion and intimidation. Issues concerning Taiwan, Hong Kong and Xinjiang are China's domestic affairs that brook no foreign interference. The US-Japan joint statement shows a disregard for historical merits of the issues, as well as facts and truth. It is but further evidence of the two countries colluding to meddle in China's internal affairs and malign China.
Fourth, the United States and Japan, stuck in the Cold-War mentality, deliberately seek bloc confrontation and attempt to form an anti-China circle. This runs counter to the trend of our times and the aspiration for peace, development and cooperation shared by the region and the vast majority of countries in the world. It will only bring chaos or even conflict to the region and further expose the US-Japan alliance's true face of undermining regional peace and stability.
Fifth, Japan, driven by the selfish aim to check China's revitalization, willingly stoops to acting as a strategic vassal of the United States, going so far as to break faith, harm relations with China, invite the wolf into the house, and betray the collective interests of the whole region. Such despicable behavior is deeply unpopular.
Sixth, we urge the United States and Japan to immediately stop interfering in China's internal affairs, stop forming the anti-China clique, and stop undermining regional peace and stability. China will take all measures necessary to resolutely defend sovereignty, security and development interests.
De Telegraaf: Sources at Chinese companies in Myanmar said that China ordered them to evacuate non-essential staff. Can you confirm this and elaborate on the evacuation plan? Could you also give an update on Chinese evaluation of the safety for Chinese companies and Chinese nationals in Myanmar?
Zhao Lijian: China is following closely the situation in Myanmar. We attach high importance to the safety of Chinese agencies and personnel in Myanmar. We hope the relevant side in Myanmar will take concrete measures to strengthen protection of Chinese nationals there.
Associated Press of Pakistan: According to reports, President of Pakistan Dr. Arif Alvi and his wife received their COVID-19 jabs with Sinopharm vaccine. Do you have any comment on that?
Zhao Lijian: I've also taken note of the report. China and Pakistan are all-weather strategic cooperative partners. Pakistan is the first country in the world to have received China-assisted vaccines, which fully attests to our special friendship and has fostered a new highlight in our practical cooperation. We will continue to work with Pakistan including in vaccine cooperation to contribute to the building of a community of health for all.
Bloomberg: Today, the stock price of a company called O-Film which is listed in Shenzhen fell by 10% after it was reported that Apple cut off the company as one of its suppliers because of allegations that it uses Uyghur forced labor. Do you have any comment on this? And what are your thoughts about US companies cutting off Chinese companies for allegations of forced labor?
Zhao Lijian: I'm not aware of what you mentioned.
As my colleagues and I have stressed time and again, there is no forced labor in Xinjiang. The lies on forced labor are purely slanders and smears by Western countries against China and its Xinjiang region.
CGTN: Spokesman for the UN Secretary-General, when taking a question from the press about the upcoming China-US talks, said that "we hope for a positive outcome. We hope that China and the United States can find ways to collaborate on critical issues, notably on climate change, on rebuilding the post-COVID world. We fully understand that there are tensions and outstanding issues between the two, but they should also both find ways to cooperate on the biggest global challenges that are before us." What is China's response to such comments?
Zhao Lijian: I have taken note of relevant reports. The China-US high-level strategic dialogue is the first high-level meeting between China and the United States since the phone call between the two heads of state that took place on Chinese New Year's Eve, and also the first face-to-face meeting between the two sides since the new US administration came to power. China agreeing to meet with the US upon the latter's invitation reflects our goodwill and sincerity in resuming dialogue and exchange, improving and developing China-US relations. It is hoped that the US side will work with the Chinese side to follow through on the outcomes of the phone call between the two heads of state on the Chinese New Year's Eve, focus on cooperation, manage differences, and promote the healthy and stable development of China-US relations.
As two countries different in history, culture and system, China and the United States naturally have differences. What matters most is to manage and handle them constructively based on mutual respect and equality. China and the United States shoulder a common mission and share a wide range of common interests in addressing climate change and contributing to the global economic recovery in the post-pandemic era. China and the United States should further strengthen communication and cooperation on relevant issues and play an exemplary role in the international community. Cooperation between China and the US can bring enormous benefits for the two countries and the world, and confrontation between China and the United States is not in the interests of the international community.
Nippon TV: First question, US Secretary of State Blinken said in an interview with Japanese media this morning that China was acting more aggressively. He also stressed the need for US-Japan solidarity. What's your comment? Second, with regard to the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic Games, Blinken said that the United States will decide whether to take part in the games based on how human rights conditions are improved in places like Xinjiang. I wonder if the foreign ministry has any comment on this?
Zhao Lijian: On your first question, as I've made it clear while answering a question on the US-Japan joint statement, it is the United States that has been practicing coercion and invasion in the world.
On your second question, "to strengthen the unity of the Olympic Movement, to protect its independence, to maintain and promote its political neutrality", these are words enshrined in the Olympic Charter. To politicize sports is against the spirit of the Charter and harms the interests of athletes of all countries. The international community, including the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee, all oppose such wrong practices. I can assure you that preparation for the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic Games is making steady progress. We have every confidence in hosting a simple, safe and splendid Olympic event.
Reuters: You said just now that issues with regard to Taiwan, Hong Kong and Xinjiang are China's domestic affairs. Does that mean that China is not willing to discuss such topics at the upcoming talks or will all topics that the US is willing to talk about be on the table?
Zhao Lijian: I'd like to stress that this high-level strategic dialogue is proposed by the US side and the "2+2" format is also its idea. We hope that, through this dialogue, the two sides can follow through on the consensus reached between President Xi Jinping and President Joe Biden in their phone call, focus on cooperation, manage differences and bring China-US relations back to the right track. We didn't say that Taiwan-, Hong Kong- and Xinjiang-related issues cannot be discussed during the dialogue. We will brief the US side on the relevant situation and express our solemn position. But the US moves to sway public opinion in the run-up to the dialogue in an attempt to pressure China is futile and doomed to fail. China will always firmly uphold its sovereignty, security and development interests. We ask the US side to abide by norms governing international relations and refrain from doing things that undermine China's core interests.
Bloomberg: The US added more sanctioned Chinese and Hong Kong officials to its list. What is China's response?
Zhao Lijian: The US imposed sanctions on Chinese individuals citing the so-called "Hong Kong Autonomy Act". Such moves constitute severe violation of international law and norms governing international relations, and grave interference in China's internal affairs. This laid bare the vicious attempt of the US to interfere in China's domestic affairs, mess up Hong Kong, and disrupt China's stability and development. China firmly opposes and strongly condemns this and has taken necessary countermeasures.
The National People's Congress, as the highest body of state power, exercised its power and mandate enshrined in the Constitution and the Basic Law and made the decision on improving the Hong Kong SAR's electoral system. This is a major step to uphold and improve the system and institutions of One Country, Two Systems and safeguard enduring stability and security in Hong Kong. It will provide a stronger institutional guarantee for the full implementation of "patriots administering Hong Kong".
Hong Kong is part of China and its affairs are entirely China's domestic affairs that allow no foreign interference. The Chinese government is firmly resolved in opposing US interference in Hong Kong affairs, in safeguarding national sovereignty, security and development interests and in implementing One Country, Two Systems. The US should redress its mistakes immediately and stop meddling in China's internal affairs including Hong Kong affairs in any means. China will continue to take strong measures in light of further developments to firmly safeguard its national sovereignty, security and development interests, and the legitimate rights and interests of Chinese enterprises and people.
Reuters: Taiwan's newly appointed "defense minister" said today that the United States has approved the export of sensitive technology to equip Taiwan's new submarine fleet. How does the Chinese side feel about these developments?
Zhao Lijian: I am unaware of the situation you mentioned. I can assure you that our positions on the Taiwan question and relations between the US and the Taiwan region are consistent and clear. We also urge the US side to fully recognize that the Taiwan question is a highly sensitive issue and that it should strictly abide by the one-China principle and the three China-US joint communiques and handle Taiwan-related issues cautiously and prudently.
China Daily: The US side said that "Beijing has been talking about its desire to change the tone of the relationship, and of course, we're going to be looking at deeds, not words on that front...this administration is unified and coordinated when it comes to China policy...we don't want them to be operating under illusions about our tough-minded approach." What is your response?
Zhao Lijian: We believe that China's determination to safeguard its sovereignty, security and development interests is crystal clear to the US side.
HRTN: A new Gallup poll released on Match 16 showed that 45 percent of American respondents say China is the greatest threat to the United States, an increase from 2020. Do you have any comment?
Zhao Lijian: Recently China has made clear its position on similar issues repeatedly, and I would like to reiterate two points.
First, everything happens for a reason. The previous U.S. administration concocted and spread a large number of China-related lies and rumors, wantonly slandered and smeared China, seriously misled the American people about China and poisoned the atmosphere of public opinion between China and the United States. The poll results more or less reflect that what the previous administration did still haunts China-US relations. The new U.S. administration should abandon the Cold War mentality and view China and China-US relations in an objective and rational way.
Second, the Chinese and American people have always cherished friendly sentiments toward each other. The friendship between the two peoples has all along been the source and foundation for the growth of China-US relations. There are 277 pairs of sister provinces, states and cities between China and the United States. At the recent Virtual Conference of the 5th China-U.S. Subnational Legislatures Cooperation Forum, participants made it clear that China and the United States should heed the voice of the people and expectations of the international community and maintain and strengthen dialogue and communication in all areas. We stand ready to promote cultural and people-to-people exchanges and enhance mutual understanding between the two peoples with an open heart. We hope that the U.S. side will work with China to do more to enhance mutual understanding and trust between the two peoples.
Bloomberg: In your earlier answer on the US-Japan joint statement, I think you said that by joining the US, Japan aims to contain China's revitalization. Is that what you think the aim of Japanese foreign policy with regards to China is? Because that's clearly different from what, for example, Ambassador Tarumi said when he was appointed ambassador to China, and that's clearly different to the statement from the Japanese government that Japan does not aim to stop China's revitalization. So is that your view, or is that the view of the foreign ministry that the aim of Japanese foreign policy is stopping China's revitalization and rise?
Zhao Lijian: I did say that Japan is serving its self-interest to contain China's rise. If, like you said, Japan harbors no such plans, then it should match its words with actions, instead of jumping so readily and willingly on the American bandwagon and resigning itself to be a strategic vassal state for the US.
SCMP: The British government issues a report identifying China as a competitor and saying that China is the biggest challenge and threat for the UK and its allies. In the meantime, British foreign secretary said that the UK hopes to continue to cooperate with China on economy and trade and climate change. Do you have a comment?
Zhao Lijian: We noticed the relevant report by the UK. I would like to stress that China's development means opportunities for the world, not a threat or challenge. We are ready to focus on mutually beneficial cooperation and tackle global challenges together with other countries on the basis of mutual respect and equal treatment.
China firmly opposes Xinjiang- and Hong Kong-related content in the report. We urge the UK to stop interfering in China's domestic affairs under the pretext of relevant issues and take concrete actions to create favorable conditions for bringing the bilateral relations back to the track of sound and steady development.