Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson's Remarks

China News Service: Statistics show that Australian agricultural products' loss of market share in China provides an opportunity for US products to fill the gap. Over the past year, US exports of wine, beef, cotton, timber, coal and other products to China have all increased. In February this year, US export of wine in containers of two liters or less to China more than tripled compared with the same month last year. Commentators in Australia point out that Australia and the US are competitors in agricultural exports, the US will not protect Australia's economic interests, and the Australian government should not blindly follow the US, but adopt a more rational attitude in handling relations with China. What is your comment?

Zhao Lijian: China is stepping up efforts to foster a new development paradigm with domestic circulation as the mainstay and domestic and international circulations reinforcing each other. China is committed to achieving higher-quality development in a more open environment, which will unleash huge opportunities and space for cooperation. In the next 15 years, China is expected to import more than $30 trillion worth of goods. Committed to international economic and trade cooperation, China stands ready to share development opportunities with other countries and jointly build an open world economy.

That being said, mutual respect is the foundation and safeguard of practical cooperation between countries. We will not allow any country to reap benefits from doing business with China while groundlessly accusing and smearing China and undermining China's core interests based on ideology. When a certain country acts as a cat's paw for others, it is the people that pay for misguided government policies. From what you mentioned in your question, we can see how such a practice has served the country concerned.

Global Times: According to an article published by The Australian, official documents submitted by China to the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC) review conferences in 2011 and 2016 discussed synthesizing man-made pathogens, using viruses as "genetic weapons" and making attacks more stealthy. China's submission to the conference also states that "accidental mistakes in biotech laboratories can place mankind in great danger." The article said that China gave "terrifying warnings" in the documents. Do you have any comment?

Zhao Lijian: I noticed that report. The documents it refers to are reports on developments in biotechnology China submitted to the BWC review conferences. Review of developments in biotechnology has traditionally been an important issue within the framework of the BWC. The review conference also requires the submission of relevant reports. China offered an objective description of global developments in biotechnology in the reports, shared its analysis of the impact on the BWC, and put forward suggestions from such perspectives as how to strengthen mechanisms under the Convention. This demonstrates China's responsible attitude on Convention compliance.

The Australian article takes things out of context with ulterior motives. The Chinese reports cover biotech developments around the globe, many of which are conducted in the US, like US scientists synthesising man-made pathogens. As a matter of fact, the US has always been at the forefront when it comes to conducting and funding this kind of research. The University of North Carolina, which is mentioned in the report, is one example.

The Chinese reports point out potential risks posed by biotech developments, including the risk of lab leaks, which is a widely-held view in the world. It is preposterous for The Australian article to use this to hype up conspiracy theories on COVID-19. I would like to stress again that study of origins is a serious scientific matter. It is clearly written in the WHO-China joint mission report that "a laboratory origin of the pandemic was considered to be extremely unlikely". The right direction is to follow the requirements in the WHA resolution and conclusions and suggestions in the joint mission report, and conduct more in-depth and thorough study and cooperation in a broader scope.

I would also like to stress that to strengthen lab security has always been an important issue in the field of global biosafety governance. As it happens, the US is the least transparent country in the world with the largest number of bio-labs. It is also the one and only country that stands against the establishment of a multilateral biological verification regime. Once again we call on the US to adopt a responsible attitude, respond to international concerns, offer explanations for its activities in labs at home and abroad including Fort Detrick and open them for verification.

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