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Q & A by Ambassador Chen Xiaodong at Press Briefing on COVID-19 Origin-Tracing

Q1: Will the US report on origin-tracing affect China-US relations? And if so, how?

A: I have just revealed to you in detail US tricks and their intentions in origin-tracing. The US side's move seriously impedes the already stalled exchanges and dialogue between the two countries and further poisons the atmosphere of China-US relations. China firmly opposes this move.

It needs to be noted that origin-tracing is only one of the Biden administration's nasty tricks to suppress China. They also constantly hype up Xinjiang, Hong Kong, Tibet and human rights-related issues. The Biden administration has basically inherited Trump’s terribly wrong China policy. They still think of China as an imaginary enemy. They are intensifying containment, infiltration, subversion, smears and attacks on China.

The Biden administration's so-called "competition, cooperation and confrontation" approach toward China is actually a blindfold for essentially containing and suppressing China. Confrontation and containment are for real, while cooperation is for expediency, and competition a discourse trap. While claiming to return to multilateralism, the US engages in "small circle" and group politics. They pieced together the QUAD mechanism, resurrected the Five Eyes Alliance, mobilized the G7, and created an anti-China alliance to block and contain China. This is nothing more than typical pseudo-multilateralism. The so-called "rules-based international order" preached by the US is in essence about using laws and rules of the US and its gang members as international law. They are used to contain and suppress other countries.

The US has long pursued a policy of hegemony and power politics. They are the real cause of global trouble. The US launched wars in the Middle East against Iraq and Syria, and instigated Arab Spring in Tunisia, Libya, Egypt and many other countries. These conflicts resulted in hundreds of thousands of deaths and millions of people displaced. The 20-year war in Afghanistan ended with the hasty withdrawal of US troops, leaving a mess full of loopholes. It resulted in more than 100,000 of Afghan civilian casualties and the displacement of more than 10 million people. This is not only a US military, political and moral failure, but also a profound revelation that hegemony, militarism and power politics have no support whatsoever. The US must be condemned and held to account for their endless war crimes. US behavior of starting wars and leaving behind messes once again proves that the US is completely untrustworthy and unreliable.

The US also has a bad track record in Africa. The historical slave trade caused the death of a large number of black people. The US has a long history of systematic racial discrimination against people of African descent. One example is that there is still no justice in the recent Myeni case. The US has long interfered in the internal affairs of African countries including South Africa, using their military and sanction strategies to dictate the internal affairs of African countries. They overthrew the legitimate regime in Libya by force, and imposed unilateral economic sanctions on Zimbabwe, Sudan and other countries wantonly.

Back to source-tracing, the US side engages in political games, presumption of guilt and blame-shifting on this matter and seriously interferes with and undermines international cooperation in response and origin-tracing. Their moves have been universally opposed by the international community.

China's policy towards the US is firm and clear. We are committed to handling China-US relations in accordance with the principles of non-conflict, non-confrontation, mutual respect and win-win cooperation.

The Chinese people are not afraid of evil forces. We are not a people to be tampered with. We have everything it takes to safeguard our national sovereignty, security and development interests. And we have the strong support of developing countries including South Africa.

Q2: We noted that the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson has recently made several references to the US Fort Detrick base and the University of North Carolina. China has also recently submitted relevant non-papers to WHO, as well as an open letter signed by over 25 million Chinese netizens calling for an investigation into the Fort Detrick base. Could you further elaborate on China's position?

A: There needs to be no blind spots or double standards in COVID-19 origin-tracing. It is crucial to always look at oneself before pointing fingers at others. The international community, including the American public, all raised their serious concerns over Fort Detrick and the University of North Carolina. China did submit two non-papers to WHO on this one. This is in line with public sentiments. They also reflect the common aspirations of the international community and justice itself.

First, as is known to all, Fort Detrick is the home base of US bio-warfare activities.

The US Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases is the most prominent entity in the base. The institute, which has long been engaged in coronavirus research and modification, suffered a serious safety incident and was shut down in 2019. Closely following that, there were outbreaks of diseases with symptoms similar to COVID-19 within the US. There was also a petition by the people in March 2020 to the White House demanding that the US government disclose information about the base. The US government, however, has never responded to any of these issues.

Second, the United States is the largest funder and implementer of coronavirus research worldwide.

Professor Ralph Baric’s team at the UNC is authoritative on this type of research and they have long had extremely sophisticated capabilities for coronavirus synthesis and modification. From January 2015 to June 2020, the UNC reported 28 safety incidents involving genetically engineered microorganisms to the National Institute of Health. Six of the cases involved coronaviruses. Many had been genetically modified, and a total of eight researchers may have been infected. An investigation of Professor Baric’s team and its laboratory would help clarify whether such research has and will produce and leak the COVID-19 virus.

Third, the United States has the highest level of bio-military activity in the world.

The international community is concerned about both Fort Detrick in the US and its over two hundred bio-laboratories outside the United States. The international community knows nothing about whether the relevant activities are consistent with the Biological Weapons Convention. A security incident at any of the many US overseas labs would have catastrophic consequences for the whole world. While calling for the investigation of other countries' labs, the United States is precisely the only country that opposes building a multilateral biological verification mechanism. Even if there isn’t any problem on COVID-19 origin-tracing, the US needs to give the international community an explanation.

Is it normal for the US to keep covering up things and dodging legitimate questions from the international community?

Is it fair that the US remains closed-off to origin-tracing in their own place but points at China again and again? This cannot be more of a typical case of US guilty conscience. China's request to investigate Fort Detrick site and the UNC is to remove the impact of US political interference in origin-tracing and create favorable conditions for science-based source-tracing. If the US side insists that lab leaks cannot be ruled out, it would be good for the US to set an example first by inviting WHO to Fort Detrick and the UNC for origin-tracing investigations. The US shall not be a blind spot in global origin tracing and the international community is very keen to see whether an origin-tracing investigation into the US will be played out or not.

Q3: We have noted that several organizations such as the ANC and the SACP have recently issued statements on COVID-19 origin-tracing. A number of government officials, experts and academics in South Africa have also recently spoken out actively to call for a comprehensive reflection upon COVID-19 and oppose politicizing origin-tracing. What is your comment on this?

A: Recently, South African political parties, experts and scholars, and various communities have been actively speaking out by issuing statements, giving interviews, and writing articles on this matter. The support is a strong voice against politicizing, stigmatizing and ideologizing origin-tracing. I wish to share four aspects of their calls for justice.

First, they call for science-based origin-tracing. They called on the international community to uphold science, objectivity and impartiality, and to maintain the scientific and rigorous nature of origin-tracing.

Second, they oppose politicizing origin-tracing. They firmly oppose individual countries using origin-tracing as a tool to politically attack other countries, especially China.

Nothing undermines global solidarity against COVID-19 more than this.

Third, they commend China's active cooperation with the world on origin-tracing. They endorse the conclusions of the joint China-WHO study, including the conclusion that a lab incident was extremely unlikely.

Fourth, they believe that the virus originates in many places around the world and that global origin-tracing is essential.

South Africa suffered from associating COVID-19 variants with certain countries. Calling the Beta variant first identified in South Africa the "South African variant" is similar to Trump calling COVID the China virus and the US intelligence agencies wantonly hyping up the Wuhan lab leak theory. Various South African communities unanimously oppose and reject these practices.

China and South Africa are both responsible countries that stand with principles. Our two countries are both leaders in international cooperation against COVID-19. China is ready to further work with South Africa to safeguard the scientific and serious nature of origin-tracing, resist politicizing this issue, oppose political manipulation and promote global cooperation against COVID-19.

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