|Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Zhao Lijian's Regular Press Conference on October 21, 2020|
CCTV: The World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on October 19 that a total of 184 countries and economies have now joined COVAX, which will help ensure effective and equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines for more countries. China has joined this initiative. Could you give us some information on China’s participation and progress?
Zhao Lijian: My colleagues and I talked about this on several occasions and I’d like to offer some more details here. China has been an active supporter of COVAX. It signed an agreement with Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, on October 8, officially joining the initiative. As we speak, four Chinese COVID-19 vaccines are in phase III clinical trials. We have also developed sufficiently strong production capacity to meet domestic demand. Despite these, we still decided to join COVAX. It was a concrete step to ensure equitable distribution of vaccines, especially to developing countries, and hope more capable countries will also join and support COVAX.
China is the largest economy supporting COVAX. We believe China’s accession will strengthen COVAX’s negotiating position with businesses, prompt them to increase production, ensure output, and enhance the accessibility and affordability of vaccines in developing countries. This is an important step China has taken to uphold the concept of a shared community of health for all and to honor its commitment to turn COVID-19 vaccines into a global public good.
At the same time, the Chinese government supports and facilitates Chinese vaccine R&D companies’ efforts to join COVAX and provide vaccines for developing countries through this channel. As far as I know, multiple Chinese vaccine enterprises have expressed to COVAX their readiness to participate. Experts of the two sides are in close communication regarding the vaccine R&D, certification, regulation and other technical standards. We will provide vaccines to developing countries as a priority through various means, including donation and assistance.
AFP: Sweden has banned Huawei and ZTE from its 5G networks for security reasons. I know the Chinese Embassy in Sweden already issued a statements. Does China plan on taking any countermeasure against Sweden?
Zhao Lijian: The Chinese embassy in Sweden responded to it. China deplores Sweden’s decision. Huawei, ZTE and other Chinese companies have been strictly observing local laws, actively promoting China-Sweden ICT cooperation, and contributing to Sweden’s infrastructure building. China’s market is open to all European companies, including Swedish businesses. With no evidence, Sweden takes national security as a pretext to slander Chinese companies, openly oppress Chinese telecom companies, and politicize normal economic cooperation, which violates the principle of a free, open, fair, just and non-discriminatory market economy that Sweden pursues, as well as the rules of international trade and investment. Sweden should view this matter in an objective and fair manner, correct its mistake and avoid negative impact on China-Sweden economic cooperation and the Swedish businesses operating in China.
Global Times: Deputy Chairman of the Security Council of Russia Dmitry Medvedev said on October 20 that the US research activities in bio-labs in members of the Commonwealth of the Independent States have caused grave concern. The US not only builds bio-labs in these countries, but also tries to do so in other places across the world. However, its research lacks transparency and runs counter to the rules of the international community and international organizations. I wonder if you have a comment?
Zhao Lijian: This is not the first time the international community expressed concern to US biological militarization activities in other countries. China has repeatedly stressed that such activities are not transparent, safe or justified.
According to media reports, the US has set up many bio-labs in 25 countries and regions across the Middle East, Africa, Southeast Asia and former Soviet Union, with 16 in Ukraine alone. Some of the places where the labs are based have seen large-scale outbreaks of measles and other dangerous infectious diseases. USA Today reports that since 2003, hundreds of incidents involving accidental contact with deadly pathogens occurred in US bio-labs at home and abroad. This may cause the direct contacts to be infected, who can then spread the virus to communities and start an epidemic.
Why does the US buildso many bio-labs all over the world? Why is the effort led by the military? What is the purpose? How many sensitive biological resources and how much information has it gleaned from relevant countries? Do the labs conform with safety standards? Are there risks for leaks? Why is it that the US, for more than a decade, has been standing singly in the way of negotiations for a BWC protocol that includes a verification regime? Only the US government has the answers to these questions and the key to the truth.
The US should be open, transparent and responsible, respond to international concerns, faithfully implement its BWC obligations, clarify its biological militarization activities overseas and stop blocking negotiations for a protocol that includes a verification regime.
The Paper: According to Korean media, after the boy band BTS’s comments on the Korean War triggered indignation among Chinese netizens, logistics companies including Yunda Express, YTO Express and ZTO Express refused to deliver BTS-related items. Some reports also say that the Chinese customs rolled out a new policy to prohibit the clearance of BTS-related items. Can you confirm this and make some comments?
Zhao Lijian: About BTS’s comments on the Korean War, I stated China’s position the other day. Our common pursuit should be taking history as a mirror, facing the future, cherishing peace and promoting friendship. I also noticed the remarks by the spokesperson of the ROK foreign ministry. We share similar views. China would like to work with the ROK to promote bilateral friendship.
As for your question, the Chinese customs and other government departments have never rolled out any policy that you mentioned. China’s position on supporting and promoting China-ROK friendly exchange and win-win cooperation hasn’t changed. We don’t want to see irresponsible reports and comments like these to further impact the atmosphere of bilateral relations.
Shenzhen TV: The China-ASEAN Young Leaders Scholarship for 2020 was launched at a virtual ceremony on October 20. Can you give us more details on that?
Zhao Lijian: Thank you for your attention on this. Yesterday the China-ASEAN Young Leaders Scholarship was launched at a virtual ceremony. Senior officials attended and addressed the event include Luo Zhaohui, Vice Foreign Minister and Chinese senior official for East Asian cooperation affairs, Chinese ambassador to ASEAN Deng Xijun, ASEAN’s Secretary General Lim Jock Hoi, and ASEAN Senior Officials’ Meeting (SOM) leader Under-Secretary Elizabeth Buensuceso of the Philippines, the country coordinator for China-ASEAN relations.
In November 2018, Premier Li Keqiang announced at the China-ASEAN Summit that the China-ASEAN Young Leaders Scholarship will be established. In July 2019, State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi and ASEAN foreign ministers jointly attended the launching ceremony of this scholarship. The China-ASEAN Young Leaders Scholarship was the first scholarship program planned and implemented by ASEAN and its dialogue partner, and one of the innovative flagship programs of China-ASEAN cooperation, which will play an important role in strengthening people-to-people cooperation, the third pillar of China-ASEAN relations.
China attaches high importance to China-ASEAN cooperation, and views ASEAN as a priority in our neighborhood diplomacy. Educational and people-to-people exchange has been important to the steady development of China-ASEAN cooperation. At last year’s summit, China announced the decision to make additional contributions to replenish the China-ASEAN Cooperation Fund. The Fund will be conducive to the China-ASEAN Young Leaders Scholarship and other flagship programs, and we will host more cultural exchange events and encourage more young talents in ASEAN countries to study in China, contributing their wisdom and strength to bilateral friendship.
CRI: President Dr. Arif Alvi said in an interview with Pakistan Observer that he’s optimistic about the future of Pakistan. As a result of the completion of China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) projects, Pakistan is going to emerge as an international geo-strategic economic hub. The CPEC also creates favorable conditions for realizing greater connectivity between China, Pakistan, Central Asian countries and the rest of the world as well as Pakistan’s self-reliance in industrial and agricultural sectors. Pakistan needs to further elevate cooperation with China in various areas and accelerate high-quality development of the CPEC. Does China have a response?
Zhao Lijian: We commend President Alvi’s comment on the CPEC. Just as President Alvi said, the visionary CPEC, as an important pilot project of the BRI, not only serves to promote China and Pakistan’s socioeconomic development, but also aims to enhance regional connectivity and shared prosperity. Since its launch, tangible outcomes in such areas as energy, transportation infrastructure and ports have been achieved, making concrete contribution to Pakistan’s development. Meanwhile China and Pakistan both support exploring the possibility of opening the corridor to third parties on the basis of consensus through consultation so as to create greater value. If we look at the Gwadar Port as an example, nearly 20,000 tonnes of commodities such as wheat, sugar and fertilizer have been transferred through the port to Afghanistan since the first half of the year, creating almost a thousand temporary jobs in this process.
China firmly supports the development of CPEC and stands ready to work with Pakistan to fully implement the consensus reached between the leaders of the two countries, focus on cooperation on social development, livelihood, industry and agriculture while advancing existing projects in a bid to turn CPEC into a demonstration program for the high-quality development of the BRI and bring more benefits to the two peoples.
CCTV: Chinese and foreign media are watching China’ latest economic data. There are different views on whether China can again be the engine of world economic growth like it was in the financial crisis 10 years ago. Could you comment on this?
Zhao Lijian: China’s economy growth in the first three quarters of this year achieved positive growth, which is a hard-won, remarkable result considering the spreading pandemic and the weakened world economy. It fully demonstrates the strong resilience in the Chinese economy.
I also noticed some foreign media comments that China’s economic recovery has expanded from industry to consumption, injecting greater impetus in world demand. I have two examples to share with you. The first one is about automobiles. According to Handelsblatt, in the third quarter this year, Mercedes-Benz sales in China grew by 23 percent year on year, the profits of which accounted for over one third of the company’s total. BMW’s sales in China achieved 30-percent growth year on year. Audi has had the best performance since entering the Chinese market 32 years ago. The second example is about box office sales. According to statistics, China’s box office sales during the National Day holiday totaled almost RMB 4 billion. This year, China’s box office sales of over $2 billion surpassed that of North America for the first time. It proves once again that with 1.4 billion population, China’s huge market and great potential of domestic demand will generate more resilient, vibrant and sustainable impetus for Chinese and world economic growth.
Now China is fostering a new development paradigm with domestic circulation as the mainstay and domestic and international circulations reinforcing each other, and rolling out more reform measures in key areas and links. China will continue expanding domestic demand, opening up wider, and sharing more development dividends with the rest of the world.
People’s Daily: You said at previous press conferences that the United States has been monitoring, harassing, interrogating and arresting Chinese students in the United States, as well as seizing their electronic devices. Can you share more details on that?
Zhao Lijian: For some time the United States has been using judicial power to wantonly harass and interrogate Chinese students there, and even arrest and prosecute them under false allegations. Multiple Chinese students underwent long-time harassment by U.S. law enforcement personnel at the airport when they were leaving the country. Their cell phones, laptops and other personal belongings were arbitrarily examined and even seized. This year, from May to September alone, nearly 300 Chinese students experienced U.S. harassment and interrogation at the airport when they were to take interim flights.
The U.S. behaviors explicitly reveal their hypocrisy in so-called “protection of human rights”. China strongly condemns these behaviors as they seriously violate Chinese students’ lawful rights and interests, and severely undermine people-to-people exchange and educational cooperation. We lodged solemn representations with the U.S. side many times, urging it to correct mistakes and stop discriminatory behaviors against Chinese students. China will continue taking all necessary measures to safeguard Chinese citizens’ legitimate rights and interests.
Shenzhen TV: On October 19, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said at the Three Seas Virtual Summit and Web Forum that “We’ve seen the crushing effects of Chinese infrastructure deals around the world, from Laos to Montenegro, and to Pakistan.” Do you have any comment?
Zhao Lijian: Some US politicians, especially Mr. Pompeo, are using every possible occasion to smear China. China enjoys traditional friendly relations with Laos, Montenegro and Pakistan, so Mr. Pompeo, why not stop wasting energy? Today, I would like to take Laos as an example to shed some light on basic facts.
As is known to all, Laos is the only land-locked country in Southeast Asia. "Turning the land-locked country into a land-linked country" is the established development strategy of the Lao government and the ardent development dream of the Lao people. To this end, at Laos' request, China has worked hand in hand with it to advance infrastructure cooperation and done a lot of pioneering work to lay a solid foundation and bring long-term benefits. The China-Laos Railway and the Vientiane-Vang Vieng expressway will be completed and open to traffic by the end of next year and this year respectively. This will rewrite the history of Laos' lack of modern railways and expressways, and enable it to integrate into the regional connectivity network with a brand new image, thus setting up a major artery for sustainable development.
It is because China-Laos infrastructure cooperation produce both short-term and long-term benefits that it has been applauded and supported by Lao people from all walks of life. Just last week, the Lao leadership said to the Chinese side that the two arteries are of key strategic significance for the country’s vision to overcome its land-locked reality and become land-linked. Local people are actively participating in these projects with considerable incomes. Residents along the routes all look forward to the convenience and opportunities brought by the railway and expressway. Many villagers who have never ventured out of their native mountains feel like they have something to look forward to with these changes taking place at their doorstep. They gave one simple example. Laos produces large quantities of fruits, but couldn’t export them to neighboring countries easily. A major reason was poor transportation infrastructure, which meant the fruits got rotten before they could cross the border. But with these arteries in place, fruits picked in the morning can reach neighboring countries in the evening.
Mr. Pompeo should listen more to the voice of the people. As one of the world’s least developed countries, Laos still has many short links in infrastructure and many roads, railways, bridges and airports are waiting to be built. If Mr. Pompeo truly cares about the development of Laos, why doesn’t he actually do something instead of all these empty talks?
RIA Novosti: US Defense Secretary Mark Esper revealed new initiative to strengthen and expand US alliances with like-minded democracies to counter Russia and China. He said that a key part of this effort is to expand US arms sales to help allies improve defense capabilities and bolster US defense industry against competition from Moscow and Beijing. What is your comment?
Zhao Lijian: I noticed the U.S. Defense Secretary’s recent remarks. Like we said repeatedly, China has never had the intention to challenge or replace anyone. What we care about most is to improve our people’s well-being, what we value the most is to realize the renewal of the Chinese nation, and what we aspire for the most is world peace and stability. The United States’ attempt to make China its rival is a serious strategic miscalculation that puts its strategic resources in the wrong domains. It does no good to bilateral mutual trust and cooperation, and it doesn’t help safeguard regional and world peace and stability.
China’s policy on the United States has been highly stable and consistent. We urge some U.S. politicians to denounce the outdated Cold-War mindset and zero-sum game mentality, view China, China-U.S. relations and China-Russia relations in an objective and rational manner, and work with China to get the China-U.S. relationship back on the right track featuring coordination, cooperation and stability.
Bloomberg: Do you have any comment on media reports that a Chinese bank account controlled by Trump International Hotel’s Management paid over 180,000 dollars in taxes in China from 2013 to 2015?
Zhao Lijian: I’m not aware of that. China firmly opposes the act of anyone in the United States to drag China into its presidential elections.
CCTV: The National Security Agency of the United States said in a statement on October 20 that one of the threats to U.S. National Security Systems (NSS), the U.S. Defense Industrial Base (DIB), and Department of Defense (DoD) information networks is Chinese state-sponsored malicious cyber activity. It also for the first time listed the vulnerabilities exploited. Do you have any response to this?
Zhao Lijian: It is indeed ironic news that the US National Security Agency, as the main implementer of the PRISM program and the world's largest cyber espionage agency, publicly accuses other countries of cyber espionage. The US National Security Agency has for years been engaged in the world's largest cyber attack and espionage, even targeting its own allies. In addition, as is known to all, the United States is in a leading position in the ICT hardware and software, and has mastered the most software and hardware vulnerabilities, and has a natural advantage in exploiting vulnerabilities to engage in cyber attack and theft. Snowden has said publicly that the NSA is among the worst criminal organizations.
In March, Qihoo 360 released a report showing that the US hacking group APT-C-39 has been attacking and infiltrating in China’s key sectors such as aerospace, scientific research institutions, the oil industry, major Internet companies and government agencies for as long as 11 years. It is easy to see, the US and China, which is the perpetrator and which is the victim.
Lies repeated a thousand times are still lies. The United States, an “empire of hacking”, should immediately stop the old trick of a thief crying “stop the thief”.
Bloomberg: Investors worry that Zambia may become Africa’s first sovereign default since the pandemic. Eurobond holders have raised questions over the transparency of loans from China. How does China see this conflict with the bondholders and will China open up its books and use a standard formula to renegotiate bilateral debt?
Zhao Lijian: China and Zambia enjoy traditional friendship. Since the outbreak of COVID-19, the two sides have worked together to fight against the epidemic and steadily advance friendly cooperation. On the debt issue facing Zambia and other African countries, China has made clear its position on many occasions and is actively committed to fully implementing the G20 Debt Service Suspension Initiative (DSSI). I wish to reiterate that China will continue to act on Chinese and African leaders’ consensus and the G20 DSSI to handle debt issues of Zambia and other African countries. We support the Zambian government in handling debt issues in accordance with the principle of "equal treatment of all creditors”. We will work with relevant parties, including private creditors to alleviate the debt pressure of Zambia.
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