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Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Wang Wenbin’s Regular Press Conference on May 12, 2023

2023-05-12 19:44

At the invitation of Member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee and Vice Premier of the State Council Ding Xuexiang, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Finance of Singapore Lawrence Wong will visit China from May 13 to 17.

At the invitation of State Councilor and Foreign Minister Qin Gang, David Francis, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of Sierra Leone, will pay an official visit to China from May 15 to 18. 

AFP: According to official reports, Member of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee and Director of the Office of the Central Commission for Foreign Affairs Wang Yi and US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan held talks for over eight hours earlier this week, but the two sides only issued two short readouts. I have two questions. First, does this mean that the two sides failed to reach any agreement on key issues? Second, have the two sides talked about the possibility to have higher-level meetings during the G7 Summit to be held?

Wang Wenbin: We’ve put out a readout on this. On May 10 and 11 local time, Member of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee and Director of the Office of the Central Commission for Foreign Affairs Wang Yi and US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan met in Vienna, Austria. The two sides held candid, in-depth, substantive and constructive discussions on ways to remove obstacles in China-US relations and stabilize the relationship from deterioration. Director Wang fully elaborated on China’s serious position on the Taiwan question. The two sides also exchanged views on the situation in the Asia-Pacific region, Ukraine and other international and regional issues of mutual interest. Both sides agreed to continue to make good use of this channel of strategic communication.

Xinhua News Agency: China announced the visit of Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki. Could you share with us the program and China’s expectations for the visit? How does China view the current China-Eritrea relations?

Eritrea is an important country in the Horn of Africa. China and Eritrea enjoy long-standing friendship. In 2022, President Xi Jinping and President Isaias Afwerki agreed to elevate our bilateral relations to a strategic partnership. This year marks the 30th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties between China and Eritrea. The two countries have deepened political mutual trust, achieved fruitful outcomes in practical cooperation and maintained close communication and coordination in international and regional affairs.

During President Isaias Afwerki’s visit, President Xi Jinping will hold a welcome ceremony and banquet for him, and the two heads of state will hold talks. Premier Li Qiang will meet with President Isaias Afwerki. We believe that President Isaias Afwerki’s visit will give a new boost to the all-round, in-depth growth of China-Eritrea relations and further advance our friendly cooperation.

TASS: The EU Indo-Pacific Ministerial Forum will be held in Stockholm, Sweden on May 13. It is learned that inclusive green growth is on the agenda, along with Russia-related topics. Does State Councilor and Foreign Minister Qin Gang plan to attend the event? 

Wang Wenbin: The Asia-Pacific is a promising region for cooperation and development, not a chessboard for geopolitical contest. Any regional cooperation framework in the Asia-Pacific needs to follow the prevailing trend of peace and development in today’s world, aim for greater mutual trust and cooperation among countries in the region and be open, transparent and inclusive. None of such frameworks should be based on the outdated Cold War mentality, draw ideological lines or drive up division and confrontation.

China News Service: A repatriation ceremony of Chinese ancient relics was held recently by Chinese and US officials in New York. Two stone-carved tomb beds dating back to the Northern Wei and Tang dynasties (386 AD – 907 AD) were returned to China. Do you have any comment?

Wang Wenbin: On the afternoon of May 9 local time, authorized by China’s National Cultural Heritage Administration (NCHA), the Chinese Consulate-General in New York and the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office in New York held a handover ceremony, during which the US handed to the Chinese government two important Chinese cultural relics which had been illegally transported overseas and seized in investigations. This marks the fifth repatriation of cultural relics to China in recent years from US government agencies and the latest cooperation in the field of cultural heritage between the two countries. As we have learned, following the ceremony, our colleagues have started organizing the transportation of the relics back to China.

China is committed to expanding intergovernmental cooperation on combating and preventing the smuggling of cultural relics, as part of a broader effort to preserve humanity’s common cultural heritage. We stand ready to work with the US and other countries to step up exchanges and cooperation in the field of cultural heritage preservation.

Reuters: Are you able to confirm whether China’s Ambassador to France Lu Shaye will be recalled on May 15?

Wang Wenbin: That is not true.

People’s Daily: We noted that the Europe-based think tank Bruegel said in a recently-published report that the Belt and Road Initiative has stood the test of multiple challenges over the past ten years and been widely applauded, especially by developing countries. Do you have any comment?

Wang Wenbin: We noted this report you mentioned. The report documents mainstream news coverage in nearly 150 countries and on this basis makes a quantitative analysis of the global attention to and sentiments towards the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). According to the report, the initiative is generally positively received in the world.

The BRI proposed by President Xi Jinping is well received among the world most importantly because it is an initiative of extensive consultation, joint contribution and shared benefits. China never imposes its will on other countries, nor does it slip any selfish geopolitical agenda into the initiative. As an open and inclusive international cooperation platform, the BRI aims not for a globalization that serves the interest of only few, but for global common development that is more inclusive, balanced and beneficial for all. Any lies and rumors to smear the BRI and slander China’s cooperation with BRI partners will be debunked by these solid facts. 

China will host the third Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation later this year. Through this event, we hope to work together with the rest of the international community to take stock of what we’ve achieved and chart the course for the future, continue to elevate high-quality BRI cooperation and be a source of driving force and hope for world economic recovery and global sustainable development.

CCTV: China announced earlier that the Special Representative of the Chinese Government on Eurasian Affairs will visit Ukraine and other countries. Can you share more information with us? 

Wang Wenbin: Starting from May 15, Special Representative of the Chinese Government on Eurasian Affairs Li Hui will travel to Ukraine, Poland, France, Germany and Russia for communication on a political settlement of the Ukraine crisis.

Since the beginning of the Ukraine crisis, China has held an objective and just position and actively promoted talks for peace. President Xi Jinping has put forward four principles, called for joint efforts in four areas and shared three observations on Ukraine, which outline China’s fundamental approach to the issue. On this basis, China released its Position on the Political Settlement of the Ukraine Crisis, which reflects the above core ideas of China’s stance and takes into account the legitimate concerns of all parties, and has thus received extensive understanding and recognition from the international community. This upcoming visit by the Chinese representative again reflects China’s commitment to promoting peace talks and staying on the side of peace.

As the Ukraine crisis drags on and escalates, the world continues to experience the spillover effects of the crisis. The voices for ceasefire and deescalation are building in the international community. China will continue to play a constructive role and build more international consensus on ending hostilities, starting peace talks and preventing escalation of the situation, and help facilitate a political settlement of the Ukraine crisis.

Reuters: Are you able to confirm that State Councilor and Foreign Minister Qin Gang will travel to Australia in July?

Wang Wenbin: China and Australia maintain contact and communication at all levels. As to your specific question, I have nothing to share.

Beijing Daily: Can you share more with us on the recent visit by State Councilor and Foreign Minister Qin Gang to France?

Wang Wenbin: On May 10 local time, State Councilor and Foreign Minister Qin Gang held talks with French Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs Catherine Colonna in Paris and also held consultations with her as the co-chairs of the China-France high-level dialogue on people-to-people exchange. During the visit, State Councilor Qin Gang met with Diplomatic Advisor to the French President Emmanuel Bonne and inaugurated the China House at the Cité Internationale Universitaire de Paris (CIUP).

State Councilor Qin Gang noted that President Emmanuel Macron’s state visit to China is a complete success. The two presidents agreed to take the opportunity brought by the 60th anniversary of diplomatic relations in 2024 to fully resume exchanges and cooperation in areas of culture, education, science and technology, and take the bilateral relations to an even higher level. China is ready to work with France to follow through on the important common understandings reached by the two heads of state, accelerate the advancement of exchanges and cooperation in various fields, and work for continuous development of the close and enduring comprehensive strategic partnership between China and France. 

State Councilor Qin Gang noted that in a world of change and disorder, China and France, as time-honored countries with splendid civilizations, have the responsibility to promote mutual respect and inclusiveness between different cultures and civilizations, eliminate misgivings and bias, and sow the seed of peace in the heart of the people in the world. These were the very purpose of the Global Civilization Initiative proposed by President Xi Jinping. The two sides need to make full use of the high-level dialogue on people-to-people exchange to further deepen people-to-people exchange between the two countries and enhance mutual understanding between the peoples. Priority areas for cooperation can include sports, education, language, science, technology, innovation and tourism.

State Councilor Qin Gang stressed that China has always regarded Europe as a comprehensive strategic partner, supported Europe in strengthening its strategic autonomy and playing an active role in the international arena, and stands for a China-Europe relationship which is not targeted at, subjugated to or controlled by any third party. China, France and the EU need to pursue win-win cooperation by expanding two-way opening up and build a more stable China-EU supply chain partnership of mutual trust.

Foreign Minister Colonna noted that France-China relations are of vital importance. The two heads of state have set the direction, and the two sides need to jointly work for greater development of bilateral relations. She suggested that the two sides fully restart cooperation mechanisms in various fields. France is ready to work with China to plan for events celebrating the 60th anniversary of bilateral relations. France attaches importance to its economic relations with China, believing that such relations are interdependent, mutually beneficial as well as complementary, open and transparent. France does not engage in bloc confrontation and holds that all countries should live in harmony and achieve common development. Noting that China plays an important role in the world’s peace and stability, Colonna said France is willing to strengthen communication with China on major international and regional issues to seek more common ground.

China Daily: The PRC Is Not a Developing Country Act was passed in the US House not long ago, which “requires the Department of State to take actions to stop China from being classified as a developing country by international organizations”. The US Congress introduced a resolution recently that opposes China’s status as a developing country in the WTO. Some commentators have said such moves show that the US puts its domestic law above international law, revealing its real motive to keep China down. What’s your response? 

Wang Wenbin: China is the world’s largest developing country, a fact that is recognized by the world. The US wants to put a label on China that says “developed country”. I’m afraid this simply will not stick on China.

China’s status as a developing country is supported by concrete facts. China’s per capita GDP in 2022 was US$12,741, or one-fifth of that of advanced economies and only one-sixth of that of the US. China’s GNI ranked 68th and HDI 79th in the world in 2021, which is similar to other major developing countries.

China’s status as a developing country also has a solid basis in international law. This status is recognized by WTO mechanisms and international agreements such as the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer, and has been accepted by the vast majority of the members of the international community. This status should not be taken away from China.

Over the years, China has stood shoulder-to-shoulder with developing countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America in the struggle for national liberation and supported each other in national development. We have together vividly demonstrated what “a friend in need is a friend indeed” means and have long been a community with a shared future. Instead of joining the Western “rich countries’ club”, China will always stand with fellow developing countries to work for our common rights and defend our common interests. As President Xi Jinping has pointed out, China will always be a member of the big family of developing countries.

I would also like to stress that it is China’s legitimate and lawful right to defend our developing country status. China does not use the status as a shield to avoid international obligations or a stepping stone to special privileges. Instead, we have been contributing to world peace and development. From 2013 to 2021, China has contributed about 38.6% of world economic growth annually on average, higher than that of G7 countries combined. China was the first to realize the Millennium Development Goals and accounted for more than 70% of world poverty reduction. We have become the second largest contributor to the UN’s regular budget and peacekeeping assessments. In the WTO, the special and differential treatment provisions for China provide far less favorable support than the average level of support enjoyed by developing countries.

The US does not get to decide whether China is a developing country. The US has come up with various false narratives to deny China’s developing country status with the single objective to suppress and contain China’s development, to shift responsibility on China, to sow discord between China and fellow developing countries, and to disrupt and stall the momentum of the collective rise of developing countries. But China and other developing countries will not fall into that trap. China will firmly defend its developing country status, deepen solidarity and cooperation with other developing countries, work for greater representation and say of developing countries in the international governance system and defend the legitimate and lawful rights and interests of developing countries.  

Hubei Media Group: It was reported that Japanese Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg confirmed respectively at interviews that the two sides are discussing opening a NATO liaison office in Japan. Do you have any comment?

Wang Wenbin: NATO has publicly stated on many occasions that it remains a regional alliance and does not seek a geopolitical breakthrough. The Asia-Pacific lies beyond the geographical scope of the North Atlantic and has no need for a replica of NATO. However, we have seen NATO constantly strengthening ties with Asia-Pacific countries, and bent on going east into this region, interfering in regional affairs and inciting bloc confrontation. What is NATO really up to? This calls for high vigilance among countries in the world, particularly in the Asia-Pacific. We hope relevant parties will not undermine regional peace and stability only to pursue so-called geopolitical interests.

In the meantime, the rest of the world are looking closely at whether Japan really wants to spearhead NATO’s extension into the Asia-Pacific. Asia is one of the most peaceful and stable regions in the world and a promising place for cooperation and development, not a wrestling ground for geopolitical contest. Given Japan’s history of militarist aggression during the last century, Japan’s military and security moves have been closely watched by its Asian neighbors and the international community. We urge Japan to draw lessons from history, stay committed to the path of peaceful development, and avoid doing things that could dismantle trust and affect peace and stability in this region.

CCTV: People familiar with the matter have told the media that G7 member states will announce joint actions to respond to economic coercion so as to send a message to China. What’s China’s comment? 

Wang Wenbin: If any country should be criticized for economic coercion, it should be the United States. The US has been overstretching the concept of national security, abusing export control and taking discriminatory and unfair measures against foreign companies. This seriously violates the principles of market economy and fair competition.

According to media reports, US government sanctions designations soared by 933% between 2000 and 2021. The Trump administration alone imposed more than 3,900 sanctions, or three per day on average within four years. More than 9,400 sanctions designations had come into effect in the US by fiscal year 2021. The US has slapped unilateral economic sanctions on nearly 40 countries, affecting nearly half of the world’s population.

Not even G7 members have been spared from US economic coercion and bullying. Companies such as Toshiba from Japan, Siemens from Germany and Alstom from France, were all victims of US suppression. If the G7 Summit is to discuss response to economic coercion, perhaps it should first discuss what the US has done. As the G7 host, would Japan express some of those concerns to the US on behalf of the rest of the group who have been bullied by the US? Or at least speak a few words of the truth?

Instead of a perpetrator, China is a victim of US economic coercion. We have been firmly opposed to economic coercion by any country in the world and urge the G7 to embrace the trend of openness and inclusiveness in the world, stop forming exclusive blocs and not become complicit in any economic coercion.

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