Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Wang Wenbin’s Regular Press Conference on July 23, 2020
CCTV: China and France held a strategic dialogue and a high-level economic and financial dialogue recently. Can you talk about the items on the agenda and the consensus reached? Does this signal a full post-pandemic relaunch for China-France relations?
Wang Wenbin: On July 15, State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi and Diplomatic Counselor to French President Emmanuel Bonne successfully held the 20th China-France Strategic Dialogue. On July 21, Vice Premier Hu Chunhua of the State Council and French Economy and Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire co-chaired the 7th China-France High Level Economic and Financial Dialogue. Press releases of the Chinese side have offered detailed information about the dialogues. I would like to stress that it was an important consensus of the two heads of state in their fourth telephone call of the year to hold the two dialogues as soon as possible. They are the first high-level institutional dialogues between China and another major country. It is of great significance to preparing for the resumption of high-level exchanges between China and France at an early date, and to realizing new and greater development in bilateral relations after standing the test of COVID-19.
The two dialogues have yielded fruitful results, which can be summarized in the following aspects. First, the two sides had extensive and in-depth exchanges on international and multilateral cooperation against the pandemic, deepening bilateral practical cooperation, and promoting the sound and steady development of China-France and China-EU relations, which deepened mutual understanding and enhanced political mutual trust. Second, both sides identified future priorities in bilateral relations, and agreed to maintain the momentum of frequent high-level exchanges, seek steady progress in key cooperation projects in such areas as emerging infectious diseases prevention and control, agri-food and aviation. Fast-track arrangement will be fully leveraged to boost resumption of work and production and keep industrial chains and supply chains stable. The two sides will actively explore new areas of cooperation conducive to economic recovery and industrial transformation and upgrade. In particular, 42 concrete cooperation outcomes were reached at the High-Level Economic and Financial Dialogue, which is quite impressive. Third, the two sides stressed the importance of China-EU relations and in this context, agreed to speed up negotiations on an investment agreement, sign an agreement on geographical indications as soon as possible, earnestly strengthen cooperation in climate change, biodiversity protection and other fields, and uphold multilateralism with concrete actions. Fourth, the two sides undertook to adopt effective macroeconomic policies to support economic growth, strengthen policy coordination to jointly tackle the fallout of COVID-19, support G20’s role as a premier forum for international economic cooperation, and oppose all forms of protectionism. Both support WHO’s critical leading role in promoting and coordinating the global pandemic response and call for efforts to keep regional and global industrial chains and supply chains stable to help resumption of work and production. The two sides also agreed to jointly safeguard a fair and non-discriminatory market environment and encourage companies from all countries to participate in 5G development in accordance with market and security principles.
As can be seen from the dialogues, relations between China and France, both permanent members of the UN Security Council and influential major countries, have comprehensive and strategic connotations at a very high level. Deepening and expanding this comprehensive strategic partnership is not only in the interests of both countries, but also conducive to promoting China-EU relations, safeguarding world peace and development, and bringing more stability into an uncertain world.
Xinhua News Agency: On July 22, US Secretary of State Pompeo and some other senior officials claimed that the closure of China’s consulate general in Houston was a response to China’s interference in US internal affairs, stealing of American intellectual property and espionage in business activities over the years, and the aim was to “protect American intellectual property and Americans’ private information”. They also claimed that the US insists on fairness and reciprocity, and it cannot tolerate Chinese violations of its sovereignty and intimidation of its people. Do you have any comments on it?
Wang Wenbin: Chinese diplomatic missions in the US, including our consulate general in Houston, have been promoting bilateral friendship and cooperation and observing international law and local laws in the US. The consulate general in Houston is China’s first consulate general opened in the US after the two countries established diplomatic relations. For more than 40 years, the consulate general has been promoting bilateral friendship, cooperation and mutual understanding. The US accusations that China’s consulate general in Houston engaged in activities inconsistent with its capacity are nothing but vicious slanders.
The US demand of the closure of China’s consulate general in Houston is in serious violation of international law, basic norms governing international relations and the bilateral consular agreement between China and the US. It severely damages bilateral relations, a move that undercuts the bond of friendship between Chinese and American people.
CRI: The US Department of State tweeted a link to China’s military-civilian integration policy with the following words: “The Chinese Communist Party is seeking to build its military by exploiting American research institutions, academia, and private firms for their key technologies”. Do you have a response?
Wang Wenbin: China has stated its position on this issue repeatedly. Lately the US has been misrepresenting and smearing China’s military-civilian integration policy, employing moral hijack, political pressure and even threat of sanctions against Chinese and American businesses and researchers. China deplores and rejects this.
It is a customary international practice to promote integrated military and civilian development. It is no exception for the US, where this practice dates back to before WWI. In recent years, it has been pursuing all-dimension and all-sector integration at an even faster pace. The US Defense Department and military conduct various cooperation projects with American universities, R&D institutions and private companies. Some American multinational companies like Lockheed Martin are the result of “military-civil fusion” themselves, with business operations and products covering both ends.
The US allegation against China is typical double standards by forbidding others to do what it is doing itself. Its true purpose is to create excuses to justify a high-tech blockage against China. The root of this is the Cold War mentality the US still clings to as it attempts to contain China’s development. It goes against the spirit of international cooperation and the trend of the times and will eventually damage the interests of China, the US and the whole world.
China’s military-civilian integration policy is aimed at effectively mobilizing military and civilian resources, coordinating socioeconomic growth and national defense development, and benefiting the public with scientific and technological progress. This policy is aboveboard and beyond reproach. Our scientific progress is achieved with the Chinese people’s industry and innovation. We urge the US to immediately correct its mistake, stop deliberate provocations and malicious denigration against China, and return to the right track of win-win cooperation.
NPR: Yesterday China threatened retaliation if the US does not reverse the decision to close the consulate in Houston. Can you elaborate on what that retaliation might look like? Second, yesterday China alleged that on two occasions the US opened and confiscated diplomatic pouches belonging to the Chinese foreign missions. Can you elaborate on the circumstances under which these pouches were opened and the nature of the objects that were confiscated by the US?
Wang Wenbin: I will take your second question first. In July 2018 and January 2020, the US opened China’s diplomatic pouches twice without permission, which was a flagrant violation of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations and the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, and a grave infringement on China’s diplomatic dignity and security interests. After these incidents happened, the Chinese diplomatic mission in the US immediately made solemn representations to the US side. The US side didn’t deny the relevant facts, but repeatedly used technical reasons as an excuse to shirk responsibility for its wrong acts. What the US has done runs counter to international law and norms governing international relations and should be condemned.
As for your first question, China will make necessary reactions to the US unreasonable actions and safeguard its legitimate rights and interests.
Bloomberg: There have been reports that the consulates in Chengdu and also in Hong Kong are possibly subject to closure on the Chinese side. Can you confirm this? My second question relates to the China’ CCTV taking the English Premier League football match off the air, according to a report citing a person familiar with the matter. Some interpret this as China’s retaliation against the UK because of UK’s actions on Huawei and Hong Kong. How does the Foreign Ministry respond to this?
Wang Wenbin: Regarding your first question, China will take necessary measures to safeguard its legitimate rights and interests in response to the unreasonable actions of the US side.
On your second question, I’m not aware of that. Please refer to the competent authorities.
Reuters: How many consular staff and diplomatic envoys does China have in the US? And How many diplomatic staff and envoys the US has in China?
Wang Wenbin: As I said yesterday, the US claim that US-China relations are not reciprocal is an old ploy and totally unreasonable. In fact, the US far outnumbers China in terms of diplomatic missions and staff in each other’s country.
New York Times: Some in the US have suggested that President Trump may have an election-year advantage if there is a showdown of confrontation with China this year, as the Americans would rally behind their president. How would China balance its desire to defend its sovereignty in disputes with the US with China’s commitment to not to interfere in other countries’ elections?
Wang Wenbin: You are right in saying that China remains committed to the principle of non-interference in other countries’ internal affairs. We have no interest in interfering in the US presidential election and hope the US will stop making an issue out of China. We advise the US to refrain from going further down the wrong path, otherwise China will make legitimate and necessary reactions.
China News Service: Reports say that the South Korean government will fly 159 staff of South Korean businesses to China on a charter flight on July 23, most of whom are employees from small and medium-sized companies. Do you have more details on the operation of the fast-track arrangement?
Wang Wenbin: Since COVID-19 broke out, China and the ROK have stood together and helped each other. The two countries are the first to set up a joint COVID-19 prevention and control mechanism and open a fast-track for urgently needed personnel in business and other areas, creating a model in international anti-epidemic cooperation. The fast-track has benefited both sides, played an important role in promoting the resumption of work and production, upholding bilateral economic cooperation and trade and stabilizing industrial and supply chains, and created significant economic and social effects.
At present, the epidemic situation in China and the ROK has been brought under effective control. Taking into account the latest situation and practical needs, the two sides are working to expand the scope of application for the fast-track arrangement so that it will benefit more people and groups on both sides. China and the ROK are also jointly promoting the establishment of a regional fast-track network, and are committed to making positive contributions to the stable operation of the regional and global industrial and supply chains.
Phoenix TV: Some media say that the US demand of the closure of China’s consulate general in Houston is a response to China not facilitating the re-opening of the US consulate general in Wuhan. Could you confirm that?
Wang Wenbin: It’s not true. As is known to all, in January, the US unilaterally announced the temporary closure of its consulate general in Wuhan and withdrew all personnel. In June, some diplomatic staff returned to Wuhan and re-opened the consulate general. China has all along been facilitating the US consulate general’s lawful operations.
The Paper: The heads of state of China and Saudi Arabia exchanged congratulatory message marking the 30th anniversary of diplomatic relations. How does China see bilateral relations with Saudi Arabia, including practical cooperation? Any takeaway from this? How do you see the next 30 years of bilateral relations?
Wang Wenbin: During the three decades since China and Saudi Arabia established diplomatic ties, bilateral relations have enjoyed rapid sound development with frequent exchange of high-level visits and deepening political mutual trust. In recent years particularly, President Xi Jinping and King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud exchanged successful visits. A comprehensive strategic partnership was established, and a high-level joint committee launched, injecting strong impetus into China-Saudi Arabia relations in a new era. The two sides enjoy fruitful cooperation in energy, trade, investment and high-tech sectors under the BRI, and closer people-to-people and cultural exchange. In the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, China and Saudi Arabia have written a new chapter of solidarity with mutual assistance and close cooperation in offering aid, epidemic prevention and control and scientific research.
After three decades of progress, China-Saudi Arabia relations have become an exemplar of country-to-country relations featuring mutual respect and mutual benefit. Looking ahead, we have every confidence in the prospects of this relationship. We stand ready to work together with Saudi Arabia to take the 30th anniversary as a new starting point, implement our leaders’ important consensus, consolidate political mutual trust, strengthen communication and coordination on regional and international issues, and deepen practical cooperation in various fields so as to usher in a brighter future for bilateral relations.
BBC: You mentioned earlier this week the new five-day COVID test procedure for boarding flights to China. This seems like a way of increasing the number of people who are able to come into China. Is that the case that China wants to safely allow more people to arrive? and also is China planning to soon change this regulation, which was one flight per week from each destination into China that, like increasing that frequency? And would you sort of prioritize safer COVID countries over others?
Wang Wenbin: As I said the other day, as the COVID-19 pandemic is being brought under control or is easing in some countries, international travels and international flights are gradually resuming. The measures China has announced is to ensure safe international travels and reduce the risk of cross-border transmission of the virus. In formulating the new measures, we also borrowed from the practice of other countries.
As to your second question, I refer you to competent authorities.
China News Service: The US claims that the Chinese consul general and two other diplomats in Houston were recently caught having used false identification to escort Chinese travelers to the gate area of a charter flight in a US airport. Do you have any comment?
Wang Wenbin: The personal information of Chinese diplomats in the US is open and transparent to the US side. In order to take care of Chinese citizens taking temporary flights, our consular officials entered the said restricted area of the airport upon US approval, carrying consular IDs issued by the US Department of State. It is a legitimate, legal and reasonable practice following many precedents. The US is merely making up excuses and its accusations are baseless.
AFP: According to recent French media reports, France won’t authorize French telecoms operators to buy new Huawei equipment. Can you confirm this?
Wang Wenbin: French President Macron and other French leaders said many times that they won’t take discriminatory measures against particular countries or businesses on the 5G issue, still less exclude Huawei. In the 7th China-France High Level Economic and Financial Dialogue that was just concluded, the two sides reiterated that they will encourage companies from all countries to participate in 5G development in accordance with market and security principles.
We hope and believe that the French side will honor its commitment, exclude disruptions, adhere to the principles of market economy and free trade rules, take actions to provide an open, fair and non-discriminatory business environment for Chinese companies investing in France including Huawei and earnestly maintain the sound development momentum of China-France economic and trade relations.
CRI: According Japanese media, the Japanese government on July 22 decided to conduct consultations with China, including the Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan regions, and the ROK on relaxing restrictions on entry of personnel. Do you have any comment?
Wang Wenbin: We welcome Japan’s decision to take science-based and proper measures to properly handle the entry and exit of personnel in light of development of the epidemic situation. Against the backdrop of maintaining ongoing epidemic control measures, the gradual resumption of the exchange of essential personnel between China and Japan will help the two countries accelerate resumption of work and production, promote economic recovery and guarantee stable and unfettered industrial and supply chains.
New York Times: Does China remain committed to the phase one trade agreement signed with the US on January 15, or has the closing of Houston consulate prompted any reconsideration of that agreement?
Wang Wenbin: China’s position on China-US relations is consistent. Where the China-US relations are heading is a question for the US side to ponder over.
As for the specifics you asked about the China-US trade deal, I’d like to refer you to the competent authorities.
Shenzhen TV: The British government released a detailed scheme for its new Hong Kong BN(O) Visa which will be open for applications from January 2021. Does China have a comment?
Wang Wenbin: In disregard of China’s solemn representations, the UK went ahead with its political manipulation over the BN(O) passport issue, openly breaching its commitment as well as international law and basic norms governing international relations, and blatantly interfering in China’s Hong Kong affairs. China firmly opposes this. Given that the British side broke its commitment first, the Chinese side will consider stopping recognizing BN(O) passports as valid travel documents and reserves the right to take further actions.
South China Morning Post: US Assistant Secretary of State Stilwell accused China’s consulate general in Houston of being “at the epicentre” of subversive activities. Do you have a comment?
Wang Wenbin: The US official is merely talking nonsense without any evidence or facts.
BBC: Regarding China considering not recognizing BNO passports, presumably that means people could not leave or enter Hong Kong on these passports. Is that right?
Wang Wenbin: China will consider stopping recognizing BN(O) passports as valid travel documents. The implication is self-evident and not hard to fathom.