Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Zhao Lijian’s Regular Press Conference on August 25, 2020
Xinhua News Agency: The third LMC leaders’ meeting was held in a video format yesterday. At the meeting, Premier Li Keqiang stressed the need to expand and deepen sub-regional cooperation and make water resources cooperation a highlight. Could you tell me more about it?
Zhao Lijian: Like you said, water resources cooperation is indeed a big highlight of this leaders’ meeting. The LMC was initiated to promote cooperation on water resources, and it is true that water resources have always been the most important area of cooperation and the focus of every leaders’ meeting. Let me briefly review the outcomes of the previous leaders’ meetings. The first leaders’ meeting proposed the establishment of a water resources cooperation center, and the second announced the formulation of a five-year action plan for water resources cooperation. Subsequently, countries held the first water resources cooperation forum and the first ministerial conference on water resources cooperation. At yesterday’s meeting, Premier Li Keqiang announced that starting this year, China will share with the five countries of the Mekong River the annual hydrological information of the Lancang River, and jointly build an information-sharing platform on water resources cooperation. This once again shows China’s open and transparent attitude towards such cooperation as the upstream country. In the context of intensified global climate change and frequent natural disasters, strengthening cooperation on hydrological information sharing will help Lancang-Mekong countries strengthen integrated river basin management, enhance water resources management capacity, and strengthen cooperation in disaster prevention and mitigation.
Another major focus of this meeting is to synergize the LMC with the New International Land-Sea Trade Corridor, which is an important route that covers all provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities in western China and connects them with ASEAN and the Eurasian continent. Some countries along the Mekong River have taken part in this Corridor. Through it, they export agricultural products and other competitive products to China and then to the markets of Central Asia and Europe, which has played a significant role in driving up trade. In the first seven months of this year, China-Vietnam (Nanning-Hanoi) cross-border direct freight trains made 96 trips, a 256% year-on-year increase. The first batch of Vietnamese timber was transported to Chongqing through the New International Land-Sea Trade Corridor. It saved nearly one month compared with the traditional river-sea combined transportation. At present, all countries are highly concerned about the post-epidemic economic recovery and whether the industrial and supply chains will remain unclogged. The coordination between the LMC and the New International Land-Sea Trade Corridor will further facilitate the foreign trade of the Mekong countries and make good use of markets of hundreds of millions of people. This is great news. It will also boost cooperation in production capacity, cross-border economy, infrastructure and other areas, and deepen regional connectivity and development. This will undoubtedly provide new impetus for the recovery of the Lancang-Mekong countries.
Over the past two years, Laos has actively fulfilled its co-chairmanship in working closely with China and other parties to move the LMC from a period of rapid expansion to the current period of comprehensive development. China commends and deeply appreciates Laos’ efforts. At yesterday’s meeting, Myanmar took over the oar as a symbol of co-chairmanship in the form of “cloud transfer”. China will actively support Myanmar in executing its role as co-chair, increase resources input, keep to the cooperation direction, and ensure the LMC’s focus on development and livelihood.
Bloomberg: The US and China reaffirmed their commitment to the phase one trade deal, discussing the protection of intellectual property rights and removing impediments to American companies in financial services and agriculture. Both sides also agreed to create conditions to push the deal forward. Does the foreign minister have anything further to add in relation to this reaffirmation of the phase one trade deal? And I’m also curious if TikTok and WeChat were discussed as part of the negotiations?
Zhao Lijian: This is a long question, to which I have a short answer. China has put out the press release. For more specific I would refer you to the competent authority.
Shenzhen TV: During the 30th Meeting of States Parties to the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) which was just concluded, Ambassador Duan Jielong, the Chinese nominee, was successfully elected as a member of the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS). Could you comment on that?
Zhao Lijian: The election of members of the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea was held on August 24 at the UN Headquarters in New York. The Chinese candidate was successfully elected with 149 votes during the first round of voting. His term will be from October 1, 2020 to September 30, 2029. Taking this opportunity, I’d like to thank all States Parties that supported the Chinese candidate, and congratulate the judges from Cameroon, Italy, Malta, Ukraine and Chile who are also elected members of the ITLOS.
The ITLOS is an important international judicial institution established according to the UNCLOS. China always attaches high importance to and fully supports the Tribunal’s work. Ambassador Duan Jielong received broad support from most States Parties, which demonstrates the international community’s recognition of his capacity and China’s contribution to the Tribunal over the past two decades or so, as well as the world’s resolve to uphold multilateralism and international rule of law. China’s success in the election illustrates once again that certain country’s suppression of the Chinese nominee out of selfish interest is both unwelcome and futile. We believe the elected ITLOS members will faithfully fulfill their duties and contribute to the Tribunal’s work and peaceful settlement of maritime disputes.
China Review News: According to the US State Department website, during his visit to Israel, Secretary of State Pompeo said at press availability with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu that they exchanged views on “the Chinese Communist Party posing a major threat to the world” and he believed that the international community clearly sees such a threat from the CCP. What is China’s comment?
Zhao Lijian: For some time now, this politician you mentioned has been vilifying and smearing China out of ideological bias and selfish interests. But China will never allow it to run amok and confuse the public. You should have noticed that the relevant Chinese media published Fact check: Pompeo’s fact-twisting China speech versus the truth. It documents Pompeo’s preposterous lies which are born of ignorance of history and reality and Cold War and zero-sum game mentality.
Let me add two more points here:
First, some US politicians paint the Communist Party of China and the Chinese government as “heretics” to justify their sinister intentions of waging an “ideological crusade”. As long as China stays committed to the path of peaceful development it independently chooses for itself and does not follow the path designed by the United States, they will see China as an eyesore and oppose China whenever they could. I would like to tell these people that the leadership of the Communist Party of China is a choice of history and the people. “Without the CPC, there would be no New China” is a fact wholeheartedly acknowledged by the Chinese people. No one can turn a blind eye to the fact that the CPC is endorsed and supported by the Chinese people. Any attempt to change or even contain China will not succeed and is bound to fail.
Second, some politicians in the US want to make “China threat” a catchphrase, but both the Constitution of the People’s Republic of China and the Constitution of the Communist Party of China explicitly stipulate that China adheres to the path of peaceful development and opposes hegemony, a pledge that has never been made by the US side. Take a look at the current regional and international hot-spot and sensitive issues, which one is China’s fault? And are there any issues that don’t have some American politicians running around on the stage and behind the curtain? These people must recognize and accept the fact that for the international community, including the United States, China is a positive force for global peace and prosperity, not a negative factor; an opportunity, not a threat.
Bloomberg: Does the ministry have any comment on Australia effectively blocking the purchase of Lion Dairy& Drinks to China’s Mengniu Dairy? The Treasury of Australia said the purchase was “contrary to national interest”. Did Australia give any further explanation to China? And does China accept this reasoning? Does the ministry have any comment on this?
Zhao Lijian: I’m not aware of that and suggest you place your inquiries with the companies concerned and the competent authority.
In principle, the Chinese government always asks Chinese businesses to abide by international rules and laws and regulations of their host countries when pursuing cooperation overseas. We hope Australia will provide an open, fair and non-discriminatory environment for all foreign companies investing and operating there.
AFP: Could you please give us more details on Foreign Minister Wang Yi’s upcoming visit to France? Could you confirm whether he will meet with President Emmanuel Macron?
Zhao Lijian: During his visit to France, State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi will meet with French leaders and hold talks and meetings with Foreign Minister Le Drian and Diplomatic Counselor to French President Bonne respectively to exchange views on deepening China-France and China-Europe relations, promoting exchange and cooperation in various areas, upholding multilateralism and other international issues of mutual concern.
China and France are comprehensive strategic partners. China-France relations have long been leading China-Europe relations. There has been a sound momentum in bilateral relations. From the beginning of this year, President Xi had four telephone conversations with President Macron and State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang have had 12 with Foreign Minister Le Drian and Diplomatic Counselor to French President Bonne. Confronted with the pandemic, China and France stood together with solidarity and mutual support. Both are committed to supporting the leading role of the UN and WHO in international anti-epidemic cooperation, and took the lead in resuming high-level institutional dialogue after the situation eased, playing a positive role in enhancing international solidarity against the pandemic and ensuring the stability of global industrial and supply chains.
As the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the profound changes unseen in a century and added to instability and uncertainties in the international landscape, rampant unilateralism and protectionism poses a persistent threat to mankind’s peace, security and development. China and France, as permanent members of the UN Security Council and major powers with a tradition of independent decision-making, need to stay true to the direction pointed out by the two heads of state’s consensus, uphold multilateralism, strengthen communication and coordination in multilateral fora like the UN and G20, deepen strategic and practical cooperation in all sectors and jointly contribute to the sustained sound development of China-France and China-Europe relations as well as world peace, stability and development.
Kyodo News: My question is about COVID-19 vaccine. WHO recently called on countries to join COVAX. On August 24, Director General Tedros said more than 170 countries have expressed readiness to join. So does China have any plan to join COVAX?
Zhao Lijian: China firmly supports developing countries’ efforts in the health sector and honors its pledge of turning COVID-19 vaccine a global public good. We will continue to draw on our strength in vaccine R&D and production and work with the international community for progress in the global cause of vaccination.
Financial Times: Can you give us an update on progress for the G20 debt standstill scheme? Has China come to any agreements to restructure debt with specific countries? In particular, has an agreement been reached with Angola? And if so, can you give us any details?
Zhao Lijian: China attaches high importance to addressing the impact of COVID-19 on African countries and other developing countries. We relate to their financial difficulties and support the international community in working together to relieve their debt burden, so that those countries can focus their resources on handling the virus and stabilizing their economies. Since the G20’s Debt Service Suspension Initiative (DSSI) was adopted in April, China has been implementing the DSSI following the consensus of G20 countries. Now we have received debt relief requests from over 20 countries, and have reached agreement with more than 10 of them by the end of July. Consultations are being held between China and other requesting countries and progress has been made in this regard.
China earnestly implements the solemn commitments made by President Xi Jinping at the World Health Assembly and the Extraordinary China-Africa Summit on Solidarity Against COVID-19. We are working with the international community to give greater support to countries that are hardest hit by the coronavirus and are under heavy financial stress. We also encourage Chinese financial institutions to respond to the DSSI and to hold friendly consultations with African countries according to market principles to work out arrangements for commercial loans with sovereign guarantees. Positive outcomes have been achieved.
For many developing countries, the World Bank and other multilateral development banks are their important and even main creditors. Commercial institutions in developed countries also hold much of their debt. It is imperative that these institutions take part in the debt relief process. China calls on relevant sides to accelerate actions and fully deliver their commitments. China will work with other G20 members to implement the DSSI and, on that basis, urge the G20 to extend debt service suspension still further for countries concerned.
Regarding your question on a specific country, I’ll leave that to the competent authorities.
Bloomberg: This is a question about Chinese nationals in Singapore. We understand that Chinese nationals in Singapore have expressed concern to the embassy there that they’re unable to get COVID-19 test that they need to enter China. Can you explain why this is so and what is the Chinese embassy doing to help Chinese nationals stuck in Singapore? Also, there has been an increased number of COVID-19 cases from people flying from Singapore to China. Could this threaten the green lane agreement China has with Singapore?
Zhao Lijian: I haven’t read reports on that. I’d like to stress that the Chinese diplomatic and consular missions, under the guidance of Chinese authorities, have been providing assistance to overseas Chinese to the best of their capability. For Chinese nationals abroad, our diplomatic and consular missions are the home that always has their back.