Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Zhao Lijian’s Regular Press Conference on September 7, 2020
The Paper: According to the New York Times and CNN, the US State Department Spokesperson said in a statement that the Chinese Foreign Ministry had recently told the US Embassy in Beijing that it was denying press card renewals to US journalists in China, which is a reciprocal response to the US administration’s treatment of Chinese journalists. Can you confirm that? Will such measures further escalate the media issue between the two sides?
Zhao Lijian: What the US State Department Spokesperson said has no truth in it at all and is meant to confound the public.
The fact is that the press card renewals for CNN and other US media journalists are being processed. Before they get the renewal, their reporting and life in China will not be affected in any way. We’ve already told this fact to the US side.
Over some time, the US has launched one round of political suppression after another against Chinese media, reaching a state of hysteria. Since 2018, the US has delayed and even denied visas of 30 US-based Chinese journalists, forced some Chinese media outlets to register as “foreign agents” and “foreign missions”, in effect expelled 60 Chinese journalists, and limited visas for all Chinese journalists to a maximum 90-day stay. The visas of these Chinese journalists expired on August 6, and they have long ago applied for visa extension as required. But the US side hasn’t granted visa extension to any of them, placing their work and life in enormous uncertainties.
The relevant actions on the US side have severely disrupted Chinese media’s normal reporting activities in the US, undermined their reputation and obstructed cultural and people-to-people exchange between the two sides. As a self-proclaimed champion of freedom of the press, the US has treated Chinese media in a discriminatory manner and even gone so far as to take the journalists as hostages to pressure the Chinese side. This fully reveals the hypocrisy of its so-called freedom of the press and is double-standards and hegemony at full display.
Despite all this, the Chinese side always says that we are willing to resolve the issue concerning journalists on the basis of equality and mutual respect and has stayed in communication and negotiations with the US side. To show our sincerity, even though the US has indiscriminately limited the visas of US-based Chinese journalists to three months, the Chinese side remains restrained and has not yet implemented relevant countermeasures. It has all along extended visas for US journalists as usual and provided convenience for their reporting. Besides, even after the US side expelled over 60 Chinese journalists and refused to extend visas for over 20 Chinese journalists, the Chinese side hasn’t expelled an equivalent number of US journalists. However, during the negotiations, the US side has been unreasonable. It refused to acknowledge the Chinese side’s legitimate concerns and requests, and threatened not to extend Chinese journalists’ visas. The US wants to exert extreme pressure on the Chinese side by taking Chinese journalists as “hostages”. Don’t expect China to swallow this.
I have to point out that US resident journalists in China are aware of the above-mentioned facts and they don’t agree with the US government in oppressing Chinese media for political purposes, waging a “war of media” and using media of the two countries as pawns in a game. If the US does care about its journalists, it should extend visas for Chinese journalists as soon as possible rather than hijack this issue to serve the political interests of certain politicians.
We once again urge the US to meet China halfway, demonstrate sincerity and respond to the Chinese side’s legitimate and reasonable requests in accordance with the principle of mutual respect, equality and mutual benefit. In particular, it should extend the visas for all US-based Chinese journalists at an early date. For the Chinese side, all options are on the table, and the US side knows that very clearly. If the US is bent on moving further down the wrong path, China is compelled to make necessary and legitimate reactions to firmly safeguard its rights and interests.
Bloomberg: I’m just curious if you’d explain why non-American journalists are part of this media issue between China and the US, for example, Australian citizens or British citizens. Can you expand a little bit on why this is the case?
Zhao Lijian: I’ve made myself clear. The press card renewals of relevant journalists of the American media organizations are being processed. We will handle the matter in accordance with laws and regulations.
Global Times: The US Department of State retweeted on September 5 the following from Secretary Pompeo and Under Secretary Krach: “You’re seeing the entire world begin to unite around the central understanding that the Chinese Communist Party simply is going to refuse to compete in a fair, reciprocal, transparent way”; “The CCP is trying to leverage 5G-enabled technology to create and export George Orwell’s version of 1984 into the 21st century... We call on all freedom-loving nations and companies to join the Clean Network.” Do you have a response?
Zhao Lijian: This is the latest example of a handful of US politicians resorting to diplomacy of “We lied. We cheated. We stole”. By “the entire world”, they are perhaps referring to the US alone. The so-called “central understanding” can only mean anything if the word “China” is changed to “some American politicians”. The US has pulled out of a string of international treaties and organizations and even sanctioned staff of an international institution. It started a trade war. It wantonly suppresses foreign hi-tech companies, even clutching an unsuspecting female Chinese business executive with trumped-up charges. With intimidation, deception and coercion, it is working on the so-called “clean network”. Through such programs as PRISM, Equation Group, Echelon, it has forged an empire of spying, tapping and hacking. The US is covered in mud all over and is in no position to criticize others. As facts have proven, it is exactly the US that refuses to compete in a fair, reciprocal, transparent way and leverages its advantages to create and export George Orwell’s version of 1984 into the 21st century. Certain American politicians are working with concrete actions to destroy and terminate the spirit of free market, competitive neutrality, rule of law and international rules. The international community should all stand against such regressive behavior.
Foreign Journalist: On the journalist issue. Chinese journalists currently based in the US – you just talked about it – are facing problems to renew their visas. So just to be very clear, if they cannot get the new visas in the US, will China expel more US journalists from China?
Zhao Lijian: Like I just said, the Chinese side has exercised as much restraint as possible. But all options are on the table. What you presumed is the last thing we want to see.
I just detailed the ins and outs of the whole story. I hope that you will include all these facts in your coverage and give the audience in European countries and the US an idea of what’s going on with your pen and camera, so that people in the world will know what political manipulation the US government and certain US politicians are up to.
Associated Press of Pakistan: Prime Minister Imran Khan said in an interview that Pakistan’s economic future is now linked to China and the bilateral relations between Islamabad and Beijing are “better than ever before.” He also said that China’s growth rate was faster than any other country in the world, and Pakistan can benefit from the manner in which China has developed and has lifted its people out of poverty. He also refuted rumors about attempts to renegotiate CPEC cooperation terms with China. What’s your comment?
Zhao Lijian: China appreciates Prime Minister Imran Khan’s positive remarks on China-Pakistan relations.
As all-weather strategic cooperative partners, China and Pakistan always enjoy mutual trust and support. This year, after standing the test of COVID-19, China-Pakistan relations have become even stronger with greater mutual trust, cooperation and friendship. In particular, since the establishment of the CPEC Authority, the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, as an important pilot project of BRI cooperation and a flagship for bilateral cooperation, has registered new progress in its building. China stands ready to work together with Pakistan to advance cooperation in all sectors and forge a closer community with a shared future in a new era to bring more benefits to the two peoples.
Beijing Daily: The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the National Institute for South China Sea Studies jointly held a virtual international symposium themed “The South China Sea: From the Perspective of Cooperation”. I wonder what kind of signal does China wish to send out by holding this event on the eve of a series of foreign ministers’ meetings on East Asia cooperation? And what effect have you produced?
Zhao Lijian: The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the National Institute for South China Sea Studies jointly held a virtual international symposium themed “The South China Sea: From the Perspective of Cooperation”. State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi delivered opening remarks entitled “Working Together to Make the South China Sea a Sea of Peace, Friendship and Cooperation”. He stated China’s firm commitment to working with regional countries to safeguard stability in the South China Sea and jointly resolving challenges. Vice Foreign Minister Luo Zhaohui further elaborated on State Councilor Wang’s remarks in terms of the importance and ways of cooperation, reiterated China’s policies on South China Sea, ASEAN and its neighborhood, and put forward proposals for practical cooperation in the South China Sea.
More than 100 former politicians, officials and experts from China, ASEAN nations and relevant countries contributed their wisdom at the symposium. They all hold that with the concerted efforts of regional countries, the situation in the South China Sea has maintained overall stability. They call upon countries in the region to unit and collaborate, rise above external disruptions, make greater strides in regional cooperation, and accelerate COC consultation to jointly uphold peace, stability and development in the South China Sea.
Bloomberg: A question regarding the Chinese Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corporation (SMIC). The US Department of Defense is working with other agencies to determine whether to take moves against SMIC, which would force US suppliers to seek a special license before shipping to the company. SMIC has said its technology is not for military use. What’s the foreign ministry’s comment?
Zhao Lijian: China has made clear its solemn position on US unreasonable oppression of Chinese enterprises on multiple occasions. For some time, the US has been abusing national security concept and state power to impose all sorts of restrictive measures on Chinese companies without producing any solid evidence. This is stark bullying. China firmly opposes that.
What the US has done shows clearly that the market economy and fair competition principle it claims to champion is nothing but a fig leaf. Such practice violates rules of international trade, disrupts global industrial, supply and value chains, and will inevitably damage America’s national interests and image. We advise the US to stop the erroneous act to stretch the concept of national security to oppress foreign businesses.
China Daily: President Milos Zeman of the Czech Republic said in an interview on September 6 that the supreme constitutional leaders’ foreign policy meeting voted against the visit to Taiwan by Vystrčil, President of the Senate. However, Vystrčil insisted on going, which was a “boyish provocation” that might harm practical cooperation with China. President Zeman said he himself attaches importance to relations with China and hopes to attend the China-CEEC Summit to be held in China once the COVID-19 situation improves. I wonder if China has any comment on this?
Zhao Lijian: China appreciates President Zeman’s dedication to advancing friendship and cooperation between the Czech Republic and China and his firm position on major and sensitive issues relating to China. The sound development of bilateral relations serves the common interests of both countries and peoples. We hope to work together with the Czech Republic on the basis of mutual respect and equality to rise above disturbances and move relations forward. As to President Zeman’s expressed hope of attending the China-CEEC Summit, we would like to extend our welcome.
Reuters: Do you have any comment on the number of US journalists that would be affected, if China rolled out new countermeasures? Or the number of those in the country at the moment?
Zhao Lijian: I have just made myself pretty clear.
As for the specific numbers you asked about, I already said that the US expelled over 60 Chinese journalists and denied visas for more than 20 Chinese journalists, but the Chinese side did not do the same thing to the same number of US journalists.
I can repeat that the press card renewals for CNN and other US media journalists are being processed. Before they get the renewal, their reporting and life in China will not be affected in any way. We’ve already told this fact to the US side.
Prasar Bharati: There were reports about five missing Indian youths from the Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh. Indian minister for youth affairs yesterday tweeted that Indian army has sent a hotline message to the PLA about the 5 missing Indians. Could you please provide any update on it?
Zhao Lijian: China’s position on the east sector of the China-India boundary, or Zangnan (the southern part of China’s Xizang), is consistent and clear. The Chinese government has never recognized the so-called “Arunachal Pradesh” illegally established on the Chinese territory. I’m not aware of the situation you mentioned.
Shenzhen TV: A Chinese vice foreign minister had a group meeting with ten ASEAN countries’ diplomatic envoys to China. Can you tell us more about it?
Zhao Lijian: The ASEAN Committee in Beijing (ACB), which consists of ten ASEAN countries’ ambassadors to China, is an important channel for communication and cooperation between China and ASEAN. Every year, before the foreign ministers’ meetings on East Asia cooperation, State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi would meet with diplomatic envoys from ASEAN to compare notes and offer China’s support and coordination for the success of the meetings. This year, due to scheduling reasons, he entrusted Vice Foreign Minister Luo Zhaohui to hold a group meeting with diplomatic envoys of ten ASEAN countries to exchange ideas on China-ASEAN relations, East Asia cooperation and issues of mutual concern.
The Chinese side shared its major considerations for the current East Asia cooperation and expressed readiness to work with ASEAN to enhance anti-epidemic cooperation, resume economic activities, formulate next year’s work plans, and properly manage differences to make the upcoming meetings, the China-ASEAN (10+1) foreign ministers’ meeting in particular, a complete success. The ASEAN diplomatic envoys congratulated China on its remarkable epidemic response, thanked China for its valuable anti-virus support for ASEAN countries, and expressed confidence in deeper friendship and cooperation between the two sides in the post-COVID era. The ASEAN side agrees with China’s considerations for the series of foreign ministers’ meetings and stands ready to work together with China for good results at the meetings to send out a positive signal of regional countries fighting the virus together and pursuing shared development.
Bloomberg: A question about the Hong Kong police arresting hundreds of people as protests flared up, a sign that the national security law hasn’t managed to allay anger over a delayed legislative election. What’s the foreign ministry’s comment on yesterday’s arrests of hundreds of people in Hong Kong?
Zhao Lijian: This is not a diplomatic matter. I noted that the HKSAR government and the spokesperson of the Liaison Office of the Central People’s Government in the HKSAR have responded to this issue. Like we said many times, Hong Kong is a special administrative region of China and the LegCo election is China’s sub-national election. We firmly support the HKSAR government and Hong Kong police in legally enforcing the law to uphold stability and rule of law in the Hong Kong society.