Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Zhao Lijian’s Regular Press Conference on October 12, 2020
CCTV: US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a recent interview that countries around the world will realize that they are determined to be partners and allies of the United States. What is China’s response?
Zhao Lijian: What Pompeo said was just what he believed to be so, which is contrary to the facts on the ground and the opinion of other parties. According to the Washington Post, Pompeo’s willingness to manipulate US foreign policy in pursuit of his political ambitions has caused the most serious damage to US diplomacy in decades. Nearly 50 international relations and foreign policy scholars from American colleges and universities like Harvard, Georgetown and Tufts issued a joint statement, saying that the US government’s foreign policy is close to failure; it has alienated its important allies and stumbled on issues like COVID-19, climate change, the Iranian nuclear issue and the Peninsula nuclear issue, thus making America weak and isolated and causing instability, insecurity and human suffering.
Not only in the United States, but around the world, including its partners and allies, there is a widespread belief that the United States today does not look like a great power at all. Under the banner of “America First”, the United States has engaged in unilateralism and bullying, become addicted to withdrawing from multilateral groups and reneging on agreements, and is more than willing to impose sanctions. It has put itself on the opposite side of international justice and morality and become a loner in the international community. Last month, at the 74th General Assembly, a comprehensive COVID-19 resolution was adopted by an overwhelming majority of 169 countries, with only two countries voting against it, the United States being one of them. The United States has been almost unanimously opposed by the international community for its willful and perverse actions. The United States has become a troublemaker who undermines international order and threatens international rules. Which country is willing to work by the side of such a country and sink as low as it does?
CCTV: President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen and EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell both welcomed on Twitter yesterday China’s accession to COVAX, saying that “multilateralism is key to reaching our global goal of access to vaccines everywhere, for everyone who needs them”, and that “only a truly global effort and commitment can win the fight against the pandemic”. What’s China’s comment on this?
Zhao Lijian: On October 8, China officially joined COVAX. 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. It has been welcomed and supported by the international community including the WHO, Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, and the EU.
Currently, the COVID-19 pandemic still poses a severe threat to the safety and health of people in all countries. China continues to focus on ensuring that developing countries have equal access to appropriate, safe and effective vaccines. To that end, we have solemnly pledged to make vaccines developed and deployed by China a global public good and ensure early access for developing countries. By joining COVAX, we are taking 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 will continue to work with all sides to contribute its share to the global fight against the pandemic to safeguard the safety and health of all.
China News Service: Recently there are media reports saying that some western countries accuse China of not fully participating in the G20 Debt Service Suspension Initiative (DSSI), failing to help African countries reduce their debt burden and creating a “debt trap” in Africa. What is China’s comment on that?
Zhao Lijian: China attaches great importance to debt suspension and alleviation in Africa and is committed to fully implementing the G20 DSSI. At the Extraordinary China-Africa Summit on Solidarity against COVID-19, President Xi Jinping announced important measures on debt suspension and alleviation in Africa. We are actively responding to African concerns in accordance with the consensus reached by Chinese and African leaders and the G20 DSSI. At present, the Export-Import Bank of China, as an official bilateral creditor, has signed debt suspension agreements with 11 African countries. Other non-official creditors have also reached consensus on debt relief with some African countries with reference to the DSSI. China will also waive interest-free loans due to mature by the end of 2020 for 15 African countries, and continue to push the international community, especially the G20, to further extend the duration of debt suspension.
As for the false accusations made by some countries and media against China, I would like to point out that if we break down African countries’ foreign debt, multilateral financial institutions and commercial creditors hold more than three-quarters of the total, and so bear a greater responsibility for debt relief. China has always been aboveboard in its cooperation with Africa, never interfering in the internal affairs of African countries or attaching any political strings. This is also the principle we follow when dealing with Africa’s debt issue. It is not China that is setting a “debt trap” for Africa, and China refuses to wear this ill-suited label. Some years ago, when dealing with Africa’s debt problems, certain countries attached a lot of political strings and set standards and thresholds that many African countries could hardly meet. Their attempt to remodel Africa by taking advantage of the debt issue has been widely criticized by African countries. China has never been absent when it comes to supporting Africa. We will continue to strengthen communication and coordination with African countries and resolve the debt issue through friendly consultation.
The Paper: The Canadian Justice Department reportedly said on October 8 that a Canadian court has ruled in favor of the Department not providing Meng Wanzhou’s legal team with most of the documents related to the privilege of confidentiality, including e-mails between Canadian and US government departments. What is China’s comment?
Zhao Lijian: We have noted relevant reports. The refusal of the Canadian side to disclose information related to the Meng Wanzhou case on the grounds of so-called confidentiality privilege is totally untenable and such a conspicuous attempt at cover-up is kind of obvious. Although Canada claims to uphold rule of law, it has repeatedly refused to reveal more facts about the Meng incident. Could there really be some inconvenient “secrets”? If the Canadian side truly respects rule of law, it should agree as soon as possible to disclose key evidence instead of stonewalling, so that more Canadians can know the full picture of the whole matter.
Feature Story News: Two questions. First one, reports citing several sources say Chinese customs authorities have been telling some factories to stop importing Australian coal. Is this an official change in foreign policy and what’s the reason for it? My second question is, Canada’s consular officials were given virtual access to Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig last week. Canadian politicians say the Chinese economy here has largely reopened, and the direct visit in person should already have taken place. Can you tell us when this might happen?
Zhao Lijian: On your first question, I am not aware of the situation and would refer you to the competent authority.
On your second question, I have noted relevant reports. The Canadian side said that “it is deeply concerned about China’s arbitrary detention of the two Canadian citizens”. China firmly opposes the erroneous remarks by the Canadian side. As for the cases of Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, China has made clear its position on many occasions. They are suspected of engaging in activities endangering China’s national security, and Chinese judicial organs handle the cases independently according to law. It must be pointed out that arbitrary detention is what Canada did to Ms. Meng Wanzhou, not what China has done. The Canadian side’s attempt to gang up on China is totally futile and counterproductive. We urge the Canadian side to reject double standards, earnestly respect China’s judicial sovereignty and stop making irresponsible remarks.
As for the consular visits, at the request of the Canadian side, the competent Chinese authorities have arranged, in accordance with law and as epidemic prevention and control conditions allow, officials from the Canadian embassy in China to have a virtual meeting with the Canadian citizens. During the process, the Canadian side strictly followed China’s epidemic prevention regulations. On the basis of mutual respect and accommodating each other’s concerns, competent Chinese authorities will continue to handle consular visits to the Canadian citizens in accordance with law and epidemic situation.
Yonhap News: First question, the DPRK recently held a military parade to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the founding of the Workers’ Party of Korea, where new types of weapons were displayed. DPRK leader Kim Jong Un attended the event and delivered a speech. Do you have a comment? Second question, yesterday a ROK boy band BTS said in an acceptance speech that as this year marks the 70th anniversary of the outbreak of the Korean War, they would forever remember the history of suffering the ROK and the US went through together as well as the sacrifice of countless men and women. The remarks triggered a controversy with some Chinese saying online that it’s a matter of national dignity and calling for a boycott of the products the band endorses. Does the foreign ministry think this is a matter of national dignity? Do you have any comment?
Zhao Lijian: On your first question, it is not something unusual for many countries around the world to hold military parades on important occasions. As a friendly neighbor to the DPRK, China congratulates the Workers’ Party of Korea on its 75th founding anniversary and wishes that the DPRK will scale new heights in all its causes under the leadership of Chairman Kim Jong Un and the WPK. China’s position on the Korean Peninsula issue is consistent and clear. We stand ready to work with all relevant parties to continue to push for a political settlement of the Peninsula issue and enduring stability on the Korean Peninsula.
On your second question, I have noted relevant reports as well as the reactions from the Chinese people online. I want to say that we all should learn lessons from history and look forward to the future, hold dear peace and strengthen friendship.
Global Times: US Ambassador to the UN Kelly Craft said in her statement during the General Debate of the Third Committee of the UN General Assembly that “we are gravely concerned that authoritarian governments are using the COVID-19 pandemic to justify unwarranted crackdowns on their citizens and on civil society. You know, I cannot help but remember Li-Meng Yan, the Chinese doctor who was reprimanded for trying to warn the world about a troubling cluster of infection in Wuhan, and later succumbed to the coronavirus.” She also posted this statement on her tweeter account. What is China’s comment?
Zhao Lijian: First things first: Yan Limeng is still alive, only “dead” in Craft’s mind. I believe she meant Dr. Li Wenliang in her statement. Dr. Li Wenliang was an outstanding CPC member and was awarded the honorary title of “Martyr”. The US side made these unscrupulous remarks without even getting straight the facts as basic as a person’s name, which fully exposed the ignorance and irresponsibility of the relevant US official.
The novel coronavirus is a common enemy of mankind. The political virus that spreads hatred and confrontation is also a threat to the world. We urge a few politicians and officials in the US to respect science and basic facts, stop taking political maneuvers to politicize and stigmatize the pandemic, and put their efforts into improving their own work and safeguarding the lives and health of the American people, so as to play a constructive role in international cooperation against the pandemic.
Xinhua News Agency: Today President Xi Jinping and Senegalese President Macky Sall, who is the African co-chair of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) today, marking this important moment with special significance together with African countries. How does China see what FOCAC has achieved over the past two decades?
Zhao Lijian: President Xi Jinping and Senegalese President Macky Sall exchanged congratulatory messages on the 20th anniversary of FOCAC, demonstrating the importance China and Africa attach to this forum and representing the shared aspiration of all FOCAC members.
Twenty years since its establishment, FOCAC has traveled an extraordinary journey. Thanks to the joint efforts of China and Africa, it has become an important and vibrant platform for collective dialogue, an effective mechanism for practical cooperation between China and Africa, and an important front for South-South cooperation. China-Africa relations have grown by leaps and bounds under the guidance of this forum, with deepening political mutual trust, expanding practical cooperation in all areas, and closer people-to-people and cultural exchanges. The tangible results of the forum have been highly recognized by African countries and widely praised by the international community.
China-Africa relations will always grow from strength to strength. The two sides will take the 20th anniversary of FOCAC as an opportunity to continue upholding the principle of wide consultation, joint contribution and shared benefits, enriching and improving FOCAC mechanisms, and promoting the implementation of FOCAC outcomes. We will strive to elevate the China-Africa comprehensive strategic cooperative partnership to a higher level, build a closer China-Africa community with a shared future, deliver more benefits to the African people, make the China-Africa cooperation an exemplar of multilateralism and win-win cooperation, and contribute more to defending fairness and justice on the world stage and promoting global development and prosperity.
Reuters: Friends of the Australian writer Yang Jun, who has been detained in China, told Reuters that he will face trial in Beijing on an espionage charge with a judge expected to be appointed in the next two weeks. Can you confirm if these details are correct?
Zhao Lijian: After due investigation, the Beijing No.2 People’s Procuratorate indicted criminal suspect Australian national Yang Jun in the Beijing No. 2 Intermediate People’s Court on espionage charges on October 7, 2020. The court has filed and accepted the case according to legal procedures and first instance trial is ongoing. Relevant Chinese authorities handle the case strictly in accordance with law and fully protect Yang Jun’s lawful rights.
CRI: Initial results of the presidential election in Tajikistan have been released. Does China have a comment?
Zhao Lijian: China extends congratulations to the smooth presidential election in Tajikistan. Incumbent President Emomali Rahmon won 90.9 percent of the votes, which stands as a clear endorsement of his domestic and foreign policies from the people of Tajikistan. We believe that under President Rahmon’s leadership, Tajikistan will make new progress in national development in all aspects.
Reuters: Malaysian authorities said on Saturday that they had detained 60 Chinese nationals and six Chinese-registered fishing vessels that they said were trespassing into Malaysian waters. Do you have any comment on that?
Zhao Lijian: On October 9 local time, six Chinese fishing boats were detained in Malaysia’s waters. This case is still under investigation. The Chinese Embassy in Malaysia has sent officials to visit the detained crew and offer them epidemic prevention supplies and necessary assistance.
The Chinese side has asked the Malaysian side to carry out fair investigation in accordance with law, ensure the legitimate rights and interests of the involved Chinese citizens and keep us updated with the latest developments.
Reuters: Japan’s self-defense force conducted anti-submarine drills in the South China Sea on October 9. Do you have any comment on that?
Zhao Lijian: I have noted relevant reports. The overall situation in the South China Sea is stable, and what countries in the region genuinely want is peace, development and cooperation. We hope that the relevant country will not do things detrimental to regional peace, security and stability.
Bloomberg: A question on the Tuber browser, which has been backed by Chinese cyber-security giant 360. It stopped functioning on October 10. Does the foreign ministry have any comment on this particular browser and other applications that allow users to access overseas websites?
Zhao Lijian: This is not a question about foreign affairs and I’m not aware of the matter you mentioned. China regulates the Internet in accordance with laws and regulations. I’ll refer you to the competent department for more information.
Bloomberg: On COVAX. Does the foreign ministry have any detail on how China is going to supply its vaccine via COVAX and how to bring in other vaccines like the ones from AstraZeneca, Pfizer, Moderna to China?
Zhao Lijian: As President Xi Jinping has clearly stated, COVID-19 vaccines developed and deployed by China will be made a global public good to contribute to their accessibility and affordability in developing countries. To act on this pledge, the Chinese government supports and assists Chinese vaccine R&D enterprises in participating in COVAX and working with initiators to provide vaccines to developing countries. To my knowledge, many Chinese vaccines businesses have expressed their readiness to join to COVAX initiators and technical experts of the two sides are in close communication on technical standards in such aspects as R&D, certification and supervision.
China supports businesses in conducting international cooperation in accordance with laws and regulations. We will continue to work along COVAX initiators to contribute our share to the global fight against the pandemic to safeguard the safety and health of all.
Reuters: Japan’s coast guard said on Sunday that two Chinese vessels entered its “territorial waters” near the Diaoyu Island. Do you have any comment on that?
Zhao Lijian: Diaoyu Dao and its affiliated islands are China’s inherent territory. Patrolling and carrying out law enforcement activities in the relevant waters are also China’s inherent right. The Japanese side should respect this.