Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Hua Chunying’s Regular Press Conference on 19 January, 2021
Invited by Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum, President Xi Jinping will attend in Beijing via videoconference the World Economic Forum’s Davos Agenda dialogue meeting on January 25 and deliver a special address.
CCTV: As you just announced, President Xi will attend the Davos Agenda event of the World Economic Forum. What’s China’s expectations of this event and what messages will you send to the world?
Hua Chunying: President first attended the World Economic Forum annual meeting in January, 2017. At the opening session, he delivered a keynote speech titled Jointly Shoulder Responsibility of Our Times, Promote Global Growth. He talked in a comprehensive manner about China’s views and propositions on economic globalization and voiced strong support for economic globalization, eliciting a warm response from the international community. Many still recall his brilliant remarks. “Whether you like it or not, the global economy is the big ocean that you cannot escape from.” “Pursuing protectionism is like locking oneself in a dark room.” President Xi’s keynote speech was indeed of monumental significance.
It is a general view of the international community that what we are facing today is similar to the situation at the beginning of 2017. As the COVID-19 pandemic is still spreading, the world economy fell into a deep recession and global challenges continuously emerge, humanity is again at a crossroads. We believe this dialogue meeting will help consolidate global consensus, rebuild mutual trust, boost cooperation, pool ideas and contribute to the resolution of global issues.
Under the current circumstances, it is of great significance that President Xi attends and addresses the meeting. China is committed to safeguarding and practicing multilateralism, fostering an open world economy, working toward a more open, inclusive, balanced economic globalization that benefits all, and building a community with a shared future for mankind. Against the backdrop of the pandemic, we will also contribute more Chinese wisdom and strength to international anti-epidemic cooperation, world economic recovery, resolving global challenges and improving global governance.
Hubei TV: Yesterday Chinese authorities released detailed information on the national economic performance in 2020, showing GDP exceeding a historic 100 trillion yuan mark. We noted many positive comments from foreign media, but there are a few who noted that the 2.3 percent GDP growth is the lowest in over four decades. I wonder if you have any comment?
Hua Chunying: Yesterday the National Bureau of Statistics released detailed information on the national economic performance in 2020, showing GDP exceeding a historic 100 trillion yuan mark. The big news captured much attention at home and abroad. The focus of major international media agencies including Reuters and AP is that against the surging COVID-19 and the worst economic recession since WWII, China’s economy rapidly recovered and achieved robust growth, making the country the only major economy to register positive growth last year, with growth rate beating analyst expectations from many institutions.
This is indeed a hard-won achievement. As you’ve all witnessed, the year 2020 saw the Chinese nation united as one under the strong leadership of the CPC Central Committee with Comrade Xi Jinping at the core in an arduous journey to first bring COVID-19 under control, resume work and production, and reverse the negative economic growth. As your first-hand experience here attests, the Chinese economy achieved a beautiful V-shaped recovery, restoring bustling construction sites, lively throngs in the streets and traffic flow under glamorous city lights. China’s economic aggregate surpassed the 100 trillion yuan mark and its proportion in the world total has risen to about 17 percent from the 16.3 percent of 2019. Besides, grain output reached another record high, industrial production continued to grow, total trade volume increased against all odds, modern service industries broke new ground, consumption upgrading gathered speed, domestic investment rebounded steadily, employment far exceeded set targets, prices remained stable and residents’ income increased. China is becoming a front-runner in the world economy with a bigger proportion and greater significance in terms of quality, quantity, depth and width both sector-wise and overall.
One flower doesn’t bring the spring; only when the whole garden is blooming are the seasons changed. China cannot develop in isolation from the world and its development will contribute to global prosperity. China’s economic growth benefits not only itself, but also the whole world. As you’ve noted, China not only contributed to global economic growth, but also provided much-needed supplies to other countries in their fight against COVID-19 and played a positive role in keeping the global supply and industrial chains stable. According to OECD’s forecast in December 2020, China will contribute to over one third of the world economic growth in 2021. At present, China is fostering a new development pattern which will further unleash market potentials, lead to wider opening-up, and deepen international cooperation. We are convinced that China’s sustained economic growth will generate more demand and opportunities for the world to realize mutual benefit.
Currently, the impact of COVID-19 on the global economy is still showing, and global supply and industrial chains are suffering from the fallout along with rising unilateralism and protectionism. However, we have faith in the irreversible trend of economic globalization, openness and cooperation. As long as all countries join hands and work together to uphold multilateralism and free trade, promote a more equitable and reasonable global economic governance system, and build an open world economy, the world economy will surely rise from the ashes and take on new vitality. China will continue to contribute to world peace and development and uphold the international order.
Beijing Daily: When talking about Russia-China relations at an annual press conference on January 18, Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov spoke highly of bilateral ties in high-level exchanges, scientific innovation, economic and trade cooperation, epidemic response, multilateral coordination and many other areas, adding that coordination between China and Russia is endless. What’s China’s response to Foreign Minister Lavrov’s remarks?
Hua Chunying: China highly appreciates Foreign Minister Lavrov’s remarks on China-Russia relations. Indeed, our solidarity is firm as a mountain and our bond of friendship unbreakable. The past year witnessed new, prominent outcomes in China-Russia relations as we overcame the pandemic and the major changes, both unseen in a century. President Xi Jinping had five phone calls and multiple exchanges of letters and messages with President Putin, which guided the continuous growth of China-Russia comprehensive strategic partnership of coordination for a new era. Both sides have been helping each other to fight the virus together and advance practical cooperation in economy, trade, scientific and technological innovation and other fields despite the pandemic. Both sides have been joining hands to reject the “political virus”, uphold the outcomes of the victory of the WWII and international fairness and justice, give each other support on issues concerning core interests, and stand side by side against power politics. The strategic significance of China-Russia relations gets more prominent as we have become a major force for stability in a world full of chaos.
In developing China-Russia strategic cooperation, we see no limit and no forbidden zone to how far this cooperation can go. The year 2021 is a year of special importance for China-Russia relations, as both countries will celebrate the 20th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Good-neighborliness and Friendly Cooperation. Taking this as an opportunity, China and Russia will implement the consensus reached by our leaders, renew shared commitment to ever-lasting peace and win-win cooperation, expand and deepen cooperation from a higher starting point, add impetus to global recovery, underpin global strategic stability, and build a solid defense for international fairness and justice.
China Radio International: Uganda’s electoral commission on January 16 announced the official result of the presidential election, showing incumbent President Museveni winning another term with 58.64 percent of the votes. What’s China’s comment on this?
Hua Chunying: China congratulates President Museveni on his re-election in the recent presidential election in Uganda. Uganda is our important cooperative partner in East Africa. We share a deep, traditional friendship and fruitful cooperation outcomes that benefit both peoples. President Museveni made important contributions to China-Uganda relations. We believe that under his leadership, Uganda will achieve new, greater progress in national development, and the China-Uganda comprehensive cooperative partnership will reach new heights.
The Paper: There are reports that the Biden team is in talks with Iran on the U.S. return to the JCPOA and Israel hopes to include additional conditions. What is your comment?
Hua Chunying: The Iranian nuclear issue is at a crucial juncture. The imperative at the moment is for all parties to accelerate implementation of the consensus reached at last December’s foreign ministers’ meeting. The U.S. side should rejoin the JCPOA with no preconditions as early as possible and lift all relevant sanctions. On this basis Iran should resume full compliance. No preconditions for this should be set by any party. China hopes that all parties concerned will play a constructive role in bringing the JCPOA back on track and promoting the political settlement of the Iranian nuclear issue.
NHK: In its second report released on January 18, the WHO-led Independent Panel for Pandemic Preparedness and Response said that WHO has been underpowered to do its job. It also said that public health measures could have been applied more forcefully by local and national health authorities in China in January 2020. What’s your comment?
Hua Chunying: The report said China’s health authorities could have done better. There is another view that only a minority of countries took full advantage of the information available to them to respond to the evidence of an emerging epidemic.
We should certainly strive to do better. Not just China, but also the United States, the United Kingdom, Japan, and all others, should try to do better, because on matters of public health, there is always room for improvement. This won’t be the last major public health emergency we mankind have to face. As President Xi said earlier, in view of the weaknesses and deficiencies exposed by COVID-19, we need to improve the governance system for public health security and to respond more quickly to public health emergencies. He also proposed establishing global and regional reserve centers of anti-epidemic supplies.
Another point I noted not long ago was raised by Chinese media who said, if we say “we should try to do better”, is it the same to the claim of certain western media that “this shows you could have done better”. I believe they are two different concepts. The former represents the spirit of relentless self-improvement, which means one should always strive to do better, whether it is to better oneself or to enhance governance capability. I believe this is an important factor driving China’s constant development and progress. The latter, however, shows bias, a fault-finding attitude or a tendency to see the mote in China’s eye while ignoring the beam in one’s own.
As to epidemic prevention and control, data and facts don’t lie. The timeline of China’s response is plain and clear. I wonder if you’ve noticed a recent interview with Mr. Wu Zunyou, a chief epidemiologist at the Chinese CDC. He said that between December 31 of 2019 and January 1 of 2020, when only about 40 cases were found, China made the decision to close the Huanan seafood market in just a few hours. It took only one week to isolate the novel coronavirus after detecting the outbreak, possibly the shortest time on record for mankind to get to know a new infectious disease. In just a few days’ time, the pathogen was isolated and testing reagent developed for clinical diagnosis. It took a little over three weeks from the detection of the outbreak to the lockdown of Wuhan, when there were only around 500 cases reported. China was the first to sound the alarm for the world. In the face of an unknown virus, even though we didn’t have all the information, we made a resolute decision. By practicing early detection, reporting, quarantine and treatment, we bought time and reduced infection and mortality. This has been recognized by scientists and medical experts all across the world.
China also supports a comprehensive evaluation of the global response after the pandemic is brought under control to summarize experience and address deficiencies. However, we believe such evaluation should be undertaken with a science-based and professional attitude following the principle of objectivity and impartiality. China will continue to support WHO in playing a crucial leading role and keep up the close communication and cooperation with it. We also call on other countries to offer the same support and assistance to WHO’s work. At the same time we are firmly against politicizing the issue of origin-tracing, which is not conducive to the joint global response.
Bloomberg: We saw that President Donald Trump on Monday signed an executive order, asking U.S. agencies to assess any security risks from Chinese made drones and to prioritize removing them. What is the foreign ministry’s comment?
Hua Chunying: I read reports on that. China’s position is crystal clear: we firmly oppose the United States overstretching the concept of national security and taking bullying actions to slander and suppressing certain Chinese companies. Politicization of science and technology will only damage its own interests, credibility and reputation. We urge the United States to stick to the market principle of fair competition, stop leveling unwarranted accusations and suppression against non-American businesses, and provide a fair, just and non-discriminatory environment for Chinese companies.
Global Times: U.S. Special Presidential Envoy for Arms Control tweeted on January 15 that “in 2020 alone, even with COVID, China shot off more than 250 ballistic missiles, beating its own record in 2018 and 2019. The US, our partners and our allies cannot turn a blind eye.” What is your comment?
Hua Chunying: Certain people on the U.S. side enjoy making careless and irresponsible remarks on China’s military development. The Chinese side firmly opposes it. As the only superpower, the US, who believes in might makes right, has been showing no restraint in developing all kinds of advanced weapons, including missiles. It has even withdrawn from international treaties that stand in the way, gravely undermining global and regional peace and stability. All these facts prove that its accusation against others is just a cover to justify its own military buildup.
China is committed to a defense policy that is defensive in nature. Our military power development is kept at a minimum level just to meet the needs for ensuring national security, the fundamental aim of which is to uphold national security and prevent war. It targets no other country and is beyond reproach.
Prasar Bharati: Recently foreign students who want to return to China to continue their studies have posted an open letter to the Chinese government, requesting for a clear schedule for their phase-wise return to China. What’s the ministry’s views on this? Is there any discussion on their return? Anything that they should do next month or next to next month? Any decision, discussion on this?
Hua Chunying: You may need to ask the competent authorities for this specific question.
As COVID-19 spreads across the world, all countries are taking due measures to prevent and contain the virus based on their own conditions. I believe this should be understood and observed with efforts by both Chinese and foreign nationals.
Regarding the foreign students hoping to return to China for their studies, my principled response is that the Chinese government attaches high importance to protecting the rights and interests of foreign students in China. Academic institutions are required to keep in close contact with those students abroad, make good arrangements for online courses, and properly address their legitimate concerns and appeals. On the precondition of observing containment protocols, the Chinese authorities will study this matter in a coordinated manner and keep in communication with relevant parties.
Bloomberg: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has invited the ROK, India and Australia as guests to this year’s G7 meeting as he tries to establish a so-called D-10 coalition of democracies designed to counter China and others. Does the foreign ministry have any comment?
Hua Chunying: Do you mean that British Prime Minister Johnson proposed to establish a D10 to counter China and others? Is that a direct quote or is it just your understanding?
Journalist: I think this is an interpretation.
Hua Chunying: So it is just an interpretation. Whether it is D10 or any other kind of so-called “democratic alliance”, our position is clear. International organizations and meetings shall work to promote mutual trust and cooperation among countries, uphold multilateralism, and promote world peace and stability. We oppose abusing the name of multilateralism for bloc politics, ideologizing multilateralism to target certain countries, and imposing rules devised by a very small number of countries on the international community under the pretext of multilateralism. We hope that relevant countries will develop friendly and cooperative ties with others on the basis of mutual respect, equality and mutual benefit. Together, let’s make this world a better place enjoying peace and solidarity, not a worse planet plagued by turmoil and division.
PTI: A follow-up to what you said regarding overseas students. There are about 25,000 Indian students studying in Chinese academic institutions and the majority of them study in medical institutions. Most of them come from the middle and lower middle classes. They have spent a lot of money trying to enroll in Chinese universities. COVID-19 has taken a toll on education institutions, but things are opening up, especially the education institutions. There is a great deal of concern in India over what happens to the students’ academic year, the money that they spent and when they will come. I think it is probably the time that the Chinese education ministry takes a sympathetic view of their plight and rather make sure that they return at the earliest to continue their studies.
Hua Chunying: I can relate to your feelings, including the confusion and plight of so many Indian students as you mentioned. I believe similar situations exist all over the world. To my knowledge, there are many Chinese students who have invested heavily in studies overseas, but due to the sudden COVID-19 outbreak, they are unable to pursue their education as planned, and a lot of them have to stay at home for online courses. Such a situation is not what we want to see. We certainly hope that through solidarity and cooperation of the international community, we can overcome the pandemic as soon as possible, so that students can go back to campus to resume their studies, and enjoy the wonderful school time together with their classmates. But the reality now is that the world now is facing a grave second wave of the pandemic, and all countries have accordingly formulated and implemented anti-epidemic measures. I believe that this is for the sake of the safety and health of the students and everyone actually. So I think we can all understand and follow those measures.
The Chinese government, attaching great importance to the legitimate rights and interests of international students, has required relevant departments and academic institutions to maintain close contact with overseas students, properly design and arrange online teaching, and duly handle reasonable demands and concerns. We will take into account all relevant factors in decision-making on the premise of ensuring epidemic prevention, because this involves not only India, but also other countries and Chinese students seeking education abroad. The pressing task now is to work together to overcome the pandemic as soon as possible.
China Daily: It is reported that the incoming Biden administration will sign an executive order to bring the United States back to the Paris Agreement. What is China’s comment?
Hua Chunying: Climate change is a global challenge that requires joint efforts from the international community. China encourages all efforts conducive to promoting international cooperation on this issue. We will continue to work with the international community to actively implement the Paris Agreement and make greater contributions to the global response to climate change. The Chinese side welcomes and looks forward to the return of the new U.S. administration to the Paris Agreement as well as its contributions to the global climate governance.