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Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Zhao Lijian's Regular Press Conference on October 22, 2020
2020/10/22

AFP: China and the Vatican are expected to to renew a deal on bishop appointment. The deal should expire today. Can you tell us if it has been already renewed today?

Zhao Lijian: After friendly negotiations with the Vatican, China on October 22, 2020 decided to extend the interim agreement regarding the appointment of bishops for two years. The two sides will continue to maintain close communication and consultation and advance the improvement of bilateral ties.

China Daily: On China’s economic data, Kenneth Kang, Deputy Director in the Asia and Pacific Department of the International Monetary Fund said recently that quick resumption of growth in China’s economy is mainly attributable to two factors: first, epidemic prevention and control measures; second, macro economic policy measures in support of recovery. What’s your take?

Zhao Lijian: I have already talked about China’s economic data for the first three quarters over the past few days. The negative to positive shift applies to the following aspects. First, economic growth rate. The negative growth rate in the first half of the year has been turned around. Second, fixed asset investment growth rate. The 0.8 percent increase marks the first time of positive growth this year. Third, quarterly growth rate of total retail sales of consumer goods. The positive shift for the first time of the year indicates continued recovery in household consumption. Fourth, growth rate of import and export of goods, which also a first in 2020. Fifth, gradual normalization of foreign investment. From January to September, China’s actual use of foreign investment increased by 2.5 percent year on year, translating into cumulative positive growth denominated in USD for the first time this year.

An economy’s performance under a major severe impact can reveal its true colors. As the results have proven, putting people first and coordinating epidemic prevention and control and socioeconomic development is the correct decision. It has protected people’s life and safety to the maximum and created conditions for the steady recovery of China’s economy. We have rolled out a series of macroeconomic policies to promote the orderly resumption of work and production and help ease companies’ difficulties, the effects of which are gradually showing. China’s main economic indicators have been improving with every quarter. It is highly likely that we will have positive growth this year. China stands ready to continue working with other countries to coordinate epidemic prevention and control with economic development so as to bring the pandemic to an end at an early date and realize steady world economic recovery.

Shenzhen TV: Today the first batch of sheep donated by Mongolia entered China through the port city of Erenhot and were transported to Hubei Province after being isolated, quarantined and processed there. Could you brief us on that?

Zhao Lijian: I have also seen relevant reports. After the COVID-19 outbreak, the people of China and Mongolia have worked together to fight the epidemic. Mongolian President Battulga paid a visit to China in late February to express his firm support for China's fight against the epidemic and donated 30,000 sheep on behalf of the Mongolian people. After more than six months of careful preparation, the Mongolian side has officially begun to hand over the sheep donated to support China's fight against COVID-19. All the sheep have been quarantined in the Zaman Ude epidemic-free area.

Today, the first batch of 4,000 sheep entered China through Erenhot. While ensuring safety through epidemic prevention, the two sides held a handover ceremony at Erenhot-Zaman Ude. According to the plan agreed by China and Mongolia, the 30,000 sheep will be transported to China by mid-November in batches. They will be processed in Erenhot and then transported to Hubei Province to convey the regards of the Mongolian government and people to the people of Hubei who have made great contributions in the fight against the epidemic.

As a Mongolian proverb goes, the gift of a needle in bad times is worth more than a camel in good times. The 30,000 sheep show Mongolia’s firm support to the Chinese government and people in their fight against the epidemic, vividly demonstrate the concept of a community with a shared future for mankind and highlight the sincere friendship between the two countries and peoples.

Global Times: According to ROK media reports, ROK ambassador to Japan Nam Gwan-pyo said at the Congress that the three “nots” — namely the ROK will not further deploy the THAAD system, not participate in the United States anti-missile system, and not develop the ROK-U.S.-Japan security cooperation into a trilateral military alliance — is the ROK’s open position during its discussions on THAAD with China in 2017. It is not a commitment to China, and no deal was reached between the two sides. Ambassador Nam Gwan-pyo, as the deputy chief of the NSO at that time, was directly responsible for consultations with China on THAAD. Besides, the ROK defense ministry plans to deliver construction facilities to the THAAD base in Seongju county. Do you have any response to this?

Zhao Lijian: China and the ROK reached agreement in October 2017 on phased settlement of the THAAD issue, bringing the bilateral relations back to the track of improvement and development. The historical development was very clear and in line with the interests of both. China’s position on this matter has been consistent and definite. We firmly oppose the U.S. deployment of THAAD in the ROK which undermines China’s strategic security interests and regional strategic balance. We hope the ROK will properly handlethis issue following the consensus reached by China and itself, and prevent the bilateral ties from being disrupted or impacted. We would like to work with the ROK to move forward the bilateral relations.

O Globo: Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro decided on Wednesday to cancel the purchase of vaccines from China Sinovac. The day before, the Health Minister had confirmed it would be included in the nation’s immunization program. How will this affect China-Brazil relations?

Zhao Lijian: China’s independent vaccine R&D is leading the world. Four of our vaccine candidates are subject to phase III of clinical trials in multiple countries, and our vaccines were spoken highly of by them. China also joined COVAX. We will act on our commitment that COVID-19 vaccine development and deployment in China, when available, will be made a global public good, contributing to vaccine accessibility and affordability in developing countries.

China and Brazil has been cooperating amid COVID-19, with the phase III of vaccine clinical trials jointly launched by both sides smoothly progressing in Brazil. We believe our cooperation will help people in China, Brazil and across the world to defeat the pandemic.

CRI: It has been more than a month since the beginning of the first intra-Afghan negotiations, but reportedly the two sides have not yet reached agreement on the foundation and basis of negotiations and other key issues and formal negotiations have not yet begun. Meanwhile the fighting and conflict in Afghanistan has been increasing rather than decreasing. What is China's comment on this? How do you see the role of the United States and the international community on the Afghan issue?

Zhao Lijian: The intra-Afghan negotiations have opened a window of opportunity for realizing peace and stability in Afghanistan. China always supports an "Afghan-led and Afghan-owned" inclusive peace and reconciliation process, and maintains that the two sides should resolve the issue at the negotiating table instead of on the battlefield. It is hoped that both sides will put nation and people first, seize the opportunity, seek common ground while shelving differences, find the greatest common denominator, have confidence and show good faith, exercise patience and restraint, and strive for early outcomes.

China holds that the international community, including the United States, should play a constructive role in advancing intra-Afghan talks and support relevant parties in doing their best to promote peace talks. At the same time, we believe that no one should arbitrarily interfere in the peace and reconciliation process for selfish interests. To safeguard and promote security and stability in Afghanistan is an important prerequisite for peace, reconciliation, reconstruction and development. The Afghan issue is complicated and difficult to resolve. Internal and external factors must work in concert towards the same direction in order to achieve intended outcomes. The United States is the biggest external factor on this issue. It should withdraw troops in an orderly and responsible manner, prevent further escalation of violence in Afghanistan, and create a favorable external environment for intra-Afghan negotiations, rather than the opposite.

CNR: It is learned that the Chinese medical expert team left Angola yesterday after completing its missions in Lesotho and Angola. Can you give us more details?

Zhao Lijian: To help Lesotho and Angola cope with COVID-19, the Chinese government has sent a team of medical experts to the two countries. The expert group was formed by the National Health Commission, and selected by Hubei Provincial Health Commission.

In Lesotho, the expert group exchanged experience with the Ministry of Health, the designated hospital for COVID-19 patients, the national nucleic acid testing laboratory and the WHO representative office in Lesotho, and offered training for community-level prevention and control personnel and medical workers. The expert group also made specific suggestions on social distancing, community screening, nucleic acid testing, epidemic monitoring, diagnosis, and treatment, and helped develop the floor plan and flow chart of fever clinic and the plans for tracking and management of key groups.

Lesotho Minister of Health Motlatsi Maqelepo thanked the experts for passing on the knowledge and skills to Lesotho, saying it will help Lesotho build a reliable and responsive health care system, and the health workers will use what they learn to fight the epidemic.

In Angola, the expert team visited several COVID-19 designated hospitals and exchanged views with and offered guidance to local medical staff on treatment, prevention and control regarding medical workers, nucleic acid testing and community prevention and control. The team also visited the Ministry of Health and nucleic acid testing institutions, and conducted training activities.

The Angolan health authorities and medical workers said that they have benefited a lot from the experience of Chinese experts and that this experience will greatly contribute to Angola's fight against the epidemic. The Minister of Health, Sílvia Lutucuta, spoke highly of what the expert group has done and expressed heartfelt thanks to the Chinese government’s strong support and the hard work of all the medical experts. She said that Angola will earnestly study and learn from the important suggestions put forward by the expert group, and believes that with the continuous cooperation between China and Angola in the fight against CIVID-19, Angola’s health ministry will effectively enhance the capacity of epidemic control and treatment.

On June 21, the Chinese medical expert team left Angola after successfully completing its tasks.

South China Morning Post: The United States announced its decision to designate six Chinese media outlets as “foreign missions”. What’s China’s response to this?

Zhao Lijian: In recent years, the US government has placed unwarranted restrictions on Chinese media agencies and personnel in the US, purposely made things difficult for their normal reporting assignments, and subjected them to growing discrimination and politically-motivated oppression. In December 2018, the US asked some Chinese media outlets in the United States to register as “foreign agents”. On February 18, 2020, the US designated five Chinese media agencies, namely, Xinhua News Agency, China Daily Distribution Corporation, China Global Television Network, China Radio International, and distributor for People's Daily in the US Hai Tian Development USA, as foreign missions. The United States announced on June 22 that China Central Television, China News Service, the People’s Daily, and the Global Times are designated in the US as foreign missions.

On October 21, the United States designated additional six Chinese media outlets as foreign missions. This is its latest step of political suppression and stigmatization against Chinese media and journalists stationed in the United States. China firmly rejects and strongly condemns the U.S. senseless moves.

The U.S. moves, specifically targeting Chinese media, are based on Cold-War mindset and ideological bias. They severely undermine Chinese media’s reputation and image, severely impact Chinese media’s normal functioning in the United States, and severely disrupt cultural and people-to-people exchange between the two countries. It reveals the hypocrisy of the United States’ self-proclaimed “freedom of the press”. China will make legitimate, necessary reactions.

China urges the United States to immediately change course, correct mistakes, and stop the political oppression and senseless restrictions against Chinese media outlets.

China Daily: According to reports, many Canadian high schools, colleges and universities that have connections with the Confucius Institutes say they have no reason to re-evaluate their cooperation with the Confucius Institutes. The cooperation brings them cultural and language training, and the Confucius Institutes are not part of the school’s core projects. Do you have any comment?

Zhao Lijian: I’d like to give a thumbs-up to those in Canada’s education sector who speak of the truth.

The Confucius Institutes are the bridge and bond connecting people of all countries, helping them to learn Chinese, know more about China, and enhance cultural and people-to-people exchange. Cooperation between China and Canada to develop Confucius Institutes is welcomed by Canadians as it meets the need of the Canadian people to learn Chinese and know China. We hope people of all sectors in Canada can view its educational exchange programs with China in an objective and rational manner.

The Paper: On the designation of additional six Chinese media outlets in the United States as “foreign missions”, US State Department spokesperson Ortagus said that while free media around the world are beholden to the truth, the Chinese media are not enjoying the freedom of press. Do you have any comment on this?

Zhao Lijian: The United States talks a lot about “press freedom”. Let’s see how they really behaved.

Washington Post reported in 2019 that the United States’ ranking on the list of world press freedom index had been dropping for three consecutive years. According to U.S. Press Freedom Tracker, in 2019 alone, there were 28 instances in the United States where journalists were denied access to the government’s public events. This year saw 223 assaults against journalists in the United States and 73 arrests of journalists. In the “Black Lives Matter” demonstrations, there were over 868 cases in violation of press freedom. Such assaults and arrests were reported by New York Times, The Hill, The Guardian and other media agencies. From May 26 to June 2 this year, 148 journalists had such experience. Forty journalists were shot by bullets, 34 physically assaulted by the police, 33 arrested or detained, and one female photographer even shot by a rubber bullet in the left eye, which led to permanent vision loss. NPR revealed in January this year that Secretary of State Pompeo launched personal attacks full of provocation and contempt against an NPR journalist whose question he didn’t like, and removed NPR from the media team traveling with him on a trip abroad. The U.S. government calls all news reports that they dislike “fake news”, of which I believe New York Times and other American media have a deep understanding. The Guardian cited an American host that this U.S government has launched the most sustained attack on press freedom in the country's history.

How is such a U.S. government in any position to talk about press freedom? Considering their wanton interference in domestic and foreign journalists’ reporting, as well as their unwarranted smears and oppression against journalists, if we are seriously discussing press freedom, the United States itself is the perpetrator that blatantly suppresses media and restricts press freedom. Its self-proclaimed image of a “beacon” exists in name only.

NOVA: A follow-up on the China-Vatican agreement. Yesterday Vatican Secretary of State Parolin said that the agreement does not cover diplomatic relations between Vatican and China. What is your comment? Are the Vatican and China working on establishing diplomatic relations in the future?

Zhao Lijian: I just briefed you on the relevant situation. The extension of the interim agreement carries on the trend of improving China-Vatican relations. The two sides will continue to maintain close communication and consultation and advance the improvement of bilateral ties.

Beijing Daily: White House National Security Adviser Robert O'Brien published an article on the website of Foreign Affairs, claiming that “the CCP’s ideological agenda extends far beyond the country’s borders and represents a threat to the idea of democracy itself.” Does China have any response to this?

Zhao Lijian: O’Brien is judging China’s intentions by the United States’ own mindset. His claim is ignorant of history and reality, full of strong ideological bias and the Cold-War mentality. By hyping up ideological confrontation, a small group of U.S. politicians are trying to drag the world into a new Cold War. It is against the trend of the times to revive McCarthyism, an unpopular act that is doomed to fail.

As we repeatedly stressed, the path chosen by a country is based on its own cultural traditions and history. No force is in the position to denigrate the development path chosen by another country, and no country will change its own system to suit others’ desires. China doesn’t export ideology, interfere in other countries’ domestic affairs, seek to alter others’ systems, or intend to have ideological confrontation with the United States or any other country. We act on our words.

If the United States is candid enough, it can declare its intention to the world like China did: the United States doesn’t seek to export ideology, change other countries’ political systems, or meddle in others’ internal affairs. I believe such a commitment, once made by the U.S. government, will be warmly welcomed by all.

Reuters: The Pentagon said on Wednesday that the United States has approved the potential sales of three weapons systems to Taiwan that could have a total value of 1.8 billion dollars. What is your comment on this potential sales?

Zhao Lijian: The United States seriously violates the one-China principle and the provisions of the three China-US joint communiqués, especially the August 17 Communiqué, by selling arms to the Taiwan region. It seriously interferes in China's internal affairs, seriously harms China's sovereignty and security interests, sends out gravely wrong signals to Taiwan independence forces and severely undermines China-US relations and peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait. China firmly opposes it.

China urges the US side to fully recognize the very damaging nature of arms sales to Taiwan, abide by the one-China principle and the provisions of the three China-US joint communiqués, stop arms sales to and military ties with the Taiwan region, cancel its arms sales plans to avoid further harming China-US relations and cross-strait peace and stability. China will make a legitimate and necessary reaction in the light of the development of the situation.

Globe and Mail: A subcommittee of Canada’s Parliament accused China of committing genocide in Xinjiang. The committee called  for human rights-related sanctions. Does China believe that Canada should be punished if it acts on these recommendations?

Zhao Lijian: The sub-committee of the Canadian parliament neglects the fact of political stability, economic growth, ethnic solidarity and social harmony in Xinjiang. Its groundless statement is full of lies and disinformation. This is blatant interference in China’s internal affairs and reflects those Canadian individuals’ ignorance and prejudice. China firmly deplores and rejects that.

China has repeatedly made clear our stern position on Xinjiang. Xinjiang-related issues are not at all about human rights. The so-called genocide in Xinjiang is a rumor and a farse fabricated by some anti-China forces to slander China. The fact is, from 2010 to 2018, the Uyghur population in Xinjiang grew from 10.17 million to 12.72 million, an increase of 2.55 million or 25 percent. The number is higher than that of the whole population in Xinjiang, which is 14 percent, and much higher than that of the Han population, which is 2 percent. How is it in any way “genocide”?

We strongly urge Canada to denounce ideological prejudice, stop interfering in China’s internal affairs under the pretext of Xinjiang-related matters, exercise caution in its words and deeds, and avoid further damage to China-Canada relations.

FSN: About US arms sales to Taiwan. Taiwan said it does not want to engage in arms race with China. It just wants to build credible capabilities for defense. Do you have any response?

Zhao Lijian: If they truly don’t want to engage in an arms race, then they should match their words with actions, instead of saying one thing and doing the opposite.

Reuters: According to a draft proposal seen by Reuters, the EU is calling for reforms to the WHO to make countries more transparent about emerging health crises. The document urges the WHO to adopt measures to increase transparency on national compliance with the IHR which requires member states to quickly share information on health emergencies. Do you have any comment on ongoing efforts to reform the WHO? Do you think that such reforms are justified?

Zhao Lijian: China supports necessary and reasonable reform to the WHO to enhance its capability to deal with public health emergencies so that it can better play its core role in global public health governance. We believe efforts can be made in the following aspects. First, rule out political disruption through reforms on the level of institutions and rules, respect science and professional views, and reject politicization and stigmatization. Second, equip the WHO with ampler resources to increase its capacity to handle global public health crises. Third, uphold the concept of a community of health for all and step up support and input for developing countries’ public health cause. The reform should be advanced based on consensus reached through broad consultation among member states, not to serve any country’s selfish political interests.

As an important member of the WHO, China firmly supports the organization’s role and multilateralism. We stand ready to participate in the reform process and work with other parties to jointly improve global health governance.

Globe and Mail: Earlier this month Xinjiang’s Party Secretary called for strengthening the study of history of Chinese national unity. Should we take that as an indication that the reeducation process in Xinjiang will continue and expand? How many people remain in those centers for skills training?

Zhao Lijian: I’ll briefly talk about the security and counter-terrorism situation in Xinjiang. Xinjiang has achieved important, initial progress in counter-terrorism and de-radicalization. There hasn’t been a violent, terrorist case over the past four years or so. People of all ethnic groups in Xinjiang now have a greater sense of fulfillment, happiness and security. The remarks you talked about were delivered against this backdrop. However, the “three forces” and their impact are not yet eliminated. The East Turkestan forces are still looking for opportunities to stir up trouble. The situation of counter-terrorism and de-radicalization in Xinjiang is still grim and complex. Taking into account the realities of the region, Xinjiang will continue deepening its fight against terrorism and radicalization and make efforts on both combating and preventing them. We will take tough measures to crack down on violent, terrorist crimes, and eradicate the root cause. By improving people’s well-being, raising awareness of the rule of law, and extend help to local people, we will do our utmost to protect their basic human rights from the scourge of terrorism and extremism.

The vocational training and education centers you mentioned were places where people who had conducted misdemeanors under the influence of religious extremism took courses in the national common spoken and written language, legal knowledge, vocational skills and de-radicalization. The aim is to eliminate the root cause of terrorism and extremism. Through such education and training, the trainees’ overall capability as well as their awareness of nation, citizen and rule of law were all significantly enhanced. They also came to see the harmful nature of terrorism and extremism, shirked off the sway terrorism and extremism had held over their mind, and got to lead normal lives. As we have repeatedly stated, the trainees in these centers have all graduated and are leading normal lives. As normal members of our society, there’s no special measure applying to them.

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