China Review News: The British government announced that the new policy on British National Overseas (BNO) passport and visa will take effect on January 31. Do you have any comment?
Zhao Lijian: In disregard of China’s solemn position and the fact that it has been 24 years since Hong Kong returned to the motherland, the British side blatantly violated its commitment, formulated the so-called “bespoke” policy of abode and citizenship in the UK for BNOs, and continued to expand its scope of application. By trying to turn many Hong Kong residents into “second-class citizens” in the UK, the British side has discarded the mutual understanding on the BNO between China and the UK. The “BNO” today is nothing like what it was. The UK’s move grossly violates China’s sovereignty, interferes in Hong Kong affairs and China’s internal affairs, and runs counter to international law and basic norms governing international relations. China deplores and firmly rejects this. Starting from January 31, China will no longer recognize the BNO passport as a valid travel document or for identification, and we reserve the right to take further actions.
Shenzhen TV: New Zealand’s trade minister Damien O’Connor said in an interview on January 27 that if the Australian side was “to follow us and show respect, I guess a little more diplomacy from time to time, and be cautious with wording then they, too, hopefully could be in a similar situation”, by which he means New Zealand’s “mature” relationship with Beijing. What is your comment?
Zhao Lijian: I have noted these remarks made by the New Zealand side. China’s successful relations with so many countries around the world, including with New Zealand, show that countries, though different in history, tradition, social system and development stage, are perfectly capable of managing well the development of bilateral relations, as long as the two sides focus on cooperation and properly address differences under the principle of mutual respect, equality and mutual benefit. In fact, the China-Australia relationship also had its good times. We hope the Australian side could heed the constructive voices from people with vision, face up to and reflect upon the crux of the difficulties that China-Australia bilateral relations are in, develop relations with China based on mutual respect and equality, and do more to enhance mutual trust and promote practical cooperation.
CRI: India’s External Affairs Minister Jaishankar delivered an address on India-China relations on January 28. He said that cooperation and competition co-exist in this pair of relations. Bilateral exchanges in trade and tourism have been increasing rapidly and the two sides agree on many multilateral topics. Meanwhile, there are also clear discrepancies in the interests and expectations the two countries hold. The two countries are truly at a crossroads. He also outlined three “mutuals” and eight broad principles to develop ties between India and China. What is your response?
Zhao Lijian: I have noted his remarks. External Affairs Minister Jaishankar’s stress on the significance of China-India relations showcases the importance the Indian side attaches to its ties with China. We approve of that.
Meanwhile I need to stress that the border issue shall not be linked with bilateral relations. This is also an important lesson learned through the two countries’ efforts over the past decades to keep our ties moving forward. We hope the Indian side will work with us to properly manage differences, promote practical cooperation, and get the bilateral relations back on the right track.
CCTV: China has started to vaccinate priority groups at home. As we know, some overseas Chinese citizens in the UAE and Serbia have also been inoculated with Chinese vaccines. Could you share more details on that?
Zhao Lijian: Since the COVID-19 outbreak, the CPC and the Chinese government have all along cared deeply about the safety and health of each and every Chinese citizen abroad. Vaccines are the most powerful weapon against the pandemic. Now Chinese vaccines have received approval for use in some countries, including in the UAE and Serbia, where Chinese citizens are included in the local inoculation plan for Chinese vaccine candidates. We will continue to strengthen communication with relevant countries. On the precondition of strict compliance with local laws and regulations and with full respect to the will of the Chinese nationals, we will provide assistance to our citizens in receiving vaccination, especially Chinese-produced vaccines, so as to better protect the safety and health of our people abroad.
AFP: The WHO said the team of experts plans to visit hospitals, labs and markets, including the WIV, the Huanan seafood market and the Wuhan CDC. It says they should receive the support, access and data they need. The WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros also tweeted yesterday that he’s had frank discussions with the Chinese health minister on negotiating access for the scientists. Can you offer more details on their field work itinerary and can China guarantee that they will receive full access to scientific data and medical records?
Zhao Lijian: The WHO experts’ field work itinerary and plan for exchanges are crucial to serious, prudent scientific studies. The two sides will follow the prior consensus and make science-based arrangements in light of the features of the virus and the epidemic situation. As far as I know, the expert panel will visit all the places you named. As our exchanges and cooperation deepen, I believe experts of both sides will make public their progress in cooperation and results of research in due course.
I’d like to stress that the exchanges and cooperation on origin-tracing between WHO experts and Chinese professionals are part of a global study, not an investigation. During the WHO experts’ quarantine, both sides had multiple discussions via videolink to share research outcomes, laying a good foundation for deeper cooperation and better global research in the next phase.
Since officials and journalists are neither scientists nor specialists after all, we need to entrust the experts with the very professional task of origin-tracing, give them enough time, space, trust and support to advance cooperation, and minimize unnecessary attention and disturbance. In an open, transparent and responsible spirit, China will continue working with WHO to better prevent future risks and protect humanity’s safety and health.
Beijing Daily: Chile recently received its first shipment of coronavirus vaccines developed by China’s Sinovac, and the country’s president welcomed the arrival of Chinese vaccines and expressed thanks to the valuable anti-epidemic cooperation with China. Do you have any response to that?
Zhao Lijian: China and Chile are comprehensive strategic partners, and the two sides celebrated the 50th anniversary of diplomatic ties not long ago. Since the epidemics broke out, the two sides have been following through on the important consensus reached by President Xi Jinping and President Sebastián Piñera, and carrying out fruitful anti-epidemic cooperation that fully attests to the high level of bilateral relations and the deep friendship between the two peoples. China stands ready to work with Chile and other Latin American and Caribbean countries to make vaccines accessible and affordable to people in developing countries, and jointly build a global community of health for all.
Macao Monthly: On January 29, 1979, the then Vice Premier Deng Xiaoping visited the US, which was believed by many to be the start of friendly exchanges between China and the US. Deng Xiaoping once said that the Chinese and the Americans are both great people, and their friendship and cooperation will definitely have positive and profound impact on the development of the international landscape. Can we draw inspiration from this as the China-US relations are now at a crossroads?
Zhao Lijian: This is a very good question. It clearly reveals your keen interest in China-US relations. On this very day 42 years ago, which was also 28 days after the establishment of diplomatic ties between China and the US, the then Vice Premier Deng Xiaoping paid an official visit to the US at the invitation of President Carter. Being the first visit to the US by a Chinese leader after the founding of the People’s Republic of China, it was accompanied by many memorable moments that left their indelible marks on the history of China-US relations and are still brought up by many people.
What has happened since then only serves to prove the absolute correctness in the two countries making this historic decision of establishing diplomatic relations. Over the four decades and more, our bilateral relations achieved historic development thanks to the concerted efforts made by both sides generation after generation. China-US cooperation has always been beneficial to both countries and the whole world. The total economic aggregates of China and the US account for a third of the world’s total, contributing more than 50 percent to the world economic growth. Bilateral trade volumes, now taking up a fifth of the world’s total, have increased by more than 250 times compared with the case when the two countries first established diplomatic relations. Bilateral investment has skyrocketed from nearly zero to almost 240 billion US dollars, and 5 million visits are made between the two sides every year. China and the US also shoulder great responsibility on almost all global issues bearing on world peace and development. Facts have proven that when China and the US cooperate, great things can be done to help not only the two countries but also the world.
The past few years saw China-US relations mired in unprecedented difficulties. The fundamental cause is the utterly wrong China policies taken by the Trump administration. These policies negate all the bilateral cooperation outcomes born out of the 40-plus years of engagement, trample on decades of dedicated efforts made by those visionary Chinese and American leaders, statesmen and people from all walks of life to cultivate ties, and turn a blind eye to the fact that the international community strongly wishes to see peaceful co-existence of China and the US. Such policies are unsustainable and unsupported.
It is never too late to do the right thing. China-US relations are now standing at a new crossroads, given a chance to open up a new window of hope. We hope the US will choose to follow the trend of the times, heed the voices of the Chinese and American people and the international community, view China and China-US relations in an objective and rational way, and work with China to follow the spirit of non-conflict, non-confrontation, mutual respect and win-win cooperation, strengthen communication, focus on cooperation, manage differences, and strive to get China-US relations back on the right track of sound and steady development.
Bloomberg: Bloomberg has just reported that the Biden administration is planning to have a meeting next week with Taiwan authorities and industry officials including the Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co (TSMC) and they’re expected to talk about resolving a crunch in auto-chips, chips for automakers. Does China have any comment on this meeting?
Zhao Lijian: I’m not aware of the meeting you mentioned. China’s position on the Taiwan question has been consistent and clear. We firmly oppose any official ties between the United States and the Taiwan region.