Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Zhao Lijian’s Regular Press Conference on July 6, 2021
Xinhua News Agency: Singapore’s Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong said at the 9th World Peace Forum that “China is focused on uplifting its people through economic growth, rather than seeking hegemony in Asia or challenging the US for global dominance”, and that “China’s growth is positive for Asia and the world”. Would you like to comment on this?
Zhao Lijian: We appreciate the positive remarks by ESM Goh Chok Tong.
General Secretary Xi Jinping declared at the ceremony marking the centenary of the CPC that we have realized the first centenary goal of building a moderately prosperous society in all respects. This means that we have brought about a historic resolution to the problem of absolute poverty in China. The journey of China’s shared development with the world shows that we have not only pioneered a new and uniquely Chinese path to modernization, but also used China’s new achievements in development to provide the world with new opportunities.
China has repeatedly stressed that peace, concord, and harmony are ideas the Chinese nation has always carried forward while hegemony and bullying is never China’s choice. We do not carry aggressive or hegemonic traits in our genes. We are against seeking selfish gains at the expense of others and zero-sum games.
Our world needs to uphold cooperation and openness and reject confrontation and isolation now more than ever. We will continue to join hands with all progressive forces in the world to uphold the values of peace, development, equity, justice, democracy and freedom shared by all mankind, promote world peace and shared development, reject hegemony and power politics, and work tirelessly for the building of a community with a shared future for mankind.
CCTV: More than 500 Chinese students recently co-signed a letter to the Chinese Embassy in the US, saying that their visa applications were denied by the US. Do you have any comment?
Zhao Lijian: We have noted that recently some Chinese students’ visa applications to study in the US were denied on the grounds that they violated Presidential Proclamation 10043 signed under the Trump administration. China expresses grave concern over this and has lodged solemn representations with the US side. People-to-people exchanges are the foundation of China-US relations. Academic, educational, scientific and technological exchanges are an important part of the bilateral people-to-people exchanges. They are of great significance to enhancing mutual understanding between the two peoples and promoting the steady development of China-US ties.
Relevant US visa restrictions carry on a poisonous legacy of the Trump administration and run counter to the US statement of “welcoming Chinese students”. They seriously violate the lawful rights and interests of Chinese students, and gravely undermine normal people-to-people exchanges and educational cooperation. They also contravene the concept of openness and freedom that the US claims to champion, the trend of the times for international talent exchange, and the common aspiration of the two peoples for friendly exchanges. This is nothing short of historical backpedaling.
China urges the US side to correct its mistakes, review Chinese students’ visa applications, stop using various excuses to restrict and suppress them, protect their legitimate and lawful rights and interests, and create a healthy atmosphere for China-US people-to-people exchanges and educational cooperation.
Associated Press of Pakistan: Yesterday, Prime Minister of Pakistan Imran Khan visited Gwadar Port, an important component of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), and inaugurated several development projects to further promote economic activities. Ambassadors of seven regional countries including Saudi Arabia, UAE, Kuwait, Qatar, Egypt and Kenya also attended the event, and expressed commitment to cooperation on the development of Gwadar. Do you have any comment?
Zhao Lijian: We are pleased to see the new progress made in Gwadar Port development. While I was posted in Pakistan, I visited Gwadar Port six times, and got quite attached to the project. It is a business cooperation project between China and Pakistan based on equality and mutual benefit. With the joint efforts made by both sides, the operational capability of the port area has fully resumed. Businesses and investment are coming into the free zone, and international transit trade continues to expand. All this plays a positive role in boosting local economic development, improving people’s livelihood, and promoting regional connectivity. Meanwhile, as an important part of the CPEC, Gwadar Port follows the principles of consultation and collaboration for shared benefits, openness and transparency. China and Pakistan welcome any third party who supports the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and CPEC to take part in the Gwadar Port and other corridor projects on the basis of mutual respect, win-win cooperation and consensus through consultation to share the dividends of the BRI. I’m convinced that with concerted efforts, Gwadar Port will achieve further progress, become a regional trading hub and industrial cooperation base and play a greater role in promoting regional development and prosperity.
China News Service: Statistics show that Australian agricultural products’ loss of market share in China provides an opportunity for US products to fill the gap. Over the past year, US exports of wine, beef, cotton, timber, coal and other products to China have all increased. In February this year, US export of wine in containers of two liters or less to China more than tripled compared with the same month last year. Commentators in Australia point out that Australia and the US are competitors in agricultural exports, the US will not protect Australia’s economic interests, and the Australian government should not blindly follow the US, but adopt a more rational attitude in handling relations with China. What is your comment?
Zhao Lijian: China is stepping up efforts to foster a new development paradigm with domestic circulation as the mainstay and domestic and international circulations reinforcing each other. China is committed to achieving higher-quality development in a more open environment, which will unleash huge opportunities and space for cooperation. In the next 15 years, China is expected to import more than $30 trillion worth of goods. Committed to international economic and trade cooperation, China stands ready to share development opportunities with other countries and jointly build an open world economy.
That being said, mutual respect is the foundation and safeguard of practical cooperation between countries. We will not allow any country to reap benefits from doing business with China while groundlessly accusing and smearing China and undermining China’s core interests based on ideology. When a certain country acts as a cat’s paw for others, it is the people that pay for misguided government policies. From what you mentioned in your question, we can see how such a practice has served the country concerned.
CCTV: It is reported that Vincent Racaniello, a professor of microbiology and immunology at Columbia University, said in an interview that the former US administration wanted to hype up the issue of COVID-19 origins study because it meant to politicize the issue and was “not thinking about the science”. He also said that “the lab story is over”. Do you have any comment?
Zhao Lijian: China has repeatedly said that the origin-tracing is a scientific matter that requires international cooperation by scientists across the globe. Regrettably, for quite some time, we have seen that scientists uphold the spirit of objectivity, impartiality and science in origin-tracing study have come under political pressure, verbal abuse and even threats. Angela Rasmussen, an American virologist who openly opposes the conspiracy theory of “lab leak”, has suffered from constant cyber violence, harassment and even physical threats. Danielle Anderson, an Australian scientist who once worked at the Wuhan Institute of Virology and refuted the “lab leak” theory with her own experience, was subjected to frequent malicious abuse and intimidation. Peter Doherty, a Nobel Prize-winning Australian immunologist, said scientists who contradict the false claim of conspiracy theories are labeled “far-leftists” and even vilified.
The above facts make it more clear that the so-called “origin-tracing study” by a handful of countries, such as the US, is actually political manipulation. They spare no effort to shirk responsibilities and denigrate China. They even extend their evil tentacles to the field of science to silence dissenting views. These countries, claiming to be “beacons of democracy” and “shining examples of human rights”, are in the habit of pointing fingers and willfully accusing other countries of coercion, repression and violation of freedoms. However, their acquiescence, connivance and even instigation of such blatant acts of physical threats and defamation only serve to show that they are not what they claim to be. In fact, they have sinister schemes that cannot be brought to light, and they are willing to do whatever it takes for selfish political gains.
Politicizing the issue of origin-tracing will only seriously hamper global cooperation in this regard, undermine global efforts to fight COVID-19 and cost more lives. Relevant countries should adopt the right attitude, respect science, immediately stop coercing scientists, stop politicizing origin-tracing, and stop undermining international solidarity and concerted efforts to fight the epidemic out of selfish interests.
Bloomberg: Japan’s Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso said that Japan and the US would have to defend Taiwan together in the event of a major problem. He said an invasion of Taiwan by China could be seen as an existential threat, allowing Japan the right to collective self-defense. This is according to a report from Kyodo News. Does the foreign ministry have any comment on this?
Zhao Lijian: Those remarks are extremely wrong and dangerous as they severely violate principles set out in the four political documents between China and Japan and undermine the political foundation of China-Japan relations. China deplores and rejects this and has lodged solemn representations with Japan.
Japanese militarism once committed innumerous crimes in the aggression against China. However, some politicians are still coveting Taiwan till this day. This fully shows that they haven’t learned the lesson from history.
Today’s China is no longer what it was back then. We will never allow anyone to meddle in the Taiwan question in any way. No one should underestimate the resolve, the will, and the ability of the Chinese people to defend their national sovereignty and territorial integrity.
Beijing Daily: At the opening ceremony of the ninth Pacific Islands Leaders Meeting held by Japan and Pacific island countries, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said that the Pacific region faces new challenges, like the socio-economic impact of COVID-19 and competition with authoritarianism. He added that Japan attaches high importance to the debt sustainability of recipient countries. Japan’s aid is different from that of China, which leads recipient countries to debt traps. Do you have any comment?
Zhao Lijian: China has all along followed the vision of a community with a shared future for mankind and the principle of sincerity, real results, affinity and good faith when pursuing mutually beneficial cooperation with Pacific island countries, and provided aid to them with no political strings attached to the best of our capability. The cooperation between the two sides is based on mutual trust and equal-footed consultation and aims to promote economic development and improve people’s livelihood. Such cooperation has received the sincere welcome from the government and people of Pacific island countries. Certain ill-disposed countries are hyping up the allegation that China’s aid leads to debt trap for Pacific island countries. Their attempt has no popular support.
Speaking of challenges, Japan’s plan to discharge nuclear contaminated water into the Pacific Ocean poses a major challenge to the environment and people’s health and safety of Pacific Rim countries. Not long ago, the Secretary General of the Pacific Islands Forum released a statement expressing concerns on behalf of leaders of members of the Forum. Rather than being busy smearing China with disinformation, the Japanese leader had better explain how it plans to avoid leading the people of Pacific island countries into an “environmental trap” with its discharge of nuclear contaminated water into the Pacific Ocean.
Global Times: According to an article published by The Australian, official documents submitted by China to the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC) review conferences in 2011 and 2016 discussed synthesizing man-made pathogens, using viruses as “genetic weapons” and making attacks more stealthy. China’s submission to the conference also states that “accidental mistakes in biotech laboratories can place mankind in great danger.” The article said that China gave “terrifying warnings” in the documents. Do you have any comment?
Zhao Lijian: I noticed that report. The documents it refers to are reports on developments in biotechnology China submitted to the BWC review conferences. Review of developments in biotechnology has traditionally been an important issue within the framework of the BWC. The review conference also requires the submission of relevant reports. China offered an objective description of global developments in biotechnology in the reports, shared its analysis of the impact on the BWC, and put forward suggestions from such perspectives as how to strengthen mechanisms under the Convention. This demonstrates China’s responsible attitude on Convention compliance.
The Australian article takes things out of context with ulterior motives. The Chinese reports cover biotech developments around the globe, many of which are conducted in the US, including US scientists synthesising man-made pathogens. As a matter of fact, the US has always been at the forefront when it comes to conducting and funding this kind of research. The University of North Carolina, which is mentioned in the report, is one example.
The Chinese reports point out potential risks posed by biotech developments, including the risk of lab leaks, which is a widely-held view in the world. It is preposterous for The Australian article to use this to hype up conspiracy theories on COVID-19. I would like to stress again that origin-tracing is a serious scientific matter. It is clearly written in the WHO-China joint mission report that “a laboratory origin of the pandemic was considered to be extremely unlikely”. The right direction is to follow the requirements in the WHA resolution and conclusions and suggestions in the joint mission report, and conduct more in-depth and thorough study and cooperation in a broader scope.
I would also like to stress that to strengthen lab security has always been an important issue in the field of global biosafety governance. As it happens, the US is the least transparent country in the world with the largest number of bio-labs. It is also the one and only country that stands against the establishment of a multilateral biological verification regime. Once again we call on the US to adopt a responsible attitude, respond to international concerns, offer explanations for its activities in labs at home and abroad including Fort Detrick and open them for verification.
CNR: It is reported that tanks used to store nuclear waste at Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant was leaking in March and gel-like masses containing high-concentration radioactive substances were found in the storage area. On July 1, TEPCO said that 548 nuclear waste tanks were found to be corroded or dented, and it has repaired and strengthened the relevant containers with fiberglass tape. Do you have any comment?
Zhao Lijian: We noted relevant reports and express grave concern over the situation. This once again reveals the huge safety risks behind Japan’s decision to discharge the nuclear contaminated water into the ocean. Out of its short-sighted economic interests, Japan is bent on this decision in disregard of commitments, obligations and science. It only laid bare its hypocrisy and selfishness.
Japan has failed its own people. The Japanese government and TEPCO reached an agreement with several civil groups, pledging not to dispose of the nuclear contaminated water before obtaining the understanding of relevant people. By making the unilateral decision of ocean release, Japan is walking away from its people and commitments. By its repeated data-tampering and cover-ups, TEPCO hurts its own credibility with each manipulation.
Japan has violated international obligations. The Japanese government claims that its decision has been approved by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). This is misleading public opinion. The IAEA never approved or endorsed the Japanese decision to discharge nuclear contaminated water into the sea. IAEA expert team once said in a review report that the treated contaminated water needs to be further purified to remove radionuclides.
Japan has misrepresented scientific facts. The Fukushima nuclear accident is one of the most serious in world history. The contaminated water contains a large amount of radionuclides from nuclear fission. There is no precedent for disposal of such water. The potential impact on marine environment, food safety and public health cannot be stressed too much. The Japanese side claims that the nuclear contaminated water meets the standard for discharge and is even drinkable. Behind that is more financial calculation than science-based assessment. Japan’s special working group on tritium-contaminated water pointed out in a report that ocean discharge comes at the lowest cost, just one tenth of the second least expensive option, vapor release. It also takes the shortest time.
Japan has been trying to build the image of a responsible country. It talks all the time about international responsibilities and obligations. However, when the moment comes for it to act responsibly, it deliberately looks the other way and keeps stonewalling and sidestepping. Such inconsistency reveals its true color.
As the IAEA is working to put together a technical working group, Japan should cooperate with sincerity, act with a strong sense of responsibility for international public interest, and prudently handle relevant issues in an open, transparent and science-based manner. Once again we urge Japan not to start the ocean discharge before reaching consensus through consultation with all stakeholders and relevant international institutions.
CRI: The 47th session of the Human Rights Council held a few days ago an interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression. China delivered a joint statement on the harm of disinformation on behalf of a group of countries. I wonder if you have any further comment about the issue of disinformation?
Zhao Lijian: As the novel coronavirus rages on in many parts of the world, the political virus also seems to be spreading. Certain countries and forces, based on ideological bias and driven by selfish political gains, keep spreading disinformation, lies and rumors to attack and malign other countries. They are not just highly prolific, but have even blazed a professional trail by putting in place a rumor-mongering chain with so-called revelations by academics followed by media hype-up and leading to government actions. This works like a busy assembly line producing endless pretexts to meddle in other countries’ internal affairs, impose unilateral coercive measures and suppress and contain others. The false allegations of “genocide” and “forced labor” in Xinjiang are typical examples of how they spread disinformation and attempt to use it to hold China down.
Former US President Lincoln once said, “You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time.” We hope relevant sides will stop fabricating and spreading disinformation and using it as a political tool to attack and pressure others. We hope people will see through the disinformation, lies and rumors. We also hope that visionary people in the international community will speak up for justice, expose falsehood with truth, and reveal malicious intentions with moral conscience and justice.
AFP: About the opening ceremony of the Tokyo Olympics to be held this month, could you tell us who will represent China at the official event?
Zhao Lijian: China supports Japan in smoothly hosting a successful Tokyo Olympic Games. As to your specific question, I don’t have anything for you at this moment.