China Review News: It is reported that when talking about the Israeli-Palestinian issue at the UN Security Council on Tuesday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said “We’re not standing in the way of diplomacy. On the contrary… we’re exercising it virtually non stop”, and that the US was “engaged in quiet, but very intensive diplomacy.” The US top diplomat added that “the question is, would any given action or any given statement actually advance the goal of ending the violence.” Do you have any comment?
Zhao Lijian: I wonder what the US means by “quiet, but very intensive diplomacy” and what difference that makes. What we see is the continuous escalation of Palestine-Israel conflict and the tragedy of the civilians including women and children; what we hear is the call and cry for peace from the ruins and chaos of war.
At the recent UNSC open debate on Palestine-Israel conflict, State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi put forward important proposals on easing tensions, which were warmly echoed by the international community. Arab and Islamic states have commended China for adhering to international rules and justice and fairness, believing that China’s position and proposition have shown China’s responsibility as a major country and its adherence to justice on the Palestinian question, and struck a chord with the people of these countries.
History is an impartial recorder. We hope the US will match its words with deeds, truly come back to multilateralism, shoulder its due responsibility as a major country and support the Security Council in playing a due role in easing the situation, rebuilding trust and advancing political settlement.
Fuji TV: According to US media, the US customs agency stopped the approval of Uniqlo shirts in January for suspected use of Xinjiang cotton produced by “forced labor”. On May 10, Uniqlo provided proof that it didn’t use Xinjiang cotton. Still, the US rejected it by saying that Uniqlo didn’t provide enough information. Do you have any comment?
Zhao Lijian: China has stated its principles and position on “forced labor” on many occasions. There is no “forced labor” in Xinjiang, only voluntary employment and free choice in the labor market. Certain Western politicians and anti-China forces spread lies to suppress certain companies and industries in China under the pretext of human rights, as part of their sinister conspiracy of containing China’s development by disrupting Xinjiang.
Al Jazeera: As a permanent member of the Security Council, will China consider starting a new institution or mechanism to resolve the Palestine-Israel issue? Is China capable of taking actions on the Israeli activities under the UN framework? Some people think that China’s statement and position failed to influence Palestine and Israel. What’s your take on the deteriorating situation?
Zhao Lijian: The Middle East peace process is always on our mind. China always upholds equity and justice and supports all efforts conducive to easing tensions. The first special envoy named by the Chinese government is for the Middle East issue. China has all along been in close communication with relevant parties in the region and beyond to actively support and advance the Middle East peace process. Since assuming the rotating presidency of the Security Council, China has made addressing the tensions in the Middle East a top priority and convened several rounds of consultations on the Palestinian question at the Security Council. Just the other day, China put forward important proposals on deescalating the situation at a Security Council open debate on the Palestine-Israel conflict. The proposals, consistent with the mainstream international opinion, were well-received in the international community.
I would like to stress that with regard to the current tensions between Palestine and Israel, international support is a due obligation and the two-state solution is the fundamental way forward. The Security Council must take strong actions and reiterate its firm support for the two-state solution to bring down the temperature as soon as possible. All parties should assume due responsibilities and adopt a just position to support the Council’s role in easing the situation, rebuilding trust and advancing political settlement.
China will strengthen efforts to promote peace talks, make sure the Council fulfills its mandate and plays its role and contribute to the comprehensive, just and durable settlement of the Palestinian question.
Hubei Media Group: April 2021 has seen China-Europe Railway Express complete 1,218 services, carrying 117,000 TEUs of goods, up by 24% and 33% year on year respectively. The China-Europe Railway Express has been running over 1,000 trips per month for 12 consecutive months. Could you tell me a bit more on this topic?
Zhao Lijian: This year marks the 10th anniversary of the opening of the China-EU Railway Express. On March 19, 2011, the first China Europe train departed from Chongqing of China bound for Duisburg of Germany, serving as a new “steel camel fleet” between Asia and Europe.
Over the past ten years, China-Europe freight trains have been offering more frequent services with enlarged rail networks. The annual number of China-Europe freight trains has grown from less than 20 to more than 12,000, with an average annual growth rate of 108%. Up to now, China-Europe freight trains have made a total of 38,000 trips, carrying 3.4 million TEUs of goods, reaching 151 cities in 22 European countries, with logistics distribution network covering the entire Europe. In particular, amid the pandemic, the sustained, orderly and smooth China-Europe freight train service has opened up a “cargo lifeline” carrying anti-epidemic supplies for all relevant countries to fight the virus together, illustrating the vision of a community with a shared future for mankind, and playing an important role in protecting lives and health of people of all countries along the routes.
Across the Eurasian continent where there was the ancient Silk Road for camel caravans and merchant vessels on their trade routes, there’s now the China-Europe Railway Express hailed as a “steel camel fleet”, which is sure to lend fresh impetus to BRI cooperation and bring more benefits to the countries and peoples along the route.
Reuters: Politico has reported that the European Parliament is expected to pass a motion tomorrow formally freezing the investment agreement with China. Do you have a comment?
Zhao Lijian: I noted relevant reports and want to reiterate three points.
First, the China-EU investment agreement is a balanced and win-win deal that benefits both sides, rather than a “gift” or favor bestowed by one side to the other. An early ratification of the agreement is in the interests of both China and the EU. The two sides should make positive efforts for this to happen.
Second, China decided to sanction relevant EU entities and individuals on the EU side who maliciously spread Xinjiang-related lies and disinformation and severely harmed China’s sovereignty and interests out of the need to safeguard its own interests. This is a necessary, legitimate and just reaction to the EU’s moves of imposing sanctions and seeking confrontation. Facts are clear on who is making provocations first and who is playing justifiable defense, and who is right and who is wrong.
Third, China has every sincerity in developing its relations with the EU. That said, we will firmly safeguard its sovereignty, security and development interests. Sanctions and confrontation cannot solve the problems; dialogue and cooperation is the right way forward. We hope the EU can make in-depth reflections, immediately stop interfering in China’s internal affairs, and enhance mutual understanding and properly manage differences through dialogue and communication, so as to promote the sound and steady development of China-EU relations.
China News Service: Due to the impact brought by changes in the natural environment, the issue of conserving the Arctic has drawn increasing attention. China joined the negotiations of the agreement on fisheries in the Arctic high seas. We learned that China has completed relevant domestic procedures to approve the agreement. Can you tell us more about it?
Zhao Lijian: As you mentioned, China has recently completed the domestic work to approve the Agreement to Prevent Unregulated High Seas Fisheries in the Central Arctic Ocean. Filling in the blanks in the Arctic fisheries governance, this Agreement marks an important progress in international governance and rules-making in the Arctic, and has important significance in promoting environmental conservation and sustainable development in the Arctic.
As one of the ten signatories to the Agreement, China is deeply involved in the whole process of the negotiations on the Agreement and made important contributions to its final signing. China looks forward to staying in communication with other signatories on establishing the rules for the Joint Programme of Scientific Research and Monitoring and exploratory fishing under the Agreement. We hope to jointly enhance fisheries resource management in the Arctic high seas and protect the Arctic marine ecology.
NHK: On May 18, US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi called for a diplomatic boycott among countries of the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, criticizing China for human rights abuses. Does China have a comment on this?
Zhao Lijian: China deplores and rejects the attempt by certain US individuals to sling mud at China and sabotage the preparation and holding of the Beijing Winter Olympics by playing the human rights card out of ideological and political prejudice. These people’s remarks are filled with shameless lies and disinformation. Their typical US-style staged farce will gain no support and is doomed to fail.
I wonder what makes these US individuals feel they have the “moral authority”, and what gives them the confidence when they are being utterly ignorant? For four centuries, racism has been a scar on the American society that is still bleeding to this day. More than 4.7 million American Indians have been subjected to genocide; tens of thousands of people like George Floyd cannot breathe; and Asian Americans fall victim to hate crimes. The US history is a record of blood and tears of the Indians, of slavery and exploitation of the black people, and of humiliation to minority groups. At the UN Human Rights Council, nearly 120 countries criticized the US for its deplorable record of suppressing ethnic minorities. The UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination also issued a statement expressing concern about the frequent occurrence of racial discrimination against Asian Americans in the US society. Former US President Obama said, “the legacy of discrimination in almost every institution of our lives – you know, that casts a long shadow. And that’s still part of our DNA that’s passed on”. Racism is not only a sin the US committed in history, but a real problem besetting the US society today. The extreme xenophobic mindset including the white supremacy, discrimination against African Americans, hatred of Asian Americans, and Islamophobia haunts the US to this day, which shows that the US is by no means “the beacon of democracy”, and is in no position to lecture others on human rights. Certain US individuals’ racist view of the world is nothing to be proud of.
Certain US individuals are trying every means to use trumped-up “China’s human rights issues” including “genocide” to project their own crimes to China. Such attempt is doomed to fail. Why would they “worry about” people’s participation in the Beijing Winter Olympics or visit to China? Because these US individuals are afraid and even frightened that if people from other countries pay a visit to China, they will see the facts and truth of vigorous development of China’s human rights cause and lay bare China-related lies concocted by anti-China forces, that they will find US intention to shift attention and hide their historical and present human rights crimes under the pretext of so-called “China’s human rights issues”, and that they will see through the US and certain Western countries’ attempt to contain China’s development in the name of so-called human rights issues. This further exposes the hypocrisy of the so-called democracy and human rights as claimed by the US side.
I would like to stress that the Olympic Charter clearly calls for the preservation and promotion of the independence and political neutrality of the Olympic Movement. Politicizing sports goes against the spirit of the Olympic Charter and harms the interests of athletes of all countries and the international Olympic cause. All sectors of the international community, including the governments, Olympic committees of many countries and the International Olympic Committee (IOC), are clearly opposed to this wrong practice. The Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games are another important contribution China will make to the international Olympic movement. And the Beijing Winter Olympics is eagerly awaited by winter sports lovers worldwide. The preparations for the Games are progressing smoothly and have been highly recognized by the international community, including the IOC. We have every confidence that with the concerted efforts of all sides, the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympic Games will be a simple, safe and splendid Olympic gathering. We urge the relevant US legislator to stop taking advantage of the Olympic games to seek political manipulation and avoid standing on the opposite side of athletes and winter sports lovers across the world.
Bloomberg: Just to double back on the Uniqlo issue and the inability to clear customs. Is the Chinese government concerned that companies that are doing business in Xinjiang are unable to prove sufficiently to the US authorities that their products have not been tainted by forced labor?
Zhao Lijian: China has stated its position on “forced labor” on many occasions. The US moves are bullying practice through and through. Relevant companies should step forward and oppose such unreasonable US actions.
Shenzhen TV: It is revealed by some media recently that hundreds of Indian workers are recruited to the US state of New Jersey to build a large-scale Hindu temple. They are forced to work with extremely low hourly wage. Do you have any comment?
Zhao Lijian: We also noticed relevant reports. It is reported that those Indian workers are compelled to work more than 87 hours per week, with only 1.2 dollars hourly pay, far less than the minimum salary stipulated in relevant federal and state laws and regulations.
This case is not an exception in the US, and constitutes another case in point showing how the US violates labors’ rights. To date, the US only ratified 14 international labor conventions, with only 2 among 8 ILO’s fundamental conventions. The US, the most developed country in the world, has however, ratified only a small number of conventions. According to relevant reports of the International Labor Organization, systematic violation of labors’ rights does exist in the US, a country with the worst performance among major developed countries.
Regarding forced labor, the US set another typical negative example. As is known by all, forced labor is a product of slavery, and the US has a history of trafficking, abusing and discriminating against black slaves that spans hundreds of years. According to statistics, the labor value of black slaves exploited by US slave owners is equivalent to as much as 14 trillion US dollars today.
Even till now, forced labor is still deep-seated in the US, with a mere shift of victims from black slaves to immigrants. According to relevant statistics, in the past 5 years, all 50 states and Washington D.C. all reported cases of forced labor and human trafficking. In 2019 alone, FBI reported 1,883 cases of human trafficking, over 500 more than 2018. Statistics show that up to 100,000 people are trafficked into the US for forced labor annually and half of them are sold to sweatshops or enslaved in households. The problem of forced labor is particularly prominent in more than 20 industries, including domestic service, agriculture, planting, tourism sales, catering, medical care and beauty.
We express grave concerns on the US violation of labor rights, forced labor in particular, and urge the US Government to take effective measures to ensure the legitimate rights and interests of its workers, and abide by the ratified International labor conventions.
Global Times: The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic is deeply affecting African countries in their political, economic and social development, with post-pandemic recovery in Africa remaining a long-term and arduous task. We noticed that China earlier announced to hold an UNSC open debate themed “Addressing root causes of conflict while promoting post-pandemic recovery in Africa” on May 19. What is China’s expectation of this meeting?
Zhao Lijian: In its capacity as the president of the Security Council for May, China will convene an open debate today, with the theme of “Addressing root causes of conflict while promoting post-pandemic recovery in Africa”. State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi will chair the meeting and deliver remarks. The event will be held via video link.
The COVID-19 pandemic is exerting a profound impact on the political, economic and social development of African countries. The medium- and long-term impact on countries in conflict is especially prominent. While fighting the epidemic, African countries also face a host of emerging threats and challenges in the field of peace and security. In this context, it is highly relevant that China proposed the convening of an open debate under the theme of “Addressing root causes of conflict while promoting post-pandemic recovery in Africa” as the president of the UN Security Council for May.
China hopes to work with the international community, including members of the Security Council, to understand the impact of the coronavirus on Africa in all dimensions, and explore ways to better help African countries defeat the epidemic, remove the root causes of conflict, and achieve lasting peace and sustainable development.
Reuters: El Salvador’s President on Twitter praised China’s public investment in El Salvador, which he said was “without conditions”. However, the figure he mentioned is different from what was ratified by El Salvador’s Congress on Tuesday. Do you have any idea why there is a discrepancy of the two figures?
Zhao Lijian: Since the establishment of diplomatic ties between China and El Salvador, on the basis of mutual respect, equality and mutual benefit, the two sides have jointly planned a series of practical cooperation projects in agriculture, culture, tourism, sports and other fields, focusing on El Salvador’s economic and social development and people’s needs of livelihood. China will work with El Salvador to advance relevant cooperation projects in a coordinated manner and expand practical cooperation across the board so as to deliver sustained benefits to the two countries and two peoples. Recently, under the guidance of the heads of state of China and El Salvador, vaccine cooperation has become a new highlight of bilateral relations, which fully demonstrates the true friendship between the two sides. China-El Salvador friendship, as we believe, will be enhanced in te joint fight against the epidemic.
AFP: First, the Israeli Embassy in Beijing has criticized a CGTN video on the Palestine-Israel situation. Do you have any comment? And secondly, can you comment on Argentina’s suspension of beef exports, considering China is a major importer of Argentinian beef?
Zhao Lijian: On your first question, I’m not aware of the situation. China has repeatedly stated its position on the Palestine-Israel issue.
On your second question, I noted relevant reports. This is the internal affair of Argentina and I won’t comment on that.
Reuters: Do you have any comment on the US military vessel that sailed through the Taiwan Strait today?
Zhao Lijian: The spokesperson of the PLA Eastern Theater Command already made remarks on the issue. The Chinese side was closely following and fully aware of the US military vessel’s passage through the Taiwan Strait. The US warships have repeatedly flaunted their prowess in the Taiwan Strait, provoking and stirring up trouble. This is by no means commitment to freedom and openness, but rather deliberate disruption and sabotage of regional peace and stability. The international community sees this crystal clear. China is firmly resolved in upholding national sovereignty and territorial integrity. We urge the US to play a constructive role in regional peace and stability.
The Paper: It is reported that the US Embassy and Consulates in China rolled out on its website the public diplomacy grants program for 2021, which will fund individuals, NGOs, think tanks and academic institutions in China to conduct activities showcasing US society, history, culture, arts and values. Media reports dismiss this program as infiltration in China under the pretext of public diplomacy. In the meantime, US politicians and legislators have repeatedly alleged that China’s normal academic and people-to-people exchanges in the US are infiltration and espionage. Do you have any comment?
Zhao Lijian: I noted relevant reports. I would like to refer you to the US side as to the motives and intention of the program. There are reports that the US Senate Foreign Affairs Committee passed the Strategic Competition Act of 2021, which authorizes $300 million to be appropriated for each fiscal year to “counter the malign influence of the Chinese Communist Party globally”. Also, the US interferes in other countries’ domestic affairs, exerts malicious influence and even instigates “color revolutions” under the pretext of democracy and human rights as exposed by international media organizations. With this in mind, it’s hard not to be skeptical of the true intentions behind this program.
China remains open to normal people-to-people exchanges and public diplomacy activities and programs aimed at bringing the people closer that are conducted in China by all countries, including the US. We hope the US can avoid adopting double standards on relevant issues, stop its groundless accusations and denigration against China’s normal academic and people-to-people exchanges with the US, and do more things that are conducive to the bilateral people-to-people exchanges.
Reuters: China has in recent months moved to restrict imports of Australian products such as barley, wine and beef after Australian Prime Minister Morrison led calls for global inquiries into the origins of COVID. But the Prime Minister recently said that the relationship has not broken down entirely and that there is still “great value in the relationship”. Do you have any response?
Zhao Lijian: This is what we Chinese call “feigning ignorance”. The root cause of the current serious difficulties in China-Australia relations lies in Australia’s gross interference in China’s internal affairs, impairment of China’s interests and unwarranted restrictions on bilateral exchanges and cooperation in various fields. The responsibility doesn’t rest with China at all. The Australian side shouldn’t expect to put China off with fine words while it plays innocent and shifts blames on the one side and breaks commitment and undermines cooperation on the other. China always believes that a healthy and stable China-Australia relationship serves the fundamental interests of the two peoples. What is pressing now is for the Australian side to face squarely the root cause of the setbacks in bilateral relations, view China and China’s development in an objective and rational way, return to the track of China-Australia comprehensive strategic partnership, and do more to enhance mutual trust and promote practical cooperation between the two countries.