I. To help with Saudi Arabia’s fight against COVID-19, the Chinese government decided to send a group of medical experts to the country. The team, organized by the National Health Commission and consisting of specialists selected by the Health Commission of Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, has left for Saudi Arabia on the morning of April 15.
After COVID-19 broke out in China, the Saudi leadership was among the first to express sympathies and support. The Saudi government and people from all walks of life extended a helping hand to us with batches of supplies. Currently as Saudi Arabia faces the same challenge, China, likewise, stands firmly with it and is ready to provide assistance as its ability permits. The Chinese experts sent to Saudi Arabia are from such fields as lab-testing, prevention and control of infectious diseases, respiratory diseases, critical case treatment, nursing, and traditional Chinese medicine. They will share experience with the Saudi side and provide guidance and training in prevention, control, diagnosis and treatment. Besides, they will also provide technical guidance, protective supplies, and traditional Chinese medicine consulting for staff of the Chinese embassy and Chinese businesses, Chinese nationals and ethnic Chinese in Saudi Arabia.
The virus respects no borders and calls for a joint response. As comprehensive strategic cooperative partners, China and Saudi Arabia will continue close cooperation to safeguard people’s life and health and vanquish the common enemy to all human beings.
II. In order to support African countries in strengthening their response to COVID-19, the Chinese government has decided to send medical teams to Ethiopia and Burkina Faso to share anti-epidemic experience, provide guidance and technical advice to the medical and health institutions of the two countries, and enhance their epidemic prevention and control capabilities.
China and Africa have been good brothers sharing weal and woe for a long time. We will not forget that in our darkest hours, African countries provided valuable support to us. China follows closely the situation in Africa and has provided anti-epidemic materials in batches to the African Union and all African countries that have established diplomatic ties with China, despite our own difficulties. Experts from the two sides have held multiple video conferences and Chinese provinces, cities, businesses and civil groups have also provided supplies to Africa. All these are vivid examples of China and Africa working together to build a closer community with a shared future. China is ready to strengthen cooperation with African countries to achieve the ultimate victory in fighting the epidemic.
CCTV: Yesterday’s Special ASEAN Plus Three Summit on COVID-19 issued a joint statement. Can you talk about major outcomes reached at this summit?
Zhao Lijian: That’s a good question.
On April 14, the Special ASEAN Plus Three Summit on COVID-19 was successfully held. Premier Li Keqiang attended the summit and delivered important remarks. He shared China’s experience in coordinating epidemic prevention and control with economic and social development and put forward such proposals as enhancing epidemic cooperation and policy coordination and revitalizing economic growth, which were endorsed by other participants.
The summit reached important outcomes and released a joint statement. Parties agreed to continue exchange of information and experience-sharing, enhance research and development of medicines and vaccines, ensure provision of adequate medicines and medical supplies, establish a special fund to support ASEAN countries’ epidemic response, and consider setting up a reserve of essential medical supplies. APT countries committed to mitigate the pandemic’s socioeconomic impact, maintain essential movement of people including business travels, sustain supply chain connectivity and support economic development.
The summit further strengthened regional countries’ cooperation, boosted shared confidence and identified the joint course forward. China stands ready to stay in close cooperation with other sides and translate these outcomes into concrete measures to defeat the virus at an early date and restore economic vitality to the region.
AFP: The French foreign ministry yesterday met with the Chinese ambassador in France to express concerns over comments by the Chinese embassy in Paris on the handling of the COVID-19 crisis by Western countries including France. What is your reaction?
Zhao Lijian: The Chinese and French heads of state have held three phone calls expressing sympathy and support to each other since the outbreak of COVID-19. Under their strategic guidance, people in our two countries have been working together against new virus. In this process, there have been many moving stories that touched the heart of our two peoples. They speak volumes about our high-level bilateral relations and profound people-to-people friendship.
Lately some Western media, so-called experts and politicians have been spreading false information about the pandemic to stigmatize China and make unwarranted comments on China-France cooperation. Chinese diplomatic missions made prompt responses to such false allegations to clarify the truth, state China’s principled position, and keep up joint efforts to fight the virus. We hope the French side will clear up the misunderstanding as China never intends to criticize and has never criticized France’s epidemic response.
On the contrary, we relate deeply to the severe challenge France is facing. We have noted that under the strong leadership of President Macron, the French government has taken a series of prevention and control measures, which have been widely endorsed by the French people and are producing positive effects. We sincerely applaud France’s efforts and hope it will keep fighting. We support France in taking strong and effective measures based on its own national reality and have faith in its early victory in this fight.
The virus respects no borders and doesn’t care about racial differences. The world needs solidarity more than anything at present. I would like to stress again that China stands ready to work with the international community including France to uphold multilateralism and strengthen solidarity and cooperation to contain the virus and safeguard global public health security.
CNR: We noted that China and Africa have recently had close communication on the prevention and control measures adopted by Guangdong province affecting African citizens, and China has taken some new measures. Could you update us on the latest development?
Zhao Lijian: The China-Africa relations have drawn widespread attention recently. As you said, China and Africa have maintained close communication and friendly consultation on the situation of African nationals in Guangdong province over the past few days. State Councilor Wang Yi had a telephone conversation with Chairman Faki of the African Union Commission, and Assistant Foreign Minister Chen Xiaodong met with African diplomatic envoys to China. The Chinese embassies in Africa have also been in active communication with the African side. The Chinese side reiterated that there has been no change in its friendly policy towards Africa. Facing grave risks of importing cases in Guangdong, China has strengthened its prevention and control measures and adhered to the principle of treating Chinese nationals and foreigners as equals, and will not adopt differentiated policies towards any special groups. Taking into consideration the concerns of the African side, Guangdong has further improved its health management measures for foreigners. It is learned that on the premise of complying with China’s provisions on epidemic prevention, many African nationals are returning home for self-quarantine, and proper arrangements have been made for African nationals in difficulties.
African governments and African diplomatic envoys in China generally believe that under the current situation when all countries are strengthening epidemic prevention and control measures, Guangdong’s measures are responsible for all Chinese and foreigners and completely understandable. Foreigners who work and live locally should show their cooperation and support. The African side appreciates that China takes Africa’s concerns seriously and notes the continuous improvement of the situation involving Africans in relevant cities in Guangdong. The African side will cooperate with China to educate and guide its citizens to abide by China’s provisions on epidemic prevention and control. Many African friends also pointed out that after verification, many of the videos circulating online have been found to be edited and did not tell the whole story. Both China and Africa should be vigilant against online contents that may mislead people’s perceptions and sentiments.
State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi pointed out in a telephone conversation with AUC Chairman Faki that the traditional friendship between China and Africa is as solid as a rock and unbreakable. It will not be affected as time passes and events arise, nor will it be disrupted by any alienating attempts. Chairman Faki said that the African side does not believe that China will adopt a policy of racial discrimination against the African people. Africa and China are friends and now comrades-in-arms in the fight against the COVID-19. Nothing can change or damage Africa-China friendship. In the next stage, China and Africa will continue to stand firmly together to secure the final victory against the pandemic.
Bloomberg: My question is about the Associated Press report today that China knew it was facing a major public health event before it publicly announced that. Is this story accurate?
Zhao Lijian: I haven’t seen the report you mentioned. In an open, transparent and responsible manner, China has kept the WHO and relevant countries and regions updated on the outbreak, which has been fully recognized by the international community. Since the outbreak of the epidemic, the Chinese people have united as one to fight the epidemic, thus buying valuable time and making important contributions to the fight against the pandemic throughout the world.
Those who accuse China of being untransparent are unjust and insulting to the great sacrifices made by the Chinese people.
The Paper: According to a readout on the US State Department website, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo once again criticized China for untimely reporting of the COVID-19 outbreak and said relevant parties should be held accountable when it‘s the right time. What is China’s comment?
Zhao Lijian: Recently, in response to similar false allegations propagated by US officials relentlessly, China has detailed all the facts in a thorough manner to lay bare what lies they are.
We advise these US officials to focus on their domestic epidemic prevention and control efforts. To shift blames and deflect attention only serves to affirm their own defects in epidemic response. It won’t help mitigate the epidemic at home, but will only seriously disrupt anti-pandemic cooperation and damage relations between China and the US.
AFP: The Nigerian foreign minister said yesterday that the treatment of Nigerian nationals in Guangzhou is unacceptable, and he urged China to take immediate actions. What’s China’s reaction to this?
Zhao Lijian: What you said is not accurate. Chinese ambassador to Nigeria yesterday met with Nigerian minister of foreign affairs Geoffrey Onyeama and they jointly addressed the press. You may check the readout which is available on the website of the Chinese Embassy in Nigeria.
Shenzhen TV: The IMF’s latest World Economic Outlook released on April 14 expects the global economy to shrink 3% this year, the worst recession since the Great Depression of the 1930s. Does China have a comment?
Zhao Lijian: We note the report. The spreading COVID-19 not only poses a threat to people’s life and health, but also has a severe impact on the world economy. The IMF’s forecast of a severe global economic recession manifests the severity of this double crisis in terms of public health and global economy.
Just as the IMF points out, “This is a truly global crisis as no country is spared”. In times of crisis, it is ever more important that the international community uphold the vision of a community with a shared future for mankind, stand in solidarity as partners and work together to overcome difficulties and inject confidence and strength into world economic growth.
Major economies should assume their responsibilities and earnestly implement the outcomes reached at the Extraordinary G20 Leaders’ Summit on COVID-19 to stabilize the world economy. Necessary monetary, fiscal and structural policy tools should be used and measures taken on supply and demand sides to anchor market expectation and strengthen economic resilience. Efforts should be made to uphold an open world economy and remove restrictive trade measures such as tariffs to facilitate economic activities and trade, foster a free, fair, non-discriminatory, transparent and predictable environment for trade and investment, and ensure the steady and smooth operation of global industrial chains and supply chains. Multilateralism must be adhered to and international coordination and cooperation strengthened. Multilateral mechanisms such as the UN and WTO must receive the support to exercise their mandate. Global economic governance also needs to be improved.
China will continue to coordinate epidemic prevention and control with economic and social development. At the same time, we will continue to open up to the world, deepen cooperation and contribute to stabilizing the world economy.
China Review News: US President Trump announced suspension of funding to WHO on April 14. Does China have a comment?
Zhao Lijian: China is gravely concerned about the US announcement of suspending funding to WHO.
As the most authoritative and professional international institution in global public health security, WHO plays an irreplaceable role in responding to global public health crises. Since the outbreak of COVID-19, it has, under the leadership of Director-General Tedros, actively fulfilled its duty and played a central coordinating role in advancing global anti-pandemic cooperation, winning recognition and plaudits from the international community.
As the global fight against the virus comes to a crucial stage, the US decision can only weaken WHO’s strength, undermine international anti-pandemic cooperation and negatively impact the US and other countries, in particular the vulnerable ones. We urge the US to live up to its obligation and support instead of undermining WHO’s leading role in the global response.
China will continue to support WHO’s important role in advancing the global public health cause and in the global fight against the pandemic.
Beijing Daily: Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said in an interview on April 14 that cooperation between China and Russia sets an example for the international community in jointly fighting the pandemic. Some politicians in Europe and the US accused China of withholding information about the outbreak and demanded huge compensation from China for the damage done by the pandemic. He said that it is absolutely inadmissible and wrong. Although some people doubt that China’s vision of building a community with a shared future for mankind is aimed at self-interest, Russia believes that China’s goal is to promote synergy among the international community. What is your comment?
Zhao Lijian: We speak highly of Foreign Minister Lavrov’s remarks.
At the early stage of the outbreak, Russia provided China with firm political, moral and material support. President Putin has on many occasions praised China’s anti-epidemic measures and supported the Chinese people’s fight against the epidemic. People from all walks of life in Russia have spontaneously written goodwill letters or filmed videos in support of the Chinese people. At present, Russia is at a critical stage of its own fight. China, while continuing with its own prevention and control efforts, has done its best to provide support and assistance to the Russian side, as friends going back a long way and sharing weal and woe are supposed to do so. It also highlights that the China-Russia comprehensive strategic partnership of coordination in a new era is operating at a high level and is special.
While the international community is working together to combat the pandemic, we have also heard some dissonant voices. Some media and some people distorted the facts and fabricated and spread false statements about China and Russia. As comprehensive strategic partners of coordination in the new era, China and Russia will stand firmly together to tackle the obstacles on the road of development. China is ready to continue to work with the international community, including Russia, to share experience in prevention and treatment based on the vision of a community with a shared future for mankind, strengthen international cooperation, and jointly respond to common threats and challenges to safeguard global public health security.
CCTV: Yesterday, President Xi Jinping had a phone conversation with his Serbian counterpart Aleksandar Vučić. President Xi said that China will continue to provide assistance and support to Serbia in its fight against the epidemic. In what ways will China provide assistance and support to Serbia?
Zhao Lijian: China and Serbia enjoy profound and special friendship. President Xi Jinping said by telephone with President Aleksandar Vučić that China-Serbia relations are the deepest state-to-state relations. In the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, the two countries have once again demonstrated true brotherhood and friendship. President Vučić also said that Serbia will always remember China’s help and support and be China’s sincere, reliable and iron-clad friend.
Since the outbreak of COVID-19, China has provided the Serbian side with urgently needed medical protection materials and sent medical experts. China will continue to assist the Serbian side in purchasing urgently needed anti-epidemic supplies in China, share know-how on, prevention, control, diagnosis and treatment, and lend utmost support to help it combat the epidemic. Virus knows no borders, but the worst of times reveals the best in people. China stands ready to work with the rest of international community including Serbia to jointly safeguard global and regional public health security.
Bloomberg: Yesterday a fund raising committee for President Trump’s reelection campaign sent out a request for contributions to help the president hold China accountable by giving to his reelection bid. The email said China has been lying and doing everything they can to cover up the spread of COVID-19 in their own country. We cannot stand by and do nothing. Do you have a response to this?
Zhao Lijian: These are totally irresponsible remarks. Pandemic is the public enemy of mankind. In the face of this sudden global public health crisis, all countries, including China, are victims. How could anyone speak of such a thing as compensation or accountability? The WHO has repeatedly said that stigma is more dangerous than the disease itself.
China’s fight against the epidemic shows what a responsible major country should do amid such difficulties. China’s strength, efficiency and speed have been widely praised by the international community. The Chinese people have made great sacrifices and contributions to the health and safety of people around the world.
In the face of the pandemic, the international community should join hands to fight against prejudice. China is ready to share its experience with relevant countries, maintain close communication and cooperation and provide assistance and support to them within its capacity. We believe that as long as members of the international community support each other and work together, we will be able to overcome the disease at an early date and achieve the final victory in the fight against the pandemic.
Reuters: Now the US has announced it will be cutting funding for the WHO, would China be prepared to contribute more in order to make up the shortfall?
Zhao Lijian: China supports WHO’s leading role in the global anti-pandemic response. We have donated $20 million to it. And we will continue to support and assist the WHO to the best of our ability.
AFP: According to the Chinese embassy in France, Taiwan authorities used the word “nigger” to attack WHO Director-General Tedros. This is a serious allegation. Could you tell us on which occasion the Taiwan authorities used this term?
Zhao Lijian: Why not go and ask the Taiwan authorities? The word is a racist slur. No country will tolerate such an expression.
Bloomberg: China said that it was irresponsible for a few media to hype up the so-called quality issues of Chinese products before getting the facts straight. Since then the Ministry of Commerce has introduced inspections that required licenses of exports in masks, tests, ventilators and the like, and it has banned two companies from exporting these products. Could it be that the Ministry of Commerce thinks there is a problem with exports of medical goods that they have acted to rectify this situation in April? And have you spoken with affected countries on this topic recently?
Zhao Lijian: My colleagues and I already responded to similar questions, and I’d like to reiterate our position.
Many countries have recently been purchasing medical products in China. While satisfying domestic demands, we support export by companies with qualifications and credibility, and provide convenience in production, transport and customs clearance to facilitate foreign procurement and orderly exporting. Some countries raised purchasing demands via diplomatic channels, and we recommend qualified companies to the foreign buyers. As far as I know, we haven’t received any complaints from the buyers about the products purchased via the above-mentioned channel.
Several countries raised doubts on the quality of products imported from China, to which our embassies responded at the earliest time possible.
I would like to stress that the quality and safety of medical supplies directly bears on the lives and health of people. China attaches great importance to the export of medical products and cracks down on counterfeit and shoddy products. Once there are quality problems, the regulatory authorities will conduct serious investigation and mete out punishment with zero tolerance in accordance with the law. At the same time, we also hope that foreign buyers can choose products that have been certified by Chinese regulatory authorities with production qualifications, and carefully follow the instructions for use and check whether the products are compatible with domestic market standards so as to avoid making mistakes in a rush. If there are any problems in the market, the two sides should come down to where the problems lie and solve them in accordance with the law and in market-based manner.