Global Times: The Spectator USA published an article on its website on April 5, saying that China is making Italy buy coronavirus supplies that it had donated to Beijing earlier. However, an Italian journalist found it was fake news after investigation. The author of the article put forward the claim that “China forced Italy to buy its medical donation back” based on hearsay and unverifiable third-hand information. What’s your comment on that?
Zhao Lijian: China and Italy are friends and important cooperative partners. During the difficult time of China’s fight against COVID-19, Italy supported China in various means. Since the outbreak of the pandemic in Italy, we have been closely following the situation there and providing assistance to the Italian side as our capacity allows. In addition to the assistance from the Chinese government, our localities, enterprises and people also donated a large number of urgently needed epidemic prevention materials such as masks, protective suits, ventilators and test reagents to Italy. Meanwhile, we also coordinated efforts to facilitate Italy’s purchase of medical supplies from China at its request. Three groups of Chinese medical experts were sent to Italy to share our experience and practices. China’s practice demonstrates what it means to be a friend in need. We sincerely hope Italy can bring the epidemic under control and ensure people’s health is protected at an early date. Rumor-mongering and wedge-driving practices will only sabotage the cooperation against the pandemic, which is inhumane and immoral.
China Review News: A US lawmaker said in a recent interview that during a phone call between the Chinese and French leaders, China told France to implement 5G with Huawei in exchange for the masks that France asked for. The lawmaker said “that’s who China is and it’s time the world wake up and recognize it.” Can you comment on that?
Zhao Lijian: I wonder on what basis this US lawmaker said that. His words again prove that certain US politicians could even resort to lies and disinformation in a bid to sabotage international anti-epidemic cooperation and China-France relations.
I want to tell you that since the outbreak, the Chinese and French heads of state have had three telephone conversations, which manifests a high degree of mutual trust and the high level of China-France relations. With their strategic guidance, China and France have engaged in close cooperation in the pandemic. For friendship and humanitarianism, China provided medical supplies to France and facilitated its procurement from China with no strings attached.
The Paper: New York State Governor Cuomo tweeted on April 4 that the Chinese government helped facilitate a donation of 1,000 ventilators which have arrived in New York. He thanked the Chinese government, the Jack Ma Foundation, the Joe and Clara Tsai Foundation and Chinese Consul General in New York Huang Ping. Later at a press conference, Governor Cuomo also thanked China for its cooperation and said “this is a big deal and it’s going to make a significant difference for us”. What is your response?
Zhao Lijian: We noted relevant reports. During a recent phone call with President Trump, President Xi pointed out that China and the US should strengthen cooperation in anti-epidemic and other areas to overcome difficulties together. In the early days of the outbreak in China, the US people and localities provided China with a lot of assistance. Now as we follow closely the situation in the US, we sincerely hope the COVID-19 will be brought under control at an early date, so that it will cause less damage to American people. Chinese localities, civil groups, institutions and enterprises also donated medical supplies to the US side. China understands the difficult situation the US is facing now and will continue providing support within its capacity.
Reuters: First question, there was a call yesterday led by a UK-based group called Jubilee Debt Campaign. Over 140 groups signed on to their call urging the G20 to help the poorest countries by canceling debt payments including for some African countries. Given China’s participation in the G20, would China be willing to give that relief? Second question, the Ghana finance minister said that he feels China has to come on stronger on debt relief. Does China have any specific plans to offer debt relief to African countries?
Zhao Lijian: China has been conducting financial cooperation with other developing countries based on the principle of equal-footed consultation, mutual benefit and common development. Our goal is to help these countries accelerate development and work for implementation of the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. China never presses countries in difficulties for debt payment. We resolve issues like this through bilateral consultation.
Due to the spreading pandemic, developing countries, especially low-income countries, are facing greater challenges. China attaches high importance to that. We are ready to keep in contact with these countries via bilateral channels. We also hope G20 members can work together to implement the outcomes of the Extraordinary G20 Leaders’ Summit on COVID-19, and help low-income countries properly address debt risks and other problems.
Regarding your second question, I believe China will resolve these countries’ difficulties via consultation through diplomatic channels.
Shenzhen TV: The UN General Assembly on April 2 adopted the resolution titled Global Solidarity to Fight the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19), sponsored by six countries including Singapore, Ghana and Indonesia and co-sponsored by 188 nations including China. What is China’s comment?
Zhao Lijian: China welcomes the unanimous adoption by the UN General Assembly of the resolution Global Solidarity to Fight the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)”. More than 180 countries, including China, co-sponsored the resolution, which reflects the consensus and determination of the international community to strengthen solidarity and cooperation to jointly combat the pandemic. The resolution reaffirms the commitment to international cooperation and multilateralism, supports the central role of the UN in responding to the outbreak, and calls on all countries to follow the WHO recommendations and enhance experience and information sharing. The resolution also stresses that discrimination, racism and xenophobia will not be tolerated. All these are highly consistent with China’s position and propositions.
The pandemic is a common enemy to all mankind. The world is closely connected and all countries share a common future. China is ready to work with the international community to respond with greater confidence, solidarity and cooperation, win the battle against this pandemic and build a community with a shared future for mankind.
AFP: First, US State Department spokesperson Ortagus said in a statement on April 6 that the US is seriously concerned by reports of China’s sinking of a Vietnamese fishing vessel, and asked China to stop exploiting the distraction of COVID-19 to expand its “unlawful claims” in the South China Sea. The statement also mentioned the South China Sea arbitration in 2016 and China’s new “research stations” on Yongshu Jiao and Zhubi Jiao. Do you have any comment on that? Second question is about Brazil’s education minister’s comment that linked the coronavirus with China’s “plan for world domination”. China has asked for an official explanation. Has China received any response?
Zhao Lijian: On your first question, my colleague briefed you on the incident and expounded on China’s position on the recent sinking of a Vietnamese fishing boat in the waters off China’s Xisha islands. I will not repeat it here.
The Nansha islands are within China’s territory. China’s activities on its own territory are legitimate, lawful, and entirely within its sovereignty. Recently, the Chinese Academy of Sciences established two research stations on Yongshu Jiao and Zhubi Jiao for monitoring and field studies on vegetation, geological environment and marine ecology of the Nansha Islands. They also help provide more public goods to regional countries and the international community.
The Chinese government solemnly stated on many occasions that the South China Sea arbitration and its so-called award are illegal and invalid. China does not accept or participate in the arbitration, nor does it accept or recognize the so-called award. China’s position is consistent with international law.
At present, the world is in a crucial period of jointly combating the pandemic. While fighting the pandemic at home, China is doing its utmost to support and help other countries in need, which has won universal praise from the international community. Under such circumstances, the US not only sent warships and planes to make waves in the South China Sea, which violated China’s sovereignty and security, but also sowed discords and misinterpreted the UNCLOS in an attempt to negate China’s legitimate claims and stir up troubles. China urges the US to stop linking the pandemic with maritime issues and focus on domestic and international anti-epidemic response instead of doing otherwise.
On your second question, this pandemic is indeed a war that caught us by surprise. China is doing its best to protect the life and health of its people, sharing experience and know-how with the international community, and providing as much help as we can to countries and international organizations, Brazil included. The virus, knowing no borders or races, is a common enemy to all human beings. The urgent task for all countries is to defeat the virus through cooperation. We oppose stigmatization and smears on China.
China Daily: We noted that the Foreign Ministry announced the decision to dispatch a medical team to the Philippines on April 5. Do you have more information?
Zhao Lijian: To help the Philippines fight the COVID-19 pandemic, the Chinese government has decided to send a team of medical experts to the Philippines. The team, organized by the National Health Commission, consists of 12 experts selected by the Fujian Provincial Health Commission. The team arrived in Manila on the afternoon of April 5. The experts will work in the most seriously affected region in Manila and share experience and practice in epidemic control, public health policies and medical treatment with local frontline medical professionals, which we believe will help the Philippine side to enhance the capability for epidemic control and medical treatment, and boost their confidence in this fight.
As a Philippine saying goes, “A broom is sturdy because its strands are tightly bound”, which means people gain strength by standing together. The Philippines is China’s friendly neighbor, and the two peoples always support each other in times of difficulties. Earlier on, the Philippine government and its people in various sectors have offered political support and medical supplies to China during our hardest time. China closely follows the epidemic in the Philippines and cares about the health and safety of the Philippine people. We donated medical supplies and held video conferences with the Philippine side in a manifestation of our confidence and resolve in standing together to overcome the difficulties. China stands ready to share all we know about the pandemic with the Philippine side and provide our best support and assistance as their needs arise.
With the vision of a community with a shared future for mankind, while fighting the COVID-19 at home, China will strengthen regional and international cooperation with the Philippines and other countries. Together we will defeat the virus.
Swedish TV: Given the fact that China has suspended entry of foreigners with valid visas and residency, I wonder if you could give us a time frame for how long foreigners with residency in China will have to wait until they can come back to their homes in China?
Zhao Lijian: As the COVID-19 is still spreading, China will make adjustments to the policy according to how the situation develops. I suggest you keep following statements to be released by the Chinese government. I have nothing to update you at the moment.
South China Morning Post: First question, will there be a China-CEEC summit this year, or will it be canceled due to the pandemic? Second, Qihoo 360 said in its report that hackers having links with the ROK have been attacking Chinese government websites. I wonder if it is true? Can you tell us if China has related information?
Zhao Lijian: On your first question, the China-CEEC summit in 2020 will be delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. China will keep in contact with all sides on the date of the summit.
On your second question, I haven’t read the news on that. I will get back to you after getting to know more about it.
China News Service: The Group of 77 and China issued a statement on COVID-19 on April 3, calling on the international community to work together to mitigate the impacts of the pandemic. What are the specific considerations and significance of this statement?
Zhao Lijian: The Group of 77 and China is the largest and most influential political group of developing countries in the United Nations. In the face of severe challenges posed by the COVID-19 outbreak, the Group of 77 and China issued the statement to urge the international community to demonstrate solidarity, accelerate the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, maintain the stability of global financial markets and supply chains, including by cutting tariffs and removing trade barriers, in order to facilitate the unfettered flow of trade and promote global economic recovery, and eliminate the use of unilateral coercive economic measures. The Group of 77 and China is resolved not to allow any stigmatization or discrimination of states, peoples or individuals in connection with the COVID-19 pandemic. The statement calls on the international community to work together in solidarity to mitigate the impacts of COVID-19 and to build a community with a shared future for humankind.
The statement sent a positive signal of solidarity and cooperation in response to the pandemic, which will help the international community to pay attention to the difficulties of developing countries, increase material, technology and capacity building support for developing countries, promote the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and safeguard multilateralism and the interests of developing countries. The pandemic knows no borders. China will continue working with other countries to tackle the challenges of the pandemic and strive to achieve an early and complete victory over the pandemic and contribute to the building of a community with a shared future for mankind. Within the framework of South-South cooperation, we will continue providing assistance to developing countries that are seriously affected.
Xinhua News Agency: Some media said that since China tightened the immigration control measures for foreigners to prevent imported cases, there have been reports of some foreigners complaining about discrimination and rising xenophobia in China. Do you have any comment?
Zhao Lijian: I would like to make clear three points.
First, China always attaches great importance to the safety and health of foreign nationals in China and protects their legitimate rights and interests in accordance with law. Viruses are heartless but humans not. Since the outbreak of the epidemic, relevant departments and local governments in China have made every effort to meet the living, epidemic control and medical needs of foreign citizens in China, and provided timely treatment to those infected with COVID-19. The vast majority of foreign citizens in China highly appreciate the Chinese people’s efforts and outcomes in fighting the epidemic. They expressed sincere gratitude for being taken care of, and they have been cooperating with us in epidemic prevention and control. Many even volunteered to join the ranks of China’s fight against the epidemic, leaving us touching stories of Chinese and foreign friends working together to tide over the difficult times.
Second, China opposes all forms of discrimination and prejudice. In light of the development of the epidemic, China has promptly adjusted the quarantine and prevention and control measures for foreign nationals entering into China. These are temporary measures that China has to take in response to the current situation by referring to the practices of many countries. China has to do so because we must be responsible for our own people and foreign citizens as well. We always treat foreign nationals and Chinese citizens alike, implement measures without discrimination, give full consideration to the legitimate concerns of the persons concerned and respect their religions and customs. We do not increase or reduce certain regulations on someone just because they are foreign citizens.
Third, all foreigners in China should strictly abide by the Law of the People’s Republic of China on Prevention and Treatment of Infectious Diseases, as well as other laws and local regulations on epidemic prevention and control. We hope foreign citizens in China will continue to fully understand and cooperate with China’s epidemic control measures to prevent risks and protect the health and safety of themselves and others. That is their way to contribute to the final victory over the epidemic.
After the press conference, Zhao made further response to the question raised by South China Morning Post.
Zhao Lijian: China is home to a large online community and also a major victim of cyber attacks. The Chinese government firmly opposes and fights all cyber attacks. We will take necessary measures to safeguard our country’s cyber security. I’d like to stress that the cyber space is also a community with a shared future. All countries need to work together to protect it.