Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Zhao Lijian's Regular Press Conference on September 13, 2021
CCTV: The 18th China-ASEAN Expo and China-ASEAN Business and Investment Summit kicked off Friday in Nanning, Guangxi. President Xi Jinping sent a congratulatory letter to the event and Vice President Wang Qishan attended the opening ceremony and delivered a speech. Could you give us more information?
Zhao Lijian: This event is an eye-catching showcase of the China-ASEAN cooperation outcomes. President Xi Jinping sent a congratulatory message and Vice President Wang Qishan attended the opening ceremony and delivered an address. Leaders and representatives of Laos, Brunei, Cambodia, Malaysia, Thailand, Pakistan, Singapore, Vietnam, Myanmar, and other countries as well as ASEAN Secretary General delivered speech via video link. The guests spoke highly of the progress of China-ASEAN strategic partnership and expressed readiness to further deepen practical cooperation across the board to give a boost to regional common prosperity and development.
Since the establishment of China-ASEAN dialogue relations 30 years ago, all-dimensional cooperation has continued to deepen and bilateral trade increased by 85 times, making China and ASEAN each other's largest trading partner. In the first half of this year, bilateral trade exceeded 410 billion U.S. dollars, up 38 percent year on year, and cumulative investment between China and ASEAN countries exceeded 310 billion U.S. dollars. The China-ASEAN Trade Index was released on September 11 for the first time jointly by China's General Administration of Customs and the government of the Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region. The 2020 index stood at 241 points, up around 19 percent and 140 percent compared with the level of 2019 and 2010 respectively.
China and ASEAN countries are good neighbors and partners. Over the past 30 years, the two sides have worked together to promote peace, stability, development and prosperity in the region, and set an example for cooperation in the Asia-Pacific. Looking ahead, China stands ready to join hands with ASEAN countries to seek opportunities, address challenges and promote cooperation, continue to advance regional economic integration and build a better and more prosperous future for the next 30 years to come.
The Paper: State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi is on his visit to four countries in Asia. He just wrapped up official visits to Vietnam and Cambodia recently. We noted there is much attention on his visits. Can you brief us on that?
Zhao Lijian: From September 10 to 12, State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi visited Vietnam and Cambodia.
During his visit in Vietnam, State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi met with General Secretary of the Communist Party of Vietnam Central Committee Nguyen Phu Trong and Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh respectively, co-chaired the 13th Meeting of the China-Vietnam Steering Committee for Bilateral Cooperation with Vietnamese Deputy Prime Minister Pham Binh Minh, and held talks with Vietnamese Foreign Minister Bui Thanh Son. State Councilor Wang Yi said that both China and Vietnam are socialist countries under the leadership of communist parties. Consolidating and revitalizing the socialist cause is of paramount importance in the overall China-Vietnam ties. It is the most important and fundamental common strategic interest that the two countries should adhere to. China has always prioritized its relations with Vietnam in its neighborhood diplomacy and stands ready to work with Vietnam to maintain the momentum of sound, steady and all-round development of bilateral relations. We will work with Vietnam to resolutely advance the ASEAN-centered regional cooperation architecture, speed up synergy and cooperation between the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and the "Two Corridors and One Economic Circle" strategy, speed up the ratification and entry into force of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) agreement, and actively advance consultations on a Code of Conduct in the South China Sea to jointly uphold peace and stability in the South China Sea.
The Vietnamese side said that the party, government and people of Vietnam always attach great importance to developing sustained, sound and stable relations with the party, government and people of China. Vietnam regards relations with China as the top priority of its foreign strategy. It is ready to continue to maintain exchanges at all levels with China and work for new breakthroughs in practical cooperation with China in various fields. Vietnam thanked China for its vaccine assistance and expressed the willingness to strengthen coordination and cooperation with China at the UN, ASEAN and APEC, and jointly advance COC consultations to safeguard regional peace.
During his visit in Cambodia, State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi met with Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen and Deputy Prime Minister Hor Nam Hong respectively and had talks with Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Prak Sokhonn. State Councilor Wang Yi pointed out that China and Cambodia are good friends with high level of mutual trust and a community with a shared future. The two sides rendered each other utmost assistance, not only to safeguard the common interests of the two countries, but also to uphold international fairness and justice and the legitimate rights and interests of developing countries. China hopes to work with Cambodia to speed up high-quality Belt and Road cooperation, accelerate the synergy of the New International Land-Sea Trade Corridor and the Lancang-Mekong Economic Development Belt, and bring China-ASEAN relations to a new level. China hopes that during Cambodia's rotating chairmanship of ASEAN, China and ASEAN countries will conclude the COC consultations and the China-Cambodia free trade agreement will enter into force and deliver benefit at an early date.
The Cambodian side said that China is Cambodia's most trust-worthy and reliable elder brother and no country can replace China's contribution to Cambodia's economic and social development. The Cambodian side thanked China for its valuable assistance in fighting the epidemic and said that Cambodia will always abide by the one-China principle, stand firmly with China on issues concerning China's internal affairs, deepen the comprehensive strategic cooperative partnership with China, take the cooperation in various fields up to new heights, and jointly safeguard regional peace and stability.
Macau Monthly: According to Kyodo News report on September 9, Japan's Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology announced on September 8 that five textbook publishing companies submitted applications to remove or change the terms of "military comfort women" and "forced conscription" concerning the "comfort women" issue and the forced recruitment of laborers from the Korean Peninsula during World War II. Some of the textbooks are in current use and some others will be put into use next spring. Do you have any comment?
Zhao Lijian: The forced recruitment of "comfort women" is a grave crime against humanity committed by the Japanese militarism. It is a historical fact with iron-clad and undeniable evidence.
This is Japan's latest attempt to meddle with textbooks and play with words to blur the historical facts, understate and evade its historical responsibility, and deny and whitewash its history of aggression in a step-by-step manner. It once again highlights Japan's long-standing dishonest attitude towards the history of aggression, which has hurt the feelings of the people of the victimized countries. It will be rejected by all peace-loving people. The international community needs to take strict precautions and put things right.
Japan should honestly face up to and reflect on its history of aggression, make a clean break with militarism, properly handle the "comfort women" issue in an honest and responsible manner, and take concrete actions to win the trust of its Asian neighbors and the international community.
TASS: Russia's foreign ministry on Friday summoned US Ambassador John Sullivan to protest over alleged US interference in Russia's election. Second, will the gap left by the US withdrawal from Afghanistan pose any threat to the security of China's Xinjiang?
Zhao Lijian: On your first question, the State Duma elections are a major political agenda in Russia this year. As the elections are drawing near, China, as a comprehensive strategic partner of coordination to Russia, hopes that the elections will be held smoothly. China believes that the State Duma elections are entirely Russia's internal affair and external forces should not interfere.
On your second question, terrorism remains a common threat to the international community. China is ready to work with other countries to deepen counter-terrorism cooperation, prevent Afghanistan from becoming a breeding ground or safe haven for terrorist forces and jointly safeguard regional peace and stability.
The irresponsible withdrawal by the US and NATO from Afghanistan may allow terrorism to breed and spread, posing a serious challenge to security and stability in Afghanistan and the region.
The Afghan Taliban pledged not to allow any forces to use Afghan territory for acts that are detrimental to other countries. The Afghan Taliban should honor its commitment, make a clean break with all extremist and terrorist forces, and take effective measures to constrain and combat them so as to prevent spillover effects of terrorism.
China Daily: We noted that the Afghan Taliban decided to cancel the inauguration ceremony of the interim government. Russian presidential press secretary Dmitry Peskov said that Moscow will not take part in the inauguration of Afghanistan's new government in any capacity. Do you have any comment?
Zhao Lijian: Whether or not to hold an inauguration ceremony of the interim government is an internal matter of the Afghan side. It is up to each country to decide whether to attend the ceremony or not. China respects both.
Shenzhen TV: Mohammad Eslami, Iranian Vice-President and the Head of Atomic Energy Organization of the Islamic Republic of Iran (AEOI) held talks with Rafael Grossi, Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on September 12 during the latter's visit to Tehran, and issued a joint statement on the issue of monitoring and verification. Director General Rafael Grossi also submitted a report on that. Do you have any comment?
Zhao Lijian: China welcomes the consensus reached by Iran and the IAEA through dialogue and cooperation on the safeguards and monitoring of the Iranian nuclear program and hopes that the two sides will carry on the sound momentum of communication and properly resolve the relevant pending issues. We also call on relevant parties to play a constructive role to this end.
China always holds that upholding and implementing the JCPOA is the only correct and effective way to resolve the Iranian nuclear crisis. Relevant parties, especially the US, should make resolute political decision at an early date, take concrete steps to advance resumption of and progress in negotiations on compliance of the Iranian nuclear deal. We hope relevant parties will adhere to the right direction and create enabling conditions and atmosphere for diplomatic efforts.
Phoenix TV: First, the DPRK announced on September 13 that it test launched long-range cruise missile over the weekend. The United States said the missile tests posed "threats" to the country's neighbours. Do you have any comment? Second, US media reports said the Biden administration is "seriously considering" allowing Taiwan to change the name of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office in Washington to "Taiwan Representative Office." What's the foreign ministry's response?
Zhao Lijian: On your first question, China remains committed to maintaining peace and stability on the Peninsula and holds that the issue should be settled through dialogue and negotiation. We call on relevant parties to exercise restraint, meet each other half way, actively seek dialogue and engagement, and follow the "dual-track" approach and take phased and synchronized actions to continuously advance the political settlement of the Korean Peninsula issue.
On your second question, the Taiwan question is the most important and sensitive issue at the core of China-US relations. The one-China principle is the political foundation of bilateral relations. In the China-US Joint Communiqué on the Establishment of Diplomatic Relations, the US unequivocally pledged that "the people of the United States will maintain cultural, commercial, and other unofficial relations with the people of Taiwan". In his phone call with President Xi Jinping, President Biden said that the US has no intention to change the one-China policy. China has lodged solemn representation with the US side with regard to the above-mentioned issue reported by the media. The US should abide by the one-China principle and the three China-US joint communiqués, honor its commitments with concrete actions, stop all forms of official exchanges or elevating substantive relations with Taiwan, including not renaming the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office in the US the "Taiwan Representative Office", and stop sending wrong signals to "Taiwan independence" separatist forces. The US side should handle the Taiwan question in a prudent manner, lest it should seriously undermine China-US relations and peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait.
Global Times: According to the Associated Press, Deputy Director General of the IAEA Lydie Evrard said on September 9 that the technical working team established by the agency will evaluate the safety of the nuclear wastewater discharge in Fukushima, and that experts from China and the ROK will join the work. Any comment from China?
Zhao Lijian: I noticed relevant reports. China supports the IAEA in acting according to its mandate, giving full consideration to the views of stakeholders and playing its due role on the disposal of the nuclear contaminated water. Experts from multiple countries, including China, the ROK and Russia will join the technical working team set up by the IAEA. The team will assist the international community in the review and monitoring before, during and after Japan's disposal of nuclear contaminated water to ensure absolute safety. Japan should cooperate fully with the IAEA by having thorough consultations on all possible means of disposal, and accepting monitoring and verification of data accuracy and the efficiency of the disposal.
I want to stress again that Japan should take the concern of the international community seriously, revoke the wrong decision to discharge the nuclear contaminated water into the ocean and stop advancing preparatory work. Japan must not take the liberty of discharging nuclear contaminated water into the sea before reaching consensus with stakeholders and relevant international institutions through consultation.
CRI: It is reported that the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called on the international community the other day to inject cash into Afghanistan to avoid an economic meltdown that would be a "gift for terrorist groups". What kind of help will China offer to ease the economic plight in Afghanistan?
Zhao Lijian: At the first Foreign Ministers' Meeting on the Afghan Issue Among the Neighboring Countries of Afghanistan on September 8, State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi announced that China had decided to offer 200 million yuan worth of grains, winter supplies, vaccines, and medicines to Afghanistan according to the needs of the Afghan people. When security conditions are in place, China is willing to help Afghanistan build livelihood projects and do its best to support the country's efforts for peace, reconstruction and economic development. This embodies the friendly policy toward all the Afghan people that China always follows, and the Chinese nation's fine tradition of helping those in need.
Afghanistan is still facing the severe challenges in terms of humanitarian situation, livelihood and COVID-19. The international community should provide economic, livelihood and humanitarian assistance to the country and help its people tide over the difficulties. As the culprit of the Afghan issue, the US should earnestly fulfill its commitment to Afghanistan, assume its due responsibility and obligation, take active steps to help Afghanistan ease its economic difficulties on the premise of respecting Afghanistan's sovereignty and independence, rather than shift blames onto others and simply take to its heels.
AFP: The President of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has called for a review of mining contracts previously signed with China in 2008 saying that he wants to get fairer deals. How will this affect Chinese investments in the country?
Zhao Lijian: The "infrastructure-for-minerals" package cooperation between China and the DRC is a model of practical cooperation between the two countries. Over the past decade or so, such cooperation has not only vigorously promoted the development of mining industry, increased tax revenue and created more jobs in the DRC, but also offered investment in infrastructure projects such as roads, hospitals and hydropower stations in the DRC, making positive contributions to the economic and social development of the country. Not long ago, the Busanga Hydropower Station under the above-mentioned cooperation framework started water storage and was put into operation. This largest hydropower station in the DRC will provide important power supply for the mining and infrastructure development of the DRC going forward. The Chinese enterprises also actively fulfill their social responsibilities, give back to the local community and improve local people's welfare. Not long ago, they signed with the province of Katanga a $11.5 million aid agreement to support the construction of local roads and power facilities, and improvement of education, medical care and environment, which has been warmly welcomed by the local people.
I want to stress that China and the DRC boast long-standing friendship and the bilateral practical cooperation has yielded fruitful win-win results and enjoys broad prospects. In May this year, President Xi Jinping and President Felix Tshisekedi reached broad consensus on deepening cooperation in various fields over the phone. In the next stage, guided by the consensus reached by the leaders of the two countries, the two sides will elevate the China-DRC strategic partnership of win-win cooperation to a new level and bring more benefits to the two peoples.
Bloomberg: The Biden administration is said to be weighing a new investigation into Chinese subsidies and their damage on the US economy as a way to pressure China on the issue of trade. My first question is, does the foreign ministry have a comment on these media reports? Secondly, the last time there was an investigation like this, it led to tariffs worth billions of dollars on Chinese exports. What does the foreign ministry think the US should do in terms of the tariffs that are still in place on Chinese goods?
Zhao Lijian: The presidents of China and the US spoke over the phone the other day. President Xi Jinping pointed that for some time, due to the U.S. policy on China, the China-U.S. relationship has run into serious difficulty. This serves neither the fundamental interests of the people of the two countries, nor the common interests of countries around the world.
President Biden noted that the world is changing fast. The US-China relationship is the most consequential relationship in the world, and the future of the bulk of the world will depend on how the United States and China get on with each other. The two countries have no interest in letting competition veer into conflict. The US is prepared to have more candid exchanges and constructive discussions with China to identify key and priority areas where cooperation is possible, avoid miscommunication, miscalculation and unintended conflict, and get US-China relations back on track.
As for your specific question, we hope the relevant departments of the US and China can follow the spirit of the phone call between the two heads of state, properly manage differences, strengthen cooperation and bring the bilateral relations back to the right track of stability and development as soon as possible.
I want to emphasize that in developing trade relations and cooperation between China and the US, the spirit of mutual benefit should be followed. We have all seen that the relevant trade policies adopted by the Trump administration only ended up hurting its own interests.