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Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Zhao Lijian's Regular Press Conference on May 18, 2021
2021/05/18

CCTV: According to media reports, the US has recently announced that it supports waiving intellectual property rights of COVID-19 vaccines and will gradually increase supply of vaccines overseas. There are also media reports that say the US has secured far more doses than its need but has not exported a single dose. What's China's view on this?

Zhao Lijian: To waive intellectual property rights of COVID-19 vaccines is the appeal of the vast developing world. As long as an effort is conducive to developing countries' equitable access to vaccines, China will support it. As long as something will help the world especially developing countries to fight the virus, China will do it. Yesterday we have announced China's support for a waiver of intellectual property rights of COVID-19 vaccines.

The core issue at present is how to ensure developing countries' timely and equitable access to vaccines. WHO has repeatedly urged some advanced nations to stop purchasing more than they need or restricting exports in order to deny the virus chances of further spread and mutations. UN Secretary-General António Guterres has criticized on several occasions some developed countries for pursuing "vaccine nationalism", hoarding vaccines or cutting deals in private with vaccine suppliers. He said the inequitable distribution is immoral and called for equitable distribution of vaccines globally.

But what we have seen is that Western developed countries, especially the US, have stockpiled far more doses than their need. Based on the statistics of some agencies and media, the high-income countries which account for 14% of the world's population now hold six times more vaccines than medium- and low-income countries which account for over 86% of the global population. The US has purchased about 2.6 billion doses, a quarter of the global total, far in excess of its need. Up to one hundred million doses are sitting in American warehouses gathering dust. Therefore the most pressing task at hand is for the developed countries which have bought far more doses than their actual need to immediately lift export restrictions and increase supply to make up for the shortfall in developing countries as soon as possible.

China has been taking concrete actions to honor its commitment of making vaccines a global public good. Despite its own huge population and limited supply, it has been making tangible contribution to vaccine accessibility and affordability in developing countries. We have provided vaccine assistance to over 80 countries and 3 international organizations and vaccine exports to over 50 countries. We are also working with over 10 developing countries including Egypt and the UAE on technology transfer and joint production to quickly advance large-scale production of vaccines. Recently, the Sinopharm vaccine was listed for emergency use by the WHO and efforts are being made towards providing doses to COVAX. Also, China has announced that it will offer vaccines to UN peacekeeping missions and the International Olympic Committee, with positive progress being made on both fronts. Going forward, we will continue to contribute to the equitable access of vaccines in the developing world.

AFP: US President Joe Biden said yesterday that he plans to export five times more COVID-19 vaccines than any other country including Russia and China. And he said that ending the pandemic would require American leadership. What's your comment on his statements?

Zhao Lijian: Vaccines are important weapons in fighting the epidemic to save lives. We welcome actions by countries with the conditions and capabilities to offer vaccines to developing countries to promote the equitable distribution and application of vaccines across the world.

I just introduced China's efforts to improve vaccine availability and affordability in developing countries. We welcome efforts by the US to honor its commitment of offering vaccine assistance at an early date and provide tangible help to developing countries in their fight against the epidemic.

It is despicable that the US makes an issue out of China whenever the topic of vaccines is brought up. It sets people wondering about US true intention and motives. Vaccine is not about races or values. It is not a tool to create "vaccine divide" or seek political manipulation. Unlike the US, China will not use vaccines to influence or lead the world. Nor will China indulge in empty talks while not taking any concrete actions. China has only one goal: we want to do our best to help developing countries save more lives. By offering vaccines and anti-epidemic supplies to other countries, China is not trying to secure favors from others. Our assistance comes with no geopolitical agenda or political strings. We will do our utmost to let people breathe because every life matters, regardless of his or her nationality and race.

Reuters: The spokesperson of the Hong Kong SAR government said early today that Hong Kong had temporarily suspended operations at its representative office in the Taiwan region. Do you have any insight or comment on this?

Zhao Lijian: This is not a diplomatic question. I would like to refer you to competent authorities.

HRTN: Despite the ongoing escalation of the Palestine-Israel situation, the US obstructed the passing of a joint statement on ceasefire and cessation of violence and the protection of civilians at the Security Council for the third time on May 16. Separately, the US has approved the sale of precision-guided weapons to Israel worth $735 million, according to people familiar with the matter. Do you have any comment?

Zhao Lijian: At the Security Council open debate on Palestine-Israel conflict on May 16, the overwhelming majority of UNSC members called for an immediate ceasefire and preventing a full-blown crisis; required protecting civilians and avoiding more casualties; stick to political settlement and called on Palestine and Israel to resume peace talks on the basis of the "two-state solution"; and believed that the Security Council should speak with a unanimous voice, advance the peace talks process in a just manner and work for the peaceful coexistence of Palestine and Israel. However, the US, rather than taking proactive measures to forestall Palestine-Israel conflict, stands ready to fuel the tension. The US has been isolated at the Security Council unprecedentedly and is standing on the opposite side of mankind's conscience and morality.

The international community is deeply upset by how the US has behaved in Palestine-Israel conflict. People can't help but ask, is this the diplomacy featuring so-called human rights and values the US claims to champion? Why has the US been so callous about the Palestinian people's human rights while it keeps talking about upholding Muslims' human rights? The US only cares about favoritism and interests, not the merit of the matter itself. Isn't it just using human rights as a pretext? The US opposition has held back the Security Council from taking actions on the Palestine-Israel conflicts, is this what the US calls rules-based international order?

As more and more innocent civilians have been killed in the conflict, the US should shoulder its due responsibility and take an unbiased position. It needs to work with the vast members of the international community and support the Security Council to play its due role in easing tensions, rebuilding trust and advancing political settlement.

RIA Novosti: China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced today that President Xi Jinping will join Russian President Vladimir Putin in witnessing the ground-breaking ceremony of the bilateral nuclear energy cooperation project on May 19. Can you tell us more details? What's China's expectation of China-Russia nuclear energy cooperation? My second question is related to Foreign Minister Wang Yi's remarks in the phone conversation with National Security Advisor to Afghan President. He said that China stands ready to facilitate intra-Afghan negotiations, including creating necessary conditions for negotiations in China. Can you tell us more about it? Does the Afghan side agree with China's suggestions?

Zhao Lijian: On May 19, Chinese President Xi Jinping will join Russian President Vladimir Putin via video link in Beijing in witnessing the ground-breaking ceremony of the bilateral nuclear energy cooperation project. This year marks the 20th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Good-neighborliness and Friendly Cooperation between China and Russia. This will be the first bilateral exchange at the head-of-state level between the two sides since the beginning of this year, which is of important significance to guiding the China-Russia comprehensive strategic partnership of coordination for a new era to maintain high-level development.

Nuclear energy cooperation is a traditional priority cooperation area for China and Russia. With rapid development in recent years, this area has drawn high attention from the heads of state of both countries. In June 2018, witnessed by President Xi Jinping and President Putin, the two sides signed a package cooperation deal and agreed to jointly build units 7 and 8 of the Tianwan Nuclear Power Plant and units 3 and 4 of Xudapu Nuclear Power Plant. This has been the biggest China-Russia nuclear energy cooperation project to date and represents the highest level of practical cooperation between the two sides. The successful beginning of the construction of the four units demonstrates the major cooperation outcomes in high-end equipment manufacturing and science and technology innovation and will boost the upgrading of practical cooperation between the two countries.

Besides, since nuclear energy is clean and efficient, the four units, after completion, will effectively reduce carbon dioxide emissions. This shows China's firm determination to peak its carbon dioxide emissions and achieve carbon neutrality as well as its commitment as a responsible major country.

On your second question, State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi talked about relevant issues with National Security Advisor to Afghan President Hamdullah Mohib and Afghan Foreign Minister Mohammad Haneef Atmar on the phone yesterday. State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang stressed that China endorses the "Afghan-led, Afghan-owned" principle and supports all parties in Afghanistan in finding a broad and inclusive political arrangement through peaceful means. The U.S. unilateral withdrawal of troops at a crucial stage of the Afghan domestic reconciliation process has brought uncertainty to the evolution of the situation in Afghanistan. However, peace is the trend of the times, which fully complies with the fundamental and long-term interests of the Afghan people and is also the shared aspiration of the international community. China stands ready to facilitate intra-Afghan negotiations, including creating necessary conditions for negotiations in China. China will continue to support all parties in Afghanistan to continue to push forward intra-Afghan negotiations and establish a broad and inclusive political framework for the future based on the principles of political settlement, putting peace first and progressing step by step. China supports the Afghan government in playing a leading role in the country's peace and reconciliation process, and calls on all parties to support and implement relevant UN Security Council resolutions to promote a smooth transition of the situation in Afghanistan and in particular avoid a resurgence of terrorist forces.

The Afghan side thanks China for its firm support for the peace and reconciliation process in Afghanistan and applauds China's continuous positive role in supporting the process. Afghanistan looks forward to strengthening cooperation with China in this regard, both within the bilateral framework and the framework of the UN Security Council, in a bid to safeguard peace and stability in Afghanistan and the region.

China will work with the international community and regional countries to continue to boost the peace talks in Afghanistan and help the country realize peace and stability at an early date.

Bloomberg: US President Biden now says he supports a ceasefire in the Israel-Palestine conflict. What's the foreign ministry's response? Separately, China has offered to mediate in such a situation. Why would China make a good mediator?

Zhao Lijian: Saying that the US supports a ceasefire is not enough. The pressing task is to work with the majority members of the international community to support the Security Council in playing its due role in easing the situation, rebuilding trust and advancing political settlement.

China is paying much attention to and gravely concerned about the escalating conflicts that has caused heavy casualties. China strongly condemns violence against civilians. We once again urge the parties of the conflict, especially Israel, to immediately cease military actions and hostilities, resume political dialogue at an early date, and take actions that are conducive to reducing violence and achieving a soft-landing of the situation. Efforts should be made to protect the safety and rights of civilians, resume peace and stability on the ground as soon as possible and avoid severe humanitarian disaster. The international community, the Security Council in particular, should speak with a unanimous voice, reaffirm the firm support to the "two-state solution", advance peace talks in a just manner and play an active role in de-escalation and the political settlement to the Palestinian question.

As the president of the UNSC for May, China worked for two UNSC emergency consultations and drafted the press statement. On that basis, State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi chaired the UN Security Council Open Debate on "The Situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian Question" on May 16 and put forward China's proposals on cooling down the situation. China will continue to push the Council to fulfill its duty, play its role and make due contributions to the settlement of the Palestinian question in a comprehensive, just and durable manner.

Reuters: China's export to North Korea in April is at the highest level since July 2020. Can you confirm if China has reopened its border with North Korea for trade and any other exchanges?

Zhao Lijian: I am not aware of the situation you mentioned. I would like to refer you to competent authorities.

AFP: The EU and the US met to discuss steel tariffs yesterday, and they said in a joint statement afterwards that they plan to hold China to account for supporting trade distorting policies in the steel market. What's your view on this?

Zhao Lijian: How the US develops its economic and trade relations with the EU is its own business. But it should not make an issue out of China or even attempt to form a clique against China. Such a twisted and narrow mentality doesn't befit a major country.

I want to ask some people, can they provide any evidence to support their groundless accusations against China? China doesn't wantonly resort to bullying and sanctions, impose "long-arm jurisdiction", or suppress foreign companies. China always firmly supports the multilateral trading system, develops international economic and trade cooperation in accordance with the principle of equality and mutual benefit. For the differences in international trade, we believe all should discard zero-sum mindset and nonconstructive practices including ganging up against others. Instead, all should, on the basis of mutual respect and following relevant WTO rules, seek proper settlement through equal-footed negotiations and make the pie of mutual benefit and win-win results bigger. The biggest inequity is to apply the mechanisms and rules of the multilateral trading system when they serve one's interests and abandon them when they do not.

Currently, certain countries wantonly took unilateral trade measures such as imposing tariffs and sanctions, and unilaterally obstructed the functioning of the WTO Appellate Body. This is the biggest distortion of normal international trade order. As for overcapacity of steel, people have clear answers to who is making substantive contributions to resolving this issue and who is causing an impact on the international market. We hope all sides can earnestly take effective measures to contribute to the orderly operation of the global market and sound and steady growth of international trade.

Bloomberg: I just want to double back a little bit on the earlier question, just want to make sure that you would like to offer some position on how China's approach to mediation on the Israel-Palestine conflict would be different from other countries including the US. Second question is with regard to a report from The New York Times that says that a data center in Guiyang will be used by Apple Inc. to store Chinese customers' personal data. The encryption key is available to Chinese government departments that ask for it. Do you have any comment?

Zhao Lijian: You may make a comparison between the roles that China and the US are playing regarding the current Palestine-Israel conflict. Without comparison, you may not be able to tell the difference. China upholds international fairness and justice, while the US cares about its own interests only. The US position is dictated by its closeness with relevant sides.

As for your second question, I am not aware of the situation. However, I'd like to briefly touch upon three points.

Firstly, all foreign enterprises in China should respect China's sovereignty and territorial integrity, and abide by China's laws and regulations, which is the basic principle and requirement.

Secondly, China's laws clearly stipulate that data security, personal information and other legitimate rights and interests of all citizens and organizations should be protected. The Chinese Government strictly follows principles on the protection of data security, prohibits and cracks down on illegal activities in accordance with laws.

Thirdly, the US is a country notorious for hacking and espionage, and does not even pass up a chance to spy on its allies. It is not uncommon to see media reports on the US Government's arbitrary access to the personal information of its own people. It would be better for the US to stop its trick of a thief crying "stop the thief" to smear China.

Global Times: It is reported that Australian Industry Group chief executive Innes Willox warned the nation was facing a long-feared "day of reckoning" between its security and economic relationships. He urged the government to calm tensions with China through "negotiation, common sense and diplomacy" and called for an end to inflammatory language. He believed that the industrial and business community should work to avoid an escalation of tensions. Do you have any comment?

Zhao Lijian: I noted relevant reports. For quite some time, the Australian government has repeatedly made provocative and confrontational moves on such issues of China's core interests and major concerns as those related to Hong Kong, Xinjiang and Taiwan. This has severely undermined the political trust and cooperation foundation between the two sides.

We noticed that more and more visionary people in Australia expressed their concern over this, calling on the Australian government to reflect on its China policy and putting forward very valuable suggestions. We hope the Australian government will face squarely the crux of the setbacks of the bilateral relations, take China's concerns seriously and heed rational voices. Australia should set aside the cold war mentality and ideological bias, and do more things that are conducive to mutual trust and cooperation and are in line with the China-Australia comprehensive strategic partnership.

Shenzhen TV: According to a report by Kyodo News Agency on May 16, several old-fashioned storage tanks at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant are starting to leak nuclear contaminated water, which comes from the treated underground water retained in reactors units 5 and 6 which didn't experience core meltdowns. Cesium 137 and beta-ray doses have been detected in the water of these storage tanks. What's China's comment?

Zhao Lijian: I have noted the report, which reminds the world once again that the disposal of the nuclear contaminated water from the Fukushima nuclear power plant accident is a delicate matter that requires the greatest prudence and discretion. A month ago, despite doubts and opposition from home and abroad, Japan unilaterally decided to release the Fukushima nuclear contaminated water into the sea before exhausting all safe ways of disposal, without fully disclosing relevant information and without fully consulting with neighboring countries and the international community. This is extremely irresponsible.

This latest media report of water leak has once again exposed Japan's poor treatment of nuclear contaminated water from Fukushima nuclear power plant accident early on. The Tokyo Electric Power Company, which is in charge of handling the accident, has repeatedly tampered with data and covered up truth. With its poor record, a big question mark naturally comes to our mind once again as to whether Japan's decision to discharge the nuclear contaminated water into the sea is a rational one based on science, and whether the data Japan uses to support its decision-making is reliable.

China once again strongly urges Japan to earnestly respond to the grave concerns of the international community, the neighboring countries and its own people, act with a high sense of responsibility towards international public interests, and prudently handle the issue in an open and transparent manner. It must not take the liberty of starting the discharge of nuclear contaminated water into the sea before reaching consensus with stakeholders and the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Beijing Daily: It is reported that citizens' groups in the ROK city of Busan have been holding protests, calling for the closure of the biochemical laboratory of the US military in the port of Busan and the removal of biochemical weapons from the ROK. Local media have repeatedly exposed the US military's shipment of biological warfare agents to the ROK, criticizing it for concealing the truth, and strongly questioning the safety of relevant activities. Do you have any comment?

Zhao Lijian: The international community, especially the public and media of the countries concerned, have repeatedly expressed strong dissatisfaction and opposition to the US military's use of overseas laboratories to engage in bio-military activities. China has also repeatedly expressed its serious concerns. As early as last August, China urged the US to clarify its bio-military activities in the ROK. Last week, China reiterated that the US should take concrete steps to ensure that its labs and relevant activities are legal, transparent and safe, and again urged the US to stop being the only country obstructing the establishment of a Biological Weapons Convention (BWC) verification mechanism.

Regrettably, the US has turned a deaf ear to the concerns of the international community. Take Busan, where massive protests broke out again, for example. There are some questions awaiting answers from the US side:

-- What is the US military's real intention of shipping biological warfare agents to Busan? What research has been carried out since the shipment was brought in? How can it prove that relevant activities are in compliance with the BWC?

-- Why is it holding back the truth? In particular, why did it deny the construction of a military laboratory at Busan Port's Pier 8 at first until forced to admit it in 2016 when the related project was exposed by the media? Why did it claim in 2015 that it was the first time that biological warfare agents were sent to the ROK, but was later proved to have secretly sent them to the country as early as 2009?

-- Why has it neglected the health and safety of the local people? In particular, there are four residential communities and several schools within the 500-meter radius of Pier 8 of the Busan Port. What if an accident happens in such a densely populated area?

In short, legality, transparency and security are the common requirements of the international community for the US bio-military activities. We once again urge the US side to make a thorough clarification, take concrete and credible actions to fully fulfill its obligations under the BWC, and stop standing alone in blocking negotiations for a protocol that includes a verification mechanism to the BWC, so as to create conditions for addressing concerns and building mutual trust through verification.

Beijing Youth Daily: The MFA website released information on the visit to Xinjiang by envoys from Latin America and Caribbean countries in China. We noticed that the envoys lauded Xinjiang as a wonderful land. Can you give us more details about the visit?

Zhao Lijian: From May 13 to 17, Vice Foreign Minister Xie Feng accompanied Latin American and Caribbean diplomatic envoys on a visit to Xinjiang. The delegation visited Urumqi, Turpan and Hotan, and made field visits to learn Xinjiang's social, economic, cultural, ethnic and religious development and to embrace new opportunities brought by cooperation between Xinjiang and Latin America. A total of 23 ambassadors and other senior diplomats from 19 Latin American and Caribbean countries took part.

Chen Quanguo, Secretary of the CPC Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region Committee, met with the diplomatic delegation and briefed it on the unprecedented historic achievements Xinjiang has made in economic and social development, human rights and improvement of people's livelihood under the scientific guidance of the CPC's Xinjiang policy in the new era. He rebuked with specific cases and detailed data the blatant lies of "genocide", "forced labor" and "oppression of Muslims" concocted by the US and Western anti-China forces. He expressed firm opposition and strong condemnation to the moves of the US and Western countries who use the so-called human rights issues to severely interfere in China's internal affairs and hurt the feelings of the people of all ethnic groups in Xinjiang.

Vice Foreign Minister Xie Feng attended the meeting, as well as the meeting themed "Xinjiang is a wonderful land". He also had an interview with Chinese and foreign media to debunk how anti-China forces painstakingly designed an "industrial chain" to fabricate lies and launch attacks in an attempt to disrupt Xinjiang, instigate religious and ethnic conflicts, undermine China's stability and contain China's development. He stressed that facts are not to be distorted and justice will eventually prevail. Lies and rumors cannot hold back the prosperity and progress of Xinjiang, and power politics and hegemony will not overshadow international fairness and justice. Xie encouraged the envoys to gain deep understanding of Xinjiang and actively explore resources and opportunities for cooperation, promote rich and diversified cultural and people-to-people exchanges to inject new impetus and vitality into the China-CELAC community with a shared future.

In Urumqi, the delegation visited the counter-terrorism and de-radicalization exhibition, the International Grand Bazaar, mosques, power transmission and transformation companies, the Agricultural Expo Park, the Xinjiang Islamic Institute and the Urumqi Economic and Technological Development Zone and attended a meeting themed "Xinjiang is a wonderful land". In Turpan, they visited e-commerce companies producing specialized agricultural products, mosques, local Nang (a Uyghur-style baked flatbread) cultural industrial park and Huoshan Chateau. In Hotan, they visited a mulberry-bark paper making street, a fruits and walnut trading market, Atlas silk company and the old town Tuancheng. They also joined ordinary Uyghur families for a chat over tea and tried local cuisine.

During the visit, the ambassadors and envoys happily took interviews with Chinese and overseas media outlets and talked about their experience and feelings during their visit in Xinjiang. They sincerely praised Xinjiang for its leapfrog economic growth, social harmony and stability, peace and unity among different ethnic groups, freedom of religious belief and vigorous cultural development. Noting that terrorism is a common challenge facing the whole world, they said they fully understand and support the efforts of the Chinese government in combating terrorism and de-radicalization in Xinjiang, and positively appraise the important role played by the vocational education and training centers. They said they stand ready to actively promote practical cooperation with Xinjiang in such areas as clean energy, power equipment, modern agriculture and featured tourism.



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