Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Zhao Lijian's Regular Press Conference on July 29, 2021
2021/07/29

State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi will host the First Meeting of the International Forum on COVID-19 Vaccine Cooperation on August 5. The conference will be held via video link under the theme of "strengthening international cooperation on vaccines, promoting fair and equitable distribution of vaccines around the world". Foreign ministers or competent ministers of relevant countries, representatives of the United Nations and other international organizations, and representatives of relevant enterprises will attend the meeting on behalf of some 30 parties. As part of the conference, a dialogue between vaccine companies from China and participating countries will be held today.

CNR: What's the consideration for China to hold this First Meeting of the International Forum on COVID-19 Vaccine Cooperation? And what do you expect out of it?

Zhao Lijian: At the Global Health Summit in May this year, President Xi Jinping announced China's five measures to further support global solidarity against COVID-19, including setting up an international forum on vaccine cooperation for vaccine-developing and producing countries, companies and other stakeholders to explore ways of promoting fair and equitable distribution of vaccines around the world. This initiative has been positively acclaimed and widely welcomed by the international community.

Vaccine is a powerful weapon to defeat the coronavirus, which is still wreaking havoc worldwide. The convening of this forum is to follow through on the spirit of President Xi Jinping's important speech, further promote international cooperation and equitable access to vaccines around the world, and support joint COVID responses to prevail over the epidemic.

As the largest developing country and a responsible member of the international community, China upholds the vision of building a global community of health for all, and has taken the lead in making the vaccine a global public good, contributing with concrete actions to ensuring accessibility and affordability of vaccines in developing countries, and enhancing capacity building of the vaccine industry in developing countries.

Xinhua News Agency: Do you have a comment on the view that China is using its vaccine assistance to engage in "vaccine diplomacy"?

Zhao Lijian: Vaccine is a weapon to defeat the epidemic, not a tool for political gain, still less an excuse to attack and discredit other countries. Since the beginning of this year, despite the need for mass vaccination at home, China has done its best to provide more than 700 million doses of vaccines to the world, especially developing countries, guided by the vision of building a community with a shared future for mankind. China's actions have delivered much-needed help to countries and helped more than 100 countries save lives and fight the epidemic with no political strings attached. If this is vaccine diplomacy, then China's vaccine diplomacy is welcome and in the common interest of the international community.

Those who accuse and discredit China should first ask themselves what they have done for the world. They should stop "lying diplomacy" and "smearing diplomacy" and focus on doing something for the world's fight against COVID-19.

CCTV: On July 28, State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi attended and addressed the opening ceremony of the Conference on Celebrating the 30th Anniversary of China-ASEAN Dialogue Relations. Could you give us more details?

Zhao Lijian: On July 28, State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi attended the opening ceremony of the Conference on Celebrating the 30th Anniversary of China-ASEAN Dialogue Relations via video link. Hosted by the China Institute of International Studies, the event is one of a series of commemorative activities to mark the 30th anniversary of China-ASEAN Dialogue Relations, and saw attendance of diplomatic envoys of ASEAN member states posted in China as well as experts and scholars from both sides.

State Councilor Wang Yi said that over the past three decades, China and ASEAN have taken the lead in establishing a strategic partnership and building a free trade area, and remained the pace-setter for East Asian cooperation. Guided by the East Asian approach of mutual respect and consensus, China and ASEAN have always accommodated each other's concerns and core interests, and set the example of equal treatment and peaceful coexistence. The two sides are always committed to synergizing development strategies and expanding mutually beneficial cooperation, and have set the example of common development and win-win cooperation. We have always provided each other with selfless help as a community with a shared future, and set the example of mutual assistance and solidarity. We are always committed to strengthening people-to-people bonds, carrying forward the Asian values, and have set the example of mutual learning and harmonious coexistence between civilizations. China-ASEAN relations have become a fine example of the most successful and vibrant pair of relations in the Asia-Pacific.

State Councilor Wang Yi stressed that China will work with ASEAN to stay as good neighbors that look out for each other in times of need, good friends sharing weal and woe, and good partners in pursuit of common development. China-ASEAN relations will grow with greater maturity and confidence, and embrace a better and more promising future. State Councilor Wang Yi also put forward a five-point proposal. First, we need to uphold good-neighborliness and enhance strategic mutual trust. Second, we need to put people first and deepen COVID response cooperation. Third, we need to focus on development and foster new growth drivers. Fourth, we need to bear in mind the bigger picture and safeguard peace and stability. Fifth, we need to uphold solidarity and coordination and defend justice and fairness.

Secretary-General of ASEAN Lim Jock Hoi fully agreed with China's proposal, saying that the ASEAN-China strategic partnership has already become one with the richest content in the region. China's support for ASEAN centrality, ASEAN's community building and integration process, as well as active participation in the ASEAN-led regional mechanisms are a concrete embodiment of China's support for regionalism and multilateralism. ASEAN firmly believes that the relations will usher in an even better future.

Bloomberg: According to reports, the former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe expressed concern about increasing Chinese military pressure on Taiwan. This was at the first strategic dialogue between lawmakers from Japan, the US and Taiwan. Does the foreign ministry have a comment?

Zhao Lijian: The so-called "dialogue" you mentioned has no influence whatsoever. It is negative and wrong in both form and content. In fact, it plays the same old tune that no one cares to listen.

I want to stress that there is only one China in the world, and Taiwan region is an inalienable part of China's territory. China's national reunification and rejuvenation are an unstoppable trend. No one should underestimate the strong resolution, determination and capability of the Chinese people to safeguard national sovereignty and territorial integrity. Any attempt to create "two Chinas" or "one China, one Taiwan" will be like trying to hold back the tide with a broom, and is doomed to fail.

The Taiwan question concerns the political foundation of China-US relations and China-Japan relations. Both the US and Japan have the responsibility and obligation to abide by the principles set in relevant bilateral political documents with China and the solemn commitments they have made to China on the Taiwan question, and stop sending wrong signals to the "Taiwan independence" forces.

CGTN: According to recent media reports, the US is not only weak in its own response to the epidemic, which has led to more infections and deaths than any other country in the world, it is also taking irresponsible measures in outbound travel control and repatriation of illegal immigrants, which has exacerbated the global spread of the epidemic. What is China's comment?

Zhao Lijian: For some time, the US has been fanning the flames, and gearing up political manipulation with regard to origin-tracing. The US is guilty of three sins in epidemic response and origin-tracing:

First, the US has allowed the virus to spread unchecked. The US, a global leader in medical technology, has let political manipulation override epidemic control, leading to infection of some 35 million Americans and lost of lives of more than 610,000. The US has failed to exercise effective outbound travel control measures, and many countries have reported imported cases from the US. In disregard of the opposition of the international community, the US has sped up the repatriation of tens of thousands of illegal immigrants infected with the coronavirus, exacerbating the epidemic in many Latin American countries. The New York Times commented that what the US has done was tantamount to exporting the virus.

Second, the US has hidden the truth from the world. Research by the University of Washington suggests that the number of COVID-19 infections and deaths in the US could be as high as 65 million and 900,000 respectively, far higher than official statistics. While the timeline of early cases in the US has been constantly dialed forward, and Fort Detrick is shrouded with suspicion, the US still mentions nothing about whether it plans to invite WHO in, and open Fort Detrick and other bio labs. Is this the "transparent and responsible" attitude that the US has been preaching?

Third, the US has been practicing "origin-tracing terrorism". Ever since its previous administration coined the term "China virus", the US has not stopped trying to sell stories that stigmatize China. It attempts to link the origin of the virus with China and even Asian countries as a group, which has caused rising anti-Asian sentiment in the US and some other countries in the West. Many people of Asian descent fear discrimination, oppression and even physical threat. The US also plays dirty tricks on the scientific community, stifling the righteous voice of scientists, subjecting many outspoken scientists to verbal abuse and threat of physical assaults. Some media compare such behaviors of the US with acts of "origin-tracing terrorism".

The above-mentioned three sins are just the tip of the iceberg of the political manipulation conducted by the US. It is the universal consensus of the international community to reject political manipulation of origin-tracing issue. So far, 60 countries have written to the WHO Director-General to state their position.

The coronavirus needs to be traced to its source, and so does the political virus, which needs to be thoroughly dealt with, as some takes advantage of the epidemic to shift the blame, and blatantly engage in discrimination and coercion.

CCTV: According to reports, a few countries including the US have been claiming recently that China refuses the WHO plan for the second phase of studies into the origins of COVID-19. Does China have any comment?

Zhao Lijian: First I want to stress that this plan was put forward unilaterally by the WHO Secretariat without getting the approval of all member states. The WHO is led by member states. The draft plan was put forward by the Secretariat for discussion by member states, who have the right to make adjustments. The mandate of the Secretariat is to provide convenience for member states to have full consultation and reach consensus. It is not entitled to decision-making on its own.

Since the outbreak of COVID-19, China has all along attached high importance to studies into the origins of the virus. We've actively participated in global cooperation in this area with an open and science-based attitude. We've twice invited WHO experts to China for joint research in origin-tracing. We've invested tremendous efforts, achieved important outcomes and reached authoritative conclusions.

Lately many countries, China included, have raised concerns over and voiced objection to the next steps to study the origins proposed by the WHO Secretariat. It is a shared belief that the plan is inconsistent with the resolution of the 73rd WHA and the conclusions and recommendations of the joint WHO-China study report. It failed to reflect the latest outcomes of global research in origin-tracing and cannot serve as the basis for the second phase of joint origin studies. At the same time, 60 countries have written to the WHO Director General saying that they welcome the joint WHO-China study report and reject politicizing origin studies. This is the legitimate appeal and voice of justice from the international community.

To my knowledge, before the WHO Secretariat circulated its plan, Chinese experts, with a view to support and coordinate with WHO efforts to conduct the next phase of origin studies, had submitted to WHO a Chinese proposal based on the previous phase of studies jointly conducted by Chinese and WHO experts and the joint report. The Chinese plan is a science-based and professional solution that has been tested in practice. The main points are as follows:

First, the second phase should be guided by the WHA resolution, rely mainly on scientists, and conduct evidence-based scientific research. The joint WHO-China study report's conclusions and recommendations have been widely recognized by the international community and the science community. This should serve as the basis for the second phase of studies.

Second, the second phase should not repeat what has already been conducted during the first phase, especially where conclusive findings were already reached. In particular, the joint WHO-China study report already stated clearly that "a laboratory origin of the pandemic was considered to be extremely unlikely". The key focus of the second phase should be on possible pathways identified as "very likely" and "likely" by the joint report including introduction through an intermediate host or cold chain products. Efforts should be made to advance origins study in various countries and regions across the world.

Third, the practice, mechanisms and approaches used in the first phase should be drawn on to conduct further studies in an orderly and smooth manner. There should be assessment and analysis of existing research outcomes and new evidence. The regions to be covered by the second phase and the work plan should be determined after comprehensive assessment based on open research evidence. Research in epidemiology, animal products, environmental and molecular epidemiology should be continued to reinforce rather than repeat existing work or tasks that have already been covered.

Fourth, the team of experts should be put together on the basis of the makeup of the first phase team with full respect for their expertise, international reputation and practical experience. Additional experts from other areas can be added to the original team in an appropriate manner if there is indeed such a need. This will not only help maintain continuity of the research but also ensure the authority and impartiality of the next phase of studies.

In the meantime, China will continue to act on relevant work recommendations in the joint WHO-China study report and actively conduct further follow-up research concerning China recommended in the report.

I'd like to stress once again that the study of origins is a serious matter of science. We should let scientists get to the bottom of this virus so as to get better prepared for future risks. We firmly reject origin-tracing based on politics. As to truly science-based studies of origins, we have taken an active part in them and will continue to do so.

RIA Novosti: Does China feel that the WHO Secretariat is politicizing the origin-tracing task?

Zhao Lijian: I have made China's position very clear. The draft plan for the second phase study was put forward unilaterally by the WHO Secretariat without getting the approval of all member states. The WHO is led by member states. The draft plan was put forward by the Secretariat for discussion by member states, who have the right to make adjustments. The mandate of the Secretariat is to provide convenience for member states to have full consultation and reach consensus. It is not entitled to decision-making on its own.

China Daily:There are reports that the US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations passed a bill on 28 July to direct the State Department to develop a strategy to assist Taiwan in obtaining observer status at the World Health Assembly. What is your comment?

Zhao Lijian: The Taiwan question is the most important and most sensitive issue in China-US relations. The one-China principle is the political foundation of bilateral relations and the consensus of the international community.

The US bill is a serious breach of the one-China principle and the three China-US joint communiques and a violation of the fundamental principle affirmed by UNGA Resolution 2758 and WHA Resolution 25.1. We firmly reject it. The Chinese Central Government always attaches great importance to the health and well-being of our compatriots in the Taiwan region. Under the precondition of abiding by the one-China principle, we have made appropriate arrangements for the Taiwan region's participation in global health affairs.

The US should fully recognize that the Taiwan question is a highly sensitive issue. It should earnestly abide by the one-China principle and the three China-US joint communiques and comply with international law and basic norms governing international relations. The US should stop reviewing and pushing the negative Taiwan-related bill, not to send out wrong signals to "Taiwan independence" forces and not to help the Taiwan region to expand its so-called "international space".

Bloomberg: A question regarding a statement from the Foreign Correspondents Club of China that was issued earlier this week in which the FCCC described the situation where foreign journalists were harassed while doing their jobs covering the floods in Henan. The statement also says that some of the harassment was organized by party-affiliated organizations. Does the foreign ministry have a comment on the FCCC statement?

Zhao Lijian: I have one question for you as well. Do you know that the Chinese netizens refer to BBC as "Bad-mouthing Broadcasting Corporation"? Having long been clinging to its ideological bias against China, BBC has produced fake news time and again, spread false information on issues related to Hong Kong, Xinjiang and COVID-19, attacked and vilified China in serious deviation from the professional ethics of journalism. Everything happens for a reason. The BBC has long been reporting on China through tinted glasses, which has chipped away its credibility bit by bit. Robin Brant, BBC journalist stationed in Shanghai, continued to put ideology above facts in his report about the torrential rain in Henan, turning a blind eye to the fact that the Chinese government has been sparing no efforts in conducting rescue work and local residents have been volunteering to help. Naturally, BBC reports with preconception gain no popularity among the Chinese people and only end up hurting the media's own credit. We hope the BBC can truly abide by professional ethics and conduct, and make up for its "trust deficit" in the hearts of the Chinese public through truly objective and fair reporting.

As for the FCCC you just mentioned, China has never recognized this organization, which groups only a handful of biased journalists and could in no way represent the true voice of the more than 400 foreign journalists in China.

As for the statement you mentioned, I want to stress that the FCCC has been habitually distorting facts to tarnish China's reporting environment. Objectivity is the lifeline of the press. Some Western media should ask themselves as to why their reports have caused public outrage in China. They make no mention of the enormous assistance and convenience China has provided to foreign journalists in their reporting, and instead of criticizing some foreign media for their inaccurate and distorted reports, they made groundless accusations against China over the so-called "reporting environment". This is nothing but blatant attempt to confuse right and wrong with false claims.

I want to reiterate that China is a society governed by law and one of the safest countries in the world. China welcomes media and journalists from other countries to do reporting in China in accordance with law and regulations, ensures the legitimate rights and interests of permanent foreign media outlets and correspondents posted in China, and provides assistance and facilitation for their daily work. The reporting environment for foreign correspondents in China is open and free. Communication channels between foreign journalists in China and competent Chinese authorities are open and unfettered. As long as foreign journalists abide by the law and do reporting in compliance the law and regulations, there is no need to worry. That said, we oppose any ideological bias against China, any attempt to fabricate fake news under the pretext of the so-called "freedom of the press", and any behavior that violates the professional ethics of journalism.

CRI: Yesterday you shared with us some information on the visit of the Afghan Taliban delegation to China. Do you have more on the visit?

Zhao Lijian: Yesterday I already talked in great detail about the major points of this visit by the Afghan Taliban delegation. I'd like to add a few more today.

China, as Afghanistan's largest neighbor, follows closely the trajectory of the Afghan situation and always supports the peace and reconciliation process. We sincerely hope that the Afghan people will grasp the historical opportunity and truly take the nation's destiny into their own hands. We hope the Afghan Taliban will put the interests of the country and nation first, hold high the banner of peace talks, set the goal of peace, build a positive image, follow an inclusive policy, return to the political mainstream in moderate ways, and play an important role in the peace, reconciliation and reconstruction process. We hope all factions and ethnic groups in Afghanistan will be united and establish through dialogue and negotiation a broad-based and inclusive political framework in keeping with their national realities so as to create a future together for Afghanistan.

Following the "Afghan-owned and Afghan-led" principle, China has all along been promoting peace talks and facilitating the peace and reconciliation process on the basis of fully respecting Afghanistan's sovereignty and the will of parties to the talks. This is also the major objective China has in mind by receiving the Afghan Taliban delegation. As a military and political force to be reckoned with in Afghanistan, the Afghan Taliban has in recent years maintained dialogue and contact with the Afghan government and the international community. China will continue to uphold an objective and just position and play a constructive role in advancing the political settlement of the Afghan issue.

I would like to stress two last points. First, the US is the culprit of the Afghan issue and the major external factor that can influence the situation. It started the Afghan war in the name of fighting terrorism 20 years ago. However, today, terrorist forces in Afghanistan remain rampant and peace still hasn't come. The hasty withdrawal of the US and NATO forces from Afghanistan marks the complete failure of the Afghan policy of the US. It must shoulder responsibility for what it has done and mustn't shift the blame and responsibility to others and simply take to its heels. It needs to take concrete actions to prevent the terrorist forces from festering and make sure the withdrawal doesn't lead to turbulence and fighting. It also needs to play its due role in peace and reconstruction in Afghanistan.

Second, the ETIM is a terrorist organization designated by the UN and is a common enemy of the international community. China will continue to work with regional countries and the international community to fulfill the shared responsibility of fighting the ETIM until the evil is rooted out. We hope the Afghan Taliban will make a clean break with all terrorist organizations including the ETIM and resolutely and effectively combat them to remove obstacles for security, stability, development and cooperation in the region. We hope the Afghan Taliban can earnestly honor its commitment that it will never allow any force to use the Afghan territory to engage in acts detrimental to China.

Bloomberg: I just wanna follow up on your earlier comment regarding the BBC. You said that "everything happens for a reason". Are you saying that the harassment is justified? Is that the point that you were making?

Zhao Lijian: I've just made China's position clear. Some Western media should ask themselves as to why their reports have caused public outrage in China.

Bloomberg also needs to reflect upon itself as to why it put the US on top of its recent COVID Resilience Ranking when the country holds the world record in both infection and death tally.

I want to reiterate that the reporting environment for foreign correspondents in China is open and free, and their legitimate rights and interests are fully protected. Permanent foreign media outlets and correspondents posted in China should abide by China's laws, regulations and rules, observe the professional ethics of journalism, and conduct reporting in an objective and fair manner.

Reuters: US-listed shares of Chinese education companies as well as Didi have been hammered by sudden Chinese regulatory moves. We're also seeing new volatility in the Chinese markets. Is the Chinese side concerned that global investors are becoming wary of regulatory risks associated with investing in Chinese companies?

Zhao Lijian: I want to stress that China regulates enterprise investment and operation in accordance with the law and regulations, and provides them with a fair, just and non-discriminatory environment.

Global Times: On July 28, US State Department Spokesperson Ned Price released a readout on Secretary Blinken's meeting with WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, where Blinken "affirmed U.S. support for the WHO's plans to conduct additional studies into the COVID-19 origins, including in the People's Republic of China", "stressed the need for the next phase to be timely, evidence-based, transparent, expert-led, and free from interference", and "emphasized the importance of the international community coming together on this matter". I wonder if China has any comment?

Zhao Lijian: I would like to stress a few points in response.

First, China agrees that studies into origins of COVID-19 should be evidence-based, expert-led, and free from interference. But that is not what the US has been doing. While calling for evidence-based origin studies, the US has falsely accused China of a lab leak and fabricated the rumor that three WIV researchers fell ill though it couldn't even provide their names. While calling for expert-led origin studies, the US has ordered the intelligence community to do the job and resorted to sidelining and muzzling objective and rational scientists and professionals. While calling for origin studies free from interference, senior US government officials reportedly halted an origin-tracing project on the ground that it interferes with the origin-tracing agenda against China and is detrimental to US national security and sealed blood samples collected before January 2, 2020 from further testing after the NIH found COVID-19 antibodies in blood samples collected in the US in early January 2020.

Second, China has contributed to the global origin-tracing efforts with concrete actions. Early this year, leading experts from ten countries and China formed a joint team and conducted 28 days of joint study in China, after which a joint report was released. The report identified areas in need of further follow-up study, where the Chinese side is actively supporting relevant institutes and scientists in continuing and redoubling efforts. That being said, it is China's view that what has already been conducted during the first phase, especially where conclusive findings were already reached, should not been repeated. The second phase should be conducted in multiple countries and regions across the world based on wide consultation by member states.

Third, the COVID-19 situation in the US is the worst in the world. The US government hasn't taken any investigative action in the face of waves of suspicions surrounding containment breaches from the biological laboratory at Fort Detrick and the clusters of unexplained cases of pneumonia in Maryland in 2019. To date, over 18 million Chinese netizens have signed an open letter calling on the WHO to investigate Fort Detrick. If the US truly intends to support studies of origins, then it should respond to the call, demonstrate its openness and transparency, and let WHO experts conduct investigations in the US.

Shenzhen TV: The Forum on Win-win Cooperation for Common Development of China-Latin America and the Caribbean was recently hosted in Beijing. Could you provide more information?

Zhao Lijian: On 27 July, the Chinese People's Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries (CPAFFC) hosted the Forum on Win-win Cooperation for Common Development of China-Latin America and the Caribbean in Beijing. It was attended by senior diplomats from over 20 Latin American and Caribbean (LAC) embassies in China, President of the CPAFFC Lin Songtian, and representatives from Chinese organizations, institutions and companies.

President Lin Songtian said that, the forum is hosted under the theme "win-win cooperation for common development", which demonstrates the global vision and the sense of historical responsibility of the Communist Party of China and goes with the prevailing trend of peace, development and progress for mankind. LAC countries is a natural extension of the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road and an important partner in Belt and Road cooperation. As developing countries, both China and LAC countries endured sufferings of Western colonial plunder in history. Today, we face the common task of development and share broad common interests. As we provide important markets for each other and face enormous opportunities for two-way investment, there are broad prospects for China-LAC cooperation on infrastructure connectivity and high-quality development.

Uruguayan Ambassador to China and Dean of LAC diplomatic corps in China Fernando Lugris said, the forum provides a platform for LAC embassies in China to connect with local governments and companies, which will advance China-LAC cooperation for mutual benefits and common development. As one of the first LAC countries to participate in Belt and Road Initiative and sign an MOU with China, Uruguay is ready to expand its investment in western China and facilitate further investments in LAC countries from Chinese companies.

Beijing Youth Daily: According to reports, U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken just met a representative of the Dalai Lama in New Delhi. What is your comment?

Zhao Lijian: Tibetan affairs are purely China's internal affairs that allow no foreign interference. The 14th Dalai Lama is by no means just a religious personnel, but rather a political exile who has long been engaging in anti-China separatist activities and attempting to split Tibet from China. China firmly opposes any form of contact between foreign officials and the Dalai Lama. Any form of contact between the US side and the Dalai clique is a violation of the US commitment to acknowledging Tibet being part of China, to not supporting "Tibetan Independence", and to not supporting attempts to split China. The US side should honor its commitment, stop meddling in China's internal affairs under the pretext of Tibetan affairs, and offer no support to the "Tibetan independence" forces to engage in anti-China separatist activities. China will take all necessary measures to defend its own interests.

Prasar Bharati: As per reports, they were two persons arrested in Pakistan for the bus blast that took nine Chinese lives. Do you have more to share on this as to what result came from the investigation by Chinese team in Pakistan?

Zhao Lijian: I take note that the Pakistani police have arrested two suspects allegedly involved in the attack on the shuttle bus for Dasu hydropower project. China and Pakistan are carrying out a joint investigation into the bomb attack incident. China will continue to strengthen coordination and cooperation with the Pakistani side to see to it that a thorough investigation is made and the perpetrators are severely punished. In the meantime, we will earnestly protect the safety of Chinese projects, personnel and institutions in Pakistan to make sure such things do not happen again.

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