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Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Zhao Lijian’s Regular Press Conference on April 11, 2022

2022-04-11 20:07

Xinhua News Agency: During the meetings of NATO Ministers of Foreign Affairs on April 6 and 7, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg accused China of being“unwilling to condemn Russia’s aggression” against Ukraine. He said “Beijing has joined Moscow in questioning the right of nations to choose their own path. This is a serious challenge to us all.” NATO's Strategic Concept 2030 will for the first time take account of the systemic challenges to the security of democracies posed by China’s “growing influence and coercive policies”. What is China’s comment?

Zhao Lijian: For some time, the NATO head has disregarded facts and confounded black with white when making groundless accusations, smears and attacks against China. He has made irresponsible comments on China’s foreign policies, touted the “China threat” and even used coercion on China recently. China deplores and rejects this, and has made solemn representations with NATO for many times.

As the largest military alliance born out of the Cold War, NATO has long adhered to the obsolete security concept, engaged in bloc confrontation according to the playbook of the old Cold War and reduced itself to some country’s tool for hegemony. While claiming to be a defensive organization, NATO has been constantly making trouble and creating confrontation in reality. While asking other countries to abide by the basic norms governing international relations, NATO has grossly waged wars against sovereign countries and fired shells indiscriminately that led to civilian deaths and displacement. NATO, a military organization in the North Atlantic, has traveled to the Asia-Pacific to flex its muscles and provoke tensions in recent years. NATO has been transgressing regions and fields and clamoring for a new Cold War of bloc confrontation. This gives ample reason for high vigilance and firm opposition from the international community.

China has always been a builder of world peace, a contributor to global development and a guardian of international order. We will steadfastly pursue the path for peaceful development. China’s development means opportunities for the world, instead of a threat to anyone. NATO should immediately stop spreading disinformation and provocative remarks targeting China, and abandon the confrontational approach of drawing ideological lines. NATO has disrupted Europe. It should stop trying to destabilize Asia and the whole world.

China Daily: On April 10 fifty years ago, the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production and Stockpiling of Bacteriological (Biological) and Toxin Weapons and on Their Destruction (BWC) was open for signature. What is your comment? The Review Conference of the BWC will take place this year. What will China put forward under current circumstances?

Zhao Lijian: April 10, 2022 marked the 50th anniversary of the opening for signature of the BWC. As the cornerstone for international law in biosecurity, the convention is the first multilateral treaty categorically banning a class of weapons of mass destruction (WMD). It also gives States Parties the right to peaceful use of biotechnology. Over the past 50 years, the two pillars of the BWC, namely security and development, have been more solid, the development, production and use of biological weapons has become an absolute redline, and the progress of biotechnology has significantly enhanced people’s wellbeing.

The Review Conference of the BWC, which is held every five years, will take place this year. The international community should take it as an opportunity to take stock of the achievements and challenges over the past 50 years, and take real actions in the spirit of solidarity and cooperation. It is particularly important to resume the negotiations on a verification protocol under the BWC that have stalled for more than 20 years to truly realize ensuring compliance with verification. This is the fundamental way to address the current hotspot issues and a touchstone to test if every country is serious about compliance.

China was a victim of biological weapons. China stands for the complete prohibition and thorough destruction of all kinds of WMDs and firmly opposes the development, possession or use of biological weapons by all countries. China strictly fulfills its obligations under the BWC, stays committed to strengthening the BWC mechanisms, actively calls for the resumption of the negotiations on a verification protocol and upholds an objective and just approach in addressing the compliance of countries concerned. China firmly defends the lawful right of developing countries to enjoy the dividend of biotechnological development. We pushed for the first resolution on peaceful uses adopted by the UNGA and advocated just, open and inclusive international cooperation. China worked together with the government and science community of relevant countries to conclude the Tianjin Biosecurity Guidelines for Codes of Conduct for Scientists, which is a new contribution to promoting the idea of responsible biological science research.

China will work with the international community as always for substantive outcomes of the BWC Review Conference and play a bigger role in realizing universal security and common development under new circumstances.

AFP: On Friday, a missile strike at a railway station in the Ukrainian city of Kramatorsk killed 52 people, including children. Who does China hold responsible for this attack?

Zhao Lijian: China attaches importance to the humanitarian situation in Ukraine and is highly concerned with the harm done to civilians. We have put forward a six-point initiative on alleviating the humanitarian situation and taken concrete steps to provide emergency humanitarian assistance to Ukraine. You just raised the report on the attack on a train station. The relevant circumstances and specific causes of the incident must be verified and ascertained. At the same time, we believe that humanitarian issues shouldn’t be politicized. Any accusations should be based on facts. Before the full picture is clear, all sides should exercise restraint and avoid unfounded accusations. 

Hubei Media Group: At a recent US Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on the relations between China and Latin America and the Caribbean, relevant Senators and officials from the Department of State, the US Agency for International Development and the US International Development Finance Corporation said that through the Belt and Road Initiative, disinformation campaign, manipulation and surveillance of telecommunications and other means, China has undermined the economic and development interests of Latin American and Caribbean states and threatened democracy, freedom and security in the region. They said the US will hold the Ninth Summit of the Americas to counter China’s engagement. Do you have any comment?

Zhao Lijian: These US individuals are hurling groundless accusations and fabricating rumors to smear China. 

China and Latin American and Caribbean states are all developing countries. Guided by the concept of mutual respect, equality, mutual benefit, win-win cooperation, openness and inclusiveness, China conducts cooperation with the countries on the basis of respecting each other’s needs and interests. Since the outbreak of COVID-19, China has given regional countries strong support in combating the pandemic, revitalizing socioeconomic development and sustaining livelihood improvement, which has been widely welcomed by the countries.

Various international cooperation with Latin America and the Caribbean could proceed in parallel and complement or reinforce each other. China stands ready to pursue trilateral and multilateral cooperation on the basis of respecting the will of regional countries to make the pie bigger for win-win and all-win results.

We hope some on the US side will take off the tinted glasses, discard the outdated Monroe Doctrine complex and Cold War mentality, stop spreading disinformation on China, stop coercing Latin American and Caribbean states into picking sides, and stop sowing discord between China and Latin American and Caribbean states.

CCTV: We have noted that since the Russia-Ukraine conflict started to escalate, the US has imposed all-round economic sanctions on Russia, dealing a blow to Russia’s economy and people’s livelihood and exerting a grave impact on the global energy, food and financial markets. Those who bear the brunt of the sanctions are European countries who rely heavily on energy imports from Russia. Does China have any comment on this?

Zhao Lijian: I have also noted many similar reports. Since the outbreak of the Ukraine crisis, the US has been frequently pressuring countries into sanctioning Russia, and those who refuse to do so will pay a “price”. However, escalating sanctions won’t help ease the situation, but will create new problems in the world struggling with the pandemic. For example, energy price in Europe recently has surged to record high, and residents in many countries began to pay higher prices for electricity, heating, transportation, food and some daily necessities. Those suffering even more than others are developing countries with weak economic foundations. Their economic development and social stability have come under severe threat, risking political turbulence.

If you take a look at the history of US sanctions spanning years, such examples abound. Sanctions slapped by the US on Cuba, Iran, Venezuela, Afghanistan and other countries have gravely undermined people’s livelihood and economic and social development, and created humanitarian disasters. As noted by some media, the US is the only “sanctions superpower” in the world. It used sanctions as a handy tool to maintain hegemony and seek illegal profits. 

While claiming to uphold justice with sanctions, the US is actually exploiting sanctions for ill-gotten gains. Its self-serving agenda behind the “punishing Russia” rhetoric is the latest example. Based on its cunning calculation, the US gets itself a very lucrative business by asking EU nations to cut off trade with Russia while strengthening US-Europe ties in such sectors as energy and security. More ironically, while wielding the stick of hefty sanctions against Russia, the US has been on a Russian bargain-hunting frenzy. It tries to persuade Europe into embargoing all Russian oil and gas, but has been ratcheting up purchase itself. Some US media has reported that sanctions imposed by the US and its allies on Russia have created opportunities for Wall Street financial institutions like Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan Chase to scoop up beaten-down bonds of Russian companies. Is there any morality in such sanctions? Are they truly conducive to safeguarding European and global peace and stability? The answer to both questions is definitely negative.

The US has no right to force people of other countries to pay for its selfish strategic gains. If the US truly hopes to deescalate the situation in Ukraine, it should stop exploiting the chaos for profits, earnestly promote peace talks and facilitate peace with concrete steps.

Shenzhen TV: We have noted that some Europeans in the strategic community recently wrote articles or spoke up to reflect on the role the US and other Western countries have played in the conflict between Russia and Ukraine. They believe the US and the West bear important responsibilities. Do you have any comment?

Zhao Lijian: For quite some time, we are hearing reasonable voices on the Russia-Ukraine situation from more and more people in the international community. Their reflection on the historical context of the Ukraine issue and the culprit of the current situation merits attention. 

It came to my attention that some European strategists believe the US is comparable to the “top arsonist” in the conflict. It ignited the flames of war and left the trouble in Europe. The Russia-Ukraine conflict, to a large extent, is the result of Western arrogance and successive mistakes over the last 30-plus years and NATO’s eastward expansion is the root cause of the ongoing conflict. Such views coincide with the warning sounded by George Kennan, Dr. Henry Kissinger and other people from the strategic community in the US. Three decades ago, the US thought it could dominate the world and have its way after winning the Cold War. Over the 30 years that ensued, it worked for five waves of NATO’s eastward expansion in a high-profile manner in disregard of Russia’s security concerns. As the world’s people can see, instead of bringing about peace, NATO’s expansion has led to seriously damaged mutual trust and regional turmoil and tensions to the extent that the situation is spiraling out of control. 

Under current circumstances, peace is the overwhelming aspiration and dialogue is the overriding trend. Acting rashly and fanning the flame is ill-advised. The international community should widen the window of opportunity and give peace a chance to dispel the dark clouds of conflict. However, the US is still setting all sorts of obstacles to peace, which will only aggravate the situation and lead to more suffering in Ukraine. It runs counter to the mission of and pathway to peace.

Since the Ukraine crisis broke out, China, committed to promoting peace talks, has made active efforts to help bring down the temperature. We advocate a vision of common, comprehensive, cooperative and sustainable security. We believe that the bloc confrontation mentality and unilateral sanction logic are outdated. The US should assume its due responsibility and reflect soberly on its disgraceful role in the crisis. NATO, a relic from the Cold War, should adapt to the changing times and circumstances, keep abreast of the trend for peace, development and cooperation, and uphold regional and global peace and stability with concrete actions.

Reuters: Just now you talked about the need for dialogue. When is China going to have high level dialogue with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy?

Zhao Lijian: China has expounded on its position on the Ukraine issue on multiple occasions. It is China’s consistent belief that the Ukraine crisis can only be resolved through dialogue and negotiation. China supports all efforts that are conducive to easing the situation and political settlement. And China opposes actions like fanning the flame or adding fuel to the fire that may escalate the situation and are counterproductive to political resolution. Since the Ukraine crisis broke out, China has been actively promoting peace talks, speaking for and working for peace. I’m sure you have noted that State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi has spoken with his Ukrainian counterpart. As to your specific question, we will release more information on a timely basis if there’s any. I have nothing to offer at the moment.

Reuters: Again on dialogue. Has China asked Vladimir Putin to speak directly with Volodymyr Zelenskyy?

Zhao Lijian: High-level exchange has been maintained between China and Russia. President Xi Jinping had a phone conversation with President Putin, and State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi had talks with Foreign Minister Lavrov. In all these and other bilateral meetings between China and Russia, China has been calling on Russia and Ukraine to have dialogue and negotiation, which we believe is the only way to ultimately resolve the Ukraine issue. 

AFP: I’d like to go back to the attack in Kramatorsk if that’s okay. Both Ukraine and Russia have blamed each other for this attack, although the US, the EU and the UK have just blamed Russia. Does China also think Russia did it?

Zhao Lijian: We also noted that Russia and Ukraine have very different assertions about the situation. Given what has happened in Syria and other places, conclusions have to be drawn based on facts. China supports just, independent and transparent investigation into the incident. Before the full picture is clear, all parties should exercise restraint and avoid making unfounded accusations and escalating the situation.

AFP: I just want to follow up one more time on that. Do you therefore believe that there’s a possibility that Ukrainian officials are lying about who perpetrated the attack or that they could have somehow launched this attack against their own civilians? 

Zhao Lijian: I just made China’s position very clear. Russia and Ukraine each have different assertions about the situation. Only after independent and just investigation can truth be found.

The Paper: The Hill ran an article the other day saying that since the Russia-Ukraine conflict broke out, Russia has been relying more and more on China economically. However, China is adopting a long game strategy with Russia and expecting that when the conflict is over, Russia could lease or even sell large parts of the Russian Far East to China. What is China’s comment? Is China employing this strategy?

Zhao Lijian: We noted the relevant report. It is just another edition of the “China threat theory”, whose fundamental aim is to sow discord between China and Russia. We suggest that the media outlet concerned read carefully the Treaty of Good-neighborliness and Friendly Cooperation between China and Russia, which was extended just last year. The two sides explicitly stated that we have completely resolved boundary issues left over from history, each has no territorial claim on the other and both are resolved to make active efforts in building the border between the two countries into one where ever-lasting peace and friendship prevail. For over two decades, we have been honoring our commitment with concrete actions. I would like to reiterate that China and Russia do not seek to form any exclusive clique and it’s simply impossible to drive a wedge between us. China-Russia relations can stand the new test of the changing international landscape. We hope certain individuals will refrain from rehashing the so-called China-Russia territorial issue. Such rumors have no audience in neither country and will never get anywhere.

I also want to stress that there are complex historical merits on the Ukraine issue. China has been independently making its decisions and expounding on its positions with an objective and just attitude based on the merits of the matter itself. China is not a party directly related to the issue, but it has been committed to promoting peace talks and playing a constructive role in pursuing peaceful settlement of the crisis. Some Western powers, in contrast, have been busy adding fuel to the flame to create new problems while associating the Ukraine crisis with China-Russia relations to exploit the situation for their hidden strategic agenda. This is not a practice that befits a responsible major country. China firmly opposes this. 

Reuters: You just said that China has been actively promoting peace. Russia said it’s gonna focus on the east of Ukraine in its operations. It looks like there’s gonna be some really heavy battles coming up in the east of Ukraine. Has China asked Russia to hold back and avoid the loss of more lives in Ukraine?

Zhao Lijian: I just elaborated on China’s position on the Ukraine issue. China always believes that dialogue and negotiation is the only right path to resolving the Ukraine issue. China supports Russia and Ukraine in keeping the peace talks going despite the difficulties. We also welcome the joint support from the international community for Russia-Ukraine peace talks and the effort to maintain the momentum of negotiations for peaceful outcomes. China will continue to play a constructive role in promoting peace talks in our own way.

Bloomberg: Can the foreign ministry comment on new allegations by US-based researchers that had accused eight aluminum producers with operations in Xinjiang of benefiting from government-backed forced labor as well as calls for industries including the automotive sector to rethink global supply chains that rely on upstream Chinese production?

Zhao Lijian: I noted relevant reports. The Chinese government pays great attention to protecting the rights and interests of laborers. We protect the right to equal employment, the right to equal participation in economic and social life, and equal access to development outcomes of laborers of all ethnic groups. The accusation of so-called forced labor in China’s Xinjiang is a huge lie concocted by some anti-China forces in the US and some other Western countries without any factual basis. Truth has shattered the lie time and again. Justice will always prevail. We hope those so-called researchers, politicians and enterprises can respect objective facts and tell right from wrong. 

Reuters: Pakistan’s former Prime Minister now, Imran Khan has been forced out after a no confidence vote. Is China concerned about what the change of leadership might mean for China-Pakistan relations?

Zhao Lijian: China has noted the political change in Pakistan. As a close neighbor and an iron-clad friend of Pakistan, China sincerely hopes that all parties of Pakistan can stay united and jointly defend national stability and development. I want to stress that no matter how the political situation may change in Pakistan, China will unswervingly follow the Pakistan policy of friendship. We believe the political change in Pakistan will not affect the overall China-Pakistan relations. 

AFP: China has been sticking to the dynamic zero-COVID policy in Shanghai, even though daily case numbers there remain high and thousands of patients have been isolated despite not having any symptoms. Do you worry that the policy is starting to lose its effectiveness? How does China plan to move beyond dynamic zero-COVID and towards a full reopening of the country?

Zhao Lijian: As the world continues to grapple with resurgence of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Chinese government puts people and life front and center and follows the dynamic zero policy, which demonstrates its sense of responsibility for people in China and the rest of the world. Over two years into the pandemic, China stands as one of the countries with the lowest infection rate and mortality rate. As has been proven in practice, China’s anti-epidemic policy is in keeping with its national realities, meets the need for combating COVID-19, works effectively and contributes significantly to the global fight against the pandemic. A WHO official said the other day that China has adopted very powerful measures to curb COVID-19, registering very low infection rate, mortality rate and hospitalization rate. Even amid the pandemic, China’s economy and society can maintain sound operation. It is believed that the Chinese government can offer the maximum protection for its people.

You asked about the epidemic situation in Shanghai. The Chinese government at the central, provincial and municipal levels attach high importance to addressing the situation there. A large number of medical staff and volunteers as well as huge quantities of supplies come to the rescue of Shanghai from all across the country. Stay strong, Shanghai! We are all here for you. We have every confidence that with the leadership of the CPC, the solidarity of the whole nation and assistance from localities across the country, Shanghai will soon bring the epidemic under control. We have the same absolute confidence in curbing infections elsewhere in China. We will eventually prevail over COVID-19. I’d like to end on this note: There is an end to every pandemic and every war.

AFP: According to media reports, Serbia took the delivery of a Chinese anti-aircraft system at the weekend. Can China confirm that transfer took place? And does it contain Chinese Air Force’s Y-20 transport planes and HQ-22 surface-to-air missiles as was reported? And is this deal related in some way to the ongoing war in Ukraine?

Zhao Lijian: To follow through on the bilateral cooperation plan, China has recently sent air force transport planes to deliver conventional military items to Serbia. This is a cooperation project that falls under our annual plan. We hope relevant media can avoid reading too much into it. This project is not targeted at any third party, nor does it have anything to do with the current situation.

Bloomberg: Two follow-up questions. The reports that I mentioned earlier by Horizon Advisory, a US-based consultancy, specifically raised concerns around the production of aluminum. Do you have any comment on whether forced labor is used in the aluminum industry or about the report itself? And the second follow-up question is on Imran Khan and whether the foreign ministry has any comments on Imran Khan’s claims of foreign interference by the United States?

Zhao Lijian: On your first question, I already made China’s position very clear just now. The conclusion made by the US researchers is nothing but malicious smear against China. The so-called “forced labor” in Xinjiang is an out-and-out lie of the century.

On your second question, China always opposes any country’s interference in others’ internal affairs. I would like to refer you to the Pakistani side or the US side for your specific question.

AFP: Just wanted to follow up one more time on the Serbia question. You just now said it was a bilateral arrangement between China and Serbia and wasn’t targeting a third party. But is China not worried in some way that completing arms transfers like this threatens what is at the moment a very fragile peace in that part of Europe? 

Zhao Lijian: What do you mean by that question? Did you ever care whether regional peace and stability is threatened when the US sold arms to Europe and Taiwan? Why do you think it’s so when China sells some conventional military items to Serbia?

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