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Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Mao Ning’s Regular Press Conference on March 9, 2023

2023-03-09 22:16

Reuters: The Dutch Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation Liesje Schreinemacher said in a letter to Parliament that the Netherlands will apply new restrictions on chip exports before the summer on national security grounds. What’s China’s comment?

Mao Ning: We noted the reports. We disapprove of the Dutch side’s interference through administrative means in the normal trade between Dutch and Chinese businesses and have made démarches to the Netherlands. In recent years, the US, in an attempt to deprive China of its right to development and maintain its hegemony, has overstretched the concept of national security, politicized and instrumentalized trade and tech issues, and coerced or courted some countries to adopt export restrictions against China. Such bullying acts seriously violate market principles and the international trade order. They not only harm Chinese companies’ lawful rights and interests, but also seriously undermine the stability of the global industrial and supply chains as well as global economic growth. China firmly opposes them.

It is hoped that the Netherlands will hold an objective and just position, adhere to market principles, respect the spirit of contract, refrain from abusing export control regimes, and work to safeguard the stability of global industrial and supply chains, the free and open international trade order, and the shared interests of the Netherlands and China and the companies of the two countries. 

CCTV: The US Senate passed the COVID-19 Origin Act of 2023 a few days ago, which says that the COVID-19 pandemic may have originated in China. It has been reported that the House of Representatives is also moving to bring a similar bill to the House floor. On March 8, Director of the US National Intelligence Avril Haines noted that there isn’t a consensus among the US intelligence community on whether or not the outbreak is a result of a lab leak or natural exposure to an infected animal. Polish virologist Agnieszka Szuster-Ciesielska recently said in an interview that the COVID “lab leak” theory rehashed by the US Department of Energy and FBI is sensation-seeking and has no factual or scientific basis. What is your comment?

Mao Ning: For some time now, the US has been politicizing, weaponizing and instrumentalizing COVID origins-tracing. It has let a matter of science be dominated by lawmakers and the intelligence community and spread myths such as the “lab leak” theory without any evidence to discredit and attack China. This has seriously poisoned the atmosphere for science-based global origins-tracing and been perceived by people in the rest of the world.

China’s position on the origins-tracing is consistent. We have supported and participated in global science-based origins-tracing since day one. In the meantime, we have been firmly opposed to all forms of political manipulation on this issue. The political manipulation by the US is the main stumbling block to the science-based research on COVID origins. The US has been pointing fingers at WHO’s origins-tracing process, politically punishing scientists with conscience and attacking countries with lies that make no scientific sense. The US has done nothing responsible on origins-tracing. It has never invited WHO expert groups to the US for joint research or shared any early data on COVID origins. It has turned a deaf ear to the world’s concerns about US bio-military bases at Fort Detrick and around the world.

Politicizing origins-tracing would only hamper science-based cooperation on the issue, disrupt solidarity against the virus, and undermine global health governance mechanisms. We once again urge the US side to immediately stop political manipulation on this issue, respond to the world’s legitimate concerns, voluntarily share the data of suspected early cases in the US with the WHO, disclose information about its bio-labs at Fort Detrick and around the world, and give the rest of the world the truth it deserves.

NRC: I have a question also concerning ASML. There is also concern within the Netherlands itself that we will lose our competitive edge in semiconductor machine production if we sell these ASML machines, advanced chip production machines, to China. Do you understand this fear in Holland?

Mao Ning: If the Netherlands loses from normal trade with China, then it might need to think about why that is the case. Is it because a certain country uses trade issues as a tool and a weapon and has imposed a list of demands on the Netherlands? China firmly opposes any deliberate disruption of trade and global supply and industrial chains, which serves no one’s interests.

Global Times: According to Western media reports, there are “residential schools” in Tibet that are part of the Chinese government’s large-scale assimilation campaign targeting Tibetans. What’s China’s response?

Mao Ning: This is certainly not true and apparently just another allegation meant to mislead the public about China and smear China’s image.

As is commonly seen around the world, there are boarding schools across Chinese provinces and regions to meet the need of the local students. These schools provide accommodation, catering and other boarding services. They are not closed facilities and still less run in military style. 

In the case of China’s Tibet, this is a region of high altitude and highly scattered population in many areas. For children from herding families in particular, they have to travel long distances to get to school. If schools were to be built in every place the students live, it would be very difficult to ensure adequate teachers and quality of teaching in each school. That is why boarding schools have been set up as a practical way to ensure all children’s equal right to education. It is entirely up to the students and their parents whether to board or not.

Just like schools in other Chinese provinces and regions, the boarding schools in the Tibet Autonomous Region attach great importance to the participation of students’ families. Parents are invited to take part in the management and planning of school life through parent committees and open days. Students can choose to go home on every weekend, holiday and festival (including traditional Tibetan festivals such as the Tibetan New Year and the Shoton Festival), as well as during the winter and summer breaks. Parents can visit their children at school any time and take their children home whenever needed. Courses of traditional culture, such as Tibetan language and literature and folk dance, are widely available, traditional food unique to the Tibet Plateau is provided, and students are allowed to wear traditional dresses at these schools.

When reporting on the boarding schools in China, it is important to respect the facts and be objective and rational, rather than quote hearsay or even make up stories and spread false accusations. 

Bloomberg: The Dutch foreign trade minister has told a Dutch newspaper that the country wants to reduce its dependence on China. At the same time it wants to keep its relationship with China. So my question to the foreign ministry is, given the circumstances around these new restrictions on chip machinery, can the Netherlands reduce its dependence on China while also keeping good relations? What are the implications for the relationship between China and the Netherlands of these recent developments?

Mao Ning: The global industrial and supply chains are shaped by market behavior. China and the Netherlands have normal trade relations. Any dependence there may be only exists because of a mutual need. No country would benefit from politicizing trade and tech issues, disrupting normal cooperation, and destabilizing the global industrial and supply chains. 

NOS: The fact that the Dutch minister of trade says so bluntly that these measures are both to maintain technology leadership and also to reduce strategic dependence on China, what does that mean for the trade relationship and the overall relationship between China and the Netherlands? Can we expect any repercussions from the Chinese side? And if so, what sorts of repercussions are you thinking of?

Mao Ning: It is understandable that countries want to preserve their technological and competitive edge, but it should be done through fair competition rather than deliberately politicizing and weaponizing trade and tech issues.

What they refer to as “dependence on China” is in fact the result of the laws of market and business choices combined. It only underscores the interdependence among all countries in a globalized world. Deliberately severing global supply and industrial chains doesn’t serve anyone’s interests.

We hope the Netherlands will hold an objective and just position, adhere to market principles, respect the spirit of contract, refrain from abusing export control regimes, and safeguard the shared interests of our two countries and Chinese and Dutch companies. China is committed to protecting our lawful rights and interests.

Bloomberg: Just a question on Australia’s nuclear submarines. It’s reported that they will use both British design as well as American parts and upgrades. Does the foreign ministry have any position or view on this?

Mao Ning: China has made clear its strong position on nuclear submarine cooperation between the US, the UK and Australia on multiple occasions. This trilateral cooperation constitutes serious nuclear proliferation risks, undermines the international non-proliferation system, exacerbates arms race and hurts peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific. It has been widely questioned and opposed by regional countries and the wider international community.

We urge the US, the UK and Australia to abandon the Cold War mentality and zero-sum games, honor international obligations in good faith and do more things that are conducive to regional peace and stability.

China News Service: Today marks the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties between China and Spain. What do you think of the development of China-Spain relations? Will the two sides hold commemorative activities?

Mao Ning: Today marks the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties between China and Spain. President Xi Jinping has exchanged message of congratulations with King Felipe VI. Over the past half century, our two countries, guided by the spirit of mutual respect, equality and mutual benefit, have advanced cooperation and deepened friendship, delivering tangible benefits for both peoples. We stand ready to work with Spain to take the 50th anniversary as a new starting point to consolidate political mutual trust, enhance exchange across the board, expand practical cooperation, step up exchange and coordination in international and regional affairs, enrich our comprehensive strategic partnership, and add a new chapter of friendship between our two countries.

Acting on the common understanding reached by our leaders, both sides have launched activities to jointly celebrate the occasion. This afternoon, a YXE train in commemoration of the establishment of China-Spain diplomatic relations will depart from Yiwu for Madrid and another from Madrid to Yiwu. China Media Group will broadcast a series of programs to mark the 50th anniversary. At the end of March, the China-Spain Year of Culture and Tourism will open in Madrid. A rich variety of related activities including exhibitions of cultural relics, concerts, cultural displays and tourism promotion will be held throughout the year. We hope to have your continued attention to jointly support greater progress in China-Spain friendship, exchange and cooperation. 

Reuters: The Australian government lifted COVID testing restrictions on travelers from China on Thursday local time. What’s your comment? Will China take reciprocal measures?

Mao Ning: We have noted relevant reports. China believes that for all countries, COVID response measures need to be science-based and proportionate. We hope countries concerned will work with China to do more to facilitate cross-border travel.

Bloomberg: A report from the US intelligence community mentioned China quite prominently, including such things as China’s dominance of critical minerals, as well as its control over TikTok. It said that China was advancing its nuclear weapons capability and deepening ties with Russia. Does the foreign ministry have a comment on this latest report from the US intelligence community?

Mao Ning: This US report is a clear misrepresentation of facts and full of slanders and smears against China. The US persistently sees China as its most consequential geopolitical challenge and most serious competitor and seeks to contain and suppress China in all respects. This is the root cause of the tensions in China-US relations.

The US repeatedly hypes up the “China threat” narrative by releasing various reports to smear and attack China. Its sole purpose is seeking justification for its own military build-up so as to maintain its hegemony. Before criticizing other countries, the US, as the only superpower armed to the teeth, should reflect on what it has done and should do.  

China pursues development in order to bring better lives to the people. We have no intention to challenge, threaten or undercut anyone. China views and grows its relations with the US in accordance with the three principles of mutual respect, peaceful coexistence and win-win cooperation. The US needs to stop seeking to contain and suppress China, work with China in the same direction to bring bilateral relations back to the track of sound and steady development. This serves the interests of both countries and the entire world.

Kyodo: If what you said about Tibet is true, then why aren’t foreign journalists allowed to go there?

Mao Ning: Tibet is an open region. In light of the unique geographical and climatic conditions, there are some necessary procedures to go through for foreign nationals who wish to go to the Tibet Autonomous Region.

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