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Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Mao Ning’s Regular Press Conference on April 6, 2023

2023-04-06 18:54

The Paper: We have noted that Spain’s Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez, France’s President Emmanuel Macron and President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen have visited China in recent days. Some people commented that frequent high-level exchange between China and Europe recently is a harbinger for warmer China-Europe relations. What’s China’s comment? What’s your expectation for China-Europe relations going forward? 

Mao Ning: Multiple leaders from Europe have paid fruitful visits to China recently. President Xi Jinping met with Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez and had an in-depth exchange of views with President Emmanuel Macron and President Ursula von der Leyen, providing strategic guidance for the growth of China-Spain relations, China-France relations and China-EU relations. Political consultations between Chinese and European foreign ministries are held in Beijing almost every week in preparation for frequent high-level interactions between our two sides at the next stage. Dozens of business leaders from Europe attended China Development Forum 2023 and expressed their confidence in and expectations for investing and growing in China. As a Chinese saying goes, a good beginning made in spring will ensure success for the whole year. Spring for China-Europe cooperation has arrived. China-Europe exchange in various areas have resumed swiftly and comprehensively.

The close interactions between China and Europe recently fully show that despite some differences, the two sides have a strong desire for and extensive and profound shared interests in communication. This year marks the 20th anniversary of the establishment of China-EU comprehensive strategic partnership. China and Europe are two major forces, two big markets and two great civilizations. We are ready to work with the European side to advance exchange and cooperation, build up trust and narrow differences, and inject certainty and positive energy to a volatile world with the stability and growth of China-Europe relations.

AFP: Can you confirm that China’s Shandong aircraft carrier is currently carrying out exercises on Taiwan’s eastern coast? If so, is this the Shandong’s first time conducting exercises in the Pacific Ocean? 

Mao Ning: I would like to refer you to competent authorities of China.

China News Service: It was reported that on April 5, Israeli police clashed with Palestinians at the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, leaving many Palestinians injured. Armed groups in Gaza fired rockets at southern Israel, prompting Israeli military strikes on Hamas targets. Do you have any comment on this?

Mao Ning: China is deeply concerned over the recent escalation of the Palestine-Israel conflict. We call on all parties, Israel in particular, to show calm and restraint and immediately stop all words and deeds that might heighten tensions, in order to prevent further escalation of the situation. The issue of Jerusalem’s status is complicated and sensitive. Parties concerned should act in accordance with relevant UN resolutions, and earnestly respect and maintain the historical status quo of the holy sites in Jerusalem. In the meanwhile, the international community needs to act with a stronger sense of urgency and take concrete steps in advancing the two-state solution, work for a comprehensive, just and lasting settlement of the Palestinian question at an early date, and realize the peaceful coexistence between Palestine and Israel.

AFP: Regardless of the Shandong aircraft carrier, can the foreign ministry offer any comments on any military exercises at all around the Taiwan region?

Mao Ning: This is not a question about foreign affairs. Please refer to competent authorities of China.

China Daily: The Philippines’ Department of National Defense chief Carlito Galvez Jr. on April 5 said that the addition of four sites under the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) with the US will further boost the country’s capabilities to protect national interests and contribute to collective defense in the region, and also aims to protect the busy sea lanes of commerce in the South China Sea. Some have commented on the locations of the four sites, with three facing the Taiwan Strait and one facing the South China Sea, saying this is apparently targeted at China. What’s your comment? 

Mao Ning: I already stated China’s position on this the day before yesterday. I would like to draw your attention to the long list of turmoil, division and devastation left behind by the US military around the world. Will increased US military deployment in one’s country or the region truly help protect sovereignty and security as well as regional peace and stability or rather cause grave irreparable consequences? Regional countries need to think carefully about this.

As to protecting sea lanes of commerce in the South China Sea, I believe the concern is really uncalled-for. There is never any issue with freedom of navigation and safety in the South China Sea. China and ASEAN countries are committed to the full and effective implementation of the DOC and steady progress in COC consultations. We have both the will and the capability to safeguard peace and stability in the South China Sea. There is no need for unwanted interference by forces outside the region.

The comments on the locations of the new military bases also speak to the concern shared by many insightful people in the Philippines, who worry that this may draw their country into the whirlpool of a potential conflict in the Taiwan Strait. The Taiwan question is China’s internal affair and its resolution is a matter for the Chinese. It is not the Chinese side that is heightening cross-Strait tensions, but the “Taiwan independence” forces in the island and certain countries that support these forces. We hope regional countries could see clearly who is fueling tensions across the Taiwan Strait for what purpose and will not pull someone else’s chestnuts out of fire at their own expense.

CCTV: According to reports, Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Saudi Arabia, and Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Iran, met in Beijing today. Can you share more information? 

Mao Ning: Upon the proposal of Saudi Arabia and Iran, China today received Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Saudi Arabia, and Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Iran, for a meeting in Beijing. State Councilor and Foreign Minister Qin Gang met with the two foreign ministers. The foreign ministers of Saudi Arabia and Iran announced the resumption of diplomatic ties and signed a joint statement. Both noted that they will continue to advance the process to improve bilateral relations in accordance with the roadmap and timeline identified in their Beijing talks in March and thanked China for its important role in facilitating the talks. China welcomes and applauds the continued steps Saudi Arabia and Iran have taken to improve their relations. We will continue to be a mediator, support both sides in building trust, dispelling misgivings and realizing good neighborliness, and contribute China’s wisdom and strength to promoting security, stability and development in the Middle East.

The further improvement of relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran fully shows that regional countries have the will and ability to take the initiative in promoting regional peace and development. The recent interactions in the Middle East also shows that peace and development is what people aspire for and what the trend is leading to. The international community should help Middle East countries resolve differences and enhance solidarity. Acts to stoke tensions, create divisions and divide and rule and other colonial and hegemonic practices will be opposed by people all over the world.

As a good friend and a good partner, China will as always respect Middle East countries, who are the true masters of their future. We are a force for reconciliation, peace and harmony in the Middle East. China will implement the Global Security Initiative, the Global Development Initiative and the Global Civilization Initiative with Middle East countries, promote security, stability, development, prosperity, inclusiveness and harmony in the Middle East.

Reuters: Can the foreign ministry confirm if China has suspended the visas for two Indian journalists Anshuman Mishra of Prasar Barahti and Ananth Krishnan of The Hindu? If China has indeed suspended their visa, what was the reason for this? 

Mao Ning: Chinese journalists have suffered unfair and discriminatory treatment in India for a long time. In 2017, the Indian side shortened the period of validity of visas held by Chinese journalists in India to three months or even one month without any valid reason. Since 2020, the Indian side has refused to review and approve Chinese journalists’ applications for stationing in India. What is worse, in December 2021, a CGTN journalist stationed in India was asked by the Indian side, with no explanation till now, to leave the country within ten days when his visa was still valid for two months and his term would not end in half a year. A few days ago, the Indian side asked a journalist of the Xinhua News Agency to leave the country by March 31, citing the reason that he had been in the country for six years.

The Chinese side treats Indian journalists in China with goodwill and has actively provided assistance and facilitation for their life and work in China. Indian journalists stationed in China all hold residence permit valid for one year, during which they can enter and exit from China multiples times and their lawful rights of interview and reporting are fully protected. Journalists from the PTI and the Hindustan Times have stationed in China for over ten years, and you may learn the relevant facts from them.

Over the years, the Chinese side has actively communicated with the Indian side with restraint and goodwill. China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Chinese Embassy in India have expressed concerns to the Indian side on many occasions on the issue of Chinese journalists’ visas. Regrettably, however, the Indian side ignored this and even went further down the wrong path. Considering this, the Chinese side has no choice but to take appropriate counter-measures to safeguard the legitimate rights and interests of Chinese media organizations. Indian journalists are welcome to work in China. If the Indian side takes positive measures to correct their mistakes, China stands ready to work together with the Indian side and continue to provide facilitation for Indian journalists.

AFP: NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg said yesterday that China refuses to condemn Russia’s aggression. It echoes Russian propaganda and it props up Russia’s economy. Does the foreign ministry have any response to the NATO chief’s comments?

Mao Ning: On the Ukraine crisis, China upholds an objective and just position. We have been advocating a political settlement of the crisis and working for talks for peace. This has been supported by the vast majority of countries in the world. Our position is comprehensively and systematically outlined in China’s Position on the Political Settlement of the Ukraine Crisis. History will tell who is truly standing on the right side upholding justice. The US and the military bloc of NATO shoulder unshirkable responsibilities on the Ukraine crisis. NATO is in no position to criticize or pressure China.

Bloomberg: There are media reports that China is urging the WTO to probe practices and heighten oversight of the US, Japan and the Netherlands over their export curbs on semiconductor-making equipment. Does the foreign ministry have any comment and can you confirm this? 

Mao Ning: I will need to refer you to the competent authorities for the specifics. As far as I know, the international community has shared concern over the practice of certain countries and hopes to get clarifications. The US politicizes, instrumentalizes and weaponizes economic, trade and tech issues, abuses export control regimes, sacrifices allies’ interests without hesitation, and coerces other countries to join its small clique that imposes export restrictions on China. Such hegemonic acts run counter to WTO rules and seriously destabilize the global industrial and supply chains. We firmly oppose them.

Reuters: Can I just confirm that the visas of the two journalists involved were suspended in reaction as a retaliation to the Xinhua reporter’s visa in India? Is that a tit-for-tat sort of retaliation? 

Mao Ning: As far as I know, the Indian journalists’ visa status has not been changed. What I can share with you is that we have always treated China-based Indian journalists like friends and family and become friends with them. The current situation is not what we would like to see. Putting themselves in the Chinese journalists’ shoes, I’m sure the Indian journalists can fully relate to what their Chinese colleagues are going through. We hope the Indian side could show goodwill, immediately correct the wrong practice, and provide convenience for the normal work and life of journalists based in our two countries. 

Reuters: Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said on Tuesday that he had urged the Chinese leader to help control shipments of fentanyl as he fended off criticism in the US that Mexico is not doing enough to stop trafficking of this synthetic opioid. How do you comment about this?

Mao Ning: There is no such thing as illegal trafficking of fentanyl between China and Mexico. We two countries have a smooth channel of counternarcotics cooperation and the competent authorities of the two countries maintain sound communication. China has not been notified by Mexico on the seizure of scheduled fentanyl precursors from China.

The Chinese government takes a firm stance on counternarcotics. China scheduled fentanyl as a class back in 2019, the first in the world to do so, covering more categories than what are scheduled by the UN conventions. China has been playing the role as a responsible major country in responding to the global drug problem, and is ready to enhance international counternarcotics law enforcement cooperation under the UN conventions on drug control, and strengthen bilateral counternarcotics cooperation with other countries including Mexico to contribute to global counternarcotics governance.

While the US has the most acute fentanyl challenge in the world, it has yet to officially schedule fentanyl-related substances as a class. The abuse of fentanyl in the US has become even worse, leading to more deaths. The root cause of the overdose lies in the US itself. The problem is completely “made in USA”. The US needs to face up to its own problems, take more substantial measures to strengthen domestic regulation and reduce demand. It cannot relapse into the illness of “letting others take the pill when it is sick”.

China firmly supports Mexico in defending independence and autonomy and opposing foreign interference, and calls on relevant country to stop hegemonic practices against Mexico. At the same time, we hope the Mexican side will also take stronger counternarcotics actions. 

TV Tokyo: Regarding the meeting between Taiwan’s Tsai and McCarthy today, the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that it would take resolute measures, but what specific measures will be taken? 

Mao Ning: The US acts with Taiwan to connive at “Taiwan independence” separatists’ political activities in the US, conduct official contact with Taiwan and upgrade the substantive relations with Taiwan, and frame it as a “transit”. This is a serious violation of the one-China principle and the provisions of the three China-US joint communiqués. It seriously infringes upon China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and sends an egregiously wrong signal to the “Taiwan independence” separatist forces. China will take strong and resolute measures to defend our sovereignty and territorial integrity. 

Reuters: The Vatican said that China has unilaterally appointed a new bishop to Shanghai in an apparent violation of a bilateral pact between the two states. How does the foreign ministry comment about this?

Mao Ning: China and the Vatican are in communication over this. Since China and the Vatican signed the provisional agreement on the appointment of bishops, the two sides have maintained close communication and the agreement is in sound implementation. We are ready to maintain contact with the Vatican side to uphold the spirit of the agreement.

Reuters: China is considering an export ban for rare-earth magnet technology, according to Nikkei. How do you comment about this?  

Mao Ning: I am not aware of the specifics and would refer you to the competent authorities. 

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