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Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Zhao Lijian’s Regular Press Conference on November 30, 2021

CCTV: We noted that President Xi Jinping attended the opening ceremony of the eighth Ministerial Conference of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation and delivered a keynote speech titled “Uphold the Tradition of Always Standing Together and Jointly Build a China-Africa Community with a Shared Future in the New Era”. Could you share more details with us?

Zhao Lijian: President Xi Jinping’s attendance and keynote speech at the opening ceremony of the eighth Ministerial Conference of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC), a highlight of the event, has been closely followed by the Chinese and African people and the international community. In his speech, President Xi took stock of the historical achievements China and Africa have made since the start of diplomatic relations 65 years ago. He also summarized the spirit of China-Africa friendship and cooperation, which features sincere friendship and equality, win-win for mutual benefit and common development, fairness and justice, progress with the times, and openness and inclusiveness. He gave a positive appraisal of the cooperation outcomes since the 2018 FOCAC Beijing Summit, and made four proposals for building a China-Africa community with a shared future in the new era, including fighting COVID-19 with solidarity, deepening practical cooperation, promoting green development, and upholding equity and justice. He also announced that China will work closely with African countries to implement nine programs in the next three years to come, which are related to medical service and health, poverty reduction and agricultural development, trade and investment promotion, digital innovation, green development, capacity building, cultural and people-to-people exchange, and peace and security. He also called for joint efforts to promote and carry forward the spirit of China-Africa friendship and cooperation and build a China-Africa community with a shared future in the new era.

President Xi’s speech provided a strategic plan and overarching design for China-Africa cooperation in the future and drew up a blueprint for China-Africa friendly and mutually beneficial cooperation in the new era, winning appreciation and acclaim from African countries and people. China will implement the solemn pledges made in President Xi’s speech and work with the African side to follow through on the consensus of our leaders and the FOCAC meeting outcomes and further deepen and substantiate the building of a China-Africa community with a shared future in the new era.

Beijing Daily: According to recent media reports, Belarus State Border Committee found bodies of two refugees and traces of a corpse covered in wounds being dragged from Lithuania’s territory across the border and accused Lithuanian border guards of deliberate murder. Other reports say that the Lithuanian authorities dragged a refugee who was seven months pregnant to the Belarus side of the border and dumped her on the grass. Does China have any comment?

Zhao Lijian: The tragic fate of the refugees is heart-wrenching and outrageous. Two human beings will never see the sun tomorrow. What’s more grieving is that the reports you mentioned are just the tip of the iceberg of Lithuania’s human rights abuses. According to media reports, prison guards in Lithuania abuse inmates and wantonly use violence. Lithuanian history records massacre of Jews and today racism remains a grave problem in the country. Jews and other ethnic minorities suffer serious discrimination, with their rights of seeking medical treatment and traveling deprived and infringed upon. Children’s rights are gravely violated as well. The call-back rate of child protection hotlines is extremely low and there are not enough orphanages to house every orphan. Relevant reports by international organizations show that over 20 percent of sex workers in Lithuania are minors.

Lithuania’s deplorable human rights records violate relevant clauses of the European Convention on Human Rights and international human rights law. Lithuania should reflect deeply on its behavior and offer a responsible explanation to the international community. 

China Daily: Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said in a recent interview that there was infection percolating as early as November, maybe even earlier, in China. He also said China cleaned up the Huanan seafood market to make sure that things don’t get pointed to it. Do you have any comment?

Zhao Lijian: We regret the remarks by Mr. Fauci. Environmental cleaning and disinfection, an important means of epidemic prevention and control, can effectively remove viruses and stem their spread. It is a scientific and professional practice that is applied around the world. In the face of the sudden onslaught of an unknown virus, the Chinese government put people and their lives front and center and adopted normal prevention and control measures, which are beyond reproach. It should be pointed out in particular that China has held the key line of defence for the world with its prevention and control measures and experience, thus buying precious time for other countries’ response to the coronavirus. 

Since the start of COVID-19, China has been taking part in the global cooperation on origins-tracing in a science-based, transparent and responsible manner. China lost no time in providing updates of the pandemic at home and abroad, reporting the outbreak to the WHO and the international community, and identifying and sharing the genome sequence of the virus. China was the first to conduct joint study with the WHO and invited WHO experts to China twice for field trips, which produced important and positive outcomes. What China has done laid a good foundation for the global science-based origins study and can well stand the test of history. 

Respecting facts and science is the first rule for origins-tracing and all scientific studies. Preconceptions, especially unsubstantiated speculations, will only disrupt global science-based studies and undermine global anti-epidemic cooperation. You may have been aware of the flare-ups of COVID-19, which underscore the need for countries to focus on science-based COVID-19 response, do a good job at home, step up international cooperation and create a defence with vaccines.

MASTV: According to media reports, there were protests in the Gwadar region last week regarding the excessive fishing licenses given to Chinese trawlers, which the protesters say is not benefiting the local population and has adversely affected the local fisherman. Do you have any further comment on that?

Zhao Lijian: That’s purely fake news. The report by certain media on anti-China protests in the Gwadar region is completely groundless. It has been verified that there are no Chinese trawlers harboring in the Gwadar Port or fishing in relevant waters. I would like to reiterate that the Gwadar Port, a flagship project under CPEC, always focuses on development and is livelihood-oriented. The Chinese side upholds the principle of mutual respect and agreement through consultation in advancing relevant cooperation. We firmly oppose certain media outlets’ malicious attempt to smear CPEC and China-Pakistan relations by fabricating disinformation with subterfuge in violation of press ethics. 

Phoenix TV: Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison reportedly said that Australia cannot afford to show “weakness” in the face of China’s growing combativeness and backed Defence Minister Peter Dutton’s assessment of the situation. Do you have any comment?

Zhao Lijian: Australian Defence Minister Peter Dutton continued with his delusional miscalculation on China’s foreign policy in his address at the National Press Club. He brazenly distorted China’s efforts to safeguard national sovereignty and territorial integrity, mislead the Australian people on the regional situation and priorities, and incite conflict and division between countries and peoples. The remarks run counter to the trend of peace, development and cooperation in our world today and are detrimental to regional peace and stability. China firmly rejects such irresponsible remarks. Many visionary people in Australia have also criticized them.

Australia has benefited from China’s development. China has never done anything that undermines Australia’s sovereignty. The Australian side should view China and China’s development in an objective and rational light and avoid strategic miscalculation. We urge certain Australian politicians to stop hyping up the “China threat” narrative for selfish political gain and stop going further down the wrong path towards the point of no return. 

Yonhap News Agency: According to reports, ROK National Security Advisor Suh Hoon will visit China on December 2 for discussions on an end-of-war declaration. Where will he have talks with Director Yang Jiechi? And what items will be on the agenda?

Zhao Lijian: I don’t have anything to announce at this moment. Please stay tuned.

AFP: First, the Pentagon says it plans to expand military bases in Guam and Australia to beef up defenses against China. How does China react to this? The second question is, the World Health Assembly will vote this week on whether to establish a binding treaty or convention to help the WHO fight pandemics better. Will China support such a treaty? What’s China’s position on such a treaty? And can you offer more details on how China might contribute or what China expects from such a treaty?

Zhao Lijian: On your first question, the relevant Pentagon report fully exposes the true intention of the US to militarize the Indo-Pacific and go all out to encircle and contain China. The development of China’s national defense capability is entirely out of the need to safeguard its sovereignty, security and development interests and maintain international and regional peace and security. This is fundamentally different from the US’ flagrant sabre-rattling around the world, hegemonic and bullying practices, and disruption of regional peace and stability. We firmly oppose the US side’s attempt to justify its moves to increase military expenditure, expand military build-up and maintain military hegemony with the “China threat theory”. The US side should abandon the Cold War mentality of creating imaginary enemies and stop words and deeds that threaten international peace and security.

On your second question, China has always been committed to pandemic preparedness and response and is open to any effort and measure that can help strengthen global solidarity and coordinate responses to future pandemics. We stand ready to maintain communication and coordination with all parties on formulating a pandemic treaty. We hope that the relevant process will move forward within the framework of the UN and the WHO to ensure universal participation of all member states, avoid politicization and stigmatization, and make sure the process will not be used as a tool. 

Kyodo News: A question about the new variant Omicron, which has started to spread across the world. Will this affect preparation for the Beijing Winter Olympics? Does China think the Games can be held as scheduled?

Zhao Lijian: China appreciates that South Africa has shared the information it discovered about the new variant strain in a timely manner with the world. China believes that we must rely on science to fight the virus and support the WHO in continuing to play a leading role in assisting national response and advancing international cooperation. The pandemic is a common enemy of all mankind. China stands ready to work in solidarity with the international community including southern African countries to vanquish COVID-19.

As to how Omicron will affect the Beijing Winter Olympics, I believe there will be some challenges in terms of prevention and control measures. However, with the experience we have accumulated in dealing with the virus, I have every confidence that the Beijing Winter Olympics will be held smoothly and successfully as scheduled.

AFP: The Pacific island of New Caledonia is to hold a referendum on independence from France in mid-December. Does China support New Caledonia’s independence? And also there are concerns that this would be a chance for China to increase its influence in the Pacific Island region. How do you respond to this?

Zhao Lijian: Perhaps those people are overthinking this. New Caledonia’s referendum on independence is France’s internal affair, on which China has no comment.

Hubei Media Group: Russian President Vladimir Putin, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev and Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan held a trilateral meeting in Sochi to discuss the disputes between Azerbaijan and Armenia and issued a joint statement. Do you have any comment on that?

Zhao Lijian: China appreciates the efforts Russia has made to promote regional peace and stability. Both Azerbaijan and Armenia are China’s friendly cooperative partners. China sincerely hopes that both countries will meet each other halfway, resolve disputes and differences through dialogue and consultation, and jointly maintain peace, stability and the tranquil life of people in the region.

Xinhua News Agency: Andrey Kortunov, Director General of the Russian International Affairs Council (RIAC), a famous think tank, wrote in an article published on November 28 that the “Summit for Democracy” initiated by the US “attempts to turn the multicolor modern world into black and white divisions”. Do you have any comment?

Zhao Lijian: I have taken note of relevant reports as well as the sound criticism and suggestions regarding the US style of democracy from the academic circle recently. Daniel Fried and Rose Jackson, US-based Atlantic Council researchers, said that the US should be asking itself what is causing the democratic decline and make those issues its focus. Elliott Abrams, a senior fellow at the US Council on Foreign Relations, said that the US has spent billions of dollars a year to advance democracy around the world, but relevant projects have been seriously disoriented in the pursuit of profits and a comprehensive review of US efforts to promote democracy is needed. Ben Scott, a researcher with the Lowy Institute in Australia, said the US should recognize that its authority has been weakened by its own democratic shortcomings and strike a suitably humble note when discussing democracy abroad.

No democratic system is a panacea. All countries aspire for democratic values. Discussions on practicing democratic values should be colorful and inclusive. Countries with different national conditions and social systems should engage in exchange and mutual learning. The US insists on condescendingly imposing its so-called “democracy” on other countries and even interfering in their domestic affairs or waging military invasion. The result can only be turmoil, warfare and refugees in the affected countries. The US insists on depicting the multicolor world in black and white film and monopolizing the definition of democracy with its own standard in disregard of the huge differences in culture, history and civilization of different countries. It acts as the judge of democracy in its self-choreographed play. Nothing could be further from true democracy than this travesty of democracy. 

I need to stress that the US is in no position to claim itself a “model of democracy”. By patching together the so-called “Summit for Democracy” and peddling the “democracy versus autocracy” narrative, the US is actually seeking to rekindle the Cold-War mentality and instigate division and confrontation to serve its hegemonic agenda. Such acts that undermine democracy in the name of “promoting democracy” risk international condemnation and will only end up in failure.

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