|Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Zhao Lijian's Regular Press Conference on March 19, 2021|
CNN: Several questions about the US-China talks in Alaska. First, China has said that the US side gravely exceeded the time limit in their opening remarks and broke diplomatic protocols, which is no way to welcome guests. So why did China accuse the US of gravely exceeding the time limit? Second, a US official said that the Chinese delegation seemed to "have arrived intent on grandstanding, focused on public theatrics and dramatics over substance." What's your response? Third, China's state media and social media have given a lot of coverage to what the Chinese delegation said, including with eye-catching big character posters. So I wonder if the Chinese side had domestic audience more in mind when making these statements?
Zhao Lijian: Chinahas already released readouts on the high-level strategic dialogue with the US.
Regarding your first question, an official with the Chinese delegation has held a background briefing on the dialogue. The Chinese delegation went to Anchorage for the strategic dialogue with sincerity, fully prepared to engage in dialogue with the US according to the protocols and arrangements agreed on beforehand. However, as the US side first delivered opening remarks, they exceeded severely the set time limit and wantonly attacked China's domestic and foreign policies, provoking disagreements. These are hardly good host manners or proper diplomatic etiquette. The Chinese side has made a solemn response.
As to your other questions, the Chinese side has also made clear its position in the readout. It is because the US side failed to keep to the set time limit and provoked disagreements first that the opening statements were fiery and theatrical, which is not what China wishes to see.
Phoenix TV: There seems to be quite a gap between the statements of China and the US on some concerns raised by the latter. Against this backdrop, what, in China's view, is the point in holding this dialogue?
Zhao Lijian: By agreeing to hold this high-level strategic dialogue with the US, China is taking an important step in acting on the spirit of our heads of state's telephone conversation. It was actually the two presidents' decision to have this meeting. We believe it can be a good opportunity to enhance communication, manage differences and expand cooperation. It will help guide bilateral relations going forward. People in both countries and beyond all hope to see practical outcomes from this dialogue.
The Chinese delegation has come to Anchorage with full sincerity and a constructive attitude. Alaska is the northernmost US state. When the Chinese delegation arrived in Anchorage, their hearts were chilled by the biting cold as well as the reception by their American host. After the opening remarks, there are the main courses. We hope the US can meet China halfway and following the spirit of our heads of state's telephone conversation on the eve of the Chinese lunar New Year, focus on cooperation, manage difference and bring bilateral relations back onto the track of sound and stable development.
EFE: You just said that people await practical results from the meeting in Alaska. What will you consider good practical results? Another question is related to Xinjiang. At yesterday's press conference, the regional government of Xinjiang said there would be countermeasures, if the European Union approves next Monday sanctions against China because of Xinjiang. What specific countermeasures will there be?
Zhao Lijian: On your first question, as I just said, there will be formal talks after the opening session. The Chinese delegation will release information in a timely manner. Please stay tuned to the updates.
On your second question, I made a full elaboration on China's position yesterday. I'd like to refer you to yesterday's press conference.
Reuters: I just wanted to ask a more broad question about the talks between China and the US in Alaska. I mean the broad response to the initial meeting between China and the US was that it was very fiery and confrontational, and there's a lot of conflict and very heated discussions, and the two sides clashed over issues that they didn't agree on. Does the Chinese side expect the formal talks to also take this tone? What does the Chinese side hope will happen in those formal talks? And given that you suggested that maybe the Chinese side was surprised by the tone of these opening talks, are they changing the tactic in regard to these talks at all in the coming days?
Zhao Lijian: We hope the US can understand clearly that China is firmly determined and resolved in safeguarding its core interests. The US should also see with crystal clarity our steadfast position that China's internal affairs allow no interference. Of course, we hope in the following closed-door meetings, the two sides can have thorough communication on implementing the spirit of the phone call between the two heads of state, and bring the bilateral relationship back to the right track through this dialogue.
The Paper: Peter Ben Embarek, head of the WHO origin-tracing mission to China, said in interviews on March 18 that the team hopes the report, now totaling some 280 pages, will be ready for release next week. The "fine-tuning of the text" has centered on scientific issues, while some English-Chinese translation issues were "taking a lot of time," he said. Has China received the text of the report? Do you agree with the content? When is China going to give its assessment and feedback?
Zhao Lijian: I understand the work related to the report has been carried out among Chinese and international experts. On March 16, a WHO administrative official said that the report on origin-tracing would be released next week. We immediately checked with relevant parties. To my knowledge, Chinese experts received an English version of the report from WHO experts on March 17, totaling around 300 pages. As we speak, there is no Chinese version available yet. WHO is still working on the translation. With respect to the specific content of the report, I'm not aware of it. Whether the report will be released next week depends on the discussions between Chinese and foreign experts.
As for the main conclusions, findings and suggestions of this joint mission on origin-tracing, Chinese and WHO experts already made them public at a joint press conference on February 9. I want to stress that origin-tracing is a scientific issue that should be studied by the science community.
China News Service: The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) issued the Trade and Development Report 2020 Update on March 18, saying that China's export recovery in the second half of 2020 is better than expected and projecting China's economic growth at 8.1% in 2021. Do you have any comment?
Zhao Lijian: In the face of severe impacts of COVID-19 and deep economic recession worldwide, the Chinese government adopted timely, decisive and effective macro-policies to coordinate epidemic control and economic and social development, making China the only major economy that registered positive growth. The UNCTAD report reflects the international community's confidence in China's economic development.
Sustained and steady economic growth in China will make the international community better positioned to fight the coronavirus and promote economic recovery. In the first two months of this year, China's FDI inflow and trade in goods both got off to a good start, up by 31.5% and 32.2% year-on-year respectively. According to a recent report by the American Chamber of Commerce in China (AmCham China), 75% of surveyed companies said they are optimistic about the prospects of the Chinese market in the next two years, and 81% said they expected their businesses to grow in China in 2021. China is now the major trading partner for over 120 countries and regions including the US, the EU, Japan and India. The Chinese economy has long been closely integrated and intertwined in the world economy.
Now, as China has entered a new development stage, it is following the new development philosophy and formulating a new development paradigm to firmly advance high-quality development. China will open wider to the world, and create broader market space and more cooperation opportunities for countries around the world.
Bloomberg: About the trial of Canadian citizen Michael Spavor, my understanding is that it lasted for 2 hours, and there's to be no further hearings. There are also reports that Canadian diplomats did not get access. My first question relates to the trial today in Dandong. Does the foreign ministry have any comment on that? Secondly, I'd like to ask, again, if you could confirm that Michael Kovrig, the second Canadian, will stand trial on Monday as reports have said?
Zhao Lijian: I made clear China's position on the cases involving the Canadian citizens yesterday. Chinese judicial organs handle cases independently in accordance with the law and fully guarantee the lawful rights of the individuals concerned. China always handles relevant matters including consular notification in accordance with the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, the Consular Agreement between China and Canada as well as Chinese laws and regulations. China's judicial sovereignty brooks no interference.
According to Article 188 of the Criminal Procedure Law of the People's Republic of China and Article 222 of the Interpretation of the Supreme People's Court on the Application of the Criminal Procedure Law of the People's Republic of China, cases involving state secrets shall not be heard in open court and no one is allowed to sit in on the trial.
Reuters: A Canadian diplomat in Dandong today specifically told Reuters that they believe that China has broken the Vienna Convention and the Consular Agreement between Canada and China by not allowing their diplomats to sit in on the trial. He also complained that China has not allowed diplomats to meet with Spavor since February 3. So I just want to ask specifically on what the Canadian diplomats have said, what the ministry's comment is and whether the ministry has had any contact with the Canadian side over this.
Zhao Lijian: I have explained China's position very clearly just now. If China had not notified the Canadian embassy, I would like to ask you how the Canadian embassy official who went to Dandong got to know that there was to be a trial today?
As I also made very clear just now, since the case involves state secrets, it is not heard in open court and no one is allowed to sit in on the trial. Regarding the issue of consular access you mentioned, on the premise of mutual respect and accommodating each other's concerns, the Chinese authorities will continue to deal with consular visits for the Canadian citizens in accordance with the law as the epidemic situation evolves.
Prasar Bharati: A few Indians in New Delhi who want to return to China contacted the Chinese Embassy in New Delhi and they were told that the Chinese Embassy would make available the Chinese vaccines to them, if the government of India gives approval for making the vaccines available there. So my question is that is China in talks with the Indian side regarding the approval of Chinese vaccines either from Beijing or from the Chinese Embassy in New Delhi? Second question, regarding this new visa announcement, will it be applicable to students?
Zhao Lijian: The report you mentioned is not accurate. In the fight against COVID-19, a common enemy to mankind, China stands ready to advance cooperation with other countries including in vaccine research and development, so as to achieve an early victory.
With regard to the visa facilitation measure, China provides visa facilitation to incoming foreigners who have received Chinese vaccines and hold a vaccination certificate with a view to resuming international travel in an orderly fashion. As to the specific measures and the eligibility, I'd refer you to notices on the website of the Chinese Embassy in India.
The Chinese government attaches high importance to protecting the rights and interests of international students in China. Academic institutions are required to keep in close contact with those students abroad, make good arrangements for online courses, and properly address their legitimate concerns and appeals. On the precondition of observing containment protocols, the Chinese authorities will study this matter in a coordinated manner and keep in communication with relevant parties.
Follow-up: What I understood from your response is that, first, it is not yet applicable to the students. Second thing is that Chinese Embassy in New Delhi has not promised anything to Indians regarding the availability of Chinese vaccines. Am I right?
Zhao Lijian: It's best if your colleague can ask the Chinese Embassy in India for more information because it knows best the specific conditions with regard to India, including in vaccine cooperation.
NHK: In the Chinese delegation's background briefing in Anchorage, and in your remarks just now, the Chinese side mentioned it's fully prepared to engage in dialogue based on protocols agreed by both. We noticed that the Chinese side refers to this event as a high-level strategic dialogue, but the US hasn't adopted this term. I wonder if this reveals some contradictions with the Chinese line of previous agreement. Do you have a comment?
Zhao Lijian: As we've said repeatedly, the dialogue was proposed by the United States and China agreed to attend it.