Shenzhen TV: German Chief of Navy, Vice Adm. Kay-Achim Schonbach said in an interview on December 22 that China is increasing the size of its navy by the equivalent of the entire French navy every four years, which is “explosive” and a cause for concern. He said he can understand that China wants a blue-water navy, adding, “The question is if they fit into the international rules-based order”. Germany promulgated its guidelines for the Indo-Pacific in 2020. This deployment of a warship in the South China Sea is the first step. “The next step, probably, I hope that we can come on a regular basis — two or three years”, he said. Do you have any comment?
Zhao Lijian: It is an exaggeration to describe China’s military growth as “explosive” and unnecessary to see it as “a cause for concern”. China is committed to a defensive national defense policy and is always a builder of world peace, a contributor to global development, a defender of the international order and a provider of public good. China’s development of necessary military capabilities is for the purpose of safeguarding its legitimate national security interests, and is completely justified and reasonable. No country will be threatened by China’s defense forces as long as it does not intend to threaten or undermine China’s sovereignty, security and territorial integrity.
At present, with the concerted efforts of China and ASEAN countries, the situation in the South China Sea remains generally stable. Non-regional countries should respect the efforts of countries directly concerned to uphold peace and stability. As we have stressed repeatedly, the only thing countries should all subscribe to and safeguard is the international order underpinned by international law. The only thing all should comply with is basic norms governing international relations based on the purposes and principles of the UN Charter. What we should be truly vigilant about and oppose is certain countries’ muscle-flexing by sending warships and aircraft to the South China Sea and flagrant discord-sowing among regional countries. If Germany wants to expand its military, break its own policy limits, and demonstrate its military presence in other regions, it needs not to make an issue out of China.
MASTV: On December 22, the UN Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution on humanitarian aid to Afghanistan. Can you share some information?
Zhao Lijian: The Security Council unanimously adopted Resolution 2615 yesterday, enabling provision of humanitarian aid to Afghanistan.
As a friendly neighbor and sincere friend of Afghanistan, China closely follows Afghanistan’s humanitarian situation and helps Afghanistan address economic and livelihood difficulties through various ways. In the meantime, China supports the UN in playing a greater coordinating role and calls on all international partners to step up assistance to Afghanistan.
China always believes that humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan does not violate Security Council resolutions. It should not be conditional, still less be politicized under any circumstances. The Security Council should play a constructive role in humanitarian aid to Afghanistan, and actions should help to clarify doubts and facilitate the timely, smooth and unhindered delivery of humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan. During the consultation of this resolution, some member states proposed to create time limits, a list of aid providers and an onerous reporting mechanism, setting artificial restrictions and conditions for humanitarian aid to Afghanistan that deviate from the purpose. China has been constructively engaged in the consultations and put forward specific amendments. Eventually, the resolution reflected the views of China and clarified the key issues. It was unanimously adopted at the Security Council, thus providing a clear legal basis for continued humanitarian aid to Afghanistan.
We also have to understand that profound changes have taken place in Afghanistan since August this year. Up to 39 million Afghan people are facing a humanitarian crisis. The US and some NATO members bear responsibilities for the current Afghan situation. They should earnestly reflect on what they have done, immediately unfreeze Afghanistan’s overseas assets, join hands with the international community in helping Afghanistan recover its economy and achieve development, and make contributions to relieving the difficulties facing the Afghan people.
Kyodo News: An American professor at Harvard University was convicted on Tuesday for lying about his ties with China’s “Thousand Talents Program”. Some people think vigilance must be maintained against the program. What is your comment?
Zhao Lijian: I answered this question on yesterday’s press conference and would refer you to it.
The Paper: On December 22, Spokesperson for the US Department of State said that Secretary Antony Blinken spoke with EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell. They highlighted shared concerns about escalating political pressure and economic coercion by China against Lithuania, which are impacting both US and European companies. They underscored continuing solidarity with Lithuania and strengthening economic resilience. Borrell said China’s unilateral actions are severely impeding trade in goods not only with Lithuania, but also impacting companies from other EU member states. The EU will stand together. What is China’s comment?
Zhao Lijian: Lithuania has made grave mistakes on Taiwan-related issues. Instead of admitting and addressing its mistakes, it has been making up lies to shirk responsibilities and distort facts. The US and the EU know this too well. What they should do is to urge Lithuania to immediately admit and address its mistakes, rather than disregard facts and screen the faults. Accusing China of the issue groundlessly further mixes right with wrong, transgresses justice and hurts the images of the US and the EU.
Facts have proven many times that the US is the master of unilateral sanctions and coercive diplomacy in all their forms. Examples abound in terms of unwarranted unilateral sanctions, long-arm jurisdiction and the abuse of state power to suppress foreign institutions, companies and individuals in accordance with US domestic law, which have drawn wide opposition from the international community. If the EU wants to uphold an international order that is equitable and fair, it should tell right from wrong, stay objective and unbiased, and take real actions to safeguard the steady and sound development of China-EU relations. It should not dance to the US’ tune, and stand on the wrong side of justice.
Hubei Media Group: The Institute for Human Rights Law of Huazhong University of Science and Technology has recently released a report titled “Human Rights Disaster of the US Incompetent Pandemic Containment”. It points out that in the face of the raging COVID-19 pandemic, the US government failed to put its own people’s life and health front and center, impeded international cooperation, and caused a grave humanitarian disaster. The root cause of the US’ botched response lies in its inherent institutional flaws, misplaced values and serious disregard for human rights. Do you have any comment?
Zhao Lijian: I note the report. As of December 22, the US had recorded more than 810,000 deaths from COVID-19 and over 51 million confirmed cases, accounting for about 15 percent and 19 percent of the global total respectively. As a country with the most advanced medical technology and the richest medical resources in the world, the US has become the worst affected country in this pandemic and caused a grave humanitarian disaster both at home and abroad.
On the domestic front, the previous US administration deliberately downplayed the risks of COVID-19 and misled the public with disinformation. As a result, the window for epidemic containment was missed. The disagreement between the two parties and between the federal government and state authorities regarding containment measures and relief policies has led to the deaths of many people and great difficulties of vulnerable groups. To deflect pressure, the previous administration resorted to stigmatization, triggering a surge in racial discrimination and hate crimes against people of Asian descent. Survey results show that in 2020, hate crime cases targeting the Asian community in the US increased by 76 percent, and a quarter of young Asians were targeted by racial discrimination and bullying.
On the international front, the US has been busy shifting the blame, concocting conspiracy theories, and politicizing and weaponizing the pandemic, which has greatly disrupted and undermined international cooperation in combating the virus and tracing the origins. Amid the pandemic, the US has not reduced but increased unilateral sanctions on Iran, Cuba, Venezuela, Syria and other countries, making it difficult for them to access anti-epidemic medical supplies and humanitarian assistance in a timely manner and placing artificial obstacles in their fight against COVID-19.
The right to life is a fundamental right enjoyed by all, as is explicitly recognized in the Declaration of Independence and the US Constitution. However, the US government disregarded the right to life of its own citizens and people of the world and staged a scapegoating show right after a botched response. This once again exposed the hypocrisy of the US touting itself as a “beacon of democracy” and “human rights defender”.
Beijing Daily: As we learned, China will provide police equipment with and send a police advisory team to Solomon Islands. What is your comment?
Zhao Lijian: The capital of Solomon Islands saw grave anti-government riots in the second half of November. China firmly supports the government of Solomon Islands in defending the country’s stability, resolutely safeguards the relations between China and Solomon Islands and the legitimate rights and interests of Chinese citizens there, and strongly condemns any illegal and violent action.
At the request of the government of Solomon Islands, China will provide a batch of emergency riot equipment for the police and send an ad-hoc police advisory team. The Chinese supplies and personnel will arrive in Solomon Islands soon, and are expected to play a constructive role in enhancing the ability of the Solomon Islands Police.
CCTV: Secretary-General of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) Vladimir Norov said in an interview on December 21 that the Beijing Winter Olympics will be a spectacular international sports event with the best performance. Do you have any comment?
Zhao Lijian: We appreciate Secretary-General Vladimir Norov’s remarks. Yesterday, Thórdís Kolbrún Reykfjörð Gylfadóttir, Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Development Cooperation of Iceland, congratulated China on the smooth progress in preparatory work for the Beijing Olympics during a virtual meeting with State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi. Foreign Minister Gylfadóttir also expressed confidence in a successful Beijing 2022 and Iceland’s readiness to actively participate in the Games.
Recently, my colleague and I have shared with you how the International Olympic Committee, relevant international organizations and many national authorities and Olympic committees voiced their just support for the Beijing Olympic Games. As we speak, preparation for the Games is making steady progress. We are convinced that with the concerted efforts of all sides, Beijing will surely present a streamlined, safe and splendid Winter Olympics to the world.
CRI: We noticed that the second International Seminar on Counterterrorism was held both online and offline yesterday, which was attended by officials, heads of counterterrorism research institutions as well as experts and scholars from 18 countries. Can you share more information?
Zhao Lijian: On December 22, the second International Seminar on Counterterrorism: New Situation, New Threats, New Challenges to Counterterrorism and New Joint Response Measures was held successfully both online and offline by China Institute of Contemporary International Studies and China Institute of International Studies. Assistant Foreign Minister Wu Jianghao attended the seminar and delivered a keynote speech.
China pointed out at the meeting that the year 2021 has witnessed the resurgence of international terrorist activities. We need to draw experience and lessons from history, uphold the vision of common, comprehensive, cooperative and sustainable global security, foster the awareness of a community with a shared future, underscore the central role played by the UN, strengthen capacity building in developing countries, follow the principle of addressing both symptoms and root causes, and join hands to address new threats and new challenges of terrorism.
The Chinese side stressed that the ETIM is a terrorist organization listed by the 1267 Committee of the UN Security Council. Its rampant activities not only seriously endanger China’s security and stability, but also pose a real threat to the international community. All countries should fully recognize the violent and terrorist nature of this group, and work with China to resolutely crack down on it. A few countries have turned counterterrorism into a political tool, making groundless accusations against the legitimate counterterrorism and deradicalization measures taken by the international community, and even exploiting terrorist forces to serve their own geopolitical interests. Counterterrorism should not become a tool of major-country rivalry or a leverage in geopolitics, still less an excuse to interfere in other countries’ internal affairs. The lessons of the boomerang effect are still fresh in memory, and must not be forgotten.
Participants had in-depth discussions on three topics, namely, the new situation in international counterterrorism and new joint response measures; the changing landscape in Afghanistan and new threats to regional counterterrorism efforts; and new theaters and challenges in international counterterrorism. It was agreed that in conducting international counterterrorism cooperation, all need to strengthen solidarity and cooperation, practice true multilateralism, actively respond to the changes in Afghanistan, curb the resurgence of terrorist and radical thoughts, address both symptoms and root causes, reject double standards on counterterrorism, and increase developing countries’ counterterrorism capacity-building.
Bloomberg: On December 23, Intel issued a statement whereby it “apologized for causing trouble to our Chinese customers” after a letter telling its suppliers not to source products or labour from Xinjiang. What is China’s comment? Intel went on to say that the reason why they had sent the letter to suppliers was that the company could be compliant with US laws and that it did not represent a stance by the company on Xinjiang. Does the Intel statement that it did not mean to express an opinion on Xinjiang-related issues satisfy the Chinese people and the government? Is this apology sufficient? And could it be a model for future behavior by other foreign companies?
Zhao Lijian: We note the statement and hope the relevant company can respect facts and distinguish right from wrong. We have stressed many times that the allegations about forced labor in Xinjiang are lies cooked up by anti-China forces in the US with the purpose of tarnishing China’s image, undermining stability in Xinjiang and holding back China’s development. The people of Xinjiang are hardworking and brave, and Xinjiang’s products are of good quality. If certain company chooses not to use Xinjiang products, it is their loss.
AFP: I have a question on the Beijing 2022. The National Hockey League (NHL) announced yesterday that its players will not participate in the Olympic Games due to COVID-19. What is China’s response?
Zhao Lijian: I note that the Beijing Organizing Committee for the 2022 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games has made a response. Huang Chun, Deputy Director General of the Pandemic Prevention and Control Office of the Beijing Organising Committee for the 2022 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games, expressed regret at a press conference at the State Council Information Office. He also said that the Beijing 2022 Playbooks were jointly formulated and published by the Chinese side, the International Olympic Committee and the International Paralympic Committee. Pooling wisdom and experience of Chinese and foreign experts, the Playbooks can ensure the safety of the Olympians and the public.
China Daily: The US President signed the Memorandum on the Presidential Determination with Respect to the Efforts of Foreign Governments Regarding Trafficking in Persons the other day and said, consistent with section 110 of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000, the US will not provide nonhumanitarian, nontrade-related assistance to the governments of Afghanistan, Myanmar, China and other countries for Fiscal Year 2022 until such governments comply with the Act’s minimum standards. What is China’s comment?
Zhao Lijian: In terms of human rights issues, the US is used to projecting its own image onto others. While suffering chronic human rights malaise, the US is preoccupied with writing prescriptions for others. Now it brings up “human trafficking” again, only to fully expose its sinister intention to attack and smear others and meddle in others’ internal affairs under the pretext of human rights.
I want to stress that the US has a deplorable track record on human trafficking. It is in no position to make so-called determination for other countries while wielding a stick. Up to 100,000 people were trafficked into the US for forced labor annually over the past five years. Half of them were sold to sweatshops or enslaved in households. More than 11,500 human trafficking situations were identified in the US in 2019, more than twice as much as in 2015.
The US is blind to serious human trafficking and other human rights issues at home, but makes unwarranted accusations against other countries. What it should do is to work on its bad habit of lecturing and policing the world, earnestly reflect on itself and address its own problems, instead of willfully pointing fingers at and making irresponsible remarks about others’ human rights conditions.
Reuters: Has China confirmed a new ambassador to the DPRK? When will the newly-appointed ambassador arrive in the DPRK? Also, a question on the meeting between the vice foreign ministers of China and the ROK to be held this afternoon. What is China expecting of this meeting?
Zhao Lijian: On your first question, the Chinese Ambassador to the DPRK Li Jinjun will leave office soon and has been paying farewell calls. This is a normal personnel arrangement of the Chinese side. Regarding what you asked about the designation of a new ambassador, I have no information to offer at this moment. China and the DPRK are in communication on relevant arrangement.
On your question about the interaction between China and the ROK, China and the ROK are important, close neighbors and cooperative partners. The two countries will hold “China-ROK Cultural Exchange Years” this year and the next, and 2022 marks the 30th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries. All this presents an important new opportunity for our bilateral relations. We hope this dialogue will play a positive role in strengthening communication, enhancing mutual trust and advancing bilateral relations.