Hubei Media Group: The volcanic eruption in Tonga has caused a severe disaster. Could you share some details of China’s disaster-relief assistance to the country?
Zhao Lijian: China has been closely following the situation in Tonga and has acted swiftly to render disaster-relief assistance to the best of its capability. The Red Cross Society of China has provided USD 100,000 in cash as emergency humanitarian assistance to the Tongan side.
The Chinese government, through the Chinese Embassy in Tonga, has managed to put together in the shortest time possible some emergency supplies including drinking water and food and delivered them to Tonga on January 19. Speaking at a ceremony marking the occasion, Deputy Prime Minister of Tonga Poasi Tei thanked the Chinese government for the swift assistance, which is the first batch of emergency supplies the Tongan government has received since the disaster stroke and embodies the special friendship between the two countries. Many Tongan people expressed heartfelt thanks to the Chinese embassy, calling China a true friend in need.
Going forward, China will continue to provide assistance in cash and supplies based on the situation and Tonga’s needs and strive to overcome unfavorable meteorological conditions such as the volcanic ash to deliver the supplies as soon as possible.
MASTV: The 2022 Edelman Trust Barometer, a report released by the top global public relations consultancy firm Edelman on January 18, indicates that trust among Chinese citizens in their government in 2021 is a record 91 percent, up by nine percentage points from last year, remaining the top globally. The Trust Index for China stands at 83 percent, gaining 11 percentage points and marking the highest in the survey. Do you have any comment?
Zhao Lijian: I noted relevant reports. The 2017 and 2018 Edelman Trust Barometer reports, as I recall, showed that the trust among Chinese citizens in their government was the highest in all the countries surveyed. The figure in this year’s report hits a record high in a decade. We have shared with you a 10-odd-year survey by the Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government on China. It finds out that the Chinese people’s satisfaction with their government’s performance has been over 90 percent for years in a row, which is consistent with the findings of the Edelman Trust Barometer.
As a Chinese citizen and civil servant, I’m not surprised at all. The reason that the Chinese people’s trust in the government has ranked the top for years in a row is that the CPC and the Chinese government actually deliver for the people. They put people front and center and follow the philosophy of all for the people and by the people, including in governance and development. At the same time, we are soberly aware that various risks and challenges lie ahead. We must be vigilant even in times of tranquility.
I also noticed that the CEO of Edelman said that “success in rapidly bringing the pandemic under control created confidence with Chinese citizens”. Besides, “China has since helped vaccinate the world”, which “contributed to confidence in the government”. I would like to stress that China has not only set an example of epidemic prevention and control with concrete actions on the domestic front, but has also been strengthening global solidarity against the pandemic by enhancing international cooperation. Bearing in mind the wellbeing of all humanity, China will continue to contribute its strength to securing a final victory over the pandemic and forging a global community of health for all.
Fuji TV: The Beijing Municipal Government said that the Omicron variant was detected in an international mail package from Canada, which was denied by a person in charge on the Canadian side. What is China’s comment?
Zhao Lijian: On the press conference on COVID-19 prevention and control in Beijing held on January 17, the person responsible of the Beijing Center for Disease Prevention and Control has elaborated in great detail on the relevant question. Her answer, which was quite long, can be found in the transcript of the press conference. China will continue to respond to the pandemic in a serious, science-based and professional manner.
Bloomberg: US President Biden said that he’s not ready to lift tariffs on China as China is not meeting its commitments. He said,“I’d like to be able to be in a position where I could say they’re meeting their commitments and be able to lift some of it, but we’re not there yet.” Do you agree with this characterization? Is China meeting its commitments under the trade deal?
Zhao Lijian: I’d like to refer you to the competent authorities for questions concerning the economic and trade issues between China and the US.
RIA Novosti: Kazakh Foreign Minister said earlier that during the recent unrest in Kazakhstan, China and other partners were ready to provide any assistance to Kazakhstan, including military assistance, but there was no legal basis to accept foreign troops from other countries and organizations, except CSTO. Could you please clarify what kind of assistance China was ready to provide to Kazakhstan?
Zhao Lijian: China and Kazakhstan are friendly neighbors and permanent comprehensive strategic partners. China maintains close communication with Kazakhstan and will provide assistance to the best of its capacity according to the will of Kazakhstan. China will adopt a positive attitude to all measures that can help the country restore stability, develop the economy and improve people’s livelihood.
Phoenix TV: According to reports, Taiwan will send Lai Ching-te to Honduras to attend the inauguration ceremony of the Honduran president. He plans to engage with the US side during his transit in the country, and may find an opportunity to directly interact with US Vice President Kamala Harris, who will also attend the ceremony. Do you have any comment?
Zhao Lijian: There is only one China in the world and Taiwan is an inalienable part of China’s territory. The one-China principle is a universally recognized norm governing international relations, and a wide consensus that has been recognized, accepted and practiced by the overwhelming majority of countries in the world. Adherence to the one-China principle is an overriding trend that represents international justice and enjoys popular support. Any attempt to create the false impression of “two Chinas” or “one China, one Taiwan” will be rejected by all Chinese people. We hope relevant country will grasp the overriding international trend and make a resolute decision in line with the trend of the times at an early date.
Regarding the so-called “transit” of leaders of the Taiwan region and “engagement” between the US and Taiwan, China has made clear its consistent position on various occasions. We firmly oppose the arrangement of such “transit” by the US or any other country that has diplomatic ties with China as well as any form of official exchange between the US and Taiwan. We urge the US to abide by the one-China principle and the three China-US Joint Communiqués, take seriously China’s position and concern, refrain from conducting official engagement with Taiwan in any form and sending any wrong signal to the “Taiwan independence” forces.
AFP: Is China opposed to the US request for a fresh UN Security Council meeting on North Korea? And if so, why?
Zhao Lijian: Please refer to my answer to a similar question at yesterday’s press conference.
Bloomberg: Bloomberg has reported that US Trade Representative Katherine Tai wanted to talk to Vice Premier Liu He late last year, but eventually the two sides agreed to continue talks at lower levels until more progress is made. Could you confirm these events?
Zhao Lijian: I’m not aware of what you mentioned and suggest that you ask the competent authorities directly if you are interested.
Prasar Bharati: Pakistani media has reported that China has demanded compensation for the victim Chinese nationals in the terrorist attack at the Dasu Dam project last year. After the attack, the Chinese contractor demobilized from the site and had raised several demands as preconditions to resume the work. As per the report, Pakistan has decided to make the payment despite there being no legal or contractual obligation on the government. Can you confirm this? Also, what are China’s demands for the resumption of work at Dasu?
Zhao Lijian: I’m not aware of what you said. To my knowledge, construction at the Dasu Hydropower Project has already been resumed.
NHK: The DPRK said it will reconsider the moratorium on testing ballistic missiles and nuclear weapons, indicating resumption of tests. What is China’s comment?
Zhao Lijian: China has noted relevant reports. Facts have proven time and again that blindly resorting to sanction and pressure would only escalate the tension further rather than settle the Peninsula issue. This meets no party’s interests. China hopes the US will demonstrate good faith, take real actions and respond to the legitimate security concerns of the DPRK. We call on relevant parties to keep in mind the big picture of peace and stability of the Peninsula, act prudently, stick to the right direction of dialogue and consultation, and jointly contribute to the political resolution of the Peninsula issue.
Anadolu Agency: Malaysian Foreign Minster Saifuddin Abdullah said he observed a shift in China’s legal basis for claims of sovereignty in the South China Sea. He said, China leans from the “Nine-Dash Line” theory toward the “Four Sha” theory, which bases sovereignty claims on four island groups in the regions. Does the foreign ministry have any comment?
Zhao Lijian: I haven’t seen the remarks yet. China’s position on the South China Sea issue is consistent, clear and unchanged.
Prasar Bharati: As per another Pakistan media report, Pakistan requested China for a provision of USD 2.43 billion loan more than a year ago for some railway project but commitment of loan is still awaited from the Chinese side. This was mentioned by Pakistan’s Railways Minister. Do you have any comment? Also the reports said, the work on CPEC has slowed down considerably over the past three and half years, and there is no new project approved by both the sides under the project’s framework. Can you confirm this as well?
Zhao Lijian: I have talked about the progress in CPEC projects on many occasions. I would like to stress that CPEC, an important pilot program of the Belt and Road Initiative, follows the principle of wide consultation, joint contribution and shared benefits. It has seen new progress against all odds since COVID-19 broke out, giving a strong boost to economic development and livelihood improvement and winning high praise from all sectors in Pakistan. Lately we have seen the Pakistani President, Prime Minister, other officials and media outlets speaking highly of the progress made in CPEC development.
As to the specific project you mentioned, it involves a large amount of investment and relevant departments of the two sides are still in consultation.
The media report you cited saying no new project has been approved over the past three years and a half is pure disinformation. I can tell you that new working groups on agriculture, information technology and science and technology have been established under CPEC. During the past three years and a half, many livelihood projects were approved and implemented under the CPEC framework, delivering good results.