|Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Zhao Lijian's Regular Press Conference on June 15, 2021|
CRI: Today marks the 20th anniversary of the establishment of the SCO. How would you assess the progress the SCO has made in the past two decades? Will there be any celebration to mark the occasion?
Zhao Lijian: Today marks the 20th anniversary of the establishment of the SCO. Over the past two decades, the SCO has navigated the evolving international landscape, successfully blazed a path of cooperation and development under a new type of regional organization, played an important constructive role in promoting regional security, stability, development and prosperity, and made important exploration through practice for the building of a new type of international relations and a community with a shared future for mankind. Its main achievements can be summarized as follows:
First, it came up with an up-to-date vision on cooperation. Following the trend for peace and development, it put forward the innovative Shanghai Spirit featuring mutual trust, mutual benefit, equality, consultation, respect for cultural diversity and pursuit of common development and fostered a brand new cooperation model of harmonious co-existence of countries with different social systems and development paths.
Second, it strengthened bilateral relations. Member states of the SCO, upholding the principle of no alliance, no confrontation and no targeting any third party, continuously enhanced political mutual trust, good neighborliness and friendship. All sides make full use of venues like the SCO Summit to engage intensively in high-level exchange, conduct close communication and coordination on major international and regional issues, and render each other support on issues concerning respective core interests and major concerns, translating the profound connotation of a shared future through weal and woe into concrete actions.
Third, it safeguarded regional security and stability. Taking security cooperation as a priority, the SCO ratified important legal instruments such as the Convention on Combating Terrorism and the Convention on Combating Extremism, stepped up cooperation in such areas as counter-terrorism, counter-narcotics, border defense and information security, held regular joint counter-terrorism exercises, and promoted the peace and reconciliation process in Afghanistan through the SCO-Afghanistan Contact Group, creating a peaceful and stable environment for the development of regional countries.
Fourth, it enhanced the shared development of all countries involved. The SCO established cooperation mechanisms in economy, trade, transportation, finance, agriculture and localities, dovetailed the BRI with national development strategies and regional cooperation initiatives, launched a great number of livelihood cooperation projects in culture, education, tourism, environmental protection, youth and women, giving a strong boost to the development of rejuvenation of relevant countries.
Fifth, it has set the standard for multilateralism. The SCO stands firmly for international equity and justice. It has spoken in a strong voice about defending multilateralism and rejecting unilateralism and protectionism. It has stated its position on enhancing solidarity against the pandemic and rejecting politicization of the virus. It has put forward the SCO solution on the political settlement of regional hotspot issues. It maintains close communication and coordination with observer states and dialogue partners, engages in wide-ranging cooperation with the UN, ASEAN, the Commonwealth of Independent States and other international and regional organizations, and works for a more equitable international order.
This year marks the 20th anniversary of the SCO, a year of milestone significance in the history of the organization. The Chinese People's Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries and the SCO Secretariat will co-host an SCO Day reception this evening. State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi will deliver a video address to review the extraordinary journey of the SCO over the past 20 years and envision its bright future.
In addition, SCO member states will hold various forms of activities to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the SCO. Not long ago, China hosted the SCO Forum on People-to-People Friendship. Going forward, we will hold a series of events on the topics of state governance, digital economy, traditional medicine, women, education and poverty reduction. We look forward to the participation by all sides.
CCTV: On June 13, the G7 summit concluded and issued a communiqué, which made groundless accusations on China with regard to Xinjiang, Hong Kong and other issues. What is your comment?
Zhao Lijian: We have noted that the G7 summit communiqué mentions China-related issues, deliberately slandering China on issues related to Hong Kong, Xinjiang and Taiwan as well as maritime issues, and interfering in China's internal affairs. Such moves seriously contravenes the purposes and principles of the UN Charter and the trend of the times for peace, development and win-win cooperation. It reveals the bad intentions of the US and a few other countries to create confrontation and estrangement and widen differences and disagreements. China is strongly dissatisfied with and firmly opposed to this.
Issues related to Xinjiang, Hong Kong and Taiwan are purely China's internal affairs that brook no foreign interference. China is firmly resolved in safeguarding its sovereignty, security and development interests.
I want to emphasize that multipolarization and democratic international relations are irresistible trend of the times. The era of one country or a bloc of countries dictating world affairs is over. Under the current situation, the international community need to strengthen solidarity and cooperation and practice true multilateralism more than ever. Countries should not seek bloc politics on the basis of the interests of small cliques, suppress different development models by holding ideology as the yardstick, and still less confuse right with wrong and shift blames onto others. The US is ill, very ill indeed. We'd like to advise the G7 to take its pulse and come up with a prescription for the US.
AFP: CNN reported on the security issues of the Taishan nuclear power plant. The US government spent the past week assessing a report on the security of the nuclear power plant. What are the problems of the facility? Do you have any response?
Zhao Lijian: China attaches great importance to nuclear safety, and has established a nuclear safety regulatory system that is up to international standards and in line with national conditions. Meanwhile, the National Nuclear Safety Administration maintains close cooperation with its foreign counterparts, and engages in communication and exchanges under multilateral mechanisms such as the International Atomic Energy Agency and the Convention on Nuclear Safety. So far, China's nuclear power plants have kept a good operating record with zero occurrence of incidents affecting the environment and public health.
According to the competent authorities, the Taishan nuclear power plant performs to the requirements of the technical specifications with normal level of environmental radiation in the surrounding areas of the nuclear power plant, the safety of which is guaranteed. For specific technical issues, please refer to the competent authorities . As far as I know, China General Nuclear Power Corporation (CGN) has also issued a statement on this matter.
People's Daily: State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi delivered an address through video link at the Geneva-based Conference on Disarmament (CD) on June 11. The last time a Chinese foreign minister addressed the CD was 12 years ago. I wonder if you could share more about his remarks and China's expectations for the international arms control, disarmament and non-proliferation processes in the future?
Zhao Lijian: Amid the overlapping impact of major changes and a global pandemic unseen in a century and complex and profound evolution in the international security landscape, new problems, challenges and threats keep propping up, crying out for global solutions. Under such circumstances, the stature and role of the CD, the sole negotiating body for multilateral disarmament, has become more prominent.
This year marks the 50th anniversary of the restoration of the lawful seat of the People's Republic of China at the UN and the 41st anniversary of China's participation in the work of the CD. Over the past decades, China has taken an active part in the international arms control and disarmament processes and fully participated in the work of the CD, playing a constructive role. In his address, State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi shared China's observations on the current international security landscape, further elaborated on the new approach of common, comprehensive, cooperative and sustainable security, and put forward China's proposals and propositions on how to advance the international arms control and non-proliferation processes.
As a responsible member of the CD family, China stands ready to work with all parties to continuously advance international arms control and non-proliferation processes, uphold win-win cooperation, equity and justice, reject zero-sum game and political manipulation, and make new contribution to building a world that enjoys lasting peace and universal security.
Reuters: NATO summit was held in Brussels and released a communiqué saying that China poses "systemic challenges" to the international order and to areas relevant to the alliance's security. Do you have any comment?
Zhao Lijian: There is only one system and one order in the world. That is, the international system with the UN at its core and the international order based on international law. It runs counter to the historical trend of peace, development and cooperation to form small cliques, pursue bloc politics and force other countries to choose sides between different ideologies. Such attempt will never be supported by the people, nor will it succeed.
NATO urges its member states to increase their military spending to at least 2% of GDP, while criticizing China's normal defense development and military modernization. This is typical double standards. In fact, China's defense accounts for about 1.3% of its GDP, much lower than the standard of NATO countries. China's per capita military spending is below the global average and less than one-fifth of NATO's.
NATO has a long history of poor records. It is up to its neck in debt morally, and has brought wars and instability to the world for many times. The international community will not forget the 78 days of indiscriminate bombing of Yugoslavia by NATO without the approval of the UN. The US, the UK and other NATO countries used a test tube of laundry powder and staged video as "evidence" to wage wars on sovereign states of Iraq and Syria. The Chinese people will never forget the historical tragedy of the bombing of the Chinese Embassy in Yugoslavia. This is a debt of blood that NATO owes to the Chinese people. China does not pose "systemic challenges" to anyone and will firmly safeguard our sovereignty, security and development interests.
Shenzhen TV: In NBC News' exclusive interview, Russia's President Vladimir Putin said that "we have developed a strategic partnership relationship- between Russia and China that previously had not been achieved in the history of our nations, a high level of trust and cooperation in all areas: in politics, in the economy, in the area of technology..." He expressed support to China on issues related to Xinjiang and Taiwan and refuted attempts to sabotage China-Russia relations. Do you have any comment?
Zhao Lijian: We highly appreciate President Putin's positive remarks on China-Russia relations. Indeed, China and Russia are united like a mountain, and our friendship is unbreakable. Under the strategic guidance of President Xi Jinping and President Putin, bilateral relations have withstood the test of the changing international landscape, setting an example of a new type of major-country relationship. The two countries have firmly supported each other on issues concerning each other's core interests, and the political mutual trust and strategic coordination between the two has been continuously consolidated and enhanced. In the first five months of this year, bilateral economic and trade volume surged by 23.6 percent, injecting strong impetus and confidence into the world economy, which is struggling to recover. Together, we have resisted political viruses, safeguarded the outcome of the victory of World War II and international equity and justice, and firmly defended genuine multilateralism and international equity and justice. Together, we have become an important force for stability in a turbulent world. It is fair to say that the China-Russia comprehensive strategic partnership of coordination for the new era is all-dimensional and all-weather. The sky is the limit for down-to-earth China-Russia cooperation, and we are full of confidence in the development of bilateral relations.
In one month's time, we will mark the 20th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Good-Neighborliness, Friendship and Cooperation between China and Russia, which is of special significance to bilateral relations. With this as the focus, the two sides will fully implement the consensus reached by the heads of state of the two countries, revisit the original aspiration of signing the treaty for enduring friendship and win-win cooperation, advance China-Russia cooperation at a higher starting point, in a broader scope and at a deeper level, and inject impetus into global strategic stability and world economic recovery.
As a Chinese proverb says, "True gold doesn't fear the test of fire." We have to tell those who try every means to drive a wedge between China and Russia that any attempt to undermine China-Russia relations is doomed to fail. We hope they will not go further down the path of zero-sum game and political confrontation of blocs, but return to the right path of building a community with a shared future for mankind and play a constructive role in safeguarding world peace, stability and development.
AFP: Two questions, the first is regarding US President Joe Biden's visit to the EU headquarters on Tuesday, where he is expected to seek the EU's backing on facing the rise of China. Does the foreign ministry have any comment on this visit? The second question is, according to some news reports, there are some people who believe that Europeans have prevented NATO from coming up with an even stronger statement related to China. How does China view level of unity among Western countries and whether or not there are divisions between the US and the EU?
Zhao Lijian: Both of your questions are about the relationship among the US, the EU and China. Let me take them altogether.
China's policy on the EU has been consistent. China always sees the EU as a comprehensive strategic partner. We firmly support European integration, and support a united and strong EU playing a bigger role in international affairs. China believes that China and Europe are comprehensive strategic partners, not systemic rivals. The two sides have far more cooperation than competition and far more consensus than difference. China-Europe cooperation is complementary and mutually beneficial. It brings tangible benefits to the two peoples. We always hope Europe can work with China toward the same direction in the spirit of mutual respect, equal treatment and win-win results to jointly promote sound and steady development of the bilateral ties.
As for the US attempt to form small cliques against China with ideology as the yardstick, I'd like to say that China and Europe are two important forces in a multipolar world. We believe the EU will continue to enhance strategic autonomy, and won't be hijacked by other country's wrong China policy.
Beijing Youth Daily: June 12 marks the World Day Against Child Labor. We noticed that the US is widely criticized at the 109th Session of the International Labor Conference (ILC) over the issue of child labor. Do you have any comment?
Zhao Lijian: The US is the only country in the world that has not ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC). Of the eight fundamental conventions of the International Labor Organization (ILO), the US has ratified only two, making it one of the countries that have ratified the least number of conventions. The problem of child labor in the US is shocking both in history and at present. Recently, American photographer Lewis Hine's photos taken more than 100 years ago featuring child laborers in the US have again come to the fore. Be it dangerous mines or tobacco farms, child laborers in the US have miserable lives. According to statistics of relevant organizations, there are approximately 500,000 child farm-workers in the US and child labor is very common in the tobacco industry. In addition to the issue of child labor, up to 100,000 people are trafficked into the US for forced labor annually. In the past five years, all 50 US states and Washington D.C. all reported cases of forced labor and human trafficking.
Over the years, the ILO has repeatedly expressed concern about child labor in the US and urged the US government to solve the problem of forced labor. The US turns a deaf ear to its own problems and instead slanders other countries. We have noted that the G7 summit communiqué calls for collective efforts toward eradicating the use of "forced labor" in global supply chains. We hope that the US side can effectively eradicate child labor and "forced labor" in its tobacco industry and other industries and earnestly protect the legitimate rights and interests of children and other vulnerable groups.
Global Times: It is reported that Franz Gayl, a retired US Marine major who is now working at the Pentagon, is under a counterintelligence investigation by the Marine Corps for his two articles published in the Global Times that criticized open confrontation with China by the US regarding Taiwan. Reports say he could face an early exit from the civil service. What is China's comment on this?
Zhao Lijian: I think many people would want to ask: Isn't the US a self-proclaimed champion of the freedom of speech and justice? Franz Gayl is under investigation just because he wrote two articles expressing different position from the US government. Why can't the US allow two articles clearly marked to represent the author's personal opinion?
As a matter of fact, similar cases abound in the US. Since the COVID-19 outbreak, many people in the US have spoken out. Dr. Helen Y. Chu, a whistle-blower, sounded the alarm on the epidemic in the US; Dr. McCarthy entreated US health authorities to test suspected cases; Captain Brett Crozier of the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt wrote a letter to Navy leaders asking that most of the crew be taken ashore. These people have been either muzzled, investigated or dismissed from their posts just because they told the truth that the government doesn't like. Is this the way the US champions the freedom of speech? When clamoring for freedom of speech, the US side should really look at itself in the mirror rather than look at others through a magnifying glass.
China Daily: According to reports, the Munich Security Conference released the latest Munich Security Report and Munich Security Index, which described China as an "unperturbed country" after collecting survey data from over 10,000 respondents in 12 countries. The report concluded that the level at which risks are perceived is relatively low in China – possibly a sign of the confidence of the Chinese people in the strength of their country. Where risks are perceived, the Chinese public strongly thinks their country is prepared for them. Do you have any comment?
Zhao Lijian: The relevant report of the Munich Security Conference shows the Chinese people's confidence in the government. The Chinese government is committed to upholding national security, ethnic harmony, peace and tranquility, social fairness and justice, economic development and prosperity and beautiful ecological environment, in order to deliver tangible happiness and security to the Chinese people. After over seven decades of relentless efforts, the 1.4 billion Chinese people are out of absolute poverty and free from war, poverty and hunger. The Chinese people's satisfaction and support rate toward the Chinese government exceeds 90% for many years running.
I also noticed that according to the report, the risk perception indexes of the Chinese people toward "the coronavirus pandemic" and "a future pandemic" are both much lower than that of other countries. This, I believe, is attributable to the fact that in the face of the sudden onslaught of COVID-19, the Chinese government put people and life first, took the most rigorous control measures and was among the first to bring the epidemic under control, making it possible for people to carry on with their life and work as usual. According to a survey done by York University in Canada last year, the Chinese people's trust in the government increased to 98% after COVID-19.
In the meantime, we are soberly aware that in China's journey of progress, many risks and challenges lie ahead. We will remain prepared for potential risks and unexpected developments, forestall and resolve all kinds of risks and challenges, and give the Chinese people more sense of fulfillment, happiness and security.