|Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Zhao Lijian’s Regular Press Conference on June 8, 2022|
CCTV: According to reports, Sri Lankan President Gotabhaya Rajapaksa said in an interview on June 6 that Sri Lanka couldn’t tap a $1.5 billion credit line from China and has yet to hear back on the request to China for a $1 billion loan. He also said that China seems to have shifted its strategic focus to Southeast Asia and Africa, and has less interest in South Asia. Do you have any comment?
Zhao Lijian: As traditional friendly neighbors, China pays close attention to and feels for the difficulties and challenges facing Sri Lanka. We have all along provided support to Sri Lanka’s socioeconomic development as long as our ability permits. China has announced that it would provide emergency humanitarian assistance worth 500 million RMB for Sri Lanka. The first delivery of medicine has arrived in Sri Lanka, and the first shipment of rice has left China for Sri Lanka. Through government-to-government and subnational channels and through friendly organizations, China has provided multiple batches of assistance in diverse forms to people across the sectors of Sri Lanka to improve their livelihood.
As to China-Sri Lanka financial cooperation, shortly after the Sri Lankan government announced to suspend international debt payments, Chinese financial institutions reached out to the Sri Lankan side and expressed their readiness to find a proper way to handle the matured debts related to China and help Sri Lanka to overcome the current difficulties. We hope Sri Lanka will work actively with China in a similar spirit and work out a feasible solution expeditiously. China is ready to work with relevant countries and international financial institutions to continue to play a positive role in supporting Sri Lanka’s response to current difficulties and efforts to ease debt burden and realize sustainable development. In the meantime, we believe Sri Lanka will boost its own effort, protect the legitimate rights and interests of the investment and financing partners and ensure the stability and credibility of Sri Lanka’s investment and financing environment.
South Asian countries, along with the other countries in our neighboring areas, are China’s priority in its diplomacy. China attaches great importance to forging closer good neighborly relations with its neighbors and has worked hard to this end. China and South Asian countries are each other’s friendly neighbors and development partners. Together we belong to one community with a shared future. From natural disasters like earthquakes and tsunamis, to global challenges like financial crises and COVID-19, history has shown that China has always stood in solidarity with South Asian countries through difficult times. Under the current circumstances, China will work with relevant countries to respond to risks and challenges and pursue high-quality Belt and Road cooperation to jointly sustain the sound momentum of security, stability, cooperation and development in our region and bring great benefits for all peoples in this region.
CCTV: According to reports, the Disinformation Governance Board under the US Department of Homeland Security was halted just 21 days after it was set up after raising serious questions. The first head of the office also had to resign. Do you have any comment?
Zhao Lijian: The US government itself is the primary spreader of disinformation. German writer Michael Lüders pointed out in his book Die scheinheilige Supermacht (The Hypocritical Superpower) that the US government is very adept at selecting and distorting facts, limiting the source of information and polarizing public opinions in order to blur the facts and influence people’s judgment. When the waters are muddied, it is certainly easier to fish for geopolitical and economic gains.
US politicians might get away with irresponsible statements, but it is the ordinary people who could pay the ultimate price for disinformation. The US used a vial of white powder as so-called evidence of possession of weapons of mass destruction and waged war on Iraq, which killed about 200,000 to 250,000 Iraqi civilians. Citing a staged video by the “White Helmet” and the false intelligence it provided as “evidence”, the US launched the so-called “most precise air campaign in history” against Syria, claiming more than 1,600 innocent civilian lives in a single strike.
You may still remember that the US downplayed the threat and speed of coronavirus’ transmission at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, and kept spreading disinformation about the origins of the virus. Disinformation about COVID-19 was rated by a certain US website as “2020 Lie of the Year”. As a result, more than one million innocent American lives have been lost to the virus, making the US the country with the highest COVID-19 death toll as well as the most confirmed cases.
The more lies the US government tells, the greater the reputational damage and its credibility deficit. According to the 2022 Edelman Trust Barometer, only about 39 percent of American respondents said they trusted their country’s government, which is near the lowest level ever recorded. The US needs to stop fabricating and disseminating false information, and stop taking pride in being “an empire of lies”.
Al Jazeera: An international commission of inquiry set up by the UN Human Rights Council released an 18-page report today, saying that Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territory and discrimination against Palestinians are the root causes of recurrent tensions and protraction of conflict in the region. It also says that “Israel has no intention of ending the occupation”. What is China’s comment?
Zhao Lijian: The underlying reason for the recurring conflicts between Israel and Palestine and ongoing tensions over the occupied Palestinian territory is that the historical injustices done to the Palestinian people have been left unaddressed for too long and that the Palestinian people’s legitimate aspiration of establishing an independent state has long been denied. The international community needs to work more actively with a greater sense of urgency for an early resumption of peace talks between Palestine and Israel on the basis of the two-state solution, so as to achieve a comprehensive, just and lasting solution to the question of Palestine at an early date.
TASS: According to reports, during State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi’s visit to Central Asia, a series of cooperation agreements have been signed between China and the regional countries. Does this mean cooperation between China and the Central Asian countries has entered a new historic stage? Also, US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman reportedly said on June 7 that there would be a strong and clear response from the US, the ROK and the world if the DPRK were to conduct a nuclear test. Do you have any comment?
Zhao Lijian: On your first question, our delegation will release information on State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang’s visit in due course. You may stay tuned.
The five Central Asian countries are China’s friendly neighbors and strategic partners. For 30 years since the establishment of diplomatic ties, China and the Central Asian countries have been deepening mutually beneficial cooperation following the principle of mutual respect, good neighborliness, solidarity and mutual benefits. At the third China+Central Asia (C+C5) foreign ministers’ meeting, State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi will, along with other parties, comprehensively implement the outcomes of the Virtual Summit Commemorating the 30th Anniversary of the Establishment of Diplomatic Relations between China and the Five Central Asian Countries, and further deepen good neighborliness and mutually beneficial cooperation between China and the Central Asian countries for common development, common prosperity and a China-Central Asia community with a shared future.
On your second question, China always believes that, to maintain peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula and achieve denuclearization on the Peninsula is in the shared interest of all parties and the international community. We hope all parties concerned will stay calm, exercise restraint, work in the same direction, refrain from moves or rhetoric that may be perceived as provocative and jointly advance the process of political settlement of the issues on the Korean Peninsula.
AFP: Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese talked about a recent encounter between Australian and Chinese military aircraft in international airspace. The Australian side had said earlier that one of its surveillance aircraft was intercepted by a Chinese military aircraft. Do you have any response?
Zhao Lijian: I responded to a question on this yesterday and have nothing to add.
I have to say that a sound and steady China-Australia relationship is the shared aspiration and serves the fundamental interests of the people in both countries. The Australian side should view China and China-Australia relations in a rational and positive light, follow the principle of mutual respect, seek common ground while shelving differences, and create necessary conditions to bring bilateral relations back on track.
China News Service: According to a British media outlet, Paul Nakasone, head of the US Cyber Command and the National Security Agency, said in an interview the other day that the US has deployed specialists to Ukraine to conduct “hunt forward” operations and conducted “offensive hacking operations” against Russia. Do you have any comment?
Zhao Lijian: We have noticed relevant reports and are concerned over the dangerous and irresponsible US behavior. The US needs to explain to the international community how these “hacking operations” are consistent with its professed position of not engaging directly in the Russia-Ukraine conflict.
The US and NATO have declared that cyber attacks can be viewed as armed assault. The US also said earlier that it could answer cyber attacks with conventional means or even nuclear strikes. If that logic is applied to all sides, the above-mentioned US operations could lead to an escalation in the Russia-Ukraine conflict and even risk triggering a nuclear attack.
It’s quite obvious that the US is conducting a dangerous experiment in the context of the Russia-Ukraine conflict. The US believes that with an unrivalled cyber military force, it is able to keep any scenarios ensuing a cyber attack under its control. However, the reality might not necessarily follow the US’s design. If the situation gets out of hand, it will end up harming the common interests of the international community, the US included. Besides, the US has also talked repeatedly about “forward deployment” of cyber military forces in some small and medium-sized countries. These countries need to keep their eyes wide open and beware whether such deployment could embroil them in a conflict they are not looking for.
Cyberspace is shared by all humanity. We urge the US to change its dangerous and irresponsible behavior and join the international community in safeguarding peace and security in cyberspace.
CNR: It is reported that US Trade Representative Katherine Tai said on June 6 that the US is 85 percent reliant on China as a producer of solar panels and the supply chain runs right through Xinjiang where there’s a significant “forced labor” problem. Do you have any comment?
Zhao Lijian: As the Chinese side has stressed many times, the allegation of “forced labor” in Xinjiang is nothing but a lie of the century. “Forced labor” in Xinjiang is a lie deliberately made up and spread by the US to shut China out of the global supply and industrial chains. China is the world’s largest photovoltaic (PV) manufacturer and has more installed capacity than anyone else. Xinjiang is the world’s most important production base of polysilicon, an essential material of the PV industry. By fabricating the lie of “forced labor” in Xinjiang, the US aims to achieve its sinister goal of suppressing the competitive edge of Xinjiang’s PV industry and relocate it out of China through political manipulation.
Speaking of forced labor, the US should have a look at its own history and reality. The US is known historically for its original sin of engaging in slave trade and still has serious problems of human trafficking and forced labor today. It still has not ratified the Forced Labour Convention (1930), the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. Nearly 100,000 people are smuggled into the US for forced labor every year. At least half a million people are enslaved in the US. There is a large number of child farmworkers in the US and many of them started working as young as age 8. Roughly 240,000 to 325,000 women and children in the US are victims of sexual slavery. More than 100,000 people in the US were detained in private prisons at some point and they are forced to take up intense and low-paid labor for long periods of time. In April 2021, the UN Special Rapporteur on the negative impact of unilateral coercive measures on the enjoyment of human rights and the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention issued a joint statement pointing out that the US makes individuals of other countries carry out tasks against their will with threats to impose sanctions. This amounts to forced labor. It infringes upon the individuals’ rights and gravely violates the humanitarian spirit and international law.
What the US did will hamstring normal trade of PV products, disrupt the supply chains and undermine the global response to climate change. In the end, this will also backfire and hurt the US’s own interests. China will take all necessary measures as always to resolutely safeguard the lawful rights and interests of Chinese companies.
PTI: Further to what you said about Sri Lanka and the President’s interview regarding the declining interests of China in South Asia. If I remember right, the Chinese ambassador to Colombo has earlier said that China was considering a line of credit to Colombo. It appears that has not materialized so far, though China went about with some relief and medical supplies. My question is, is China concerned about the kind of economic crisis being faced by several South Asian countries? Not Sri Lanka alone, that includes Pakistan as well, are seeking bailout packages, especially from the IMF. Is China, a major investor in these countries, hesitating to provide huge assistance?
Zhao Lijian: I just elaborated China’s position on the situation in Sri Lanka, including financial cooperation between China and Sri Lanka and cooperation between China and South Asian countries. We have noted and followed closely the financial, fiscal and international balance of payment difficulties facing the South Asian countries and other developing countries as you mentioned. These difficulties partly stem from the challenges brought by the COVID-19 pandemic. They also have a lot to do with the Russia-Ukraine conflict and the unilateral sanctions slapped by the US and other Western countries on Russia in the wake of the conflict. Those sanctions aggravated the food and energy crises in developing countries and inflicted even more hardships on the people.
Just now I outlined some of China’s efforts to help Sri Lanka. We have taken note that the Indian government has also done a lot in this regard. We commend those efforts. China is ready to work with India and the rest of the international community to help Sri Lanka and other developing countries experiencing difficulty to pull through the hardship as early as possible. I assume you have also noticed the recent shipment and arrival of medicine, rice and other supplies donated by the Chinese side, including provinces and cities, to Sri Lanka. The Chinese government will do its utmost and make full use of the channels available to deliver help to the Sri Lankan society.
Global Times: We have noted that the Canadian Prime Minister and the Foreign Minister, talking about Chinese and Canadian military aircraft encounters, have on several occasions accused the Chinese side of harassing Canadian military aircraft flying on a UN mission and said that China’s “irresponsible and provocative” actions are “putting people at risk. Do you have any comment?
Zhao Lijian: The remarks by the Canadian side misrepresent facts and confound right and wrong. The Chinese side has made clear its solemn position on several occasions. I would like to stress that the UN Security Council has never mandated any country to deploy forces and conduct surveillance operations in the sea and airspace under the jurisdiction of another country in the name of identifying sanctions evasion activities. The Canadian side claimed that its military aircraft was on a UN mission. But that is just a pretext used by the Canadian side. China firmly rejects all moves that harm China’s sovereignty and national security in the name of implementing UN resolutions. One clear fact is: it was the Canadian military aircraft that flew all the way up close to China’s airspace, conducted reconnaissance here and made provocations to the Chinese side, not the other way round. Who is posing a threat and being provocative? And who is acting in legitimate self-defense? The answer is crystal clear. The way the Chinese military handled the situation was legitimate, resolute, safe, professional and beyond reproach.
We once again urge the Canadian side to respect facts, stop spreading misinformation, stop engaging in “megaphone diplomacy”, and work to bring China-Canada relations back to normal.