|Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Wang Wenbin’s Regular Press Conference on January 10, 2023|
Fuji TV: According to reports, China released a notice today suspending visa issuance to Japanese citizens. Can you confirm this? If so, can you provide more information?
Wang Wenbin: Since China announced the decision to manage COVID-19 with measures against Class-B infectious diseases and adopted provisional measures on cross-border travel, many countries have expressed their welcome, but a few countries have announced entry restriction measures targeting travelers from China. With the utmost sincerity, the Chinese side had fact-based communication with the countries concerned and elaborated on our science-based and reasonable COVID measures refinement and China’s current COVID situation. Regrettably, a handful of countries, in disregard of science, facts and their actual epidemic situation, have insisted on taking discriminatory entry restriction measures targeting China. China firmly rejects this and will take reciprocal measures.
We once again call on relevant countries to make sure that their COVID response measures are fact-based, science-based and proportionate. COVID response should not be used as a pretext for political manipulation. It should not be discriminatory and should not affect normal cross-border travel and people-to-people exchange and cooperation.
MASTV: During Turkmen President Serdar Berdimuhamedov’s recent visit to China, the governments of China and Turkmenistan signed a memorandum of understanding on seeking synergy between the Belt and Road Initiative and the initiative to revive the Great Silk Road. With the signing of this document, China has signed Belt and Road cooperation documents with all the Central Asian countries. What’s your comment?
Wang Wenbin: Signing the MOU on Belt and Road cooperation is an important outcome of President Serdar Berdimuhamedov’s visit to China. It will enable us to seek greater synergy between the Belt and Road Initiative and Turkmenistan’s initiative to revive the Great Silk Road, expand mutually beneficial cooperation in such fields as economy and trade, inject fresh impetus into the building of a China-Turkmenistan community with a shared future, and open brand new prospects for Belt and Road cooperation between China and the five Central Asian countries.
During the past year, Belt and Road cooperation has made steady progress, injecting new impetus into world economic recovery. The China-Europe Railway Express ran 16,000 trips and shipped 1.6 million TEUs of freight throughout the year, up by 9% and 10% year-on-year. The new western land-sea corridor train service shipped 756,000 TEUs of cargo, up by 18.5%. The China-Laos Railway served over nine million passengers. The Phnom Penh-Sihanoukville Expressway, the first highway in Cambodia, has been used by more than one million vehicles since it was opened to traffic three months ago. The Jakarta-Bandung High-speed Railway, the first of its kind in Southeast Asia, had a successful operational trial. Last year saw another five countries sign Belt and Road cooperation documents with China. China and the Philippines signed an updated Memorandum of Understanding on the Belt and Road Initiative just last week. All these serve to show that Belt and Road cooperation meets development needs globally as well as the international community’s aspiration and retains strong resilience and vitality. The Belt and Road family is growing ever larger, delivering higher-quality cooperation and brighter prospects for its members.
This year marks the 10th anniversary of the Belt and Road Initiative put forward by President Xi Jinping. Going forward, we will continue to follow the principle of wide consultation, joint contribution and shared benefits, work together with all interested parties in pursuit of common development, and make sure this “belt of development” and “road to happiness” for all humanity will deliver more prosperity to more people.
Reuters: Yesterday the foreign ministry announced that now your former colleague Zhao Lijian has moved to a new post. Why was former spokesman Zhao moved to this new position? Does this signal a change in what was perceived as China’s former approach to diplomacy?
Wang Wenbin: Comrade Zhao Lijian has been appointed to a new post as work requires.
China is committed to its foreign policy goal of safeguarding world peace and promoting common development. We are committed to advancing the building of a community with a shared future for mankind, and to friendly cooperation with other countries on the basis of the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence. At the same time, on issues of principle that bear on China’s sovereignty, security and development interests, we would never waver in our resolve to firmly uphold them. This is the proud duty and sacred mission of Chinese diplomats.
CCTV: According to reports, an Austrian politician said recently that China’s dynamic zero-COVID policy had proved disastrous. Do you have any comment?
Wang Wenbin: Such rhetoric disregards facts, politicizes COVID, and runs counter to the spirit of science. It reveals that in this day and age, some people are still obsessed with bloc confrontation and blinded by arrogance and bias against China. We firmly reject it.
China’s COVID response policies are science-based, effective, and consistent with China’s national realities. They can stand the test of history.
It was exactly because of the dynamic zero-COVID policy that we managed to dodge the havoc of the more deadly Delta and other variants, and reduced the rates of severe cases and mortality and protected people’s lives and health to the greatest extent possible.
It was exactly because of the dynamic zero-COVID policy that we bought precious time for vaccinating more people. As of January 4, 2023, a total of 3.48 billion doses of vaccines had been administered to 1.39886 billion people in China, of which 1.275855 billion had been fully vaccinated, which means 92.9% of the entire population had been covered by vaccination. Such high coverage has effectively reduced the rate of severe cases.
It was exactly because of the dynamic zero-COVID policy that China became the first major economy in the world to register positive economic growth in 2020. China’s average annual economic growth rate for the past three years stood at around 4.5%, higher than the global average, making important contribution to the global economic growth. In the thick of the global fight against COVID, China served as an important provider of supplies, offering strong support for other countries’ epidemic response and playing an irreplaceable role in keeping global industrial and supply chains stable.
Guided by a people-first and life-first philosophy, we have kept refining our COVID response based on science to make it more targeted. Any political manipulation is futile given what China’s COVID response has accomplished.
AFP: China just announced that it is suspending issuing short-term visas to ROK citizens. So does China plan to do the same with other countries, especially Japan?
Wang Wenbin: I just stated China’s position clearly. We once again call on relevant countries to make sure that their COVID response measures are fact-based, science-based and proportionate. COVID response should not be used as a pretext for political manipulation. It should not be discriminatory and should not affect normal cross-border travel and people-to-people exchange and cooperation.
Hubei Media Group: Certain Western media reports alleged recently that the COVID situation in China will affect the stability of international industrial and supply chains and be a drag on world economic recovery. What’s your comment?
Wang Wenbin: Such comments are driven by ulterior motives and run counter to the fact.
The fact is China’s COVID response policies have protected people’s lives and health and reduced the impact of the epidemic on economic and social development to the maximum extent possible. China’s average annual economic growth rate for the past three years stood at around 4.5%, higher than the global average. Against the backdrop of mounting downward pressure in the global economy and weakening momentum in global trade, China actively expanded opening-up and provided quality products and services to the world, playing a crucial stabilizing role in global industrial and supply chains. China’s foreign trade for the year 2021 increased to $6.9 trillion, remaining top of the world. China’s total import and export of goods between January and November last year grew by 8.6%, with export up by 11.9%, making significant contribution to stabilizing the world economy and driving global trade.
After the Chinese government adjusted its COVID response measures, heads of international organizations including the WTO and the OECD have expressed optimism about China’s economic prospects and confidence that this will shore up the world economy’s recovery and growth. Recently, many international investment institutions have raised their 2023 growth forecast for China. Foreign chambers of commerce in China held the view that relevant measures will rebuild foreign investors’ confidence in the Chinese market and contribute to restoring optimism and reinstating China as a priority investment destination. According to a US bank survey, the proportion of fund managers expecting higher growth in China soared to about 75% from just 13% in November 2022.
At present, China’s COVID situation is improving and some provinces and cities have gone through the infection peak, where life and work are coming back to normal at a faster pace. With demand picking up and new policies beginning to work, China will unleash more economic vitality and opportunities for the world, and be in a better position to stabilize and boost the global economy.
Kyodo News: Is Japan determined as a country that has imposed discriminatory entry restrictions on China?
Wang Wenbin: You may follow updates on Chinese embassies and consulates overseas.
Yonhap News Agency: The Chinese embassy in the ROK released a notice on suspending issuing short-term visas to ROK citizens. Could you offer more information?
Wang Wenbin: I already answered relevant questions.
TASS: I have two questions. Firstly, the Minister of Agriculture of Türkiye said yesterday that since the Black Sea “grain agreement” was implemented, about 17 million tons of agriculture products have been exported from Ukrainian ports through the humanitarian corridor in the sea. The share of grain entering the least developed countries in dire need of food was only 5.4 percent. What’s China’s comment? And secondly, China started implementing the provisional measures on cross-border travel from January 8. Previously, the foreign ministry had said that it would further streamline visa application for foreign nationals traveling to China for work, business, study and family visits. Can you share more on that? Will China issue tourist visas for foreigners?
Wang Wenbin: On your first question, China hopes the Black Sea Grain Initiative can be implemented in a balanced, comprehensive and effective manner. China has put forward the cooperation initiative on global food security, and would like to strengthen communication and cooperation with all parties over this to build up international consensus and contribute to world food security.
On your second question, the COVID-19 pandemic has not yet ended. China will continue to adjust its visa policy for foreign nationals in a science-based manner to keep up with the latest COVID situation and ease the travel of people coming to China for various purposes.
Reuters: According to the Yomiuri, a Japanese newspaper, the US is looking to post US Marine units throughout Japan’s Okinawa islands by around 2026, arming them with missiles and lighter gear aimed at deterring China’s military. What’s China’s comment?
Wang Wenbin: We noted the reports. US-Japan military cooperation should not harm the interests of any third party or undermine peace and stability in the region.
Reuters: We understand that the Chinese government has notified Chinese companies to step up trade with Australia. What’s China’s comment?
Wang Wenbin: I’d refer you to competent authorities for specifics. We want to stress that the economies of China and Australia are highly complementary. It is hoped that Australia will head towards the same direction with China and make joint efforts for win-win results, so as to rebuild trust and bring bilateral relations back on track.
Reuters: So I was wondering, the two countries that we’ve been discussing today, South Korea and Japan, who may have restrictions on the visa issuance, was that in response to them requiring COVID test for Chinese travelers arriving in those countries? And if so, should we expect China to announce similar restrictions on visa issuance for all of the other countries who have announced similar COVID test requirements for Chinese arrivals?
Wang Wenbin: China firmly rejects a handful of countries’ discriminatory entry restriction measures targeting China and will take reciprocal measures.