|Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Wang Wenbin’s Regular Press Conference on January 17, 2023|
People’s Daily: OECD Secretary-General Mathias Cormann said on January 16 that he certainly very much welcomes the easing of Covid-related restrictions in China, which is very much positive in terms of making sure that the supply chains function more efficiently and more effectively and will help bring inflation down. What’s your response?
Wang Wenbin: We have noted relevant reports. We have also seen that lately, more and more professional international institutions have said that China’s adapting of COVID response will prove to be a boon for the world economy. Børge Brende, President of the World Economic Forum, said in recent days that China’s optimization of COVID-19 response will lead to stronger and more prosperous growth and contribute to global growth. The IMF noted that China will achieve stable economic growth in 2023 and become the largest positive factor of the world economy. Multiple international investment banks and financial institutions including Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs, HSBC, Barclays and Natixis have revised up their forecast for China’s economic growth rate in 2023.
The Chinese government has taken the initiative to adapt its COVID response measures in light of the latest situation. This is a right step in effectively coordinating epidemic response and socioeconomic development. As the overall epidemiological situation improves and life and work come back to normal at a faster pace, China’s economic vitality and development potential will be fully unleashed, which will inject more confidence and strength into the global economic recovery.
Hubei Media Group: We noted that Foreign Minister Qin Gang made a special elaboration on China’s Middle East policy during his visit to Egypt. Can you share more on this?
Wang Wenbin: Foreign Minister Qin elaborated on China’s Middle East policy when meeting the press with Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry in Cairo two days ago.
Foreign Minister Qin said China believes in respecting the sovereignty and territorial integrity of countries in the region and encourages them to seek solutions to hotspot issues that are rooted in the reality of the region, accommodating to all parties’ interests and acceptable to all sides through dialogue and consultation. China calls for more development support to countries in the region to help them address challenges to food and energy security, and supports joint, sustained efforts to fight against terrorism and prevent terrorist and extremist forces from exploiting instability and extending their reach. China believes that for countries outside the region, they must respect the sovereignty of Middle East countries and not interfere in their internal affairs; they need to practice true multilateralism and refrain from taking unilateral actions, bullying or sowing discord; they need to respect the history, culture and traditions of the Middle East, rather than cause estrangement between civilizations.
Foreign Minister Qin stressed that China has all along supported the people in the Middle East in independently exploring development paths and supported Middle East countries in addressing regional security issues through united and coordinated efforts. We have worked vigorously with Middle East countries to advance Belt and Road cooperation, implement the Global Development Initiative, and jointly pursue development and revitalization. We are putting into action the Global Security Initiative. We advocate a common, comprehensive, cooperative and sustainable security architecture in the Middle East and have contributed China’s insight and solution to the political settlement of regional hotspot issues. We have engaged in active inter-civilization exchanges with Middle East countries and worked together to look after the world’s diversity of civilizations.
During the visit, Foreign Minister Qin and Secretary-General of the League of Arab States Ahmed Aboul Gheit together met the press. Foreign Minister Qin stressed that the first China-Arab States Summit was a success and produced fruitful outcomes. The summit issued three important documents, including the Riyadh Declaration. The two sides agreed to fully work together to build a China-Arab community with a shared future in the new era. China stands ready to work with Arab countries to carry forward the spirit of China-Arab friendship featuring solidarity and mutual assistance, equality and mutual benefit, and inclusiveness and mutual learning, and advance the building of a China-Arab community with a shared future. We will jointly uphold international fairness and justice and safeguard the common interests of developing countries in the spirit of the Riyadh Declaration. And we will set up effective working mechanisms to accelerate the implementation of cooperation projects where conditions allow and strive for more early harvests.
Foreign Minister Qin’s remarks have been received warmly and echoed positively by Egypt and the Arab League. Egyptian Foreign Minister Shoukry said that China has played an important role in safeguarding world peace and regional stability. Egypt appreciates China’s positive role on the Palestinian question, and looks forward to enhancing coordination with China at the UN, G77 and China and other platforms to uphold the basic norms in international relations. Secretary-General Gheit said the Arab League appreciates China’s effective and efficient implementation of the common understandings reached at the China-Arab States Summit, and is ready to strengthen communication with China on implementing the eight major cooperation initiatives. He also expressed the hope to further deepen Arab-China cooperation in various fields and promote regional peace, stability, and development.
China and Arab countries have come to know and befriend each other through the ancient Silk Road. We have shared weal and woe in our respective struggles for national liberation. We have conducted win-win cooperation in the tide of economic globalization. And we have upheld fairness and justice in the changing international environment. With concrete actions, China has proven that it has always been a good friend of Arab countries and the China-Arab future-oriented strategic partnership of comprehensive cooperation and common development is unbreakable. China stands ready to continue working with Arab countries to jointly build a China-Arab community with a shared future in the new era, and usher in a more splendid future for China-Arab relations.
Kyodo News: According to US media, US Secretary of State Blinken will visit China. Could you give us more details?
Wang Wenbin: We welcome Secretary Blinken’s visit to China. China and the US are in communication on the specifics of the visit. China views and grows its relations with the US in accordance with the three principles of mutual respect, peaceful coexistence and win-win cooperation proposed by President Xi Jinping. We also hope that the US will perceive China correctly, pursue dialogue and win-win cooperation, not confrontation and zero-sum competition, work with China in the same direction and fully deliver on the important common understandings reached between the two heads of state and bring the China-US relations back to the track of sound and steady growth.
The Hindu: The UN Security Council 1267 Committee on Monday added to its sanctions list Abdul Rehman Makki. Can you share with us the reasons behind China now supporting the listing? Also, there are four other individuals whose listings on this Committee China has placed a hold on since June. I was just wondering if you could clarify is China now prepared to also support sanctioning those four others?
Wang Wenbin: Terrorism is a common scourge for humanity. As an important international counter-terrorism mechanism, the 1267 Committee of the Security Council is mandated by the UN body’s resolution to put terrorists or terrorist organizations on its sanctions list, which is conducive to strengthening international counter-terrorism cooperation and the joint fight against terrorist threats. The individual you mentioned has been convicted and sentenced by Pakistan, and this designation is a sign of recognition of Pakistan’s staunch fight against terrorism.
It also needs to be pointed out that the committee has clear guidelines regarding the designation of terrorist organizations and individuals and related procedures. China takes part in the work of the committee in a constructive and responsible manner in strict accordance with these rules and procedures.
NHK: Earlier today, China announced that its population stood at 1,411,750,000 at the end of 2022. According to the UN, the population of India was estimated to be 1,412,000,000 last year, larger than China’s. India now has the largest population in the world. Do you have any comment?
Wang Wenbin: China and India both have a large population and rich labor resources. It is important for both countries to benefit wisely from the demographic dividend for development and rejuvenation and make greater contribution to the future of humanity.
Kyodo News: It is reported that Japanese Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi is planning to visit China. Are Japan and China discussing this?
Wang Wenbin: China and Japan have maintained exchanges at various levels. A stable and constructive China-Japan relationship that meets the needs of the new era serves the interests of both countries. As for the specific visit you asked about, I have nothing to share at the moment.
Bloomberg: Japan and India have held their first joint air drill in an area outside of Tokyo. Does the foreign ministry have any comment?
Wang Wenbin: We have noted relevant reports. The countries concerned should do more to enhance mutual trust in the security sphere between regional countries and act in the interest of peace and stability in the region.
CCTV: Syria’s official news agency SANA reported that on January 14 local time, US occupation forces used a convoy of 53 tankers to transport looted oil from Syria’s Hasakah province to their bases in Iraq. Do you have any comment?
Wang Wenbin: We are struck by the blatancy and egregiousness of the US’s plundering of Syria. According to Syrian government data, in the first half of 2022, over 80% of Syria’s daily oil output was smuggled out of the country by US occupation troops. Earlier this month, US forces used 60 tankers and trucks to ship oil and wheat they looted from Syria. Such banditry is aggravating the energy crisis and humanitarian disaster in Syria. The Syrian people’s right to life is being ruthlessly trampled on by the US. With little oil and food to go by, the Syrian people are struggling even harder to get through the bitter winter.
The level of US greed in stealing resources from Syria is as striking as its “generosity” in giving out military aid often in the amount of billions or even tens of billions dollars. Whether the US gives or takes, it plunges other countries into turmoil and disaster, and the US gets to reap the benefits for its hegemony and other interests. This is the result of the US’s so-called “rules-based order”.
The US must answer for its oil theft. The Syrian people and the international community deserve an answer. We urge the US to stop trampling on international rule of law and breaking international rules.
China News Service: At a recent press briefing held by the WHO Secretariat, a journalist asked why a number of European countries have implemented measures targeting travelers arriving from China where no new variant has been identified, while countries have not put restrictions in place for the US, which already has the XBB.1.5 variant. Do you have any comment?
Wang Wenbin: Since the onset of COVID, China has been sharing information and data with the international community in a timely, open and transparent manner in accordance with the law. We have also continued to share the genome sequences of the virus from COVID cases in China with the WHO and via the Global Initiative on Sharing Avian Influenza Data (GISAID), which has contributed to vaccine and drug research and development. According to WHO, the genome data of the virus prevalent in China share the composition of the sequences submitted by other countries which are collected from travelers arriving from China, and no new variant or mutation of known significance was noted. WHO Regional Director for Europe has openly said that the SARS-CoV-2 virus variants circulating in China have already been seen in Europe and elsewhere; the situation in China is not anticipated to significantly impact the COVID-19 epidemiological situation in Europe; and European countries’ precautionary travel measures should be rooted in science, proportionate and non-discriminatory. Multiple international technical institutions, including the European Centre for the Disease Prevention and Control, noted that the COVID situation in China is not expected to significantly impact other countries.
Over the past three years since COVID began, almost all COVID variants and their sub-variants have been prevalent in the US, which means it is one of the countries that host the largest number of COVID variants. According to data released by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the new variant XBB.1.5 is spreading rapidly in the US and has become the fastest-spreading variant in the country, causing more than 43% of infections. In light of the rapid spread of XBB.1.5 recently, WHO issued the first risk assessment on January 11, saying that XBB variants are the most antibody-resistant variant to date. With higher early growth rates and greater immune escape, the variants may cause widespread infections. Currently XBB.1.5 has been detected in at least 40 countries and regions. The European Centre for the Disease Prevention and Control issued an assessment saying that XBB.1.5 could become dominant in the EU/EEA as fast as after one month. The US needs to fully share its domestic COVID information and data with WHO and the international community in a timely, open and transparent manner, and take concrete and effective measures to stop the virus from further spreading.