|Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Mao Ning’s Regular Press Conference on February 1, 2023|
Yonhap News Agency: Starting today, China will require nucleic acid tests for all travelers to China from the ROK. As we have learned, the requirement only applies to foreign nationals, including those of the ROK. Can you share more details?
Mao Ning: We are ready to work with countries to do as much as possible to facilitate normal cross-border travel. However, following the discriminatory measures adopted by certain countries that target Chinese citizens, we are compelled to respond accordingly in line with the principle of reciprocity.
CCTV: Not long ago, students of a Hungarian-Chinese bilingual school in Hungary wrote a letter to President Xi Jinping and his wife Madame Peng Liyuan to share their Chinese-learning experience and expressed their hope to study in Chinese universities and make contributions to the friendship between the two countries. Do you have any comment?
Mao Ning: Both China and Hungary have a long history and a splendid culture, and the people of the two countries enjoy a traditional friendship and increasingly close cultural exchanges. This heart-warming letter from the students of the Hungarian-Chinese bilingual school speaks to their enthusiasm for the Chinese language and carrying forward our enduring friendship. President Xi Jinping recently replied to the letter, in which he said he would like to give the students a thumbs-up upon hearing that the students have kept learning Chinese for a long time, and he encouraged them to learn more about China and become envoys for the China-Hungary friendship.
Language is the number one key to understanding a country. According to statistics, by the end of 2021, over 180 countries and regions have launched Chinese language education and more than 70 countries have included such programs into their national curriculum. A total of nearly 200 million people have learned or used Chinese outside of China. We welcome more people to get to know China and the Chinese culture better by learning the Chinese language.
Yomiuri Shimbun: The Japanese Embassy in China closed its visa service for a few days at the end of December last year because some staff members were infected with coronavirus. But the service has been reopened on January 4 this year. This is not consistent with what China said on January 30. What’s your response?
Mao Ning: China and Japan have resumed the issuance of ordinary visas. We are ready to work with the Japanese side to better facilitate normal cross-border travel between the two countries.
Bloomberg: Do you have any details to share on the expected visit by US Secretary of State Blinken to China?
Mao Ning: I have nothing to share at the moment.
AFP: NATO Secretary General said during his visit to Japan that NATO must “remain united and firm” in response to security threats from China. He added that “What is happening in Europe today could happen in East Asia tomorrow.” What is your comment?
Mao Ning: We have made our position clear multiple times on issues concerning NATO. While claiming to remain a regional defensive alliance, NATO has constantly sought to reach beyond its traditional defense zone and scope, strengthen military and security ties with Asia-Pacific countries and hyped up “China threats”. Such developments call for high vigilance among regional countries.
China is always a force for regional and global peace and stability. On hotspot issues, we have actively promoted peace talks and sought deescalation. NATO should think hard about what role it has played on security in Europe. The Asia-Pacific is not a battlefield for geopolitical contests and does not welcome the Cold-War mentality and bloc confrontation.
China News Service: According to the UN’s recently-released World Economic Situation and Prospects 2023, China’s economic growth is forecast to accelerate to 4.8% in 2023 while global economic growth is projected to slow to only 1.9%. The IMF’s latest World Economic Outlook also raised China’s economic growth forecast for this year to 5.2%. Do you have any comment?
Mao Ning: I have noted the reports. Recently, many international investment institutions have also raised their forecast for China’s economic growth in 2023.
During the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2023, participants shared the view that China’s adapting of COVID response will notably reduce the likelihood of a global economic recession and that China’s opening will contribute to world economic growth. I also noted that WTO Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala said that China is an engine of growth for the world economy.
We are fully confident in China’s economic prospects. The vitality and potential of China’s economy will be fully unleashed in 2023, making it a continued source of confidence and strength for the world economy.
Bloomberg: The UK House of Commons Defence Select Committee has talked about the possible expansion of AUKUS to include possibly India and Japan. Can you share the foreign ministry’s view on this discussion around the possible expansion of AUKUS to include India and Japan?
Mao Ning: We always believe that any regional mechanism should be consistent with the trend of peace and development, beneficial to trust and cooperation between regional countries, and not targeted at or harmful to the interests of any third party. Despite being called a “trilateral security partnership”, AUKUS is essentially about fueling military confrontation through military collaboration. It is apparently driven by Cold-War thinking. It creates additional nuclear proliferation risks, exacerbates arms race in the Asia-Pacific and hurts regional peace and stability. China is deeply concerned and firmly opposed to it.
We urge the US, the UK and Australia to abandon their Cold-War and zero-sum mindset, honor their international obligations, and act in the interest of regional peace and stability.
TASS: The Japanese Prime Minister and NATO Secretary General issued a joint statement yesterday, saying they “highlight with concern Russia’s growing military cooperation with China”. What is your comment?
Mao Ning: I shared China’s position on this just now.
China is committed to defending world and regional peace and stability. This is widely recognized. We call for an end to the “China threat” narrative and attempts to incite confrontation.
Japan’s military and security moves have been followed closely by its Asian neighbors and the international community. Japan needs to draw lessons from history, stick to the path of peaceful development and make sure it does not damage the trust between countries and hurt the peace and stability in this region.
Beijing Daily: It was reported that the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Task Force visited Japan again from January 16 to 20 to review the disposal of nuclear-contaminated water from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power station and the relevant report will be published within three months. However, the Japanese government unilaterally announced on January 13 that it will start discharging nuclear-contaminated water into the ocean around spring or summer this year. Do you have any comment?
Mao Ning: China is closely following Japan’s disposal of nuclear-contaminated water from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power station. We support the IAEA and its Task Force in reviewing and assessing the disposal plan, and hope the Task Force will carry out its work in an objective, just and science-based way and strictly implement the IAEA nuclear safety standards in order to ensure absolute safety of the disposal of the nuclear-contaminated water. We look forward to the report of the Task Force and will take a close look at the report.
It is important to note that there is no precedent for discharging nuclear-contaminated water into the ocean as planned by the Japanese side, and the discharge will last as long as 30 years. Japan is yet to provide ample scientific and factual proof to support the validity of its plan and has not addressed the international community’s concerns over the legitimacy of the discharge plan, the reliability of data, the efficacy of the treatment system and the uncertainty of environmental impact. Last year’s review reports by the IAEA Task Force show that Japan’s discharge plan is not fully consistent with the IAEA safety standards.
We have noted with concern that in July last year, Japan officially approved the ocean discharge plan when the IAEA Task Force’s review and assessment mission was still ongoing. Not long ago, the Japanese side announced unilaterally, ahead of the IAEA Task Force’s review trip to Japan, that the ocean discharge would start in spring or summer this year. Such willful behavior cannot but put a question mark over Japan’s respect for the authority of the IAEA and its Task Force. Is Japan imposing a deadline on the Task Force’s review and assessment process? Has Japan set its mind to executing its plan of releasing the nuclear-contaminated water into the sea regardless of what the final assessment says? Japan needs to offer responsible answers to these questions.
We once again urge the Japanese side to take seriously the legitimate concerns of all parties, dispose of the nuclear-contaminated water in a science-based, open, transparent and safe manner, place itself under strict monitoring and take credible steps to protect the marine environment and the health rights and interests of all those concerned. Japan must not start discharging nuclear-contaminated water into the ocean before having full consultation with neighboring countries and other stakeholders as well as relevant international agencies.
Bloomberg: You talked about your position on AUKUS, but my question was basically asking about the expansion or the possible expansion of AUKUS to include India and Japan. Could you speak to the proposition or the discussions around the expansion of AUKUS?
Mao Ning: We are seriously concerned about and opposed to AUKUS. We hope the US, the UK and Australia will honor their international obligations, and act in the interest of regional peace and stability.
AFP: Can you offer more information on the reported visit to Russia by the Chinese leader?
Mao Ning: I answered this question yesterday. I have nothing to share at the moment.
Bloomberg: Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong said in remarks that a conflict in the Indo-Pacific would be “catastrophic”. Can the foreign ministry comment on Penny Wong’s statement about a possible conflict in the region? And also related to that, there’s been discussion around the release soon or shortly of the design for the new fleet of nuclear submarines for Australia that’s expected in the coming weeks. Does the foreign ministry have any comment about the progress or the apparent progress in the development of Australia’s new fleet of nuclear submarines?
Mao Ning: The Asia-Pacific is an anchor for peace and development, not a chessboard for major-country rivalry. China is committed to upholding regional peace and stability. We hope to see more efforts that serve regional stability and prosperity rather than introduce geopolitical conflict and bloc confrontation into the Asia-Pacific. China and Australia are both important countries in the Asia-Pacific. The sound and steady growth of China-Australia relations is in the fundamental interest of our two peoples and conducive to the peace, stability and prosperity in the Asia-Pacific and beyond.
With regard to Australia’s development of nuclear submarines, we oppose anything that undermines the international nuclear non-proliferation regime. We think it’s important to guard against the risk of nuclear proliferation and avoid stoking arms race in the Asia-Pacific.