State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi Meets the Press
On 24 May 2020, a press conference was held via video link on the margins of the Third Session of the 13th National People’s Congress, during which State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi answered questions from Chinese and foreign media about China’s foreign policy and external relations.
Wang Yi: Friends from the media, good afternoon. This year’s press conference is held at a special time as countries around the world are battling COVID-19. I wish to take this opportunity to salute health workers worldwide who are doing their best to save lives and to mourn the lives tragically lost. I’d also like to say thank-you to all the governments and nations who have given understanding, care and assistance to China in its COVID-19 response. The virus cannot defeat humanity; we will eventually prevail. The darkest hour will pass. Looking ahead, we can see light and hope. With these words, I’m happy to open the floor for questions.
People’s Daily: What’s the most important thing people can learn from COVID-19?
Wang Yi: In my view, the most important thing we could learn from COVID-19 is that the life and health of people in different countries have never been so closely connected. Also, it has never been made so clear to us that all nations live in the same global village and that humanity is in fact a community with a shared future.
The virus respects no borders or races. It poses a challenge to all humans without distinction. Political manipulation will give the virus loopholes to exploit; a beggar-thy-neighbor approach will leave each of us more vulnerable; rejection of science will allow the virus to wreak greater havoc. With this in mind, President Xi Jinping has made the case to the world time and again that the virus is the common enemy of mankind, and that the only way to defeat it is to pull together with solidarity and cooperation, which are the most effective weapons against the virus.
Having claimed so many precious lives, COVID-19 serves as a stark reminder that countries must rise above differences in geography, race, history, culture and social system. We must work together for a community with a shared future and jointly preserve Planet Earth, the only home we have. One important goal in this regard is to speed up efforts to build a global community of health for all. As a responsible country, China will contribute its share to the realization of this goal.
China Global Television Network: COVID-19 and the upcoming US presidential election are straining China-US relations. How concerned are you that China’s relations with the United States could further deteriorate?
Wang Yi: The US has become the worst affected country; with every day that passes, many innocent lives are taken by the virus. I would like to express deep sympathy for what the American people are going through, and our sincere hope and best wishes that they will defeat the virus and resume normal life and work soon.
COVID-19 is a common enemy for China and the US. Mutual support and assistance are the shared preference of our two peoples. Early on in China’s response, many American organizations, companies and citizens extended a helping hand. When the US was hit by the virus, the government, local authorities and people of China reciprocated their kindness, generously donating large quantities of needed supplies. We also supported and facilitated US procurement of medical supplies in China. Take face masks for example. More than 12 billion masks have been exported to the US, which roughly means 40 masks for every American.
It is most regrettable that while the coronavirus is still out there, a “political virus” is also spreading in the US and jumping at any opportunity to attack and slander China. Some politicians ignore the basic facts and make up countless lies and conspiracy theories concerning China. A list of these lies has been compiled and debunked online. New lies will be added to the list. The longer the list, the more it says about how low the rumor-mongers are willing to go and the more stains they will leave in history.
I call on the US side to stop wasting precious time and stop costing people’s lives. China and the US need to work together on a number of urgent things. First, we may share our experience and learn from each other’s best practices to bolster our respective responses to COVID-19. Second, we must do what the world expects of us, jointly participate in and advance multilateral cooperation against COVID-19 and make active contributions to the global response. Third, while getting prepared for a long fight against COVID-19 and maintaining our ongoing response, we must start to communicate and coordinate our macro-policies to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on our economies and the world economy.
As for where we are and where we need to be in China-US relations, our position is consistent. As the largest developing country and the largest developed country, China and the US shoulder great responsibilities for global peace and development. It is imperative for us to seriously and properly handle our relations out of a strong sense of responsibility to humanity, to history and to our peoples. Both China and the US stand to gain from cooperation and lose from confrontation: this best captures what we have learned, positive and otherwise, from the past decades. Both sides should take this lesson to heart.
China and the US have different social systems, but this is the result of the different choices made by our people, which we must respect. It’s also true that we have many disagreements, but that doesn’t preclude cooperation. When you think about the challenges facing today’s world, almost all of them require coordination between China and the US.
China remains prepared to work with the US in the spirit of no conflict or confrontation, mutual respect and win-win cooperation and build a relationship based on coordination, cooperation and stability. At the same time, China will defend its sovereignty and territorial integrity, its legitimate right to development, and its dignity and place in the world which the Chinese people have worked so hard to earn. China has no intention to change, still less replace, the US. It’s time for the US to give up its wishful thinking of changing China or stopping 1.4 billion people’s historic march toward modernization.
It has come to our attention that some political forces in the US are taking China-US relations hostage and pushing our two countries to the brink of a “new Cold War”. This dangerous attempt to turn back the wheel of history will undo the fruits of decades-long China-US cooperation, dampen America’s own development prospects, and put world stability and prosperity in jeopardy. People with wisdom and foresight on both sides must step forward to stop it.
In short, for the fundamental and long-term interests of the Chinese and American people and the well-being and future of humanity, China and the US should and must find a way of peaceful co-existence and mutually beneficial cooperation, demonstrating that this is possible between two countries with different systems and cultures.
Xinhua News Agency: The world may never be the same again after COVID-19. How does China view the post-COVID-19 world and the future of globalization?
Wang Yi: The world will certainly not be the same again; history always moves forward. Throughout world history, humanity has progressed by wrestling with one disaster after another. In China’s view, if countries make the right choice and stay on the right path, the world will triumph over the virus and embrace a brighter future.
First, globalization needs to be more inclusive and beneficial to all. Globalization represents an inevitable trend in the development of the world and a strong tide driving human progress. It has turned the global economy into an ocean, to which every river flows. It’s simply not possible to channel the water in the ocean back into isolated lakes. Likewise, attempts to reject globalization and fall back on protectionism will have no future.
Even as we continue to maximize cost efficiency through optimizing global allocation of resources, we must pay more attention to addressing the issues that have accompanied globalization, such as the widening wealth gap and regional imbalances. The solution lies in the further advancement of globalization. This requires us to steer globalization in the right direction. In early 2017, President Xi Jinping gave a speech in Davos in which he comprehensively laid out China’s views on economic globalization and called for making it more open, inclusive, balanced and beneficial to all. Three years on, his words are more relevant and inspiring than ever.
Second, multilateralism must be safeguarded and promoted even more firmly. COVID-19 drives home once again that no country, no matter how strong it is, can insulate itself from a global challenge. When a disaster wreaks havoc, watching from an apparently safe distance and sitting idle will eventually backfire. Pointing fingers at others will only end up damaging one’s own reputation. Self-conceit and blame-shifting, instead of helping any country solve its problems, will only hurt other countries’ legitimate rights and interests. In the face of mounting global challenges, only multilateralism can bring the world together. And only solidarity can see us through the current difficulties.
Third, global governance needs to be reformed and improved where it is most lacking. COVID-19 has exposed weaknesses in national public health systems, the fragility of the global industrial and supply chains, and deficiencies in our global governance capacity and system. It calls for urgent improvement and reform of global governance. The United Nations must play a central role; WHO and other UN specialized agencies must be able to perform their mandates without hindrance. All countries must intensify macro-policy coordination where appropriate and strengthen governance capacity. And we must redouble our commitment to international law and the basic norms of international relations.
The world will never be the same again, and China will never stop moving forward. COVID-19 has been an all-round test on China’s social system and governance capacity. China has stood the test, displayed its composite national strength and shown itself to be a responsible major country. After COVID-19, our economy will emerge stronger and more resilient, our people more united and confident in socialism with Chinese characteristics, and our nation more unstoppable in its march toward rejuvenation.
RIA Novosti: How do you assess China-Russia relations in the context of COVID-19? Do you agree with some people’s characterization that China and Russia may join force to challenge US predominance?
Wang Yi: While closely following the COVID-19 response in Russia, we have done and will continue to do everything we can to support it. I believe under the leadership of President Vladimir Putin, the indomitable Russian people will defeat the virus and the great Russian nation will emerge from the challenge with renewed vigor and vitality.
Since the start of COVID-19, President Xi Jinping and President Putin have had several phone calls and kept the closest contact between two world leaders. Russia is the first country to have sent medical experts to China, and China has provided the most anti-epidemic assistance to Russia. Two-way trade has gone up despite COVID-19. Chinese imports from Russia have grown faster than imports from China’s other major trading partners. The two countries have supported and defended each other against slanders and attacks coming from certain countries. Together, China and Russia have forged an impregnable fortress against the “political virus” and demonstrated the strength of China-Russia strategic coordination.
I have no doubt that the two countries’ joint response to the virus will give a strong boost to China-Russia relations after COVID-19. China is working with Russia to turn the crisis into an opportunity. We will do so by maintaining stable cooperation in energy and other traditional fields, holding a China-Russia year of scientific and technological innovation, and accelerating collaboration in e-commerce, bio-medicine and the cloud economy to make them new engines of growth in our post-COVID-19 economic recovery. China and Russia will also enhance strategic coordination. By marking the 75th anniversary of the UN, we stand ready to firmly protect our victory in WWII, uphold the UN Charter and basic norms of international relations, and oppose any form of unilateralism and bullying. We will enhance cooperation and coordination in the UN, SCO, BRICS and G20 to prepare ourselves for a new round of the once-in-a-century change shaping today’s world.
I believe that with China and Russia standing shoulder-to-shoulder and working back-to-back, the world will be a safer and more stable place where justice and fairness are truly upheld.
China Daily: China is providing support and assistance to many countries to help them fight COVID-19. But there is some skepticism about this. What’s your comment?
Wang Yi: At the height of China’s battle with COVID-19, we received assistance and support from across the world. This is something we will always cherish and be grateful for. Likewise, when other countries are struck by the virus, the Chinese people feel for their pain and readily extend a helping hand.
To put into action President Xi Jinping’s vision of a community with a shared future for mankind, we have in the last few months launched the largest global humanitarian operation in the history of the People’s Republic. To date, we have shipped medical supplies to nearly 150 countries and four international organizations to meet their immediate needs. We have held video conferences with health experts from over 170 countries to share our proven protocols of diagnosis, treatment and control without any reservation. We have sent 26 expert teams to 24 countries to provide timely information and in-person guidance. Our factories have operated at full capacity to make high-quality medical supplies and equipment that are badly needed around the world, exporting 56.8 billion surgical masks and 250 million protective gowns, among other provisions.
China has done all this because, first and foremost, we Chinese are a grateful nation. We are always ready to reciprocate acts of friendship and kindness from others. Moreover, China is always willing and ready to help others. When our friends are in distress, we never sit by and do nothing. A case in point is our assistance to Africa during the Ebola epidemic. While some countries evacuated their personnel from the affected areas, China rushed to Africa’s aid despite risks of infection, sending in medical teams and badly needed supplies and fighting alongside our African brothers and sisters until victory was declared.
We know that the COVID-19 assistance from China may not cover the needs of all affected countries. We are also aware that some political forces are mischaracterizing our intention. But we have done everything in the open and we have a clear conscience. Nothing we do is out of geopolitical calculation, or in pursuit of economic gains, or with any political strings attached.
In providing assistance, we have but one goal, that is to save as many lives as possible. We have but one belief, that is one country’s success does not mean the end of the global pandemic. Only when the virus is defeated in all countries can we claim a true victory.
The coronavirus is still raging in many places. China is not a savior. But we try to be a friend in need, a sincere partner you can count on in times of difficulty. We will continue to help the countries in distress to the best of our ability, pursue more international cooperation and fight alongside others until final, worldwide victory can be declared against COVID-19.
Reuters: China’s decision to press ahead with the national security legislation for Hong Kong may provoke threats of retaliation from the US. Is China concerned that Hong Kong’s position as a global financial hub could be undermined?
Wang Yi: First of all, Hong Kong affairs are China’s internal affairs and allow no external interference. Non-interference, as a basic norm of international relations, must be observed by all countries.
Second, the Central Government is responsible for upholding national security in China, as is the case in any other country. Through Article 23 of the Basic Law, the Central Government authorizes the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (SAR) to fulfill its constitutional duty by enacting laws on its own. The authorization, however, does not prevent the Central Government from developing a legal system and enforcement mechanisms for safeguarding national security in light of the actual situation and needs. The Central Government holds the primary and ultimate responsibility for national security in all sub-national administrative regions. This is the basic theory and principle underpinning national sovereignty and a common practice in countries around the globe.
Third, since the turbulence over proposed legislative amendments last June, we have seen increasingly rampant activities by “Hong Kong independence” organizations and radical localists in Hong Kong, escalating violence and terrorist activities as well as excessive, unlawful foreign meddling in Hong Kong affairs. All this has placed national security in serious jeopardy and posed a grave threat to Hong Kong’s prosperity and stability and the practice of “one country, two systems”. Under such circumstances, establishing a legal system and enforcement mechanisms for safeguarding national security in the Hong Kong SAR has become a pressing priority. We must get it done without the slightest delay.
Fourth, the NPC decision targets a very narrow category of acts that seriously jeopardize national security and has no impact on Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy, the rights and freedoms of Hong Kong residents or the legitimate rights and interests of foreign investors in Hong Kong. Instead of becoming unnecessarily worried, people should have more confidence in Hong Kong’s future. A legislative process will be set in motion following the adoption of the NPC decision. This will improve Hong Kong’s legal system and bring more stability, stronger rule of law and a better business environment to Hong Kong. It will protect the basic principle of “one country, two systems” and Hong Kong’s position as a global financial, trading and shipping center. I trust that it will receive understanding and support from all those who wish to see a stable Hong Kong and the sound and sustained implementation of “one country, two systems”.
Phoenix Television: Would China agree to an independent international investigation into the source of the virus?
Wang Yi: Regarding the source of the virus, the difference between China and some US politicians is as wide as that between facts and lies, between science and prejudice.
Source tracing is a serious and complex issue of science. It should be studied by scientists and medical experts. However, some American politicians have rushed to attach a geographical label to the virus, politicize its source and stigmatize China. They have both overestimated their own ability to spread disinformation and underestimated others’ ability to tell right from wrong. History should be written with facts, not tainted by lies. The global narrative about COVID-19 should reflect reason and conscience. Humanity has an obligation to leave behind an objective and truthful account as part of its collective memory.
China is open to joint efforts by the international science community to identify the source of the virus. Importantly, it must be a professional, impartial and constructive process.
“Professional” means being based on science and led by WHO, and letting scientists and medical experts conduct field missions and research worldwide. The goal is to help us better understand this kind of virus and deal more effectively with major infectious diseases in the future.
“Impartial” means being free from political interference, respecting the sovereign equality of nations and avoiding a presumption of guilt. All countries closely related to the virus should be covered by the field missions. The whole process should be open, transparent, objective and rational.
“Constructive” means not hampering the work of saving lives, which clearly must be our top priority at the moment, not jeopardizing international cooperation against COVID-19, and not undermining the statutory role of WHO. Instead, we should bolster the ability of the UN system to perform its mandate, strengthen international solidarity and cooperation, and improve the system and capacity for global governance in the area of public health.
Agencia EFE: There are two voices among the European countries when it comes to China, with some even thinking that China is Europe’s systemic rival. What’s your comment?
Wang Yi: Despite all the changes going on in the world, the relationship between China and the EU continues to be defined by cooperation and demonstrate great potential. The most important thing we have learned from the past 45 years is this: China and the EU are fully capable of building trust through equal-footed dialogue and resolving differences through constructive communication. Between China and the EU, there is no fundamental conflict of interests, but ever greater room for mutually beneficial cooperation and extensive consensus on supporting multilateralism. For the advancement of human progress, China and the EU must remain each other’s comprehensive strategic partners and not become systemic rivals. Our interaction should be a positive cycle that enables our mutual success, not a knock-out match which results in only one winner.
As a European proverb goes, “True friends never give up on each other.” In the wake of COVID-19, China and the EU have given each other strong support, illustrated by many touching stories. COVID-19 is an unprecedented crisis. It requires China and the EU to rise above ideological differences, dispel self-fulfilling suspicions and send a common message of solidarity and cooperation.
COVID-19 has affected the important diplomatic agenda between China and the EU set for this year, but only to some extent. The two sides are having discussions on holding the 22nd China-EU Summit as early as possible, and actively exploring the possibility of holding a special China-EU summit when appropriate. We are working to wrap up negotiations on the China-EU investment agreement within the year, and expand mutually beneficial cooperation in new areas such as connectivity, the environment, the digital economy and artificial intelligence. The 45th anniversary of China-EU relations affords the two sides an opportunity to build a more stable, mature, productive and substantive relationship.
Global Times: How will China respond to the lawsuits filed in the US that ask for compensation from China as a result of COVID-19?
Wang Yi: The attempt to file frivolous lawsuits is a shoddy one, as it has zero basis in fact, law or international precedence.
COVID-19 has caught the whole world by surprise. China, like other countries, is a victim. Confronted by an unknown virus, we have acted responsibly to protect people’s life and health and safeguard global public health. China was the first country to report cases to WHO and promptly share information with relevant countries and regions, the first to sequence the genome of the virus and share it with the world, and the first to publish guidelines for treatment and containment. Once we sensed the severity of the situation, we made a tough decision that cut off the route of transmission in the shortest possible time and stopped the fast-spreading virus in its tracks. All this was achieved at an enormous cost and with huge sacrifice. China’s record of COVID-19 response is there for the world to see, with a clear timeline and solid facts that will stand the test of time and history.
Some people are clamoring for so-called “accountability and compensation” from a victim of COVID-19 and they are fabricating so-called “evidence” for frivolous lawsuits. These people are trampling on international rule of law and betraying human conscience. Their action does not square with facts, stand up to reason or have any legal foundation. Today’s China is not what it used to be a hundred years ago, nor is the world anything like the one a century ago. If anybody thought they could use some ludicrous lawsuits to undermine China’s sovereignty and dignity or deprive the Chinese people of their hard-won gains, they’d be daydreaming and bring disgrace to themselves.
Kyodo News: How does China see the future relations between China, Japan and the ROK?
Wang Yi: China, Japan and the ROK are friendly neighbors separated only by a strip of water. The three countries have worked closely in responding to COVID-19. A special foreign ministers’ video conference has taken place, followed by another one held by our health ministers. We are sharing information and coordinating containment measures and entry and exit management, which has proven effective in stemming the spread of COVID-19 in our region. The people of our three countries went to each other’s aid and left many touching stories that give true meaning to the verses “Though we live in different lands, the same moon and sky make us one” and “United by the same humanity, we forget our nationality”. The three countries’ joint response to COVID-19 is providing an example and inspiration for the world.
While we stay vigilant, our immediate and shared priority must shift to restoring economic growth. As the world’s leading economies, China, Japan and the ROK account for more than one-fifth of global GDP. We were among the first to bring COVID-19 under control and resume work and production. These efforts will contribute to a regional economic recovery and to the stability of the global economy.
First, we will forestall any resurgence of infections to consolidate the gains. Faced with ongoing risks from COVID-19, China, Japan and the ROK need to continue to share information and experience and coordinate our collective response. We are intensifying joint efforts on vaccine and drug research and development. We need to set up a regional emergency liaison mechanism and reserve of essential medical supplies. We need to also leverage the Internet, big data and other information technologies to upgrade the region’s public health governance and emergency response capacity.
Second, we will coordinate the resumption of work and production and stabilize our industrial and supply chains. While never lowering its guard, China is prepared to open “fast tracks” for the movement of people and “green corridors” for the flow of goods with the ROK and other countries so that we can restore as much practical cooperation as possible and revitalize our respective and regional economic activities.
Third, we will aim for a higher standard of regional economic cooperation in the post-COVID-19 era. Our three countries need to stay committed to multilateralism and free trade. We need to cut tariffs, remove barriers and open up markets to each other. More collaboration will be pursued on health and medical care, smart manufacturing and 5G to turn them into new engines of economic growth. We will speed up trilateral free trade negotiations and work toward signing the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) agreement within the year to strengthen regional economic linkages. We will fully leverage regional mechanisms to forestall financial risks and make our economies more resilient.
All in all, China is prepared to work with Japan, the ROK and other countries to completely defeat COVID-19 as soon as possible, restore economic vitality in East Asia, and promote development in our region and the world with Oriental wisdom and strength.
China Central Television: How will China’s diplomacy adapt to the new normal of COVID-19 response? Is there anything in particular to watch for on this year’s diplomatic agenda?
Wang Yi: COVID-19 may have pressed the “pause” button on the interactions between countries, but China’s diplomacy has not paused for a moment. China has engaged in what we call “cloud diplomacy” in the form of phone calls, correspondence and video conferences.
President Xi Jinping has personally led China’s diplomatic efforts throughout this period. He has engaged with many world leaders and advanced international cooperation as a global statesman. To date, he has had phone calls or meetings with nearly 50 foreign leaders and heads of international organizations. He has attended the Extraordinary G20 Leaders’ Summit and spoken at the opening of the World Health Assembly. In all his diplomatic engagements, he underscored China’s unequivocal commitment to global solidarity and cooperation against COVID-19. Premier Li Keqiang has also spoken with foreign leaders by phone and attended a Special ASEAN Plus Three Summit on COVID-19. I myself have had over 100 phone calls with foreign counterparts. China has held special foreign ministers’ meetings with ASEAN members, Lancang-Mekong countries, Japan and the ROK, BRICS countries, and SCO members.
This year is of special significance in China’s national rejuvenation. China’s diplomatic service will adapt to the new normal of COVID-19 response, focus on five priorities and create new highlights:
First, we will make every effort to facilitate domestic development. Taking into account both domestic and international dynamics, we will leverage all the diplomatic resources at our disposal to support key national development strategies. We will work to keep the global production and supply chains stable after COVID-19, promote the liberalization and facilitation of trade and investment, and offset downward risks to the world economy.
Second, we will firmly defend national interests. We will show more resolve and take more effective steps to safeguard China’s sovereignty, security and development interests, and forestall and foil all external attempts to interfere in China’s internal affairs.
Third, we will build stronger partnerships. We will seek steady progress in our relations with other major countries, expand the convergence of interests with our neighbors, and reinforce solidarity and friendship with fellow developing countries.
Fourth, we will firmly uphold multilateralism. We will focus on enhancing global public health governance, support WHO in playing its due role in the global COVID-19 response, and garner efforts to build a global community of health for all.
Fifth, we will actively expand international cooperation. We propose to set up joint COVID-19 response mechanisms with more countries for more effective cooperation against the virus. We will also push forward health cooperation under the Belt and Road Initiative to strengthen global preparedness against epidemics.
Middle East News Agency: How will China help African countries to fight against COVID-19?
Wang Yi: China and Africa are good brothers who have shared weal and woe together. Our people, having fought shoulder-to-shoulder for national liberation, are partners for common development. A few years back, we were together fighting Ebola. I fully agree with the AU Commission Chairperson in saying that “Africa and China are friends and, more importantly, comrades-in-arms. Nothing can change or damage this friendship”.
In the battle against COVID-19, China and Africa have again stood by each other. Over 50 African leaders have expressed solidarity and support in phone calls or public statements. China has subsequently sent medical expert teams to Africa’s five sub-regions and surrounding countries. Resident Chinese medical teams based in 45 African countries have acted swiftly to assist in the local response. They have held nearly 400 training sessions for tens of thousands of African medical workers. We also look after the African community in China just like we take care of our own families. All of the over 3,000 African students in Hubei and Wuhan have been safe and sound, except for just one who got infected but was soon cured.
This year marks the 20th anniversary of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC). China’s relations with Africa have stood the test of time and continue to flourish. We will continue to stand by Africa as it fights the virus. We will send anti-epidemic assistance to African and other developing countries as a matter of priority. We are considering sending more medical expert teams to the continent. China will continue to deliver on the health initiative announced at the FOCAC Beijing Summit. We will accelerate construction of the Africa CDC headquarters, and help boost public health capacity in African nations. In addition, China will continue to work with Africa on development capacity-building. We will work out ways to move ahead with major ongoing cooperation projects and support African countries in reopening businesses soon to sustain Africa’s economic momentum. We will work with other G20 members to implement the debt service suspension initiative to ease Africa’s debt burden. We are also considering further bilateral support for African countries under the greatest strain to help our African brothers and sisters through this difficult time.
To quote a Chinese saying, “When brothers are of the same mind, they have the power to cut through metal.” We are convinced that with help from China and the rest of the global community, the youthful continent of Africa will achieve greater and faster development after defeating COVID-19.
China National Radio: How can China’s diplomatic service contribute to winning the battle against extreme poverty and achieving moderate prosperity?
Wang Yi: Achieving moderate prosperity in all respects is a centenary goal of China, and eliminating extreme poverty has been our nation’s dream for thousands of years. The entire Chinese nation are working doubly hard to accomplish these two historic goals this year. All members of China’s diplomatic service are duty bound to contribute their share.
While the completion of these two tasks mainly depends on China’s own efforts, securing an enabling international environment is also important. Right now, the COVID-19 pandemic presents the greatest external complication and challenge to China’s development. To better facilitate domestic development, we in the diplomatic service must adapt to the new realities and think out of the box to solve new problems. We will strive to minimize the pandemic’s impact on our people’s life and health and on China’s economic and social development. We will look out for new opportunities of development from fighting COVID-19 with the rest of the world. While staying vigilant against imported cases, we will phase in more enabling conditions for resuming normal state-to-state interactions. We will take strong steps to advance international cooperation for shared benefit, and make new contributions to the development and prosperity of China and the rest of the world.
The Foreign Ministry has taken on specific responsibilities in the national drive for moderate prosperity and poverty eradication. For the past 28 years, the Ministry has been paired with Jinping and Malipo, two poverty-stricken counties in Yunnan Province designated by the central government, to help them escape poverty. I’m happy to report that the two counties have recently got rid of extreme poverty. My Ministry will see the job through and help the two counties consolidate their gains. At the same time, we will continue to share China’s success story of eliminating poverty through development, and promote international exchange and cooperation on poverty reduction. We will work to gain more understanding and support for China’s battle against poverty, and contribute to the global attainment of the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals.
Cable News Network: We’ve seen an increasingly heated “war of words” between China and the US. Is “wolf warrior” diplomacy the new norm of China’s diplomacy?
Wang Yi: I respect your right to ask the question, but I’m afraid you’re not framing the question in the right way. One has to have a sense of right and wrong. Without it, a person cannot be trusted, and a country cannot hold its own in the family of nations.
There may be all kinds of interpretations and commentary about Chinese diplomacy. As China’s Foreign Minister, let me state for the record that China always follows an independent foreign policy of peace. No matter how the international situation may change, we will always stand for peace, development and mutually beneficial cooperation, stay committed to upholding world peace and promoting common development, and seek friendship and cooperation with all countries. We see it as our mission to make new and greater contributions to humanity.
China’s foreign policy tradition is rooted in its 5,000-year civilization. Since ancient times, China has been widely recognized as a nation of moderation. We Chinese value peace, harmony, sincerity and integrity. We never pick a fight or bully others, but we have principles and guts. We will push back against any deliberate insult to resolutely defend our national honor and dignity. And we will refute all groundless slander with facts to resolutely uphold fairness, justice and human conscience.
The future of China’s diplomacy is premised on our commitment to working with all countries to build a community with a shared future for mankind. Since we live in the same global village, countries should get along peacefully and treat each other as equals. Decisions on global affairs should be made through consultation, not because one or two countries say so. That’s why China advocates for a multi-polar world and greater democracy in international relations. This position is fully aligned with the direction of human progress and the shared aspiration of most countries. No matter what stage of development it reaches, China will never seek hegemony. We will always stand with the common interests of all countries. And we will always stand on the right side of history. Those who go out of their way to label China as a hegemon are precisely the ones who refuse to let go of their hegemonic status.
The world is undergoing changes of a kind unseen in a century and full of instability and turbulence. Confronted by a growing set of global challenges, we hope all countries will realize that humanity is a community with a shared future. We must render each other more support and cooperation, and there should be less finger-pointing and confrontation. We call on all nations to come together and build a better world for all.
China Radio International: How does China see the role of WHO? What’s China’s view of WHO reform?
Wang Yi: WHO is a specialized UN agency with a central role in coordinating global public health matters. Dr. Tedros was elected as Director General with an overwhelming majority. He has the full confidence of the international community. The election of an African is a sign of the rising status of developing countries in international organizations.
At the opening of the just concluded 73rd World Health Assembly, President Xi Jinping made a statement in which he applauded WHO’s vital contributions to global COVID-19 response. His firm support for WHO was echoed by many countries. As for WHO’s international standing and its place in history, I’m sure clear-eyed people the world over will reach a fair conclusion, one that will not be altered just because some country doesn’t like it. Those who throw mud at WHO will only leave a stain on themselves.
Since the start of the outbreak, WHO, under the leadership of Dr. Tedros, has followed science and given timely and professional advice at every turn. It has done a good job and performed its mandate. What we’re seeing is this: those countries that heeded and followed WHO advice are more successful in bringing the virus under control, while those that ignored or rejected its advice are paying a heavy price.
Let me also stress this: WHO is an international body made up of 194 sovereign states. It does not serve any particular country, and it should not defer to any country that provides more funding than others. In the face of COVID-19, those attempts to attack or blackmail WHO are lacking in basic humanity and will be rejected by the international community.
Nothing is more precious than people’s lives; nothing is more important than saving lives. To support WHO is to support saving lives. I believe all countries with decency will choose to do so.
As for WHO reform, actually the Organization would undertake a comprehensive review and evaluation in the wake of every major epidemic. But the purpose of such review is to uphold rather than undermine multilateralism and to support rather than undercut WHO. The 73rd World Health Assembly has passed a resolution that makes this point very clear. From China’s perspective, WHO reform should have three priorities: First, to improve mechanisms and rules so as to remove the interference of political factors, value science and professional views, and preclude politicization and stigmatization. Second, to equip WHO with more resources and enable it to better tackle global public health crises. Third, to act on the vision of a global community of health for all and scale up support and input to developing countries to bolster their health sector.
Kazinform: What steps will China take to revive cooperation with Belt and Road partner countries from the impact of COVID-19?
Wang Yi: COVID-19 has affected Belt and Road cooperation to some extent, but the impact is temporary and limited. From an overall and long-term perspective, COVID-19 will only strengthen and re-energize Belt and Road cooperation and open up new possibilities.
Belt and Road cooperation is built on its real benefits to the people in partner countries. Over the past seven years, China has signed Belt and Road cooperation documents with 138 countries. More than 2,000 projects have been launched and tens of thousands of jobs created in the partner countries. Many of the infrastructure and livelihood projects have played a vital role in COVID-19 response. For example, energy projects along the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor have kept running and provided one third of the country’s electricity. While most of the air freight services have been suspended or canceled, the China-Europe Railway Express has seen its services and cargo volume increase by 24 percent and 27 percent between January and April. Delivering nearly 8,000 tons of anti-epidemic supplies in total, the railway has truly served as a lifeline for freight transportation between Asia and Europe.
Belt and Road cooperation is driven by a strong and shared commitment to common development. Over the past seven years, China’s trade in goods with Belt and Road partner countries has exceeded 7.8 trillion dollars, and direct Chinese investment in the partner countries has topped 110 billion dollars. Despite the impact of COVID-19, Chinese investment in Belt and Road partner countries increased by 11.7 percent in the first quarter and trade with them was up by 3.2 percent. Steady progress is being made in the China-Laos railway, the Budapest-Belgrade railway, the dual-fuel power plant in Cambodia, and the CBD project in the new administrative capital of Egypt. Construction has resumed for a number of projects suspended due to COVID-19. All this will generate strong impetus for the host countries’ efforts to beat the virus and revitalize the economy.
The future of the Belt and Road Initiative lies in expanding the cooperation to new areas. Emerging from COVID-19, countries will have a stronger need to grow the economy and improve lives as well as a surging demand for public health cooperation. China will work with the partner countries to advance health cooperation along the Belt and Road and convene a high-level video conference to better protect people’s health and safety in the partner countries. China will also advance the Digital Belt and Road to create new engines of growth for the partner countries and new impetus for global recovery.
In sum, China is as confident and determined as ever to promote Belt and Road cooperation. We will continue to follow the principle of consultation and cooperation for shared benefits, and support open, green and clean development. By aiming for high-standard, people-centered and sustainable progress, we will make the Belt and Road a model of development, cooperation and health for all involved.
Shenzhen Satellite TV: What are China’s plans for growing its relations with ASEAN?
Wang Yi: If you look at the course of China-ASEAN relations over the years, you can see that, from the Asian financial crisis to the global financial crisis, each crisis has led to closer ties and stronger cooperation between the two sides. This is a testament to the extraordinary friendship and profound trust between us. I remember that during the SARS outbreak in 2003, the first multilateral conference was held between China and ASEAN countries. It is also the case this time with COVID-19. On 20 February, I joined my ASEAN colleagues for a special foreign ministers’ meeting on COVID-19. We held hands, stood shoulder-to-shoulder and chanted “Stay strong, Wuhan! Stay strong, China! Stay strong, ASEAN!” To this day, that heart-warming moment still inspires the people in China and ASEAN.
Thanks to joint efforts, China-ASEAN cooperation continued to grow despite COVID-19. In the first quarter of this year, our trade in goods grew 6.1 percent to exceed 140 billion dollars, making ASEAN China’s biggest trading partner. This is a vote of confidence in each other’s development prospects even though we are confronted by a common challenge. Some ASEAN foreign ministers put it very well, “That which does not kill us can only make us stronger” and “We are stronger in the broken places”.
Indeed, just as rainbow appears after a storm, after COVID-19, China will continue to view ASEAN as a high priority in its neighborhood diplomacy and support ASEAN centrality in East Asian cooperation. We will work with ASEAN countries in the spirit of mutual trust, mutual accommodation, mutual benefit and mutual assistance to take our relationship to the next level. We will accelerate cooperation to resume economic activities and make up for the losses caused by the virus. We will seek stronger complementarity between the Belt and Road Initiative and ASEAN development plans and expand cooperation in emerging sectors such as smart cities, artificial intelligence and e-commerce. We will uphold the multilateral trading regime and work together for the signing of the RCEP agreement within this year to build a more integrated regional economy. We propose a regional liaison mechanism for public health emergencies and reserve centers for epidemic control provision, which may help us enhance public health cooperation and crisis response capacity. We will make the most of the China-ASEAN Young Leaders Scholarship and other flagship programs to promote people-to-people exchanges. We will also step up cooperation on the blue economy and ecological and environmental protection to drive sustainable development and benefit people in our region.
Next year will mark the 30th anniversary of China-ASEAN dialogue relations, another milestone for both sides. We are convinced that with the maturity and confidence this relationship has gained in the past three decades, China and ASEAN will take more solid steps forward in forging a closer community with a shared future.
Yonhap News Agency: In what direction does China think the situation on the Korean Peninsula and dialogue between the DPRK and the US should be going?
Wang Yi: Continued communication and dialogue between the DPRK and the US is important for resolving their differences and a key stepping stone to settling issues on the Korean Peninsula. As China has often counseled, having a dialogue is better than having nothing at all. We would like to see continuous interaction between DPRK and US leaders. We hope that the two sides will resume meaningful dialogue and engagement as soon as possible. That said, building mutual trust and breaking the impasse on the Peninsula would require more concrete steps. To achieve a genuine settlement, they need to not only talk the talk, but also walk the walk.
We have seen some positive steps taken by the DPRK in the last few years toward de-escalation and denuclearization. Regrettably, these steps have not been reciprocated in a substantive way by the US side. This is the main reason for the ongoing stalemate in DPRK-US dialogue. More uncertainties have built up surrounding the nuclear issue on the Peninsula. China and Russia have long introduced a draft resolution at the UN Security Council for a political settlement of Korean Peninsula issues, and repeatedly called on the Council to discuss rolling back sanctions as stipulated in relevant resolutions. This would help ease economic and livelihood hardships in the DPRK and create conditions for the political settlement of the Peninsula issues. We call on the US and other parties to take this proposal into serious consideration and stop squandering the hard-won outcomes of previous dialogue. The general outline of settling the nuclear issue is clear. The parties must follow a dual-track approach of pursuing both denuclearization and a peace mechanism, and work out a road map for phased and synchronized actions. The rare opportunity for solving the issue should not be missed again.
The Paper: Is China concerned that Taiwan-related issues may add further strain to China-US relations?
Wang Yi: The 23 million people in Taiwan are our fellow compatriots. We have closely followed the COVID-19 developments in Taiwan, and we send our best wishes for the health of our Taiwan compatriots. Since the beginning of the COVID-19 situation, we have taken good care of our Taiwan compatriots on the Chinese mainland and given whatever help we can to those staying abroad. We will continue to do our utmost to meet Taiwan compatriots’ needs in fighting COVID-19.
The Chinese government and WHO have, in keeping with the one-China principle, made proper arrangements for Taiwan to participate in global health affairs as a region of China. The Taiwan region has unimpeded access to information and expert-level exchange and cooperation with WHO and its member states. There has never been any technical barrier, nor is Taiwan a loophole in the global fight against coronavirus. It’s the Taiwan authorities who have turned a blind eye to their people’s well-being. Turning its back on the 1992 Consensus that the two sides of the Taiwan Strait belong to one and the same China, they have shut the door to cross-Strait consultation on Taiwan’s external activities.
The Taiwan question is China’s internal affair. The one-China principle is an international consensus and the political foundation of China’s diplomatic relations with other countries. We firmly oppose official interactions with the Taiwan authorities disguised as health cooperation. We firmly oppose Taiwan’s pursuit of so-called “international space” in violation of the one-China principle. We firmly oppose any external support and encouragement to those elements who take advantage of COVID-19 to seek “Taiwan independence”.
Reunification of the two sides of the Taiwan Strait is the trend of history. No individual or force can stop it from happening. We urge the US side to fully appreciate the great sensitivity of the Taiwan question and abide by the one-China principle and the three Sino-US communiqués. We advise the US side to ditch its illusions and political calculations. We remind the US side not to make any attempt to challenge China’s red line or misjudge 1.4 billion people’s strong resolve to defend national unification.
The Straits Times: Some say that China is taking advantage of COVID-19 to increase activities in the South China Sea? What’s your view? Will this affect the talks on a Code of Conduct in the South China Sea (COC)?
Wang Yi: There is nothing to support the claim that China is using COVID-19 to expand its presence in the South China Sea. On the contrary, China has worked with ASEAN countries in recent months to beat the virus. We have assisted and supported each other, which has helped to strengthen mutual trust. Even as we speak, ships and planes carrying critical supplies are sailing in and flying over the South China Sea, a body of water that’s witnessing mutual assistance and cooperation between China and ASEAN. In sharp contrast to this, a few non-regional countries are flexing their muscles by sending military aircraft and vessels to the South China Sea. Their ill-intentioned and despicable moves are meant to sow discord between China and ASEAN countries and undermine the hard-won stability in the region.
In recent years, the situation in the South China Sea has stabilized due to the joint efforts of China and ASEAN countries. A lot of progress has been made in our cooperation on maritime search and rescue as well as marine conservation and research. The COC consultations are proceeding smoothly and speedily, with the second reading of the text already begun. China and ASEAN countries have agreed to conclude the COC at an early date, a goal we are confident and determined to achieve. No external interference can distract or sabotage our efforts. COVID-19 has put the consultations on a break, but China is coordinating closely with ASEAN countries to pick up where we left off as soon as possible. We will also explore new ways of maritime cooperation to safeguard peace and stability and promote development and prosperity in the South China Sea region.
China News Service: Can you share more about how the Chinese Foreign Ministry and its missions abroad have helped overseas Chinese nationals who have encountered difficulties in their host countries?
Wang Yi: Since the onset of COVID-19, the well-being of overseas Chinese nationals has been close to the heart of the motherland. General Secretary Xi Jinping stressed on more than one occasion the need to ensure their safety and health. Acting on this, the Foreign Ministry and Chinese diplomatic and consular missions all over the world swiftly mobilized resources and conveyed to every Chinese national abroad the care and solicitude of the CPC and the government. An unprecedented operation was launched to provide consular protection to Chinese nationals wherever they are in the world.
We reached out to fellow Chinese all around the world to help address their difficulties. We invited leading Chinese experts to share COVID-19 prevention tips with overseas students via video link. We coordinated with other agencies to send over 20 medical expert teams to as many countries to provide guidance for Chinese citizens. We helped Chinese nationals get in touch with local health providers and with experts in China, the latter via telemedicine platforms. We paid particular attention to the well-being of Chinese students and, by one way or another, managed to deliver over one million health kits, which are symbols of the motherland’s care, to those who need them.
The Foreign Ministry’s consular hotline 12308, which runs 24/7, handled over 200,000 calls in March and April alone, which means more than 3,600 calls per day. We take every call seriously and make sure that the caller’s concerns are noted down and addressed in each case. In this way, we keep the channels open for every overseas Chinese in need of help.
Shortly after COVID-19 started, we chartered planes to bring back citizens stranded abroad. As infections spiked in some countries, we arranged ad hoc flights for Chinese nationals who had an urgent need to return.
Serving the people is the abiding mission of Chinese diplomats. The past few months have been an extraordinary time for us. Our entire diplomatic service, from heads of mission to everyone else in our embassies and consulates, have acted with a strong sense of responsibility and dedication to their job. They have braved the risk of infection and readily made sacrifices. Finally, a word to our fellow Chinese abroad: Whatever happens, the motherland is always behind you, and Chinese diplomatic and consular missions will always be there for you.
Associated Press of Pakistan: What do you view the current situation in Afghanistan?
Wang Yi: Afghanistan, long regarded as “the heart of Asia”, has a significant impact on regional peace and stability. The fast-moving events in recent months have taken the country closer to peace than ever. But the road ahead is far from smooth. As we see it, five things cry out to be done:
First, consolidating government unity. We welcome President Ghani and Dr. Abdullah’s agreement to form a unity government, and look forward to its normal functioning as early as possible. Second, establishing the framework for talks. We call on all factions to immediately cease hostilities and reach an early agreement on the arrangements for intra-Afghan talks on the country’s future political architecture. Third, withdrawing foreign troops in an appropriate and orderly manner. The US troop withdrawal must proceed in a responsible way without undermining the interests of Afghanistan or other countries in the region. Fourth, combating terrorism. All parties need to stay focused on this to prevent a regrouping of terrorist forces. Fifth, securing external support. Afghanistan’s relations with Pakistan and other countries need to be further improved. More needs to be done to mobilize greater international support and collaboration for the peace and reconciliation process.
In China’s view, the process must be guided by three principles:
First, it should be Afghan-led. It must be left to the people of Afghanistan to decide their country’s future and grasp the nation’s destiny in their hands. Second, it should prioritize peace. No party may resort to the use of force to advance their interests. Third, the process should be broadly representative and inclusive to set the stage for a more inclusive, united and energetic Afghanistan.
The Afghan people are entitled to a better life free from the shadow of war. As close neighbors and brothers, the Chinese people have stood shoulder-to-shoulder with them. Going forward, China will continue to play an active and constructive role in promoting intra-Afghan talks, restoring peace and stability and advancing economic recovery in Afghanistan, and facilitating its participation in regional cooperation.
Hubei TV: The Foreign Ministry has done a lot to clear Wuhan’s name and help the city beat the virus. What will the Foreign Ministry do to assist Hubei’s development and opening-up?
Wang Yi: Under the strong leadership of the CPC Central Committee with Comrade Xi Jinping at its core, a decisive victory has been won in the battle to safeguard Hubei Province and its capital Wuhan. In this extraordinary battle, the people of Hubei and Wuhan have made enormous efforts and sacrifices as well as a significant contribution to COVID-19 response in and beyond China. On behalf of the nation’s diplomatic service, I wish to pay high tribute to the heroic people of Hubei and Wuhan!
We in the diplomatic service have contributed our share to the battle of safeguarding Hubei and Wuhan. Under the direction of the Central Guidance Group, the Foreign Ministry sent a team to Wuhan to help mobilize anti-epidemic resources and coordinate the distribution of international donations. Over 100 members of the diplomatic service who were visiting family in Hubei joined the local response. Upon learning that many overseas Chinese citizens from Hubei concerned about their families in the province were unable to return because of flight cancellations, the Foreign Ministry instructed Chinese missions abroad to reach out to them and arrange charter flights to bring them home.
By now, the economic and social order in Hubei has largely returned to normal. We at the Foreign Ministry will do whatever we can to boost its development in the post-COVID-19 era. We are exploring a fast track for essential international personnel to return to work in foreign-related enterprises in Hubei and Wuhan. Depending on how the pandemic evolves, we will create opportunities for Hubei to revive exchanges and cooperation with the outside world. When the time is right, the Foreign Ministry would love to hold a special promotion event to showcase the new Hubei and Wuhan that have emerged stronger from COVID-19. This will be a major opportunity for the world to know more about Hubei and give more support to Wuhan.