Global Times: The Vientiane-Vangvieng section of the China-Laos expressway which was co-invested by China and Laos, has opened to traffic 13 months ahead of schedule. This is the first expressway in Laos, a true milestone. Do you have any comment on this?
Zhao Lijian: In China there's a saying, "Roads lead to riches." We are glad to see Laos getting its first expressway. The approximate length of China-Laos expressway is designed at 440 kilometers, and its first phase, from Laotian capital Vientiane to the tourism city of Vangvieng, is about 110 kilometers long. With its launch, travel time between the two cities is reduced from 3.5 hours to one hour. We believe the opening of the Vientiane-Vangvieng section will help improve local people's lives, advance economic and social development, and contribute to cross-border trade and people-to-people exchange.
Yonhap News: Multiple Chinese and Russian military aircraft entered the ROK's air defense identification zone yesterday. In its announcement China said it's a routine exercise. The ROK foreign ministry expressed regret over it. What's your comment?
Zhao Lijian: The Chinese Ministry of National Defense has put up a press release on it. The operation, part of an annual military cooperation plan between China and Russia, does not target any third party. I'd like to point out that air defense identification zone is not a country's territorial space, and according to international law, countries enjoy the freedom of overflight. During this exercise, the Chinese and Russian military aircraft strictly observed the relevant provisions of international law and did not enter the airspace of other countries.
CNR: Yesterday, the China Institute of International Studies (CIIS) held an International Seminar on Joint Response to Terrorism under the New Circumstances, with government officials, head of counter-terrorism agencies and academics attending. Do you have any information on the the event?
Zhao Lijian: Vice Foreign Minister Luo Zhaohui delivered a keynote speech at the International Seminar on Joint Response to Terrorism under the New Circumstances held by the CIIS yesterday. Chinese academics talked about China's counter-terrorism and de-radicalization work. Participants held candid and in-depth exchange, which helped them to build up consensus, enhance mutual trust, share experience and promote cooperation.
The Chinese side pointed out that non-traditional security threats require transnational responses. Response to non-traditional security issues should be based on a coherent and sustainable approach; we need a long-term view instead of knee-jerk reaction. Opting for unilateralist and bullying practices, a certain country has politicized counter-terrorism and turned it into a convenient tool. This has caused serious disruption to international counter-terrorism cooperation, and we all need to be on high alert. In fighting terrorism, the world must firmly uphold international common understanding, adopt effective measures, follow a unified standard, and eradicate the breeding ground of terrorism.
All participants hold that the pandemic has complicated and aggravated the international counter-terrorism situation, but the international community should always uphold multilateralism, strengthen solidarity and jointly deal with non-conventional security threats including terrorism. We must apply a unified standard and reject double standards unequivocally. We must defend international consensus and reject politicizing counter-terrorism or using it as a tool for selfish gains. We must adopt comprehensive measures to treat both the symptoms and the root cause, attach importance to preventive counter-terrorism and de-radicalization efforts, and eliminate the breeding ground of terrorism. We must be open and inclusive and oppose linking terrorism with any particular country, ethnicity or religion.
Participants from China, Pakistan, Kazakhstan and Afghanistan all hold that the Eastern Turkistan Islamic Movement terrorist forces pose a serious threat to the peace, security and people's welfare in China, relevant countries and the whole region, and cooperation should be enhanced to fight them and safeguard regional and global security.
RIA Novosti: Another question on the Chinese and Russian aircraft entering the ROK's ADIZ. The Japanese government also said it wasn't notified of this exercise. What's your comment?
Zhao Lijian: Earlier I made clear China's stance. During this exercise, the Chinese and Russian military aircraft strictly observed the relevant provisions of international law and did not enter the airspace of other countries.
China News Service: The Ministry of Education said at a press conference yesterday that the Chinese language has been incorporated into the national education systems of more than 70 countries. Considering that a few Western officials and media have claimed that China is expanding global influence through Chinese learning, do you have any comment?
Zhao Lijian: Language is a means and basis for communication. Learning and using foreign languages is important to international investment and trade cooperation, cultural exchange, mutual learning and friendship. People's hearts are brought closer by language despite the geographical distance. As many in China study English and other foreign languages, there are a great number of foreign nationals getting more interested in learning Chinese. Some 25 million people are learning Chinese outside China. During the 13th Five-Year Plan period, 40 million people took Chinese proficiency tests worldwide, indicating the popularity and solid foundation of international Chinese education. Chinese language learning has been embraced and applauded by people across the globe as it contributes to mutual understanding and friendship between China and other countries.
We should be glad to see and support normal people-to-people exchange and cooperation rather than politicizing or even demonizing it. China is ready to work with other countries to enhance people-to-people exchange and cooperation including through language learning, so as to inject new energy into friendship and cooperation, cultural exchange and mutual learning, and the building of a community with a shared future for mankind.
Bloomberg: Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau rejected a plan by China's Shandong Gold Mining Company to acquire a gold miner that operates in the Canadian Arctic. Does the foreign ministry have a comment?
Zhao Lijian: China-Canada economic and trade cooperation is mutually-beneficial in nature. The Chinese government always asks Chinese businesses to pursue investment cooperation overseas in compliance with international rules and host country laws. Politicizing normal commercial cooperation and using national security as a pretext for political interference is wrong. The Canadian side should provide a fair, open and non-discriminatory market environment for foreign businesses, including Chinese ones, to invest in Canada.
South China Morning Post: The outgoing Australian trade minister Birmingham said to the Australian media that he hopes China will come to the table and show the courtesy to a new trade minister in being willing to have dialogue. He also criticized China for cutting a willingness to actually sit down and talk. Do you have any comment on this? What do you expect from the new Australian trade minister?
Zhao Lijian: As we stressed repeatedly, the diplomatic channel for dialogue between China and Australian has been unimpeded. That said, mutual respect is the basis and prerequisite for dialogue and practical cooperation between countries. If Australia is sincere in having engagement and dialogue with China, it should demonstrate the sincerity with concrete actions.
Shenzhen TV: According to reports, the crew members of DONG YANG, a ship registered in Sierra Leone, were rescued by the Chinese side after abandoning their ship in distress in Nansha waters. Could you give us more details?
Zhao Lijian: The provincial maritime search and rescue center of Hainan received a report at 5 p.m. on December 21 that a cargo ship registered in Sierra Leone was listing heavily in waters near Wan'an Bank of the Nansha Islands. Following the captain's order to abandon ship, the 10 crew members boarded a life raft.
After verifying the distress call, China's Ministry of Transport and authorities in Hainan Province sent three ships to join the rescue operation. At 2:30 p.m. on December 22, one of the ships rescued all 10 crew members, whose vitals are all normal. The overnight operation came to a successful end.
Saving lives at sea is part of the international humanitarian mission. The successful rescue attests to China's ability to safeguard the navigation safety of international ships in the South China Sea. It fully demonstrates China's commitment to rescue operations in these waters. Upholding the humanitarian spirit, China will continue to conduct timely and necessary search and rescue operations to help ships and crew members in distress in the South China Sea.
Reuters: U.S. Senators Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio warned Pacific island countries in a letter that China is subsidizing Huawei Marine in a bid for an undersea cable project in the Pacific so as to wage "campaigns of espionage and geopolitical coercion". What's your comment?
Zhao Lijian: The Senators you mentioned will oppose whatever China does. They are always making up lies to smear China to seek political gains. They have no political integrity to speak of. Their allegation is pure slander aimed to justify the wanton U.S. suppression of hi-tech Chinese companies.
The Chinese government encourages domestic companies to conduct investment cooperation overseas based on market principles, international rules and host country laws. It is the United States that has been conducting massive cyber theft all over the world, even on its allies, since PRISM came out. It is a real empire of hacking and theft. Not long ago, Danish media exposed that U.S. authorities have been running surveillance on Danish government agencies by collecting privacy data and information on Danish communication optical fibers. The world can see through the U.S. trick of smearing others and beautifying itself.
Prasar Bharati: This is regarding the ships near Jingtang port stranded for many months. I understand that the Chinese side and the Indian side are in touch regarding the crew change on the Indian ship. The Chinese side has previously stated that crew change cannot be allowed, citing the COVID-19 pandemic regulations. And the owner of the cargo is also not allowing them to move away. For my first question, is there any science-based justification in not allowing the crew to undergo quarantine before the crew change? Can crew change be allowed after quarantine as they have been stuck for so many months? On humanitarian ground, can this be allowed?
Zhao Lijian: In China, there are clear requirements on epidemic prevention and control at ports and on quarantine of crew members. These are all based on science. Local authorities have been in close communication with the Indian side. They have responded in a timely manner to the Indian side's appeals and provided necessary convenience and assistance while adhering to epidemic prevention rules.
China Daily: Australia's former governor-general Michael Jeffery has passed away. Could you comment on his role in promoting China-Australia relations?
Zhao Lijian: Mr. Jeffery had long cared for and supported the development of China-Australia relations. He paid multiple visits to China and made important contributions to bilateral exchange and cooperation. We deeply mourn Mr. Jefferey's passing and express condolences to his loved ones.
Reuters: U.S. lawmakers Marco Rubio and Michael McCaul urged the Trump administration on Tuesday to strengthen new rules adopted last Friday aimed at preventing SMIC from getting access to advanced U.S. technology. How do you comment on this? The U.S. Department of Homeland Security will issue an advisory to American businesses, warning them of data security risks associated with using communications equipment and services from China-linked companies, Axios reported. How do you comment about this?
Zhao Lijian: As I just said, the lawmakers you mentioned have no integrity as their credibility has already been bankrupted.
China is firmly against the wanton U.S. suppression of Chinese companies and has stated this solemn position on many occasions. By politicizing trade issues, the United States is violating its much-touted principles of market economy and fair competition as well as international trade rules. It undermines Chinese companies' interests and does not serve American corporate interests. It will seriously disrupt bilateral and even global scientific and trade exchange and sabotage the global industrial, supply and value chains.
Chinese businesses always pursue lawful operation and strictly comply with host country laws and regulations. The United States should stop its erroneous practice of abusing state power and stretching national security concept to suppress foreign companies.
A handful of American politicians, entrenched in their Cold War mentality and ideological bias, are bent on hyping up the so-called China threat theory. China is firmly against this. I want to stress that containment and suppression cannot stop China from growing stronger, but will only damage mutual trust and cooperation and escalate frictions. It will also lead to greater solidarity as the Chinese people dedicate themselves to nation-building. Should the United States choose to go down the wrong path, China will take resolute measures to safeguard its sovereignty, security and development interests.
Reuters: Australian national Yang Jun said in a letter to friends that he had suffered "torture", interrogations and a lot of "verbal abuse" during dentition in Beijing. Do you have a comment?
Zhao Lijian: We have stated China's position on the case of Yang Jun many times. The case is now in the process of first instance trial. In China, a country with rule of law, judicial authorities handle cases independently. Yang Jun's lawful rights are fully protected. The alleged "torture" and "abuse" is simply non-existent.