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Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Geng Shuang's Regular Press Conference on March 23, 2020
2020-03-23 22:53

Q: As the pandemic is spreading across the world, medical supplies are insufficient in many countries. You announced a few days ago that China has provided assistance to 82 countries. Will China continue to provide assistance to other countries?

A: The pandemic knows no borders but it brings out the best in humanity. Earlier on, the international community has offered political support and medical supplies to China in the hardest time. As the domestic situation continues to improve, China has started to provide assistance to other countries in urgent need within its capacity while continuing to do a good job in domestic epidemic prevention and control.

For countries that have assisted China in its fight against the epidemic, we will reciprocate their kindness without any hesitation if they need it. We will offer assistance as our capability allows to friendly countries that are in a severe situation and lack of prevention and control materials, especially those developing countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America, as well as regional organizations such as the African Union.

As I said last time, in addition to intergovernmental assistance at the state level, local governments and enterprises in China have taken action and donated supplies to the worst-affected countries. As far as I know, local governments of China have donated medical supplies to subnational governments in 19 countries, including Algeria, Angola, Bulgaria, France, Germany, Iran, Iraq, Italy, Japan, Laos, Lebanon, Malaysia, Pakistan, Peru, the ROK, Switzerland, Tunisia, Turkey, and the United States. Chinese companies have donated goods to 20 countries, namely Cambodia, Canada, the Dominican Republic, Ethiopia, France, Germany, Iran, Italy, Japan, the ROK, Laos, Malta, Mongolia, Myanmar, the Netherlands, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Tanzania, the United Kingdom and the United States. Upholding the vision of building a community with a shared future for mankind, many Chinese companies operating overseas have also donated supplies to their local communities with a strong sense of social responsibility.

By doing so, China has lend firm support to the global fight against the pandemic, made contributions to global public health security, fulfilled its role as a responsible major country and put into practice the vision of building a community with a shared future for mankind.

Q: President Trump said at press conferences on March 20 and 21 that China could have told the US earlier about the outbreak. According to US media reports, on March 20, the White House National Security Council launched a communications plan across multiple federal agencies that accuses China of "orchestrating a cover-up and creating a global pandemic". What is your comment?

A: I've read that report. And I also saw another report saying that on March 20, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told the press that China, Russia and Iran were spreading disinformation and smearing US epidemic response.

Putting them together, you will find that on the very day of March 20, the US was on the one hand pushing federal agencies to speak against China and on the other hand accusing China, Russia and Iran of disseminating disinformation. I just can't help asking who is really spreading disinformation to mislead the public? The US, like a thief crying stop thief, has played such a cheap trick of slander and smear.

Last Friday, I detailed the notification and communication on COVID-19 between China and the US since the outbreak in a timeline. China has been sharing epidemic information with relevant countries and regions, the US included, in an open, transparent and responsible manner, which is universally acclaimed by the international community. Over the past two months or so, the Chinese people have united as one to fight against it. We have bought precious time for and made significant contributions to the world.

The WHO said that countries like Singapore and the ROK have made full use of the precious time China bought for the world and taken necessary prevention and control measures to stem the spread of the epidemic. What has the US done during the same period?

Since January 3, China has been regularly updating the WHO and countries, the US included. On January 23, China announced suspension of outbound public transport from Wuhan. When the US government announced the denial of entry by foreigners who had visited China in the past 14 days on February 2, only about 10 confirmed cases were reported in the US. Fifty days on, the number of confirmed cases in the US has soared from 10 to more than 30,000. Has the US taken any effective measures in the past 50 days? The US side has done nothing but waste the precious time China bought. Now the US has nothing better to do than discredit others, deflect responsibilities and find scapegoats. This is immoral and irresponsible. It will not help the US stop the pandemic, nor will it support the international community's joint efforts against it.

I once again urge the US to immediately stop politicizing the pandemic, stigmatizing China and denigrating other countries. The US should focus on getting its own house in order and play a constructive role in the global combat against the pandemic and safeguarding global public health security.

Q: There is much talk of postponing the Tokyo Olympics. Does China share the same opinion?

A: We noted relevant reports and that some countries have called for the Olympics to be postponed. Our stance on supporting Japan in hosting the 2020 Olympics has not changed. We also respect the decision made by the ICO and the Japanese side.

Q: You announced last week China would hold a video conference on COVID-19 prevention and control with Eurasian and South Asian countries. Do you have more details?

A: On March 20, the Chinese Foreign Ministry, together with the National Health Commission and the General Administration of Customs, held an online video conference to brief 19 Eurasian and South Asian countries on China's experience in the prevention and control of COVID-19. A press release was issued and you may refer to it.

The participating countries attached great importance to the meeting, which was attended by heads of health departments and the centers for disease control and prevention, and officials from departments of foreign affairs, civil aviation, the customs and WHO representatives in 11 Eurasian countries including Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova, Georgia, Azerbaijan and Armenia as well as eight South Asian countries including Pakistan, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bangladesh, the Maldives, India and Bhutan.

In response to the concerns of their foreign counterparts, Chinese experts briefed them on the experience and practices on epidemic prevention and control, clinical diagnosis and treatment, equipment support and port inspection and quarantine, and answered more than 80 questions raised by the attendees. This four-hour meeting proved very relevant and effective, which was attended by over 200 people.

Those participants highly appraised China's achievements in fighting against the epidemic and its great contribution to global public health. They said this video conference was very timely and necessary as they could learn a lot from China's experience. They stand ready to strengthen exchanges and cooperation with China to jointly tackle the challenge of COVID-19.

Going forward, China will continue to uphold the vision of a community with a shared future for mankind and the spirit of mutual assistance and solidarity, share information with the international community, the Eurasian and South Asian countries included, in an open, transparent and responsible manner, and deepen international cooperation in epidemic prevention and control.

Q: At an interview with AXIOS and HBO, Chinese ambassador to the United States Cui Tiankai said that it was "crazy and very harmful for diplomats to speculate about the origins of the coronavirus". Is it the official position of the Chinese foreign ministry?

A: Recently I have stated China's position repeatedly here on this podium, and I would like to stress that once again.

The origin of the novel coronavirus is a matter of science that requires scientific and professional assessment. There is a clear consensus by WHO and the international community that a virus should not be linked to any specific country, region or ethnic group and such stigmatization should be rejected.

For quite a while, certain US politicians and senior officials have used the pandemic to defame the Chinese government's and people's efforts to fight COVID-19 and to stigmatize China. We are firmly opposed to that. Facing the pandemic, all countries should work together to tide over the difficulties. Trying to shift blame and shirk responsibility will neither help their epidemic response nor promote international cooperation in this area.

Q: In a recent press briefing, a US State Department official said that China's expulsion of American journalists came as "a surprise" and that "there was no prior coordination", which could prevent overreactions. Do you accept this? Did you consider communicating with the US to avoid the deterioration?

A: These allegations run counter to facts and seek to confuse opinions. As a matter of fact, the Chinese side has repeatedly lodged stern representations with the US side in both Beijing and Washington. Let's go through them briefly.

On February 18, the US announced to designate five Chinese media entities as foreign missions.

On February 19, the Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson deplored and rejected this decision, denounced the unwarranted and unacceptable disruption and obstruction Chinese media outlets were subjected to in the US, urged the US to get rid of its ideological bias and Cold-War zero-sum mentality and stop wrongful acts that undermine mutual trust and cooperation, and stated that China reserved the right to take further actions.

On February 20, head of the MFA Department of North American and Oceanian Affairs lodged stern representations with the principal official of the US embassy in China, strongly urging the US to discard its ideological bias and immediately correct its wrongful policy and practice, and stating clearly that China reserved the right to take reciprocal countermeasures.

On February 25, US media reported that the US may expel Chinese journalists in the country. On February 26, head of the MFA Department of Information lodged stern representations over this to the principal official of the US embassy in China, saying explicitly that if the US were to take harassing and restrictive measures on Chinese media outlets in the US, China would not fail to take countermeasures reciprocal in both scale and degree and that the US should not underestimate China's determination.

On February 28, the principal official of the Chinese embassy in the US explicitly told the US State Department official in charge of the Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs that the designation is politically-motivated. It will not only restrict Chinese media's normal operation, but also seriously impact China-US relations. China was firmly opposed to it and urged the US to change its wrong course immediately.

On March 2, the US announced the slashing of 60 staffers at Chinese media's American outlets, which was expulsion in all but name. US officials were asked if they were prepared for possible countermeasures from China at a State Department teleconference on background.

On the same day, the Chinese ambassador to the US lodged solemn representations with the US side. He urged the US side to change its wrong course immediately, pointing out in explicit terms that if the US insisted on carrying out the restrictive measures, China would have no other choice but to take countermeasures reciprocal in both scale and degree.

On March 3, head of the MFA Department of Information lodged stern representations with the principal official of the US embassy in China, reiterating China's firm opposition and condemnation over the US expulsion of Chinese journalists, urging it to correct its mistake, and stating China's reserved right to take measures in response. The official also stressed that the US side offended and provoked China first and China was only responding in legitimate self-defense. On the same day, the Foreign Ministry Spokesperson sent the same message to the US in the regular press conference.

On March 11, head of the MFA Department of Information once again lodged stern representations with the principal official of the US embassy in China and clearly said that the US-claimed "reciprocity" was wrong calculations; all options were on China's table; China hoped the US would take its concerns seriously, think twice before acting and not underestimate China's determination and will. If the US were bent on going down the wrong path, China would not remain silent but will respond with firm countermeasures every step of the way. The US side should heed the warning before it's too late.

These are plain facts. On the very first day the US started all this, we informed it that China reserved the right to take countermeasures and there would be grave consequences if the US were bent on moving ahead. Unfortunately, the US turned a deaf ear to all our warnings and went further and further down the wrong path despite the repeated representations and reiteration of China's position. The US has all along been fully aware that China will take countermeasures, so just stop faking innocence and feigning surprise. In fact, since the very first day it took actions on Chinese media, the US side has known it will need to answer for its decisions because China will never sit idly by as its interests are harmed.

I stress once again that the measures China has taken on US media are completely necessary reciprocal countermeasures, which are legitimate and justified self-defense in every sense. And now, the US has resorted to the trick of confusing opinions. Once again we advise it to take our solemn position seriously, stop the politically-motivated oppression and unwarranted restrictions on Chinese media, and correct its mistake immediately, or else China will have to make further responses.

Q: A team of medical experts sent by the Chinese government arrived in Phnom Penh this morning, being the first to a neighboring country amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Is this because of the special friendship between China and Cambodia? Apart from the team, has China provided any assistance to Cambodia?

A: The Chinese government sent the team of medical experts to help Cambodia fight the COVID-19 outbreak. The team of seven arrived in Phnom Penh this morning receiving a warm welcome from the Cambodian government and people. China also donated to the Cambodian side a batch of supplies including testing reagents, N95 respirators, disposable surgical masks, fluid-resistant isolation gowns and surgical gowns.

After COVID-19 broke out, His Majesty King Norodom Sihamoni and Her Royal Highness Queen Mother Norodom Monineath Sihanouk both wrote to President Xi Jinping, expressing sympathies and providing donation in cash. Prime Minister Hun Sen visited China shortly after the outbreak to express confidence in and support for China's victory over the challenge. Cambodian people from all walks of life made financial and material donations to China as the Chinese people fought an all-out war against the virus.

Now as Cambodia is facing a daunting task to contain the spread of COVID-19, it goes without saying that China will do its utmost to help in every possible way. This is not only an embodiment of the special ties between us, but is also fitting for our iron-clad friendship and community with a shared future. China will continue to work hand in hand with Cambodia to prevail over the pandemic and contribute to regional public health security.

Q: Africa is a weak link in international public health security. Most African countries are currently experiencing outbreaks, and the Africa CDC predicts that the next wave of outbreaks in Africa may be massive. The Jack Ma Foundation and Alibaba Foundation have donated materials to African countries which arrived in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia on March 22. Could you brief us on the overall situation of China's assistance to Africa?

A: China and Africa are good friends, good partners and good brothers. The two sides have always supported and helped each other. Since the outbreak of COVID-19 in China, African countries and regional organizations have voiced and provided valuable support to China. China pays close attention to the situation in Africa and has actively offered supplies to African countries and the African Union including testing reagents and medical protective supplies. Some of these materials have been delivered to the African side. The Chinese side also held a video conference to exchange relevant experience with the African side and mobilized Chinese medical teams in Africa to actively participate in the actions in their host countries. Many Chinese enterprises, non-governmental organizations and overseas Chinese in Africa also provided assistance to Africa on their own initiative.

We appreciate the kind donation made by Jack Ma Foundation and Alibaba Foundation, which vividly illustrates the friendly sentiments of the Chinese people towards the African people. Going forward, China will continue to increase its support to African countries' efforts against the pandemic. Emergency assistance provided by the Chinese government will be delivered in batches to Africa. China will also continue to coordinate and encourage Chinese enterprises and private institutions to actively provide support to African countries.

Q: First, there's a steady rise of imported cases of COVID-19 in the last few days or weeks. Can you provide us some details on the number of foreigners and whether the majority are overseas Chinese coming back to the country? My second question is, in the list of countries you spoke of, the donor countries that have assisted China, India is absent. India, if I remember it right, has sent 15 tons of materials needed by China after ascertaining its needs. And there is also a steady rise of cases in India. Are there any approaches between India and China in the regard of whether China can send whatever assistance required? Is China planning to ascertain that from India?

A: Regarding your first question, according to statistics released by the National Health Commission this morning, as of 24:00 on March 22, a total of 353 confirmed imported cases had been reported. I don't know exactly how many of them are foreigners or what their nationalities are. If you are interested in these specifics, you may ask the competent authorities.

On your second question, since the outbreak of COVID-19, China and India have maintained communication and cooperation on epidemic prevention and control. Prime Minister Narendra Modi sent a letter of sympathies to President Xi Jinping, and External Affairs Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar had a telephone conversation with State Councilor Wang Yi. The Indian side has also provided medical supplies to China, and Indian people have supported China's fight against the epidemic in various ways. We express appreciation and thanks for that. The Chinese embassy in India establishes a contact mechanism with the Indian health department to keep the Indian side informed of how the situation evolves in a timely manner. China also provides necessary help and convenience for the Indian government to take back Indian citizens in Hubei, and protect the health and safety of Indian citizens in China.

The COVID-19 is taking footholds and keeps spreading in many parts of the world. We note the current situation in India. I want to point out that China and India are the only two major countries in the world with a population of more than 1 billion and face common challenges in public health. China stands ready to share its experience in epidemic prevention and control and diagnosis and treatment, and provide further support and assistance to the best of our capability in light of the needs of the Indian side.

In addition, I mentioned India when I briefed you on the video conference held last week between China and Eurasian and South Asian countries. India participated in the video conference and the communication between the two sides was very smooth and close.

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