CCTV: According to reports, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on March 22 that China is the single largest contributor to UNESCO. That carries a lot of weight. If the US is not at the table, it loses the opportunity to shape the organization’s behavior. It is important that the US return. Do you have any comment?
Mao Ning: The US withdrew twice from UNESCO, which had a negative impact on the organization’s work. If the US wants to return, we hope the decision arises from its determination to step up to its international responsibility, fulfill international obligations, support multilateralism and promote cooperation. At the same time, the US needs to reflect on its erroneous practice of withdrawing from treaties and organizations under the “America first” policy, and demonstrate its good faith and sincerity to comply with international rules and respect international rule of law. Only in this way can it earn the trust of the international community and gain the support of UNESCO members.
International organizations are platforms for global cooperation, not arenas for geopolitical games. We welcome it if the US truly sees China’s positive role in UNESCO objectively. However, if the US’s return to the organization is meant to counter or check China’s influence, it will only lead to questions as to if the US remains unchanged at heart and still puts “America first” before international public wellbeing.
Shenzhen TV: According to media reports, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen said recently that China’s development benefits Cambodia and the entire ASEAN and it would be impossible to prevent China from growing. Vicious competition will lead to a lose-lose situation, and win-win results can only be achieved through enhancing cooperation. Cambodia will not join any campaign to destroy any other countries, he added. Do you have any comment?
Mao Ning: We have noted Prime Minister Hun Sen’s remarks. They speak to regional countries’ aspiration to have peace and cooperation over conflict and confrontation and opposition to coercion and bullying. It also shows that ganging up in the region to seek decoupling or sever supply and industrial chains finds little support.
China is committed to deepening mutually-beneficial cooperation with regional countries guided by the principles of amity, sincerity, mutual benefit and inclusiveness. The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement, which entered into force last year, has led to a significant 15% increase in China-ASEAN trade. Export of agricultural products from ASEAN to China, which is of particular importance to ASEAN countries, increased by 21.3%. Longan from Cambodia, fresh durian from Vietnam, passion fruit from Laos, among others, have all entered the Chinese market.
China advocates and promotes an open world economy. As we accelerate high-level opening-up and advance high-quality development, we will provide sustained impetus for the economic recovery and growth of the rest of the world, including neighboring countries.
Reuters: TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew testified in front of the US Congress yesterday, taking questions on a range of topics, not least potential Chinese influence over the platform and whether US citizens’ data is being shared with ByteDance. Do you have any comment?
Mao Ning: We have noted the remarks from TikTok. The Chinese government takes data privacy and security very seriously, which is under legal protection. The Chinese government has never asked and will never ask any company or individual to collect or provide data, information or intelligence located abroad against local laws.
The US government has provided no evidence or proof that TikTok threatens US national security, yet it has repeatedly suppressed and attacked the company based on the presumption of guilt. We noted that some US lawmaker has said that to seek a TikTok ban is a “xenophobic witch hunt”. The US should earnestly respect the principles of market economy and fair competition, stop suppressing foreign companies and provide an open, fair, just and non-discriminatory environment for foreign companies operating in the US.
Beijing Daily: Prime Minister Luvsannamsrai Oyun-Erdene of Mongolia recently said in an interview with The Times that Mongolia opposes Cold War mentality and does not want to see major-country confrontation. He noted that “Western expenditure on projects like the AUKUS nuclear submarine deal should instead go towards helping developing countries”. What’s China’s comment?
Mao Ning: China has noted relevant reports. The statement of the Mongolia’s leader speaks to the aspiration for peace, cooperation and development shared by regional countries, especially the developing countries. It also shows that some countries’ moves that stoke bloc confrontation and create regional instability and tensions are unpopular with the rest of the world. We hope relevant countries will listen to the voice of the international community, follow the trend of the times, abandon Cold War mentality, and do more to contribute to regional peace, stability and development.
China Daily: Saudi Arabia and Syria have reached an agreement recently on reopening their embassies in each other’s countries, which are expected to resume services in late April. What’s China’s comment?
Mao Ning: China welcomes the agreement reached between Syria and Saudi Arabia on reopening their embassies in each other’s countries. Syria’s return to the Arab family will help to realize solidarity and revitalization of Arab states. Let me stress again that China firmly supports Arab states in strengthening solidarity, coordination and strategic independence, and we support joint efforts to promote regional peace, stability and development.
RIA Novosti: There were many media reports saying that Chinese President Xi Jinping will hold talks with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy after his return from the visit to Russia. Do you have any updates on this topic?
Mao Ning: China maintains communication with all parties on the Ukraine issue. As for the specific question you asked about, we have nothing to share.
Reuters: Honduras is reportedly set to announce formal ties with China and end relations with Taiwan. Do you have any comment?
Mao Ning: My colleague gave our answer to your question yesterday. Standing up for the one-China principle is the right thing to do. It has the overwhelming support of the international community and represents the trend of the world. China welcomes the positive statement by the Honduran government on developing relations with China, and stands ready to establish and grow bilateral relations on the basis of equality and mutual respect.
Bloomberg: Do you have any information to give us about state leaders who might visit the Boao summit next week? We’ve heard that Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and Malaysia’s Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim might attend.
Mao Ning: The Boao Forum for Asia Annual Conference 2023 will be held next week. Please check back for updates.
Bloomberg: Since China released its position paper on the war in Ukraine and now that Xi is back from Moscow, do you have any details to provide on China’s next step in potentially bringing about an end to the fighting in Ukraine? Has China asked Russia to withdraw its troops from that country?
Mao Ning: On the Ukraine issue, China has been advocating a political settlement of the crisis and working for talks for peace. We have played a positive role and maintained communication with all parties. On President Xi’s visit to Russia, we have released detailed readouts and the two heads of state have signed a joint statement, which you may refer to.
Global Times: According to the White House website, in response to the joint statement on economic cooperation before 2030 issued by China and Russia, US National Security Council Coordinator for Strategic Communications John Kirby told a press conference on March 22 that “We don’t support any effort to decrease the sense of isolation that Putin has already experienced from the international community. We don’t support any effort to bolster his economy or make it any more healthy. We don’t support any effort by anybody to make it easier for him, financially or otherwise, to continue to slaughter Ukrainians.” Do you have any comment?
Mao Ning: The Joint Statement on Pre-2030 Development Plan on Priorities in China-Russia Economic Cooperation signed between the two heads of state lays out the overarching design and planning for China’s cooperation in key areas with Russia going forward. The China-Russia relationship is built on the basis of no-alliance, no-confrontation and no-targeting of any third party. Mutually beneficial cooperation between the two countries is good for the two peoples and the world. Such cooperation is open and aboveboard, which is a sharp contrast to US hegemonism and bullying, and the small, selfish and exclusive blocs it has set up.
On the Ukraine crisis, China has always followed the purposes and principles of the UN Charter. We have taken an objective and impartial position, actively promoted talks for peace, and firmly stood on the side of peace and dialogue and the right side of history. We have played a constructive part in the political settlement of the Ukraine crisis. The US, however, has been fanning the flames and thwarting other countries’ efforts for peace talks, which makes people question its real motives.