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Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Geng Shuang's Remarks on Questions of British and Australian Journalists

2020-04-29

At a regular press conference of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People's Republic of China on April 28, journalists from Reuters and The Australian asked several questions on Australia’s push for an international inquiry into the source and spread of the coronavirus, as well as China’s response.

 

Reuters: Australia summoned the Chinese ambassador to explain comments made earlier which the Australian foreign minister called "a threat of economic coercion" in response to Australia's push for an international inquiry into the source and spread of the coronavirus. Does China have any formal plans to limit trade to Australia and what's the foreign ministry's response to the Australian foreign ministry's claim that this constitutes "economic coercion"?

Geng Shuang: China always develops friendly cooperation with other countries based on mutual respect and equal-footed treatment.

I suggest you carefully read the full text of Ambassador Cheng's interview. What he said was about the concerns that the Australian side's erroneous words and deeds recently have upset the Chinese people and that they may impact bilateral relations. Is there any problem with that? How come it has anything to do with "economic coercion"?

Now the world economy is bearing the brunt of COVID-19 pandemic. China stands ready to work with other countries with stronger cooperation and mutual assistance through difficulties and make contributions to the health and wellbeing of all mankind. We also hope other countries will join China in enhancing international cooperation and mutual assistance, rather than say something nice while doing the completely opposite.

The Australian: I have read the full transcript of the Ambassador's interview. He says that the Chinese public is frustrated, dismayed and disappointed with what Australia is doing now. What he said was the Chinese public, not the government. I would like to know which Chinese people? I'm an Australian in Beijing and I've never heard anyone criticizing Australia like that except from the foreign ministry or from your ambassador in Canberra.

Geng Shuang: You haven't heard any of that? Do you want to hear some now?

I suggest you read Chinese people's comments on the Internet. Many people criticize China's internet service as "not free and not open", but you can go online and take a look at what the general public in China have said about China-Australia relations and about Australia's recent comments.

Follow-up: I don't trust these online comments. They can be made up. They can be manufactured. Have you heard anyone in the real world express upset outside of the foreign ministry or the Chinese embassy in Canberra?

Geng Shuang: You don't think the online comments are real? Then who made these comments? Robots?

If you haven't heard that in the real world, it's because you haven't contacted that many people. As a journalist stationed in China, I hope you will have a deeper understanding of the Chinese society and what's on the mind of the Chinese people. That's a premise if you want to make accurate, thorough and objective reports on China.

The Australian: The Chinese ambassador to Australia said in the interview that maybe people in China will think why should we go to such a country that is not so friendly to China. As the foreign ministry of China, have you thought of the reverse? Is the foreign ministry concerned at all that Australian people and other people around the world might think that China is not so friendly, even hostile?

Geng Shuang: I wonder why you drew this conclusion that China is not so friendly?

By the way, you said last week that your wife couldn't come back to China. I sympathize that and hope you can get together as early as possible. However, it's not fair to conclude that China is not friendly to foreigners just because of some personal matters.

Follow-up: That's very kind. Are you concerned about people think China is not so friendly, and even hostile, when Chinese ambassadors like the ambassador in Canberra tell off countries they are in when they just make a reasonable proposal?

Geng Shuang: Like I said, the Chinese ambassador's remarks were to express concerns about the Chinese people's dissatisfaction and possible impacts on China-Australia relations caused by some wrong words and deeds of the Australian side. As a Chinese ambassador, of course he has the right to express such concerns.

I wonder how you drew a conclusion of China not being friendly based on our ambassador's remarks. I haven't heard that from anyone else before. I suggest you get deeper understanding of China and discard your bias in this process. We could have more discussions on this issue someday if necessary.

That said, as a journalist stationed in China, I think you can feel that China is open and opening up even wider to other countries. Our government and people have been embracing and deeply integrated into the world. So I don't know how you made that conclusion.

Follow-up: The whole origin of the ambassador's unhappiness is that he's not happy about the Australian government's proposal for an independent inquiry. I've heard you say at the press conference last week and the week before that the Chinese government says the origin of the virus is a matter of science. I couldn't agree more. And yet the Chinese government is strongly opposed to a proposal by the Australian government for an independent, objective and scientific review into the origins of the coronavirus. Why is that?

Geng Shuang: Like we said repeatedly, tracing the origin of the virus is a scientific matter, which should be studied by scientific professionals. Politicians, on the other hand, shouldn't make wanton comments or political maneuvers.

The most important and pressing task for all countries is boosting solidarity, mutual trust and anti-epidemic cooperation. I wonder what's the intention to propose "investigations", demand accountability and even ask for compensation at this particular time. That's why I said it's political manipulation, and I believe all people around the world can see it through.

Follow-up: I know there are voices in America talking about some conspiracy theories. The Australian government's proposal is for an independent scientific evaluation. You said it's a matter for scientists and professionals. That's what the proposal is. It's for scientists and professionals. It's not for politicians to do it. The proposal is for scientists and professionals to inquire to find out where this thing came from so that the international community can better respond to it.

Geng Shuang: You work with an Australian media agency and you have repeatedly claimed you are independent from the Australian government. But you were seemingly peddling the propositions and proposals of the Australian government just now. I wonder what was in your mind.

Like what I just said to Reuters, we hope all countries will work with China to promote international cooperation and mutual trust, rather than say something nice while doing the opposite. The Australian government poses itself as high-minded, but based on what we learn, this whole thing is not as simple as it appears to be.

I suggest you ask the Australian government the same question: what is their true intention by proposing such an investigation at this particular time? Your doubts can be cast on the Australian government, too.

Still, I hope you can have a reunion with your wife soon, and hope this pandemic will be defeated as soon as possible.

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