Q: Incoming US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson made some strongly worded remarks about China in his Senate confirmation hearing. He called China's declaration of an Air Defence Identification Zone in waters of the East China Sea it contests with Japan illegal actions, and compared China's building of islands and putting of military assets on those islands to Russia's taking of Crimea from Ukraine. He said that the US should send China a clear signal that the island-building must stop and China's access to those islands not be allowed. What is your comment on that?
A: We have noted the relevant report. You asked several questions in one breath. I will take them one by one.
You know well our position on the East China Sea and Diaoyu Dao. Diaoyu Dao and its affiliated islands have been an inherent part of the Chinese territory since ancient times. The US-Japan Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security often brought up by some people from the US and Japan is a Cold War product. It must not undermine China's territorial sovereignty and legitimate rights and interests. We hope that the US would be upright and unbiased, honor its commitment and stop taking sides on issues of sovereignty, so as not to make the relevant issue more complicated and add complex factors to the situation in the region.
I took questions about the issue of the South China Sea yesterday. Like the US, the Chinese side has full right to conduct any kind of normal activities on its own territory within its sovereignty. It is above reproach. As I said yesterday, China and other coastal states in the South China Sea have worked out a dual-track approach, namely, China and other countries directly concerned peacefully resolve disputes through consultation and negotiation, while China and ASEAN countries jointly maintain peace and stability of the region. The situation in the South China Sea has cooled down as countries in the region have come round to the agreement. We hope that countries outside the region will respect such an agreement that serves the common interests of the region and beyond.
I do agree with Mr. Tillerson at one point where he recognized disagreements but also intertwined interests and consensus between China and the US. He said that "we need to see the positive dimensions in our relationship with China", and "we should not let disagreements over other issues exclude areas for productive partnership". I do agree with him on that.
Q: Yesterday, US President-elect Donald Trump held his first press conference after being elected, making reference to China multiple times. He talked about 22 million US accounts being hacked by China, hundreds of billions of dollars of losses on a yearly basis with China on trade, as well as China's building of massive fortress in the South China Sea. He also said that when he is leading the US, countries like China and Russia will have far greater respect for the US. What is your response to that?
A: Did you count how many times he mentioned China? (CNN journalist: No, but several times, I believe.)
We have noted President-elect Trump's wish for more respect from other countries for the US when he is in office. In fact, if you take a look at China's long-standing position on developing China-US relations, you will see that mutual respect is what we have been calling for in bilateral relations with other countries, the US included. The consensus we uphold on developing a new type of major-country relationship with the US also highlights non-conflict, non-confrontation, mutual respect and win-win cooperation. The news release about President Xi Jinping' phone call with President-elect Trump issued by the Trump team also mentioned mutual respect between China and the US. It is true that further progress of a bilateral relationship should be based on mutual respect.
As for other issues touched upon by Mr. Trump, since I have elaborated on China's position on the South China Sea, I will go straight to the issue of cyberattack. The Chinese government opposes and cracks down on all forms of hacking activities. We stay committed to maintaining a safe cyberspace through cooperation with other countries. China and the US have conducted effective communication and cooperation on fighting cybercrimes and protecting cybersecurity through China-US High-Level Joint Dialogue on Cybercrime and Related Issues. We should work side by side to maintain the momentum, instead of making unfounded accusation against each other. On the issue of trade between China and the US, both the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Commerce have answered that question multiple times. The logic is obvious. Remarkable performance of the China-US business relationship over the past nearly 40 years would not have been possible if it had created benefit for one side only. Should there be no gains, how could the US business community continue with its investment in and trade with China?
Q: Apart from who is right or wrong on the issue of the South China Sea, Mr. Tillerson also told the Senate what the US might do to inflict its will on the area. He said that the US should send China a clear signal that "first the island-building stops and second your access to those islands is also not going to be allowed". He didn't explain what he meant by stopping this access but presumably it means the US air force or the US Navy stopping Chinese access to the features in the South China Sea. How does China respond to this suggestion? What would China do if he will make good on his threat?
A: I cannot speak for Mr. Tillerson as for what he is thinking, neither can I predict China's policy based on what you interpreted from his remarks. And I think you must be quite clear about China's stance on the South China Sea issue.
Q: The Nigerian government has recently closed Taiwan office in Nigeria and asked Taipei to move its office from Abuja, the capital city. During Foreign Minister Wang Yi's visit to Nigeria on January 11, foreign ministers of the two countries signed a joint statement on upholding the one-China policy, in which the Nigerian side reaffirmed its commitment to the one-China policy. Do you have any further comment on that?
A: As you said, the Nigerian government has recently made a political decision and taken a series of decisive measures against Taiwan office's violation of the one-China principle. It ordered Taiwan to rename its office, remove it from the capital, reduce its staff and have it disempowered. Nigerian government officials and institutions are also forbidden from having official contact with Taiwan. All these measures help settle the legacy issue that bears on the political mutual trust between China and Nigeria once and for all, and remove the stumbling blocks obstructing the sound development of bilateral relations.
In the joint statement signed by foreign ministers of China and Nigeria yesterday, the Nigerian government reaffirmed that the one-China policy is at the core of the bilateral strategic partnership, recognized that there is but one China in the world and the government of the People's Republic of China is the sole legal government representing China, while Taiwan is an inalienable part of China, promised not to have official relationship or official contact with Taiwan and underscored its support for China's reunification efforts. The Chinese side highly commends Nigeria's adherence to the one-China principle. It proves once again that the one-China principle meets the trend of the times and the shared aspiration of the people.
Q: Commentary said that it is another action taken by the mainland to limit Taiwan's international activities following its restoration of diplomatic ties with Sao Tome and Principe. Is that true?
A: There is but one China in the world and the government of the People's Republic of China is the sole legal government representing China. Taiwan is an inalienable part of China. Based on the one-China principle, countries like Sao Tome and Principe and Nigeria have come to a right political decision which lays a solid foundation and broadens the horizon for their political mutual trust and mutually beneficial cooperation with China as well as people's well-being. It serves the fundamental interests of people of relevant countries, complies with the purposes and principles of the UN Charter, and conforms to the international community's consensus and the trend of the times.
Q: Taiwan said that it had never established "diplomatic ties" with Nigeria. China and Nigeria were misleading the international community by announcing the termination of "diplomatic relations" between Nigeria and Taiwan. Taiwan is in solemn protest against that. What is your response to that? Does China expect to see more countries joining Nigeria in requesting the closure of Taiwan offices in their countries?
A: On your first question, I would point you to the Taiwan Affairs Office of the State Council for comments on Taiwan's response. It is not about foreign affairs.
On your second question, adherence to the one-China principle is an important political prerequisite for the development of relations between China and the rest of the world. China will point out with the slightest hesitation any violation of the principle.
Q: You mentioned earlier that you felt the situation in the South China Sea had cooled down. I wonder if you see Mr. Tillerson's comments as an effort to heat things back up. Secondly, would it be legal for the US to physically block China from accessing islands in the South China Sea?
A: On your first question, it serves the common interests and meets the shared aspiration of countries in the region to maintain peace and stability of the South China Sea, properly manage differences and work for common development. Outsiders should respect that. We cannot be any clearer on that.
On your second question, I have said before that we do not take hypothetical questions.
Q: General Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Vietnam Nguyen Phu Trong starts his visit to China today. Please give us more details about his visit. How does China look at this visit?
A: The International Department of the CPC Central Committee has made announcements about this visit. General Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Vietnam Nguyen Phu Trong began his official visit to China today. The leaders of the CPC and the Chinese government will hold friendly meetings and talks with him. This is the first visit to China by Comrade Nguyen Phu Trong after his reelection as General Secretary of the 12th Central Committee of the Communist Party of Vietnam, and the Chinese side attaches great importance to it. China and Vietnam are both socialist countries and friendly neighbors, and the two sides stay committed to jointly advancing their friendly cooperative relations in a deeper way. We hope this visit will inject new impetus to the further development of China-Vietnam relations and the friendly cooperation between the two parties and countries.
Q: You just mentioned that the Chinese side and Mr. Trump share certain commonality in developing China-US relations, is that true?
A: In my answers to previous questions, I mentioned the point made by Mr. Tillerson in his Senate hearing. He said that China and the US have some differences but also share a lot of common interests and consensus, and we should see the positive dimensions in our relationship rather than let disagreements over other issues exclude areas for productive partnership. This is something we agree.
Mr. Trump made a phone call with President Xi Jinping after his election. His team said in the news release that Mr. Trump hopes to develop relations with China on the basis of mutual respect, which we also agree. We always maintain that the new type of major-country relationship between China and the US should be based on non-conflict, non-confrontation, mutual respect and win-win cooperation.
Q: Has the Chinese government had any formal or informal communication with either the US government or the Trump team following Tillerson's comments?
A: We have said time and again that the Chinese side has maintained close communication with President-elect Trump's team after the election. This indeed includes communication on policy issues, especially those concerning China-US relations.
Q: In his Senate hearing, Mr. Tillerson talked about the US commitments to Taiwan under the Taiwan Relations Act and the Six Issues Accord, saying that the US needs to reaffirm and live up to those commitments. But he also said the US has no plans to alter its one-China policy. What is China's view on his two-sided remarks?
A: Do you also think this is contradictory? (The journalist nodded.)
I agree with you, and this is indeed contradictory. The so-called Taiwan Relations Act and "the Six Assurances" of the US are in serious violation of the US commitment to the one-China policy it made on the basis of the three China-US joint communiqués.
Q: You mentioned that there is ongoing contact with the Trump team, but are you able to confirm whether there has been contact specifically regarding Tillerson's comments?
A: President-elect Trump and his team have been making policy announcements and remarks ever after the US presidential election. It is impossible for me to comment on each and every engagement between the two sides.