|Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Geng Shuang's Regular Press Conference on April 24, 2020|
Xinhua News Agency: China-Europe freight train service from Wuhan to Duisburg recently resumed regular operation, delivering medical supplies to Germany, which means all westbound rail service starting from China are normalized. Can you give us more details on the operation of the freight train service amid the pandemic?
Geng Shuang: Recently there has been much attention and many reports on China-Europe freight trains. Relevant Chinese departments have offered some information. I'd like to emphasize the following points.
First, compared with shipment by air and sea, international transport of goods via railway network has the advantage of fewer personnel quarantine checks and safer, more stable operation, which takes on greater significance amid the pandemic. In the first quarter of 2020, the China-Europe freight trains made a total of 1,941 trips and transported 174,000 TEUs of goods, up 15 percent and 18 percent year on year respectively. In April, the numbers are still growing.
Second, the freight train service, as an artery of logistics, provides a fast track for Europe to acquire medical supplies and necessities, contributing to anti-virus cooperation between China, Europe and countries along the routes in an effective and efficient manner. Since COVID-19 broke out, the freight trains have sent a total of 1,440 tonnes of anti-epidemic supplies consisting of 448,000 pieces to Italy, Germany, Spain, the Czech Republic, Poland, Hungary, the Netherlands, Lithuania and other countries, where some medical supplies were then transferred to other European countries.
Third, against the backdrop of lackluster global trade due to weakened logistics amid the pandemic, regular operation of the China-Europe freight train service helps facilitate cross-border flow of goods and services as well as resumption of work and production, and mitigate the pandemic's impact on China-Europe cooperation in supply chains and industrial chains. This new artery is indeed playing its role in international transportation.
Fourth, the freight train service is an important outcome and exemplary project of the Belt and Road cooperation between China and Europe. Going forward, China stands ready to work with the European side to maintain the normal, orderly operation of the freight train service, and further improve its capacity and profitability, expand transnational logistics cooperation with Europe and other countries along the routes, and make new contributions to joint pandemic response, better cooperation in fighting COVID-19, and quality BRI cooperation.
Reuters: I have a question about US cyber security firm FireEye which said hackers working for the Vietnamese government has attempted to break into email accounts of China's Ministry of Emergency Management and the government of Wuhan, essentially state institutions involved in the coronavirus response. Can you please confirm if there was such an attack? Was it successful? Do you have any other comment?
Geng Shuang: Cyber attacks are a common threat faced by all countries. In the context of the global spread of COVID-19, cyber attacks against departments fighting against the pandemic should undoubtedly be condemned by people all over the world. This once again demonstrates the importance and urgency of strengthening cooperation among countries to jointly safeguard cyber security.
As a major victim of cyber attacks, China is ready to strengthen dialogue and cooperation with other parties to jointly address cyber security threats, safeguard peace and stability in cyberspace and build a community with a shared future in cyberspace.
Beijing Daily: US Secretary of State Pompeo told the press on April 22 that WHO needs a structural fix to correct its shortcomings, warning that Washington may urge a change in leadership and may never restore funding to the organization. I wonder if China has any comment?
Geng Shuang: The US has been smearing and attacking WHO without any factual basis. Its tactics of pressure and coercion will only draw greater disapprobation from the international community.
Led by Director-General Tedros, WHO has been actively fulfilling its duties and playing an important role in coordinating international efforts to fight COVID-19 in an objective, fair and science-based manner. supporting WHO helps upholding multilateralism and safeguarding the role and authority of the UN. In fact, support for WHO has recently poured in from the leadership of many countries and international organizations including France, Germany, the UK, Canada, Japan, and the UN. Headed by Director-General Tedros, WHO's leadership is also endorsed in the UNGA resolution and statements by the Non-Aligned Movement and the Group of 77 and China. In the statement of the recent G20 extraordinary summit, member states stressed that they fully support and commit to further strengthen the WHO's mandate in coordinating the international fight against the pandemic. All these facts demonstrate a common position and aspiration of the international community.
As for the US suspending funding to WHO, we have offered China's response repeatedly. Here I would like to stress that WHO members have a legally-binding obligation to pay their assessed contributions, thus the US suspending funding is a fundamental violation of its membership duties, which will definitely deliver a hard blow to the international anti-virus cooperation and probably entail serious ramifications. It will affect all countries, including the US, and particularly those with vulnerable health systems.
The US assumes that WHO should do its bidding because it is the largest contributor. This is typical hegemonic mentality. At present, by supporting WHO, we will be able to contain the further spread of the virus. It is literally a matter of life and death. This is a consensus shared by the majority of countries and a sure choice anyone with conscience would make. In China, we say that a just cause will rally abundant support while an unjust one will find little. We hope that the US will not choose to be on the wrong side of the track from the international community.
RIA Novosti: US Department of Energy in its strategy of Restoring America's Competitive Nuclear Energy Advantage said that the US Government will move into markets currently dominated by Russian and Chinese State Owned Enterprises and recover its position as the world leader in exporting best-in-class nuclear energy technology. I wonder what is China's comment?
Geng Shuang: I have noted this report. It also claims that "some foreign exporting nations, like Russia and China, do not hold their trading partners to the same high standards and may even use lower standards as a selling point". This is not true.
In recent years, the US has been smearing and suppressing other countries' normal nuclear cooperation with all sorts of excuses. Some senior officials even said publicly that nuclear cooperation would be used as a geopolitical tool. China firmly rejects such misguided action of politicizing nuclear cooperation and will never accept the groundless allegations in this report.
China has been working to promote the peaceful uses of nuclear energy in the world with a responsible attitude. We will continue our strict fulfillment of international obligations in non-proliferation, and pursue cooperation in peaceful uses of nuclear energy with other countries on the basis of mutual respect and shared benefit, so as to contribute to global sustainable development.
The Paper: US Secretary of State Pompeo said yesterday that the first COVID-19 cases were known by the Chinese government in maybe as early as November, but certainly by mid-December, and they were slow to identify this for anyone in the world, including the World Health Organization. What's your response to his remarks?
Geng Shuang: Mr. Pompeo might think he could easily pin the blame on anyone so long as he adds the word "maybe". Well, that's not going to happen. His baseless remarks are purely to shift the blame onto others and run counter to the international consensus.
As we repeatedly point out, China has been fighting COVID-19 in an open, transparent and responsible manner. We reported the outbreak to WHO, shared the genome sequence of the virus with other countries, and carried out international cooperation to contain the virus, all at the earliest time possible.
We briefed you with a timeline of China's timely updates of the epidemics, sharing of experience and engagement in international cooperation since late-December last year. Here I'd like to reaffirm some important dates.
On December 27 last year, Dr. Zhang Jixian reported suspected cases. She is the director of the Department of Respiratory and Critical Care at Hubei Hospital of Integrated Traditional Chinese and Western Medicine.
On December 29, Hubei Provincial Health Commission and Wuhan Municipal Health Commission instructed related centers for disease control and prevention and hospitals to carry out epidemiological investigation.
On December 30, Wuhan Municipal Health Commission issued an urgent notice to local health and medical institutions on the treatment of pneumonia of unknown cause.
On December 31, the NHC sent out working group and expert group to Wuhan to offer guidance on handling of the epidemic and investigate on site. On the same day, the Wuhan Municipal Health Commission started releasing information on the epidemic.
On January 3, 2020, China started to send regular timely updates to WHO and other countries, including the US.
On January 20 and 21, a WHO delegation conducted a field visit to Wuhan.
From February 16 to 24, the China-WHO joint commission including two US experts conducted a nine-day field visit in China.
On March 12, China and WHO held an international briefing on China's experience in preventing and controlling COVID-19. Representatives of the US embassy in China attended the briefing upon invitation.
On March 29, the Chinese and US CDCs shared information and experience via video conference.
We can draw a clear conclusion from the above timeline that China has been actively and timely sharing information and conducting cooperation, which is an indisputable fact. Wantonly questioning China's transparency out of political motives is utter disrespect of the tremendous efforts and sacrifices of the Chinese people.
We hope someone in the US can respect facts, science and international consensus, and stop smearing other countries. He should understand that instead of muddying the waters to shift the blame, the most pressing task for the US is to focus on containing the spread of the virus at home and work to enhance international cooperation.
Shenzhen TV: Australian Financial Review reports that although the first known COVID-19 case in Australia came from the Chinese city of Wuhan, latest genetic study has shown that Australia's earliest cases possibly also came from the US. I wonder if you have a comment?
Geng Shuang: The report once again shows that the origin and transmission routes of the novel coronavirus is a complicated scientific matter that should be the subject of study for scientists and medical experts. Pending a clear conclusion from the science community, it is deeply irresponsible for any non-professionals to jump to conclusions as it will do no good to international cooperation in fighting the virus.
Infectious diseases respect no borders and don't distinguish between races. They are the common enemy of all mankind. The international community can only defeat them by pulling together. China will continue to work hand in hand with other countries through mutual assistance to win this joint fight against the global pandemic.
China Daily: It is now widely reported by media like CNN and New York Times and institutions like the Northeastern University that hidden outbreaks were spreading almost completely undetected in New York, Boston, San Francisco, Chicago and Seattle early this year. According to estimates, there could have actually been about 28,000 infections by March 1 when the official tally of confirmed cases stood at just 23. There is this huge chasm between these two figures. What is your view on this?
Geng Shuang: We have also noted these recent reports that some Americans actually came down with the novel coronavirus long time ago. Still, I believe your question should be answered by the US government.
CCTV: The medical experts sent by the Chinese government to Kazakhstan came back yesterday. Can you tell us about their work in Kazakhstan and what else will you do for the country?
Geng Shuang: The medical team to Kazakhstan was organized by the National Health Commission and consisted of professionals selected by the Health Commission of Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. It was the first medical team sent to Central Asia by the Chinese government.
In the past two weeks, the medical experts worked on the frontline of Nursultan, Karaganda and Almaty, visited dozens of medical institutions, colleges and labs, shared their experience with and held consulting and training sessions for tens of thousands of medical personnel in Kazakhstan. Much of their advice was adopted by the Kazakh side.
Their action and professionalism reflects the good neighborly and friendly relations between China and Kazakhstan and leaves behind a touching episode of the two sides' fighting side by side against the virus. The Kazakh government and people spoke highly of the team, Kazakh Prime Minister Mamin sent a letter of thanks to Premier Li Keqiang, and the Kazakh health ministry conferred medals to the experts only yesterday.
During their stay in Kazakhstan, the medical experts closely cooperated with Chinese diplomatic missions there and had two video conferences with Chinese nationals in Kazakhstan to answer questions, offer advice on how to prevent infection and quarantine at home, and convey to them the love, care and warmth from the motherland.
Central Asian countries are China's friendly neighbors and strategic partners. China closely follows the situation in the regional countries and is ready to continue helping them as much as we can. The medical experts to Kazakhstan has completed their mission, and the teams to Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan are still working on the ground. With a vision of a community with a shared future for mankind, China will continue enhancing mutual support with Central Asian countries, deepening medical and health cooperation, and strengthening confidence and capabilities to defeat the virus at an early date.
China News Service: On April 22, a charter flight of Royal Brunei Airlines flew Chinese employees of the Hengyi Industries Sdn. Bhd., a joint petrochemical venture between China and Brunei, back to Brunei to resume work. Do you have a comment?
Geng Shuang: At present, while normalizing epidemic prevention and control, China is comprehensively promoting the resumption of production at full capacity, and actively guiding and helping Chinese enterprises to restore normal operation of overseas projects. Hengyi's oil refinery and petrochemical project is a key part of China-Brunei BRI cooperation. The arrangement made by the two sides for the return of Chinese employees fully demonstrates the positive will of the two countries to jointly combat the pandemic and promote cooperation, which is conducive to the sustained economic and social development of the two countries.
China is ready to work with other countries to actively combat the pandemic, strengthen international cooperation, and make every effort to maintain the stability of the global industrial and supply chains, so as to minimize the adverse impact of the pandemic on the world economy.
Beijing Youth Daily: Los Angeles Times and other newspapers published a commentary the other day saying that the US is deep in the throes of an unprecedented national emergency, but US politicians are busy blaming China and shifting responsibility. The article went on to say that in the face of the pandemic, recrimination and politicization won't help. This is the time for the US government to focus on defeating the virus. What is your comment?
Geng Shuang: I have read this article. I believe it reflects the opinion of the people in the US.