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Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Geng Shuang's Daily Briefing Online on February 18, 2020
2020/02/18

I'd like to share the latest numbers with you first. According to this morning's update from the National Health Commission, February 17 saw 1,701 patients cured and discharged from hospital in China's mainland, bringing the total number of cured cases to 12,552. New confirmed cases in China excluding Hubei Province stood at 79 on February 17, marking a decline for the 14th consecutive day.

Q: The US government is considering a proposal to halt deliveries of jet engines co-produced by General Electric Co. for Comac C919 airliner being developed in China out of concern that the Chinese could reverse-engineer the engines, undermining US business interests. I wonder if you have any comment?

A: We note this report. It also says that GE is questioning the proposal of the US government, saying that mimicking the advanced manufacturing techniques that have produced the engine is much harder than some officials believe. GE has also argued that it has been cooperating with China for years, meaning Chinese manufacturers could have begun the reverse-engineering a long time ago if they intended to do so. Why would they wait until now?

Of course, we still need to check on the verity of the report. But if true, it may show the following:

First, some American business people seem to be more sensible and truthful than certain government officials.

Second, it would expose certain US officials' ignorance in science and technology, disregard of the market principle, and anxiety with China's development.

Third, it will be another example of the US using political means to undermine bilateral commercial cooperation and wantonly oppress China.

I have to point out that US moves for a long while hurt not only the interests of Chinese businesses but also that of American companies. What's worse, it will severely disrupt bilateral and even global exchange and cooperation in science, technology and trade. We urge the US to view Chinese companies and China-US commercial cooperation in an objective and just manner, and act as a constructive contributor rather than an irrational spoiler.

Q: Some American steel companies have accused China of using state subsidies and the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) to give Chinese companies an unfair advantage that's hurting producers in other countries, including the US. Does China have a response?

A: I haven't heard of what you said. What I want to say is that the BRI is a proposal for economic cooperation and a public good for the international community. BRI sticks to the golden rule of extensive consultation, joint contribution and shared benefits and the cooperation concept of openness, inclusiveness and transparency. This framework enables all businesses, Chinese or foreign, to follow market rules, play fair, and cooperate in an open and transparent way. The bidding process for these projects is also open and transparent. Whether a company can take part in a certain project and how it will do so are solely market behaviors, and whether it can land a bidding also depends on its own competitiveness.

China will continue to work with partners for high-quality BRI development. Under the concept of open, green and clean cooperation, we strive to attain the goal of high standard, people-centered and sustainable development. We seek to forge global partnerships for connectivity to achieve shared development and prosperity.

Q: The UK exited the European Union and entered the Brexit transition period on January 31. As we know, China and the EU have signed agreements and cooperation documents in such areas as trade, shipping, energy, science and technology. Do these instruments still apply to the UK? How will China handle these agreements concerning the UK and the EU after Brexit?

A: According to the withdrawal agreement between the UK and the EU, agreements between the EU and other countries will continue to apply to the UK during the transition period from February 1 to December 31, 2020, which is a special arrangement between the two sides. To ensure the smooth transition of agreements, China agrees to the above-mentioned arrangement, that is, the agreements and cooperation documents between China and the EU will continue to apply to the UK during the transition period. China stands ready to work with the UK and the EU to advance work on relevant agreements in the transition period.

Q: The Department of Foreign Affairs of the Philippines announced on February 11 that the country has formally decided on the same day to terminate the Visiting Forces Agreement with the US. What's China's comment? How will this affect the South China Sea situation going forward?

A: Every country has the right to uphold an independent foreign policy and develop relations with other countries to advance its national interests. It is also China's belief that exchange and cooperation between countries should not only benefit those involved, but also advance regional and global peace and stability.

As to how the decision will affect the situation in the South China Sea, I want to point out that currently, with the concerted efforts of China and ASEAN countries, the situation in the South China Sea has been basically stable. China and ASEAN countries are committed to full and effective implementation of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC). In the meantime, we have been advancing consultations on a code of conduct (COC). Countries concerned insist on bilateral channels to manage differences and pursue practical cooperation. China stands ready to work with relevant regional countries to maintain stability in the South China Sea and turn it into a sea of peace, friendship and cooperation.

Q: What is the impact on China from the difficulty of its people to travel internationally due to visa and other travel restrictions issued by some countries?

A: Since the outbreak of the epidemic, the Chinese government and people have been making all-out efforts to counter it. The most stringent and thorough measures have been taken and relevant efforts are gradually showing their positive effects. We have the confidence and capability to win this battle.

The WHO has stressed many times that it does not recommend travel or trade restrictions. We hope all countries will remain calm, make science-based judgment, react rationally, and respect WHO's authoritative and professional recommendations. Overreacting will cause unnecessary panic and impede normal personnel exchange and practical cooperation.

Q: On February 14, a senior US official told the media during the Munich Security Conference that the US and the Taliban have reached a deal on reducing violence. If the Taliban honors its commitment, the US will proceed with its actions to withdraw troops from Afghanistan. Media quoted the Taliban as saying that the peace deal may be signed on February 29. What is your comment?

A: We have noted relevant reports. China has been in close communication and coordination with relevant parties on the latest developments of the Afghan issue.

China firmly supports the broad and inclusive peace and reconciliation process that is Afghan-led and Afghan-owned. We support more dialogue between relevant parties and welcome the news that the US and the Taliban are expected to reach and sign a deal. We hope it will be smoothly implemented to create conditions for the final political resolution of the Afghan issue.

China believes that foreign troops stationed in Afghanistan should be withdrawn in an orderly and responsible way to ensure a steady transition and avoid a security vacuum, which terrorist organizations may take advantage of to fester.

China stands ready to step up cooperation with all parties to the Afghan issue and the international community for peace, stability and development in Afghanistan.

Q: China said today it would review applications for tariff exemptions for nearly 700 products imported from the US. Are these exemptions intended to meet China's purchase commitments under the Phase one deal?

A: The Tariff Policy Commission of the State Council already issued a notice today on new tariff exemptions for some American products. You may refer to it. I'd refer you to the competent department for more specifics.

Q: Could you give us an update as to the progress of the China-WHO Joint Mission and their schedule in China? Why aren't they visiting Hubei Province?

A: The China-WHO Joint Mission has started work and the NHC has issued press releases on it. I'd refer you to them for more specifics.

Q: We want to know whether the epidemic control efforts will affect the high-level talks between China and Europe, including the China-EU Summit in late March and the China-CEEC Summit in mid-April? Will China attend the China-EU High-level Economic and Trade Dialogue in Brussels this week?

A: As far as I know, the preparatory work for high-level exchanges between China and the European side, including the China-EU Summit and the China-CEEC Summit, are moving ahead as scheduled. As for the China-EU High-level Economic and Trade Dialogue, I would refer you to the competent authorities.

Q: Regarding the 14-day quarantine policy for people returning to Beijing, do they apply to foreign experts coming to China? Will they need to self-quarantine?

A: As I understand, those who are visiting Beijing for a short period of time, Chinese and foreign nationals alike, need to follow instructions of their hotels, such as monitoring temperature, taking precautions, and limiting physical contact as much as possible. Please refer to the relevant Beijing municipal authorities for more specifics.

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