Remarks by Minister WANG Xining at National Press Club

First of all, I'd like to commend CIW, and Madam Jane Golley in particular, for the continuous dedicated effort over the past years to present quality, sophisticated research on China and present a multi-dimensional image of China, rather than like some other sources presenting a monolithic image of China, and also using the outdated political cliche to describe China, which is what we call oversimplified conceptualization and even political branding. It is of particular importance at this moment to have a truthful, objective and sophisticated understanding of China, for Australia as a country and for the Australians as a people. Not only because over the years we have such strong connections across-the-board and China is now the number one trading partner with Australia, but also because in face of the COVID-19 challenge - you call crisis - China represents the positive force, the positive momentum, because China adheres to science, rational thinking and practice, building social solidarity domestically, and resorting to international collaboration. The priority task for every country and for the international community is to make sure that roll-out of vaccines, both national and international, will go smoothly in the coming months, so people around the world will be away from another round of threat from COVID virus.

Secondly, we should try to boost our economy and bring our lives and livelihoods back to normal. I think both China and Australia have done a good job in containing the spread of COVID epidemic and in promoting economic recovery. Take China for example, we curbed the spread of the virus very early last year and we are trying all out to help the others. We've conducted joint scientific research with over 10 countries and we are engaged in joint production of vaccines with at least six countries at the moment. We offered assistance of vaccines to over 80 countries and exported vaccines to over 40 countries. So all the five vaccines that have been certified by the Chinese equivalent authority to Australian TGA, have been well received by the above-mentioned, over 100 countries.

China was the only major economy in the world that registered positive growth last year, and as you read on the media that in the first quarter this year, our economy recorded an 18.3 percent growth. This year marks the 50th anniversary of Mr Gough Whitlam's historical visit to China. In most time of the previous half century, China and Australia benefited from a growing relationship, strong political inter-locutions and a thriving economic partnership. There are ups and downs, but if handle them properly, this up-ticking trajectory of our relationship will serve the interests of both peoples and the people of Asia-Pacific.

According to Chinese lunar calendar, 2021 is the year of Ox. Ox in our tradition represents strength, resilience and perseverance. We hope this symbol will bring everybody and every country good luck. We Chinese love to present ourselves as hardworking cattle, like ox. Of course, we like to share our yoke with all partners to plough through the difficulties caused by COVID-19 and sail through this trying time. But at the same time, China is not a cow. I don't think anybody should fancy the idea to milk China when she's in the prime and plot to slaughter her in the end.

So we are open for collaboration and cooperation, but we'll be very strong in defending our national interest. Some people call 2021 as a year of crisis. But as Winston Churchill once said: never let a good crisis go to waste. In the context of Chinese, crisis means both peril and opportunity. We believe there will always be a nirvana after major crisis and we look forward a nirvana of the global economy, of people's welfare, and also of our relationship after the epdenmic .

As a fan of opera, I still remember some characters in Wagner’s Ring Cycle. When Bruunhilde jumped into the pyre that incinerated Siegfried, their love and their relationship were elevated to a new level. So, don't be afraid of the fire and cauldron, if we can handle them well, we will elevate everything to another level.

Thank you.


QUESTION:Minister, you talked about the truthful effective and sophisticated understanding of China. Would you please make some comment on intellectual and academic freedom in China? There were some incidents where that's been a blockage to better understanding. And what about Australian journalists in China and particularly, what's happened to Cheng Lei and when will she be able to see her children again?

WANG XINING: In the case of Cheng Lei, she was under investigation because she was suspected of violating the security law of China, and all these cases will be handled according to Chinese legal procedures and legal documents. No doubt about that. And I'm quite sympathetic with the Australian journalists who left China during the pandemic.But I have to say it was not the Chinese embassy or any of our Chinese authorities who advised them to leave.But in general, Chinese government welcomes foreign journalists as we always do.We welcome journalists from every corner of the world and also from western countries. But unfortunately, certain cases you mentioned are related to BBC journalists who failed to present a truthful image or truthful happenings in some part of China. We never discriminate against any journalists, but we do hope that foreign journalists in China will present a true image of China. It's very multidimensional and very sophisticated, because the complexity of civilization and cultural diversity in China is a real challenge for everyone. It's worth a life-long research and exploration. It is even a challenge for us, the natives. We need to learn a lot in order to grapple with what's happening on the ground. So I never pretend I understand China all, but I hope no foreign expert or foreign journalist would pretend that they know all and give China a tag or a label saying this is what China is. It's far more sophisticated than that.

QUESTION:Let's talk about a story of individual people in China.It's the husband of an Australian citizen whose name is Mehray Mezensof. They're Uyghurs.She wants to get answers to questions of why nobody in her husband's family has been told exactly why he deserves 25 years in prison.They've had no documentation as what he was convicted of. Could China at least gives his Australian citizen wife a phone line to contact her husband on?

WANG XINING:I don't know every case of individuals, whether they are of any particular ethnic group. Between China and Australia, there's a cooperation channel through consular service. If any Australian citizen wishes to know the information of their relatives in China, they could resort to this consular service to get proper information.

Xinjiang has a population equal to Australia. The issues related to Xinjiang are far more sophisticated.Who cares the Uyghur people most? It's the Uyghur people themselves? Yes. But also the whole Chinese nation. We have 56 ethnic groups. We want every ethnic group to thrive, to live a good life, and we know how to deal with it well. I worked in a local government for some years, so I know how difficult it is. It is not as easy as some people claim that they know the very solution to the difficult issues in Xinjiang.

QUESTION:Japan's Ambassador says his country is making progress on joining the Five Eyes network and is optimistic about this happening in the near future. What would China's reaction be to that occurring?

WANG XINING: Let’s go back to our stress on international cooperation in the post-COVID stage. Yesterday Chinese President Xi Jinping delivered a keynote speech via video at the opening ceremony of the Boao Forum for Asia Annual Conference 2021.Again, President Xi stressed the importance of the international cooperation in bringing economy back, bringing health back, and with an aim to build a community of shared future for mankind. I think all countries, out of goodwill, should work to that end. At the same time, the multilateral mechanism that a dozen of countries or several countries get involved, whether in trans-Atlantic or trans-Pacific, should be helpful to achieve this end,which is to bring our life back to normal after the COVID-19 crisis.

QUESTION:We've seen widespread condemnation, particularly from western nations, on the situation in Myanmar. Can I ask you, why is China so reluctant to strongly condemn the actions of the junta? And would you like to see a return to democracy in Myanmar?

WANG XINING: Our policy is non-interference into internal affairs of other countries.We do hope the situation in Myanmar will stabilize and all the political factions and political forces in Myanmar will sit at a table and talk out a solution that ensures the welfare of the Myanmar people. You see, in history, there are various ways of foreign interference into a country. If you still remember, see the result of the Arab Spring and all the Color Revolutions. What a miserable life of ordinary people in Iraq and Syria! We are a people of oriental wisdom, and we'd love to see people's welfare and security guaranteed by our traditional thinking.I don't think people in Myanmar would like to see much foreign interference, whether it's political or in another way.

QUESTION: It was almost a year ago where I interviewed Chinese ambassador. During the interview, he talked about Australia's advocacy for an inquiry into the corona-virus pandemic could lead to China using trade to punish Australia. So we have seen that has come true in fruition, probably much further than what I anticipated when I wrote that interview up. We see also that the Australian Defense Department is planning about the possibility of being dragged into a Taiwan crisis if there are issues there. We still have a situation where Australian ministers can't get conversations, phone calls returned, with their Chinese counterparts. I'm just wondering if you can give us an assessment of where the current state of the relationship is? It seems since the beginning of the year, the trade sanctions that China has introduced against Australia has sort of died off. There hasn't been anything further since sort of December in that front. That suggests that perhaps the relationship has sort of reached a new very low equilibrium.We are at a rock bottom point. And where are we going in terms of getting conversations with ministers and dialogues opening and things like that?

WANG XINING: Thank you for the interview with my ambassador.I think there's an oversimplified branding of what my ambassador said in your interview. I wonder whether it's you who coined the word or your editor who come up with the idea. But our policy towards Australia has been consistent all the way. We have done nothing intentionally to hurt this relationship, and we've seen too many incidents over the past few years that China's interests have been hurt. I'll give you an example about Huawei. As far as we believe, the United States have mobilized the state power to suppress a particular Chinese company in order to prevent any challenges to its traditional business or technological dominance, which runs against market rules and business ethics. They go even so far as to framing and detaining senior executives. Such dirty tactics took place in the past for Alstom from France and also for Toshiba from Japan. I think it will happen again.

But Australia has no glorious role in this regard. Remember, Australia was among the first to falsely accusing Huawei of possible data security threat. But up to now, there's not a single evidence has been presented to substantiate such a claim. And secondly, Australia was among the first to ban Huawei into domestic telecommunication industry building. And Australia even persuaded others to follow suit. By doing so, Australia connived with the United States in a very unethical, illegal and immoral suppression of Chinese companies. It occurred to Chinese company this time and later it will happen to other companies from emerging countries.It really bewildered me because as far as I know, there's not a single Australia tech communication equipment company that's on the par with Huawei or any other internationally renowned company in terms of technological advancement and sophistication. Australia ranked the second from the bottom in term of market digitization among OECD countries. And the broadband speed here is much slower than some of the developing countries. I wonder why your intelligence and security apparatus have the gut to claim that they know what the threat is posed by Huawei. I'd love to see an open debate between a Huawei engineer and a representative from your security and intelligence department to find out what could be a threat. China proposed Global Initiative on Data Security which was welcomed by quite a number of Asia-Pacific and developing countries, but we failed to receive response from Australia as well as the United States.It was the United States, the UK and Australia partially that have strong tradition of eavesdropping into others and digging into others' houses. So, if you believe in this barbaric motto which is prevalent during Hellenistic Age of city-states and among medieval European Vassals,that is, either you devour the others or to be devoured, then just to do it.Don't try to pretend that you have the moral high ground. The Huawei Australia company suffered a lot due to the unethical deeds by your Government. In 2019, Huawei lost 78% of the net profit and 10% of the revenue. But look around the world. Huawei rose to 49th place in Fortune Global 500 back in 2019. And in the first half of last year, it registered a 13% growth of revenue and is now the largest smart-phone producer in the world. It is serving 3 billion people in 170 countries by 1500 networks. So when Australia abandoned Huawei, the world embraced it.

QUESTION: Well, they mustn't be very good phones because they're not returning Australian ministers' phone calls, are they? So, when I asked about the bilateral relationship, I didn't ask about Huawei. So when is China and Australian relations going to get on a more diplomatic track?

WANG XINING: Yeah. So let me finish the Huawei story. There's one interesting incident. One of your retired senior politician claimed in his memoir that he's the one who cued former US President Donald Trump about the possible security threat of Huawei. And I like very much to hear what Mr Trump would say in the future and find out in this round of suppression by state power on a particular Chinese company, who's the real culprit and who's the accomplice? Whether Australia is the true whisperer as someone here claimed to be, or is it just a charlatan, as is teased by my people back in China.

So coming to your question of our relationship, it is very simple. Firstly,we hope we will all honor the commitment to comprehensive strategic partnership. We should respect each other's sovereignty and refrain from interfering in other’s internal affairs, undermining the other's mode of governance or trying to change the other’s path of development. Secondly, we should all observe the principles and guidelines in the CHAFTA. The government is entrusted to provide a fair, just and non-discriminatory business environment. So what happened over the past few years? A number of cases of Chinese investment were vetoed by your government branch.

Thirdly, we should value the friendship between our peoples. No obstacles should be laid intentionally to obstruct normal people-to-people exchange programs.

As long as Australian side will be able to do those above-mentioned things, I don't see any obstacles for the resumption of a normal state of our relationship.

QUESTION: Going back to the Five Eyes countries. I want to know your views on that intelligence partnership.Do you think Australia should follow New Zealand's lead in stepping back from this partnership?

WANG XINING: I don't want to interfere into your internal affairs.

Well, again, I think, people should work together at this moment to remove prejudice,to work hard and smart in order to get a good quality life. The aspiration of every country and of every people is security, affluence, and easy access to whatever resources that is need to make sure that our next generation will have a good life. Our policy on China-US relations is always the same. We wish a non-confrontation, non-conflict, mutual benefit and win-win cooperation principle will be adhered by both sides, China and the United States. And we had good relationship with New Zealand as well as some other Five Eye countries. We had some issues, but they should be handled according to standardized, mechanized, bilateral or international platform.For example, we all are members of WHO and WTO, why don't we follow the rules and get things done within the mechanism? You want a rule-based international system, so we should just follow the rules and follow the UN charter, which is the heart of today's international system and international relations.

QUESTION: Whether China is less free now than it was even in 1989?Does China aspire to greater freedom, greater internal freedom for its citizens? Or is the direction that we've seen the way the Chinese Communist Party wants things to go?What’s your comment?

WANG XINING: As President Xi Jinping put forward, common values should be cherished by international community, not limited to the so-called universal values proposed only by countries that inherited western values. These common values include peace, development, fairness, justice,freedom and democracy. But the way we achieve that and the way we assess that could be different due to different national conditions.To understand China’s development, people need to explore further into the role of the Communist Party of China and how the Party works.With proper understanding of our system, there will be no question like those presented to us. It's not a party state system as simplified by some politicians here.It's a very complex story.

It's amazing to see how the western journalists love to see more troubles, more social unrest in China, where my party, my government and my people, look forward to peace and affluence in our society, in our country. Our people don't like your narratives. People enjoy freedom of speech and of demonstration.But all these should be conducted within the legal framework.


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