|Foreign Ministry Spokesperson's Press Conference on May 29, 2003|
On May 29, Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Zhang Qiyue held the regular press conference. Zhang: Ladies and Gentlemen, Good afternoon. Today I have no announcement to make. I am ready for your questions.
Q: What impact has SARS brought to China’s economy? How will the Chinese Government handle it?
A: The SARS epidemic is an unexpected disaster and has indeed brought negative impact on China’s economic development, in particular on some sectors. However, the overall outlook of China’s economy is good and many favorable conditions for the economic growth still exist. SARS will not fundamentally change the grand momentum of China’s economic growth. In general, China’s economy is now in steady progress. Its GDP growth rate reached 8.9% in April, remaining a fairly high level.
The Chinese Government attaches great importance to the negative impact of SARS on its national economy. The State Council has held several meetings and stressed that equal emphasis should be put to both the prevention and control of SARS and the economic development and construction. Despite the relaxation of the SARS epidemic at present, all the Chinese people are continuing to take effective measures to jointly combat the disease. We remain convinced that the effective measures adopted so far will help reduce the losses to the minimum, maintain and promote China’s economic growth.
Q: Yesterday China and Russia signed an oil supply agreement. What is the significance of this agreement towards the development of the strategic partnership of coordination between the two countries?
A: Yesterday China and Russia signed the China-Russia oil pipeline project in Moscow. The Angarsk-Daqing oil pipeline is over 2,400 kilometers long. This project serves as the biggest project of economic cooperation between the two countries. After its put into use, the two sides will have an annual oil trade volume of 20 million tons within five years of initial operation, which will be further increased to 30 million tons after the first five years.
China-Russia relations are now very good and have entered into a new era. The two countries have frequent exchanges of high-level visits. At present President Hu Jintao is paying a state visit to Russia. The two sides have a high degree of political mutual trust. The bilateral economic and trade cooperation have developed fast. The trade volume has been increasing for the past four consecutive years, scoring a new high of 12 billion US dollars last year. In the meantime, both sides agree that there is still huge potential in the bilateral economic and trade cooperation. We believe that China-Russia energy cooperation will further strengthen our strategic partnership of coordination. China is ready to work with the Russian side on the relevant work to ensure the timely and smooth implementation of the oil pipeline project, so that it will benefit the two peoples at an early date.
Q: During President Hu Jintao’s meetings with the Russian leaders, have the two sides touched upon the situation in South Asia, in particular the recent moves of Pakistan and India to improve their relations?
A: President Hu Jintao’s visit to Russia is still under way. As for President Hu’s talks with President Putin, his meetings with the Prime Minister, the State Duma Chairman and the Russian Federation Council Chairman, the Chinese media and the foreign media have made full and in-depth coverage on those. Besides, the spokesperson of the delegation also introduced the relevant situation. This visit constitutes a very important visit. The leaders of the two countries had an in-depth exchange of views on bilateral relations, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, regional cooperation as well as the major international issues.
Q: In a couple of days, two important international meetings on the Middle East issue will be held in Egypt and Jordan. Will China voice its views at these meetings?
A: We have also taken note that a number of very important meetings and talks concerning the Middle East peace process will be held in a couple of days. All these activities are conducted according to the Middle East “road map” peace plan. Yesterday Ambassador Wang Shijie, China’s Special Envoy for the Middle East briefed you about the proposals of China. As a matter of fact, the aim of his recent trip to Palestine and Israel is to press ahead with the Middle East peace process, to urge Palestine and Israel to answer the call of the international community, to seize the favorable opportunity, to accept and earnestly implement the Middle East “road map”, and to coordinate in the international peace-making efforts. We hope that the meetings and talks to be held in a few days will make positive progress on an early settlement of the Middle East issue. China stands ready to make its vigorous efforts and contribution in this regard.
Q: What is the exact date of the meeting between President Hu Jintao and President Bush during his trip? Will the Taiwan issue be discussed during the meeting?
A: As has been agreed by the two sides, the meeting between President Hu Jintao and President Bush is scheduled to be held on June 1st, at Evian, France. The two sides will discuss many important issues during the meeting. Since the summit has not been held, all that I can tell you here is that this will be an important meeting. I will give you an update on that after the meeting.
Q: Could you also confirm the meeting between President Hu Jintao and Prime Minister Vajpayee in St. Petersburg? What will be discussed?
A: I can confirm that Prsident Hu Jintao and the Indian Prime Minister Vajpayee will meet with each other. The two sides will mainly exchange views on China-India relations and certainly some other issues of common interest.
Q: Which Chinese leader will attend the ASEAN leaders’ meeting held in Cambodia next month? Will China’s Foreign Minister attend the meeting? Which foreign leaders will attend the ASEAN +3 meeting on SARS to be held in Beijing next month?
A: The ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) will hold a one-day meeting in the Cambodian capital of Phnom Penh. Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing will attend this meeting. Proposed by Cambodia, the hosting country, the meeting will exchange views on not only the current regional and international situation, but also on the future development of ARF as well as some activities on the confidence-building measures of ARF next year. The ARF is a mechanism of 23 members and the Foreign Ministers of the majority of the countries will attend this forum.
In respect of your second question, I have said that two important meetings will be held in Beijing in early June. One is the China-ASEAN meeting on quarantine management of entries and exits on June 1st to 2nd. High-level delegates in charge of health and quarantine from the ten countries of ASEAN, officials and experts of WHO will be invited to attend. The key topics will be the experiences, relevant regulations and moves on quarantine management of entries and exits. The Chinese Government attaches great importance to the meeting. According to my knowledge, Vice Premier Wu Yi will attend the meeting. China will also send a big delegation composed of the relevant departments to attend the meeting. Since the Foreign Ministry is not the host, I am not aware of the details about the representatives of the relevant countries. But I have learned that the host of the meeting will have a press conference recently.
On June 3rd to 4th, a high-level international symposium on SARS of China, Japan, the ROK and the ASEAN countries (10+3) will be held in Beijing. The theme of this meeting is: to exchange information and experiences on the prevention and control of SARS, especially on the epidemiological investigation, clinical treatment, diagnosis reagent and medicine research etc., as well as more cooperation among the 10+3 countries in this regard. Besides the participants from the 10+3 countries, other countries are also welcome to attend this meeting. As far as I am concerned, many countries will send health ministers or vice health ministers to this meeting, which is of great significance towards the international efforts to combat SARS.
Q: In recent days, China has lodged several strong protests to the US, on the US support for Taiwan’s entry to the WHO, and on issues of Tibet and the religious freedom. Can we say that the China-US relations are now in a downturn? Will President Hu Jintao discuss these issues with President Bush in France this time?
A: In general, the China-US relations have kept a momentum of development in recent years. The US is the biggest developed country in the world, and China, the biggest developing one. The two countries share many similarities in preserving world peace and promoting development. In particular, as both the Permanent Members of the UN Security Council, the two countries share the same interests on the settlement of some major international issues, like the Iraqi issue and the Korean nuclear issue. Both sides hope to maintain peace and stability of the Asian-Pacific region and the world at large. Therefore both countries attach great importance to the bilateral relations. Both leaders of the two countries stand for the enhancement of the constructive cooperation. Certainly there are some differences between China and the US. In our view, the differences can be solved so long as the two sides respect each other and enhance mutual understanding.
Since the China-US relations are of great significance towards the world peace and development, it is our hope that the relations can make steady progress. We believe that the forthcoming summit between President Hu Jintao and President Bush will further push forward the constructive cooperation between the two countries.
Q: Besides what you have mentioned, which foreign leaders will President Hu Jintao meet with during his trip?
A: During his trip, President Hu Jintao will have bilateral meetings with the leaders of many countries. During his attendance to the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit, he will meet with the leaders of state of Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. Besides, he will meet with French President Chirac at Evian and the Prime Minster of Greece, the current holder of the rotating European Union Presidency. He has a tight schedule for the whole trip, including the bilateral visits and the meetings with the leaders on the multilateral occasions.
Q: The mainland imposed pressure on the WTO Secretariat on the issue of Taiwan’s representation in the WTO. The incident has exerted great influence on the public opinion of Taiwan, and triggered wide criticism against the mainland. Has the Foreign Ministry ever thought that it may block the development of the cross-straits relations and hurt the feelings of the people in Taiwan?
A: I refer you to the official of the Taiwan Affairs Office of the State Council. I would like to stress that there is only one China in the world. Our stand on China’s sovereignty has been quite clear. The other countries in the world also recognize that there is only one China. This issue of principle can not be changed.
Since the outbreak of SARS in Taiwan, the mainland compatriots are very concerned about it and have taken many concrete measures to provide help to the Taiwan compatriots. However, the assistance was rejected by the Taiwan authorities. It is such moves of the Taiwan authorities that are now hurting the feelings of the people across the straits, which the Taiwan authorities should earnestly consider.
Q: Since the number of new SARS cases in Beijing is declining, does China plan to talk with the WHO to lift its travel warning against China, especially Beijing?
A: At present, all the Chinese people are still focusing our attention on the fight against SARS. Both the central government and the local governments at all levels emphasized the following point. Despite some signs that the epidemic is declining, no negligence is permitted and strict measures against SARS should continue to be taken to curb the spread and development of the epidemic. At present it is imperative for us to focus our attention on the fight against SARS.
Q: Many correspondents will interview next week’s meeting on SARS in Beijing. Why were the correspondents asked for blood check? Will foreign leaders be asked for blood check?
A: For the interview of the two upcoming meetings in Beijing, the host may ask you to receive a medical examination to get a health certificate. Since there are many important guests will attend the meetings in Beijing, the Chinese host has to ensure the personal health of all the participants. In my view, to receive a medical examination is a very basic requirement to this end. We hope to win your understanding and cooperation in this regard. In order that the two meetings will be successfully held in Beijing, and that nothing you are reluctant to see will occur, we hope to get your full cooperation.