Q: US President Donald Trump recently said in an interview that considering China's previous trade practices, any agreement with China cannot be a "50-50" deal and had to be more in favor of the US side. What's your comment?
A: I'm no expert in trade, but I think it's necessary to make a distinction between "reciprocity" and "equal benefits". These are two different things in trade relations.
It is only unrealistic to pursue strictly reciprocal openness in trade practices. The fact is, economic globalization by nature is a process where countries leverage their respective strengths and each supplies what the others need. Here is a case in point: China's tariff rate on unshelled peanuts stood at 15 percent while that of the US was 163.8 percent in 2017. Could we simply say the US gained extra advantage?
Reciprocity and mutual benefit in trade refer to the overall reciprocity and balance of interests in the open markets of all industries. The simplistic view that the US is "ripped off" in its trade with China is unscientific and unprofessional. Therefore, when negotiating a trade agreement, one cannot ask for equal benefits in every field. Rather, the agreement must be two-way, balanced and based on equality and mutual benefits.
Q: Yesterday Italian Deputy Prime Minister Salvini said that Italians must retain control of sensitive data such as personal finances or health conditions, and prevent what he said "an undemocratic country like China" from gaining access. Is the Chinese government upset with his comments?
A: First of all, I have to point out that it is in itself not democratic at all to define which country is democratic and which is not simply by one's own standards.
China and Italy have carried out a lot of friendly cooperation on the basis of mutual respect, equality and mutual benefit in recent years. You may also have seen that in fact the cooperation between the two sides has been deepening and brought tangible benefits to the two peoples.
As to the doubts certain individual in Italy may have over the security of Chinese products, we stated our position on many occasions. The Chinese government asks Chinese businesses to abide by local laws and regulations when investing and operating overseas. In the meantime, we hope all other countries will provide a fair, just and non-discriminatory environment for Chinese businesses.
Q: The 72nd World Health Assembly (WHA) has decided not to include a Taiwan-related proposal into its provisional agenda. Would you like to comment on that?
A: This year the WHA has again refused to include the so-called proposal of "inviting Taiwan to attend the WHA as an observer" in the conference's provisional agenda. This decision, consistent with provisions of relevant resolutions of the UNGA and the WHA, is a further testament that the one-China principle is an overriding trend with wide support that cannot be challenged. I would like to reiterate that the participation of China's Taiwan region in the activities of international organizations must and can only be handled in accordance with the one-China principle.
Q: China's Envoy to the European Union Zhang Ming said that there will be a necessary response to the US actions against Huawei. I was wondering if you could share more details on the kind of responses China is considering?
A: You were here yesterday when I answered this question raised by another journalist. As you know, we won't make predictions on what the government and companies will do. But I will state that China's position is firm. Trade and investment between countries must be equal-footed and mutually beneficial. We have the resolve and capability to defend our legitimate and lawful rights and interests.
Q: Does China have a plan to establish diplomatic relations with the Solomon Islands?
A: Not just the Solomon Islands. We are ready to develop friendly relations with all countries in the world on the basis of the one-China principle and the basic norms governing international relations.
Q: According to some media, US President Trump said recently that additional tariffs on Chinese goods will make companies move their production lines from China to Vietnam and other countries in Asia. I'm wondering if that's the case?
A: A year or so into the trade friction, as you have seen, the US releases information out of political needs at home from time to time. Sometimes it's just too busy to care if the information matches the real situation.
US behaviors to break trading rules have for some time caused disturbances to the global market, which includes China and the US itself. However, at the end of the day, businesses will decide on investment destinations based on strategic judgement of economic prospects.
As a matter of fact, despite the constant US threats to impose additional tariffs on Chinese products in the past year or so, China remains a popular destination for foreign investors. My colleagues and I have talked about the recently expanding investment in China by famous multinationals such as ExxonMobil, Tesla, BASF and BMW. Let me give you some other examples. As is shown by the Survey on the International Operations of Japanese Firms released recently by JETRO, the Chinese market remains a favored choice for Japanese firms and it ranks the first place in the categories of export, investment and cross-border e-commerce. You may still recall that during the second Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation held not long ago, delegates from the business community of various countries signed cooperation agreements worth more than $64 billion. We can see clearly that against the background of a world economy fraught with uncertainties and instability, foreign enterprises have made clear their attitude and expressed their firm confidence in China's economy through concrete actions.
I would like to reiterate here that China welcomes as always more investment from foreign businesses and will continue to foster a more stable, fair, transparent and predictable market environment for them.
Q: The fifth China-US Governors' Forum will be held soon. Can you confirm that and give us more details?
A: Yes, the Chinese People's Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries (CPAFFC) and the US National Governors Association will jointly hold the fifth China-US Governors' Forum in Lexington, Kentucky from May 22 to 24.
According to what I have at hand, this forum will focus on promoting sub-national cooperation and exchange in the fields of economy, trade, culture and people-to-people interaction. Leaders from the CPAFFC, Chongqing Municipality, Shaanxi Province, Jiangxi Province and Gansu province will head delegations to the forum. Their counterparts from the States of Kentucky, Tennessee, Colorado, Michigan and Washington will also attend the event.
The fifth China-US Governors' Forum is an important sub-national platform for exchange between China and the US. It has been successfully held for four times since its kick-off in 2011. The active participation of local governments of both countries have demonstrated sincere will for strengthening sub-national exchange and cooperation. I believe this forum will inject new impetus into the efforts to deepen friendship and cooperation between the two countries.
Q: On Monday, the US Commerce Department temporarily eased restrictions against Huawei, saying it would let American firms continue transactions with the Chinese company for 90 days. I wonder if the Chinese foreign ministry has any comment on this?
A: We have been stating our position these past few days. The US is using state power to crack down on foreign enterprises and disrupt market activities. To be frank, it won't serve US interests in the end. As I said while answering an earlier question, trade and investment relations between countries must be equal-footed and mutually beneficial. The Chinese government has the resolve and the capability to defend our legitimate and lawful rights and interests.
Q: We just saw the report that China Eastern Airlines has claimed losses from Boeing over the grounded 737 MAX fleet, becoming the first Chinese airline to request compensation. According to China Eastern Airlines, the grounding of 737 MAX aircraft since March 11 has caused rather significant losses to the company. Considering it is still unknown whether the aircraft can be put into operation in the near future, it has decided to claim losses from Boeing. The company will closely follow progress of relevant work by China's civil aviation authority and Boeing. That said, the most pressing task at the moment is to make sure the aircraft are safe. Are you aware of the developments and do you have any comment?
A: We have noted relevant reports. As we all know, the 737 MAX aircraft have been grounded globally for security concerns and the technical problems are yet to be solved. I am not in a position to comment on commercial transactions between companies. But I believe you agree with me that a company can lawfully claim its lawful and legitimate rights.
Q: US President Donald Trump warned on Monday that Iran would be met with great force if it attacked US interests in the Middle East. He was commenting on the rocket attack on the Green Zone in Baghdad. I wonder if China has any comment on this situation in the Persian Gulf?
A: We have noted the latest tensions in the Gulf region. You may have noticed that recently China exchanged ideas with Iran, the US and other sides. We have made clear our position that conflict and confrontation will lead us nowhere and that dialogue and consultation is the only way out. We hope relevant parties can exercise restraint and step up dialogue to properly address each other's concerns.
Follow-up: Can we say that China is somehow concerned on the situation in the Gulf region?
A: Tensions in the Gulf region at the moment will serve no country's interests and will have a negative impact on global political security and world economy. Of counse China is concerned. That's why we have been trying to persuade relevant parties to exercise restraint and seek a proper solution through dialogue.