Reuters: Nepalese anti-corruption officials have launched an investigation into the role of China International Engineering Corporation in the construction of Pokhara airport, alleging that the company inflated the cost of the project and undermined Nepal’s efforts at quality control. China has described the airport as a flagship project of the Belt and Road Initiative. So my question is, how should the financial difficulties raised by Nepalese officials be understood within the BRI?
Mao Ning: I am not aware of the reported internal review in Nepal. What you mentioned is inconsistent with facts. The Chinese government always asks our companies to strictly abide by laws and regulations in doing business overseas. Pokhara International Airport is an important infrastructure project in China-Nepal cooperation and hailed in Nepal as a project of national honor.
According to my knowledge, Chinese companies took into full consideration the local situation, followed the quality standards strictly during the design and construction, and kept complete records. Since the airport’s inauguration, all facilities have been running smoothly. The project is playing an active role in improving Nepal’s domestic and international air connectivity.
Sky News: Leaders of China and the US will meet in San Francisco tomorrow. But it comes off the back of the year with still a lot of tensions between your countries. Will this meeting meaningfully move the dial between your countries?
Mao Ning: Thank you for your interest in China-US relations. The Chinese side has announced President Xi Jinping’s trip to the US for a China-US summit meeting at the invitation of US President Joe Biden. The two Presidents will have in-depth communication on issues of strategic, overarching and fundamental importance in shaping China-US relations and major issues concerning world peace and development. It will be a meeting of great importance. Further information on the meeting will be released in due course. Please check back for updates.
Reuters: There are reports that Chinese police officers could undertake patrols in several Thai cities to boost confidence among Chinese tourists. Please can you confirm whether Thai officials approached China over this plan or did China proposed it? And would any such deployment of Chinese police happen under a similar framework with which China has in place with the Solomon Islands?
Mao Ning: I’m not aware of that and would refer you to the competent Chinese authorities.
Bloomberg: Britain’s former Prime Minister David Cameron has been appointed as Foreign Secretary. During his term as the Prime Minister, China-UK relations entered a golden era. Would you share your expectation for China-UK relations going forward?
Mao Ning: China and the UK are both permanent members of the UN Security Council and major economies in the world. Growing stable and mutually-beneficial bilateral ties serves the fundamental interests of both peoples, helps both countries to better respond to global challenges together, and contributes to world peace and development. It is important that the two countries work together for the sound and steady growth of bilateral relations under the principle of mutual respect and win-win cooperation.
CCTV: According to reports, the UNRWA Commissioner-General said on November 13 that Israeli forces struck a guesthouse for UN staff in the southern part of the Gaza Strip. On the same day, the UN flag flew at half-mast at its New York headquarters in memory of the 101 UN staff members killed in Gaza since the start of this round of Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Does China have any comment?
Mao Ning: We are shocked by and strongly condemn the strike on the guesthouse for UN staff in southern Gaza. We mourn the UN staff members killed in this round of conflict. Violence does not bring true security. The use of force will not create lasting peace. The safety of UN staff members must be effectively protected.
China calls on relevant parties to be cool-headed and exercise maximum self-restraint, comply with international law, earnestly implement the UNGA resolution adopted on October 27, immediately stop the fighting, and prevent a larger-scale humanitarian disaster.
Reuters: I have two questions on the fighting between rebel groups on the Myanmar-China border. The first question is, please could you provide information about Chinese casualties resulting from the fighting? And what is China’s position on refugees coming across the border from Myanmar?
Mao Ning: China is closely following the conflict in northern Myanmar. We urge parties to immediately stop the fighting, settle differences peacefully through dialogue and consultation, avoid escalation of the situation and take effective measures to ensure security and stability at the China-Myanmar border.
Sky News: It was known that former British Prime Minister David Cameron had multiple meetings with the Chinese leadership. Would you describe David Cameron as a friend of China?
Mao Ning: Maintaining and growing stable and mutually-beneficial bilateral ties serves the interests of both China and the UK and is conducive to world peace and development. We hope that the UK will work together with China for the sound and steady growth of bilateral ties.
Reuters: Yesterday the Foreign Ministry announced that State Councilor Shen Yiqin will travel to the Maldives and Sri Lanka. Are these visits concerning debt negotiations?
Mao Ning: China has announced that State Councilor Shen Yiqin will visit the Maldives and Sri Lanka. Please check back for updates about the visits.
As for Sri Lanka’s debt issue, we support Chinese financial institutions in having consultations with Sri Lanka. China stands ready to work with relevant countries and international financial institutions and continue to play a positive role in helping Sri Lanka navigate the situation, easing its debt burden and helping it achieve sustainable development.
CCTV: Earlier we learned about some Chinese nationals stranded in the Gaza Strip. I wonder if the Foreign Ministry could tell us if they have evacuated the area? What measures has China taken to ensure their safety?
Mao Ning: Amid the escalating Palestinian-Israeli conflict, the CPC Central Committee attaches high importance to the safety of Chinese nationals in the conflict area. China’s diplomatic missions overseas, under directions from home, maintained contact with Chinese nationals in the Gaza Strip all along. With the concerted efforts on various fronts, all the Chinese nationals have left Gaza safely in recent days.
Reuters: Are you able to confirm who is in the Chinese delegation traveling to the APEC summit in San Francisco? Will there be representatives of Chinese firms?
Mao Ning: As for the specific arrangements of President Xi Jinping’s trip to the US for a China-US summit meeting and the APEC Economic Leaders’ Meeting upon invitation, please check up for updates.
Bloomberg: Following up on the question of Sri Lankan debt, to achieve a sustainable and long-lasting solution to the question of Sri Lankan debt, it’s important for all creditors to provide open access to the details of their debt restructuring plans. Why will China not make the details of the EXIM Bank deal open?
Mao Ning: I would refer you to competent Chinese authorities for the specific questions. Broadly, I have shared China’s principled position on Sri Lanka’s debt issue. We are ready to continue to play a positive role in helping ease Sri Lanka’s debt burden.
Phoenix TV: According to reports, the US, the ROK and other countries held the first ROK-UN Command Member States Defense Ministerial Meeting on November 14 in Seoul. This meeting reiterated the role of the United Nations Command (UNC) in curbing the threat of armed attack and upholding peace and stability in the Peninsula. The UNC Member States also declared in the Joint Statement that they will be united upon any renewal of armed attack or hostilities on the Peninsula. What’s your comment?
Mao Ning: As is widely known, the so-called “UN Command” is the product of the Cold War, has no legal grounds, and has long been outdated. Relevant countries held this meeting in the name of the “UN Command”, which stokes confrontation and creates tensions. The move only aggravates the situation on the Peninsula. We urge relevant countries to stop seeking selfish gains by falsely using the name of the UN, and safeguard peace and stability on the Peninsula through concrete actions.