China finds itself in a somewhat precarious position against the backdrop of the Covid-19 crisis. The pandemic has scarred its origin country's people and its economy, while the Asian giant is facing global suspicion and trade hostilities with the United States leading the charge. Several mega corporations with manufacturing bases in China have indicated intentions of shifting elsewhere.
Countries like South Korea and Japan are looking at alternatives for investment. India too has underscored the need for 'self-reliance'. However, in an exclusive interview with CNN-News18, China’s ambassador to India, Sun Weidong, rejected claims that countries and companies would move their production line and business out of China. He also rebutted charges about his country supplying faulty testing kits and hiding information about the novel coronavirus, while urging that Chinese enterprises in India should be treated fairly.
Q: In what ways is China cooperating with India further in fighting Covid-19? Is there any possible supply of medical equipment like ventilators or RT-PCR testing kits?
A: Since the outbreak of Covid-19, we have maintained close communication and cooperation with each other. Our two leaders, President Xi Jinping and Prime Minster Narendra Modi, have exchanged letters, and our foreign ministers made phone calls twice to strengthen our anti-epidemic cooperation. The Chinese side has held videoconference for experts to share experiences in fighting the epidemic, such as diagnosis and treatment protocols, with the Indian side in a timely manner. China is ready to provide support to India and do what we can to lend a hand. We sincerely wish India an early victory over the epidemic.
To reciprocate India's help to China earlier when we were in a critical period, we have been extending support to India's fight against the epidemic at various levels. We have opened the channel for India’s procurement of medical equipment in China. The Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) has set up a "green channel" and approved 45 cargo flights from India to transport medical supplies. Chinese companies and charity organisations such as Alibaba Foundation and Fosun Group have sent donations to India, including ventilators and personal protective equipment. The Chinese local governments, such as Guangdong Province and Chongqing city, have respectively donated medical supplies to their sister state and city, Gujarat and Chennai. China will continue to donate medical protection materials to India.
This year marks the 70th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and India. We are not only neighbours, but also friends and partners. As two most populous developing countries in the world, China and India should cooperate together to win the battle against the epidemic. The virus is a common challenge for all mankind. In Prime Minster Modi’s address to the nation yesterday (Tuesday), he mentioned that “the world is one family”. Chinese President Xi Jinping also advocated building a community with a shared future for mankind. If China and India defeat this virus, it would be of great significance to safeguard the global public health and the ultimate victory over the pandemic.
Q: There have been many complaints with regards to the rapid antibody testing kits by Wondfo and Livzon. Has China investigated the reason behind these 'faulty' kits?
A: As we know, the two Chinese companies you mentioned have both obtained the certification from the National Medical Products Administration of China for their antibody testing kits. Their products were also approved by ICMR (Indian Council of Medical Research) through NIV (National Institute of Virology) and considered as satisfactory products. The same products have been exported to many countries such as Spain, Indonesia and Brazil. Many authoritative medical agencies of these countries have released evaluation reports with good results.
The Covid-19 antibody rapid testing requires high professional expertise. There are strict requirements for the storage, transportation and use of rapid test kits. Any operation which is not carried out by professionals in accordance with the product specifications will lead to the testing accuracy variations.
I want to stress that we always put the quality of medical products as our priority. It is not fair to label Chinese products as "faulty". We sincerely support India's fight against Covid-19 with concrete actions. We need to focus on cooperation at this difficult time.
Q: What steps will China take to help revive the global economy?
A: For this question, I would like to highlight three points.
First, we call on the international community to enhance macro-economic policy coordination. President Xi Jinping put forward the initiatives at the Extraordinary G20 Leaders' Summit, and called on all G20 member states to take collective actions, such as cutting tariffs, removing barriers, and facilitating the unfettered flow of trade. These initiatives are sending a strong message and restoring confidence for global economic recovery.
Second, we will maintain the stability of global industrial chain and supply chain. China is making greater efforts to supply the international market with API (active pharmaceutical ingredients), daily necessities, epidemic prevention materials and other products. China's exports rose by 3.5 per cent for the month of April. We will also unswervingly expand reform and opening up, and actively expand imports and outward foreign direct investment.
Third, we are accelerating our own economic recovery. Since the epidemic is under control, the resumption of work and production in China is gradually reaching normal levels. By the end of April, the average resumption rate of China's industrial enterprises above designated size had reached 99.1%. China's PMI came in at 50.8% in April. More than 115 million Chinese tourists travelled domestically during the recent May Day holiday. As the world’s second largest economy, the accelerated recovery of the Chinese economy will inject impetus into the recovery of the world economy.
Q: It seems that post Covid-19, some countries have indicated they might pull investment out of China. How do you react to that?
A: The claim of "withdrawing foreign capital from China" is not consistent with the facts. The joint survey report released by the American Chamber of Commerce in China and other institutes in April showed that, more than 70% of the responded US enterprises in China said that they would not move production line and business out of China, and they opposed China-US economic and trade “decoupling”.
The production resumption rate of foreign-funded enterprises in China is steadily increasing. A survey of more than 8,700 foreign-funded enterprises showed that, as of mid-April, more than 70% of foreign-funded enterprises reached the resumption rate of over 70%.
There is fresh foreign capital continuously flowing into China. French company Schneider Electric signed an agreement to increase investment in China and planned to produce a new generation of digital green electrical products. Starbucks China and their Chinese partners announced a strategic cooperation in the new generation of catering and retail technology. ExxonMobil's large-scale project of around 10 billion US dollars in Guangdong held a "cloud start" ceremony.
Multinational enterprises made the choice of production based on the market rules, and it is the result of combined factors like cost, industrial support and infrastructure. It has been a long-term process over the years.
China will continue to relax restrictions on the market access and strive to create a more favourable foreign investment environment. We also hope that the Indian side treat Chinese enterprises in India equally and create an open, fair and equitable business environment. China’s investment to India offers great opportunities for 'making in India' and local employment.
We need to implement the consensus of our two leaders on strengthening investment cooperation, work together to promote liberalisation and facilitation of trade and investment, and take the path of mutual benefit and win-win results. This is the best choice for the common interests of China and India.
Q: What would you like to say about allegations being levelled especially by countries like US that China hid information earlier?
A: The coronavirus is a novel virus unseen in the past. China was the first to stand up to it. China also informed the international community at the earliest possible time, and offered precious window period for other countries to respond. Being the first to report the virus does not mean that Wuhan is its origin. We did not cover up anything, and did not delay any efforts.
I can share with you some timeline of China's response. In late December 2019, the Wuhan Center for Disease Control and Prevention in Hubei Province detected cases of unknown pneumonia. On December 31, the WHO China Country Office was informed by China of epidemic in Wuhan City. Starting from January 3 this year, China has been regularly informing the WHO, relevant countries including the US, and regional organisations about the outbreak. On January 12, China submitted to the WHO the genome sequence of the novel coronavirus and shared globally. Starting from January 27, the State Council inter-agency task force on Covid-19 has been holding daily press briefings. More than 3,000 press conferences have been held at national and sub-national levels up till now.
Here I would like to quote WHO chief scientist Soumya Swaminathan. She said during an interview that she had not seen anything suspicious, and the WHO delegation which included US technical experts visited China and collected a huge amount of data; China had been sharing expertise from time to time with teams all over the world, not just the WHO; China had been extremely open to dialogues and discussions. What she said reflects China's openness, transparency and responsible attitude towards every life.
Q: What would you like to say about Secretary Pompeo saying that the virus escaped from the Wuhan Institute of Virology?
A: The claim that the virus originated from the Wuhan lab has already collapsed. The WHO has made it clear on many occasions that the Covid-19 originated from nature, and is not man-made. The world's leading medical journal, The Lancet, published a joint statement of authoritative experts expressing the same view. Experts from the US, Germany, Sweden, Japan and other countries pointed out that there is no evidence of "lab making or leaking the virus” and "even the best lab in the world can not produce such a virus".
The origin of the novel coronavirus is a very complicated scientific matter. It should be the subject of study for scientists and medical experts. Faced with the pandemic, the destinies of all countries are closely intertwined. It would only waste more precious time by slandering others or shifting the blame. What we need most is to strengthen mutual respect, understanding and cooperation. We should cherish humanitarian spirit, and devote ourselves in saving lives to defeat the pandemic at an early time.