|Foreign Minister Wang Yi Meets the Press|
On 8 March 2018, the First Session of the Thirteenth National People's Congress held a press conference. Foreign Minister Wang Yi answered questions on China's foreign policy and external relations.
Wang Yi: Dear members of the press, good morning. At the outset, I wish to extend festive greetings to all women, particularly the female journalists in this room. I also wish to thank the press, Chinese and foreign, for having shown understanding and support for China's foreign policy and external relations. Everything we have accomplished, you have played a part. Thank you! Now I am ready to take your questions.
People's Daily: Since the 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China, China has made unprecedented progress in its foreign relations, which is widely praised across the country. Following the 19th Party Congress, what will be the highlights of China's diplomatic agenda this year?
Wang Yi: Under the outstanding leadership of the CPC Central Committee with Comrade Xi Jinping at its core since the 18th Party Congress, we have traveled on a road of major-country diplomacy that reflects China's distinct vision, style and values. Producing historic accomplishments, our diplomatic efforts have been instrumental to upholding national sovereignty and interests, and to facilitating domestic reform and development. Last October, General Secretary Xi Jinping emphasized in his report to the 19th Party Congress that China will work with other countries to foster a new type of international relations and to build a global community with a shared future. This is the aim of China's major-country diplomacy in the new era.
The year 2018 kicks off efforts to implement the decisions of the 19th Party Congress. Guided by Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era, we in the diplomatic service will take new steps and make new strides. The main highlights of China's diplomatic calendar will include the following four events we are going to host:
First, the Boao Forum for Asia Annual Conference, which will take place in Hainan this April and focus on reform and opening-up. In this 40th anniversary year of reform and opening-up, we will review China's successful experience and sketch new possibilities for reform and opening-up in the new era.
Second, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization Summit, which will take place in Qingdao this June and focus on revitalizing the Shanghai Spirit. The expanded SCO will rededicate itself to the Shanghai Spirit of mutual trust and benefit, equal-footed consultation, respect for diversity of civilizations and pursuit of common development. The summit will set the SCO on a new journey of consolidation and growth.
Third, the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation Summit, which will take place in Beijing this September and focus on the Belt and Road Initiative. A great opportunity for our African brothers and sisters to participate fully in the BRI, the Summit will give new impetus to the China-Africa comprehensive strategic partnership.
Fourth, the first China International Import Expo, which will take place in Shanghai this November and focus on further market opening. China will embrace the world with open arms and enormous market potential. All will be welcome to access and benefit from the new opportunities of China's development.
China's diplomatic agenda for 2018 are unfolding even as we speak. In the new era, we will work even harder to see that China will enjoy a better environment for development and make greater contributions to human progress.
Reuters: What role does China have to facilitate direct talks between North Korea and the United States? Does China believe that the US needs to withdraw its military forces in South Korea?
Wang Yi: This is the hottest topic right now. Seizing the opportunity of the PyeongChang Olympics, the DPRK and the ROK have had a succession of interactions and achieved a rapid thaw in their relations, reversing the long-standing chill on the Korean Peninsula. The recent developments may seem baffling to some people, but are actually within the bounds of reason. During the Winter Games, the DPRK did not conduct any nuclear or missile test and the US and the ROK suspended their joint exercises targeting the DPRK. This proves that China's "suspension for suspension" proposal was the right prescription for the problem and created basic conditions for the improvement of inter-Korean relations.
The Korean Peninsula issue has finally taken an important step in the right direction. China fully commends and supports the efforts made by the two Koreas. To return the Peninsula to peace and stability and the nuclear issue to the track of dialogue, these initial steps must be followed up by corresponding and concerted efforts by the parties. To this end, we call on the parties, particularly the US and the DPRK, to engage in dialogue sooner rather than later. We encourage all to follow the dual-track approach of remaining committed to the goal of denuclearization and working actively to establish a peace mechanism on the Peninsula. The parties' legitimate security concerns, including those of the DPRK, can be addressed in exchange for and in tandem with progress towards denuclearization. This is China's long-standing position and also the vision set forth in the relevant Security Council resolutions.
Of course, it takes more than one cold day to freeze three feet of ice. Despite light at the end of the tunnel, the journey ahead won't be smooth. History has reminded us time and again that whenever tensions subsided on the Peninsula, the situation would be clouded by various interferences. Now is a crucial moment for testing the sincerity of the parties. Every effort must be made for peace, and the opportunity must be seized. It falls to all parties to bear in mind the imperative of peace and the well-being of people in the region. All must demonstrate political courage and make a political decision to expeditiously carry out all necessary and useful engagements, both bilateral and plurilateral, and to do their best to restart dialogue and negotiation for the peaceful settlement of the nuclear issue. China will continue to make unremitting efforts for this outcome.
China Central Television: In the last five years, President Xi has been fully engaged in China's foreign policy. His personal diplomacy has enhanced China's standing and international influence like never before. How do you see the role and impact of the diplomacy conducted by President Xi as head of state?
Wang Yi: Head-of-state diplomacy as the highest form of state-to-state interaction plays a pivotal role and has irreplaceable strategic value. Since 2012, President Xi Jinping has been the chief architect of China's distinctive major-country diplomacy. He was personally involved in the planning and conduct of head-of-state diplomacy, which by all accounts has been brilliant. To date, President Xi has visited 57 countries in different parts of the world and received more than 110 foreign heads of state. These important visits and meetings go a long way towards deepening the world's understanding of China, enhancing China's profile and influence, and facilitating the solution of many global problems. President Xi's leadership and charisma has earned him – and his country – many good friends among foreign leaders who represent a diverse range of cultures and social systems.
In the year ahead, President Xi will host the four diplomatic events I mentioned earlier, and he will also attend the BRICS Summit in South Africa, the APEC Economic Leaders' Meeting in Papua New Guinea and the G20 Summit in Argentina. We believe that President Xi's personal diplomacy will make a positive and responsible contribution to the well-being of his people, the interests of China and the welfare of the world. It will write a whole new chapter of major-country diplomacy with Chinese characteristics in the new era.
Bloomberg: The US says it will use all available tools to prevent China from undermining international competition. Will China respond in kind?
Wang Yi: Let me first reiterate China's policy towards the United States. China and the US are agreed that we share broad interests and important responsibilities for global peace, stability and prosperity. Our two countries are to carry out broad-based cooperation on the basis of mutual benefit, manage our differences on the basis of mutual respect, deepen mutual understanding and friendship between our people, and work together to address major regional and global challenges. We ought to work for the sustained, healthy and steady growth of our relations.
Cooperation is the main thrust of China-US relations. Our people enjoy close and extensive exchanges. According to the latest Gallup poll, more than 50 percent of Americans have a favorable view of China, the highest rate in nearly three decades. I hope people will pay more attention to such positive things. As the largest developing country and developed country, China and America working together will benefit not just our own countries, but also the whole world. If there is any competition between us, which is natural, it has to be healthy and positive. We may have competition, but we don't have to be rivals. Instead, we should strive to be partners.
China is determined to stay on the path it has chosen, and China's development and revitalization is unstoppable. This is the consensus of the international community. Some Americans allege that China will replace America's role in the world. This strategic conclusion is fundamentally wrong. China is on the path of socialism with distinctive Chinese characteristics. Its success is underpinned by its commitment to peaceful development and win-win cooperation. China's path is completely different from that of traditional powers and, as such, is commended and welcomed by a growing number of countries. The truth is, the more China develops, the more contribution it can make to the world. China is on a long march to modernization. It has no need or intention to displace America. China and America must respect each other, combine our strengths and pursue win-win cooperation on the basis of the three joint communiqués and our common understandings. China-US relations have gone through a lot in the past few decades, but dialogue and cooperation has always carried the day. It is the wise thing to do; there can be no alternative.
As for our trade frictions, history teaches that trade war is never the right solution. In a globalized world, it is particularly unhelpful, as it will harm the initiator as well as the target country. In the event of a trade war, China will make a justified and necessary response. The bottom line is, as the world's largest economies, China's and America's interests are deeply entwined. We must bear in mind not just the interests of our own people, but also the well-being of the world. When all is said and done, we hope China and America will have a calm and constructive dialogue as equals, and find a win-win solution.
China Daily: We hear a view that China has abandoned its long-standing policy of non-interference in favor of a more interventionist approach. Are we seeing a new trend in China's foreign policy?
Wang Yi: As a permanent member of the UN Security Council, China takes seriously its responsibility for maintaining international peace. Even in the 1950s, we made an important contribution to the peaceful settlement of the Indochina issue. Today, China is in a much better position to help resolve various regional and international issues. We are ready to play our part; indeed, the world expects no less from us.
In helping to settle various flashpoints, we follow a distinctly Chinese approach. There are things we will do and there are things we won't do. Put simply, our approach is at once peaceful, justifiable and constructive. First, we prefer a political settlement of disputes through dialogue and negotiation, and firmly reject the use of force. Second, we respect other countries' sovereignty and wish, and never meddle in their internal affairs. Indeed, we firmly reject imposing one's own view on others. Third, we do our best to be fair and objective and proceed from the merits of the matter. We firmly reject pursuing private ends. Our approach is rooted in traditional Chinese culture and our successful diplomatic practice. In keeping with the purposes and principles of the UN Charter, it shows the right way and provides a good example for resolving conflicts and challenges in the world.
RIA Novosti: Russia's presidential election is scheduled for 18 March. What do you think the result is going to be? How does China view the prospects of China-Russia relations?
Wang Yi: The presidential election is of vital importance to Russia and its people. We note that President Putin has overseen important strides in Russia's development and he has strong support from his people. We trust the Russian people will again make the right choice and advance steadily towards national revitalization. The Russian people are resilient, principled and resistant to pressure. Our best wishes for Russia and the Russian people!
We have great confidence in the future of China-Russia relations. Our confidence comes from the strong friendship and trust between our presidents, which is fundamental to the further growth of our relationship. It also comes from the deepening of our cooperation in so many fields, our firm support for each other's core interests, our close coordination on international affairs and the growing exchanges between our two societies. In short, the China-Russia comprehensive strategic partnership of coordination is as unshakable as a mountain. I ask you to convey this to our friends in Russia: the sky is the limit for Sino-Russian cooperation, and we must continue to make the relationship even better than it already is.
Global Times: China's influence has been on the rise across the board. The 19th Party Congress gives Chinese people greater expectations about their future. However, some in the world are again trying to paint China as a threat. How would you counter this claim?
Wang Yi: For decades, the West has made all kinds of assessments and predictions about China. To some Westerners, China is either "collapsing" or "threatening". As China continues to grow, the first theory has collapsed and become an international laughing stock. Meanwhile, proponents of the second theory have conjured up new versions, which find dwindling support because facts speak louder than words.
What are the facts? For years, China has been the leading engine of global growth. At more than 30 percent, China's annual contribution is bigger than that of America, Japan and the Eurozone combined. China accounts for more than 70 percent of poverty reduction worldwide, a miracle in human history. As the largest source of peacekeeping personnel among the permanent members of the Security Council and the second largest contributor to the UN peacekeeping budget, China is bearing a weighty responsibility for maintaining world peace. Not to mention that in the last five years, with its Belt and Road Initiative and other major proposals, China has come to the fore in championing global governance, free trade and an open global economy.
From these solid facts, those who do not have bias or practice double standards will see in China not a threat, but plenty of opportunities. It's time the "China threat theory" was laid to rest.
Kazinform: Since its launch five years ago, the Belt and Road Initiative has made a lot of progress. However, some Westerners seem to harbor doubts about its transparency and conformity with international rules. What is China's response?
Wang Yi: The Belt and Road is a transparent initiative launched by China. It follows the "golden rule" of extensive consultation, joint contribution and shared benefits. Belt and Road cooperation aims to be equal-footed, inclusive and beneficial to all. The planning and implementation of BRI projects have been discussed by the participants in the open. No country is dominating the process; all parties have an equal say. There is no back-room deal; everything is transparent. There is no "winner takes all"; every project delivers win-win results.
Last May, the representatives of more than 140 countries participated in the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation. The turnout is a clear vote of confidence from the international community. To date, more than 80 countries and international organizations have signed BRI agreements with China. A large number of BRI projects are well underway and adding needed momentum to the economic and social development of our partner countries. For example, China is building over a dozen power stations for Pakistan, the largest of which is supplying electricity to tens of millions of Pakistanis. When all of them are completed, power cuts and shortages will be a thing of the past in Pakistan. In Serbia, a Chinese enterprise bought a troubled steel mill and turned it around in less than a year, both saving more than 5,000 local jobs and helping to re-energize the city in which the steel mill is located. In Greece, a Chinese group took over the operation of its largest seaport, ramped up the container volume and put it back in the same league as Europe's largest ports. China is also partnering with France to build a nuclear power plant in the UK, a stellar example of high-tech cooperation under the BRI.
As a global public good, the BRI of course abides by international rules. As a platform for international cooperation, it naturally follows market principles. The joint communiqué of last year's forum committed to this and emphasized the importance of economic, social, fiscal and environmental sustainability of projects. We sincerely ask for ideas from all parties, so that we will together make a success of the Belt and Road Initiative. Our goal is not only to strengthen the physical connectivity of infrastructure, but also to improve the institutional connectivity of policies, rules and standards. BRI projects must be high-standard as well as results-oriented, high-quality as well as economically viable, beneficial to the world as well as to China.
Beijing TV: Premier Li Keqiang emphasized in his government work report that 2018 will kick off efforts to put the decisions of the 19th Party Congress into action. It is the 40th anniversary of reform and opening-up, and a crucial year for securing a decisive victory in establishing a moderately prosperous society in all respects and for implementing the 13th Five-Year Plan. What will the Ministry of Foreign Affairs do in 2018 to facilitate China's development goals?
Wang Yi: China still being a developing country, facilitating domestic development is part and parcel of major-country diplomacy with Chinese characteristics. Keeping in mind our new mission and what is expected of us, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs will implement the decisions of the central leadership and be more active in facilitating domestic development.
We will adapt to the new landscape of high-quality development to create a more favorable environment for external cooperation, including "bringing in" and "going global", and for domestic development.
We will tackle the new challenges presented by the evolution of the principal contradiction facing Chinese society. To tell China's stories in a more compelling way, we will both upgrade the presentation of Chinese provinces and launch a new series on the major initiatives of reform and opening-up. For example, later this year we will host an event to present the Xiongan New Area to the world. In addition, the MFA has been and will continue to be fully engaged in poverty alleviation and do its bit for winning the nationwide battle against poverty.
We will meet the new requirements and leverage our diplomatic and consular assets across the globe to facilitate the Belt and Road Initiative and protect China's overseas interests.
All in all, in advancing major-country diplomacy with Chinese characteristics in the new era, we aim to be not just the pacesetter of China's international engagement, but also a solid contributor to domestic development.
The Paper: This year marks the 15th anniversary of the strategic partnership between China and ASEAN. How will China take forward the relationship?
Wang Yi: As we celebrate the 15th anniversary, 2018 is of particular importance for the future of China-ASEAN strategic partnership.
The last 15 years have seen China-ASEAN cooperation go from strength to strength and bear rich fruits. For nine years running, China has been ASEAN's largest trading partner. Last year, our trade exceeded 500 billion dollars and two-way visits totaled 40 million, all of which brought real benefits to our combined population of nearly 2 billion. Indeed, China-ASEAN cooperation is the most successful and dynamic in the Asian-Pacific region.
In the year ahead, we will continue to give the highest priority to cooperation with ASEAN, upgrade our strategic partnership and build a more close-knit community of shared destiny. We have three priorities. First, we will work out a new blueprint of cooperation. The proposed China-ASEAN Strategic Partnership Vision 2030 will lead to better coordination between the Belt and Road Initiative and ASEAN's development plans. Second, we will foster new highlights of cooperation. Cooperation will be broadened in the political and security, economic and trade, and social and people-to-people areas, with more projects and outcomes in the pipeline. Third, we will forge new platforms of cooperation. Efforts will be made to build a Lancang-Mekong economic development belt, establish a cooperation framework with the East ASEAN Growth Area, support ASEAN community-building, and conclude the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership as soon as possible.
The Straits Times: The South China Sea is calm now, but there are still concerns over reports of China's continuing militarization of its islands in the South China Sea. Are the talks with ASEAN countries for a code of conduct likely to be completed this year?
Wang Yi: When it comes to maintaining peace and stability in the South China Sea, China's resolve is as strong as its commitment is deep. China's approach to the South China Sea issue is a responsible one that takes into account the interests of the Chinese people, the facts of history, the imperative of regional peace and the international rule of law. This position is firm and consistent.
With situation in the South China Sea turning for the better, China and ASEAN countries face a golden opportunity. We all agree to develop a code of conduct in the South China Sea to preserve its hard-won tranquility. Last week, our officials held an inaugural round of consultation on the COC text and made encouraging progress. At least three more rounds have been envisaged for the remainder of this year. China and ASEAN countries are willing and able to draft regional rules on our own, rules which will meet our region's imperatives and be adhered to by all.
There are also challenges in the South China Sea. Some outside forces are not happy with the prevailing calm and try to stir up trouble and muddle the waters. Their frequent show of force with fully-armed aircraft and naval vessels is the most destabilizing factor for peace and stability in our region.
It is useful to heed the wisdom of a Chinese verse, "Green hills cannot stop the river flowing; to the vast ocean it keeps advancing." In the year ahead, China will work with ASEAN countries to seize the opportunity, broaden cooperation, prevent interference and overcome challenges. Cherishing what we have worked so hard to achieve, China and ASEAN countries will speed up the COC consultation, actively explore a mechanism of cooperation among the coastal states, and promote peace and cooperation in the South China Sea.
China Global Television Network: In 2018, for the very first time in 12 years, the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation will once again be hosted by China. What outcome do you expect from that summit? I am also wondering how China stays true to its policy on honesty and amicability towards Africa in the new era?
Wang Yi: General Secretary Xi Jinping once made a powerful statement: "China and Africa are friends tested by adversity. Such friends must never be forgotten." So be assured: no matter how the world may change or what others may say, the profound friendship between China and Africa will remain unbreakable, and China's promise of sincerity, real results, friendship and good faith will remain true.
As Africa's brother and partner, China will always attach particular importance to the needs and interests of African countries. Africa's concerns are China's concerns, and its priorities are China's priorities. Africa faces the twin challenges of maintaining peace and security and of promoting development and revitalization. In response to its needs, China will step up mediation in regional flashpoints. China will also enhance cooperation with African countries on unconventional security threats such as terrorism, piracy and natural disaster, and help them build capacity for ensuring their own peace and security.
In our new endeavor to build a global community with a shared future, Africa is an indispensable partner. China welcomes our African brothers and sisters to continue their ride on China's fast train of development. The FOCAC summit scheduled for September will bring together Chinese and African leaders again, 12 years after their last gathering in Beijing. They will discuss China-Africa cooperation in the new era and focus on jointly advancing the Belt and Road Initiative and turning China and Africa into a community with a shared future. By aligning the Belt and Road Initiative with the UN's 2030 Agenda, the AU's Agenda 2063 and the development strategies of individual African countries, we will give wings to China-Africa cooperation to help it soar to greater heights.
Kyodo News: This year marks the 40th anniversary of the China-Japan Treaty of Peace and Friendship. Will we see an exchange of visits between Chinese and Japanese leaders? How do you see the future of China-Japan relations?
Wang Yi: In the recent period, Japan has adopted a clearer and more positive policy towards China, resulting in a precious improvement of relations. China welcomes this. If Japan does not prevaricate, flip-flop or backpedal, and instead comes to terms with China's development and welcomes it, China will be willing to act in the same spirit and work with Japan to put our relationship back on the track of healthy and steady growth.
Forty years ago, China and Japan signed the Treaty of Peace and Friendship. It codified the political principles agreed in negotiating the normalization of Sino-Japanese relations, including handling history correctly and following the one-China policy. The treaty also enshrined our joint desire to live in peace and friendship forever. As a saying goes, never forget why you started, and you can accomplish your mission. Forty years on, at another crucial juncture of history, we hope Japan will have political credibility and act accordingly to cement the political foundation of our relations and give effect to the political understanding that "China and Japan see each other as partners, not threats". I am hopeful that with the steady improvement of our relations, high-level visits will naturally come about, and peace and friendship will again be the dominant theme of China-Japan relations.
Phoenix TV: What is China's view on the "Indo-Pacific strategy" pursued by the US, Japan, India and Australia? Do you see it as an attempt to "contain" China?
Wang Yi: It seems there is never a shortage of headline-grabbing ideas. They are like the sea foam in the Pacific or Indian Ocean: they may get some attention, but soon will dissipate. Contrary to the claim made by some academics and media outlets that the "Indo-Pacific strategy" aims to contain China, the four countries' official position is that it targets no one. I hope they mean what they say and their action will match their rhetoric. Nowadays, stoking a new Cold War is out of sync with the times and inciting block confrontation will find no market.
Press Trust of India: Last year has been a very difficult one in India-China relations. How do you see India-China relations shaping up this year?
Wang Yi: Despite some tests and difficulties, the China-India relationship continues to grow. In the process, China has both upheld its legitimate rights and interests and taken care to preserve the relationship. Chinese and Indian leaders have developed a strategic vision for the future of our relations: the Chinese "dragon" and the Indian "elephant" must not fight each other, but dance with each other. In that case, one plus one will equal not only two, but also eleven.
The international situation is experiencing its biggest change in a century. More and more far-sighted people have come to realize that as the largest two developing countries become modernized – each with a population of more than one billion – China and India must do everything to empathize with and support each other and to avoid mutual suspicion and attrition. In this sense, mutual trust is the most precious commodity in China-India relations. With political trust, not even the Himalayas can stop us from strengthening friendly exchanges; without it, not even level land can bring us together. Let me put this to our Indian friends: our shared understandings far outstrip our differences and our common interests far outweigh our frictions. China is willing and ready to inherit and take forward our traditional friendship and be a friend and partner of the Indian people. I hope the two sides will be free from mental inhibitions and meet each other halfway. Let us replace suspicion with trust, manage differences through dialogue, and build a future through cooperation.
China Radio International: The 11 countries that make up the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership are expected to sign it today, and the CPTPP may take effect next year at the earliest. What is your thought on this?
Wang Yi: China is not a party to the CPTPP. However, China has been a strong advocate of trade liberalization and a key player of Asia-Pacific cooperation and economic integration. In 2014, China persuaded APEC economies to kick off in Beijing the process of establishing a Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific. China has also been working actively for the conclusion of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, a free trade pact that will cover more populations and involve more diverse economies than any similar initiative. China is positive about any open, transparent and inclusive arrangement that reinforces regional economic integration and a WTO-centered global free trade system, be it RCEP or CPTPP. We hope to see better communication, coordination and interaction between the various free trade initiatives in our region, so that they may complement one another, help resist trade protectionism and contribute to a more open global economy.
Radio France: Do you think France could give a new direction to China-EU relations?
Wang Yi: This year will mark the 15th anniversary of the China-EU comprehensive strategic partnership. The year started with President Macron paying a state visit to China and Sino-French relations in excellent shape. Then the visit of Prime Minister May kicked off efforts by China and the UK to upgrade their "Golden Era" of relations. We hope at the end of the year, China-EU relations will be as strong as we have started it. We hope France will make a substantial contribution to the furtherance of China-EU cooperation. Global governance has emerged as a new dimension of such cooperation, China and the EU have a joint responsibility to safeguard the global free trade system, and negotiation needs to be speeded up to conclude a China-EU investment agreement.
There are also some disagreements between China and the EU. But both sides have realized the need to put oneself in the other's shoes and to be more open, tolerant and understanding of each other. China has always appreciated the importance of Europe. We support European integration and have confidence in Europe's future. Given all the uncertainty around us, China is ready to partner with Europe to provide more stability and make the world a better place.
China News Service: Chinese people are speaking favorably of the consular assistance and protection they are getting, but they also expect more to be done. At the same time, there are appeals for a more rational understanding of consular service. What is your view?
Wang Yi: Consular assistance and protection seems to be a must-have question at my annual press conference. Indeed, it potentially concerns the interests and well-being of every Chinese and their family. Making a good job of it is the unshirkable responsibility of the foreign service.
Last year, as many as 130 million mainlanders traveled overseas. Given the growing magnitude of their consular needs, we adopted a people-centered approach and built a system for ensuring their safety which consists of six pillars, namely, legal provisions, institution building, risk assessment, early warning, awareness raising and emergency response. In 2017, the MFA handled more than 70,000 cases of consular assistance and protection, including evacuating Chinese tourists stranded by the erupting volcano on Bali, Indonesia and getting our nationals to safety from hurricane-ravaged Dominica. The 12308 consular hotline handled 170,000 calls, 100,000 more than in 2016. Prevention is the best protection. Last year, the MFA issued more than 1,000 travel advisories, which significantly reduced our citizens' risk exposure even before they traveled abroad.
As China develops and interacts more with the world, the social etiquette and civility of its citizens are being enhanced. Nowadays they are more inclined to protect China's reputation as well as their own rights. This new awareness has made our job easier.
In 2018, we will further improve the system for ensuring the safety of Chinese nationals abroad. Here I have three pieces of good news for you:
First, the MFA is working on draft legislation on consular protection and assistance. Public consultation will begin after the close of the NPC and CPPCC sessions. We welcome your input and suggestions.
Second, in addition to a dedicated website, the WeChat version of 12308 and the "China Consular Affairs" account on Weibo, we will soon launch the 12308 smartphone app to make consular services more accessible to the people.
Third, as from tomorrow, our diplomatic and consular missions around the world will slash consular legalization fees by as much as two-thirds. The fee reduction is expected to save Chinese citizens and businesses more than 10 million yuan every year.
TASS: What does China hope to accomplish at the Qingdao Summit it will host?
Wang Yi: The Shanghai Cooperation Organization was born in China, and the Qingdao Summit will be the first one after the SCO admitted new members. We welcome the SCO back to China and expect it to embark on a new journey in Qingdao. China looks forward to working with other members to achieve three goals at the summit:
First, making the SCO more cohesive. The Shanghai Spirit of mutual trust, mutual benefit and equal-footed consultation encapsulates the founding principle of our Organization. China will work with other members to uphold this spirit, enhance trust and solidarity, and build a more close-knit SCO community of shared future.
Second, making the SCO more effective. Our organization is driven by results-oriented, efficient and mutually beneficial cooperation. China will work with other members to promote its all-round development, including developing a five-year outline for the implementation of the Treaty on Long-term Good-neighborliness, Friendship and Cooperation, concluding or ratifying a number of resolutions or documents concerning our security, economic, environmental and cultural cooperation, and advancing Belt and Road projects in SCO member states.
Third, making the SCO more influential. Our Organization has a bounden duty to maintain peace and stability in our region and beyond. China will work with other members to help it meet international expectations, take a clearer stand on major international and regional issues, and play a more active role in regional cooperation and global economic governance.
To sum up, we will make the Qingdao Summit a new milestone in the development of the SCO and launch this new type of regional organization into a new era.
China Review News: Following the example of Gambia as well as São Tomé and Príncipe, Panama decided last year to switch diplomatic relations from Taipei to Beijing. Will Taiwan face "an avalanche of ruptured diplomatic ties", as its media have feared?
Wang Yi: There is only one China in the world and Taiwan is an inseparable part of China. This has been the consensus of the international community for decades. Adhering to the one-China principle and not having official ties with Taiwan has become a generally observed norm in international relations. It is obviously a correct choice in line with the tide of history to establish diplomatic relations and carry out regular cooperation with the government of the People's Republic of China, the sole legal representative of the whole of China. Such a choice would best serve the immediate and long-term interests of the countries and peoples in question. Of course it is the trend of the future, and no one can stop it.
The key to unlocking the cross-Straits stalemate lies in recognizing the 1992 Consensus and acknowledging that the two sides of the Taiwan Straits belong to one and the same China. The party that has locked the door must unlock it. The Taiwan authorities should return to the 1992 Consensus as soon as possible. This correct move will usher in a bright future for the peaceful development of cross-Straits relations.
Agencia EFE: The United States warned Latin American countries about the growing Chinese influence in the region. What is your response?
Wang Yi: China and Latin American countries are helping and supporting each other as fellow developing countries. Our cooperation does not target or seek to replace anyone, and China is not going to move anyone's "cheese", so to speak. China's cooperation with the region has grown rapidly because it suits its needs, improves lives there and boosts its capacity for self-driven growth. During the last five years, President Xi has visited Latin America and the Caribbean three times, taking in ten countries. Our cooperation has deepened, expanded and moved up the value chain. China has become a key trading partner for many in the hemisphere. Chinese businesses and investors have created more than 1.8 million local jobs. The Chinese saying "nothing, not even mountains or oceans, can separate those with a shared goal" aptly describes the state of our relations with Latin America and the Caribbean. The vast Pacific Ocean binds us together, making us partners in cooperation, whatever may stand between us.
Xinhua News Agency: In his report to the 19th Party Congress, General Secretary Xi called for making all-round efforts in the pursuit of major-country diplomacy with Chinese characteristics, and for building a new type of international relations and a global community with a shared future. How do you envisage China's distinctive major-country diplomacy going forward?
Wang Yi: In his report to the 19th Party Congress, General Secretary Xi Jinping emphasized that the Communist Party of China will strive for both the well-being of the Chinese people and human progress. To make new and greater contributions for humanity is our Party's abiding mission.
A committed and responsible China will adopt a more visionary foreign policy. While securing an enabling environment for its own development, China will be concerned with the welfare of humanity and partner with other countries to build a global community of shared future. Our vision is to forge a new type of international relations that features mutual respect, fairness, justice and win-win cooperation and to build an open, inclusive, clean and beautiful world that enjoys lasting peace, universal security and common prosperity.
We will have a broader mind. No matter what stage of development it reaches, China will stand for the equality of all countries, large or small, and will respect different civilizations and systems. China will put the greater good before its self-interest, and oppose the practice of the big and strong bullying the small and weak. China will stand up for small and weak countries, and help less developed countries achieve better growth.
And we will play a more active role. China will strive to meet growing international expectations and approach global governance on the basis of extensive consultation, joint contribution and shared benefits. China will be more active in helping to reform and improve the global governance system, find more constructive ways to settle regional and international issues by political means, and forge more effective partnerships to address various global challenges.
An ancient Chinese classic teaches that "when justice prevails, the world will be one community". We are determined to uphold our country's sovereignty and dignity. We are determined to be on the side of international justice and human progress. We are determined to build world peace, contribute to global prosperity and uphold the international order.
The press conference lasted two hours and was attended by nearly 600 Chinese and foreign journalists.