Senior Chinese diplomat acknowledges the challenge of the corona virus and strikes “overreaction”

By Alessandra Galloni and Ryan Woo

BERLIN (Reuters) – A senior Chinese official admitted on Friday that the new corona virus was a major challenge for the country, but defended Beijing’s management of the epidemic while addressing the “overreaction” of other countries.

In a comprehensive interview with Reuters in the German capital, State Councilor Wang Yi, who also serves as the Chinese foreign minister, urged the United States not to take unnecessary anti-virus measures that could hamper trade, travel, and tourism.

“The epidemic is under control overall,” he said. “This epidemic is really sudden. It has presented China and the world with a challenge.”

“We have made such extensive prevention and control efforts that I am unable to see any other country that can,” said Wang, adding that any leader in another country would find the challenge very difficult.

“But China did it.”

The virus, which stems from a disruptive trade war between the United States and China, has once again exposed the underlying tensions on several fronts between the two largest economies in the world.

It has also been one of the greatest challenges for President Xi Jinping since taking power in 2013.

During the 90-minute interview on subjects such as coronavirus, Hong Kong and the Middle East, Wang Washington repeatedly blamed it.

Beijing in particular has criticized the United States for taking drastic measures against the corona virus, including travel restrictions for visitors from China. The United States was the first to announce that it would evacuate citizens from Wuhan, the city at the epicenter of the virus outbreak.

“Some countries have stepped up measures, including quarantine measures that are reasonable and understandable, but for some countries they overreacted, causing unnecessary panic,” he said.

“I am sure that these countries will think about it as the situation develops and the epidemic is gradually brought under control,” he said. “They will gradually lift such restrictions, because ultimately these countries have to interact with China.”

Wang rejected the idea that China was not transparent enough when it initially treated the outbreak. High-ranking officials from the Communist Party in Wuhan and Hubei Province, where the city is located, were released this week.

“We have been very open and transparent in sharing information with the international community about these efforts from the start,” he said, noting that less than 1% of global cases were reported outside of China.

The corona virus infected nearly 64,000 people in China and killed more than 1,300 people.

“We are not only defending the lives, security and health of Chinese citizens, we are also contributing to global public health and that should be recognized,” he said.

Beijing has urged countries to relax travel restrictions and resume flights after numerous airlines discontinued flights to China.

“Only under the leadership of President Xi can we control this sudden epidemic that has spread so quickly. This will not only defend the health of the Chinese people, but will also prevent the rapid spread of this epidemic around the world,” he said said.

“We have taken the most correct, rigorous, and decisive measures to combat the epidemic. Many measures went beyond international health regulations and WHO recommendations,” said Wang.

“IMMORAL” TREATMENT BY HUAWEI

In the wide-ranging interview, Wang said he doesn’t understand why the United States is using its power and trying to get its allies to attack a private company like the Chinese Huawei.

On Thursday, U.S. prosecutors accused Huawei of stealing business secrets and helping Iran track down protesters in its recent lawsuit against the Chinese company, which escalated the U.S. battle against the world’s largest telecommunications equipment manufacturer.

The United States has launched a campaign against Huawei that it has warned could spy on customers for Beijing. Washington has blacklisted the company last year citing national security concerns.

“We don’t know why this superpower country is using its state power and persuading its allies to attack Huawei, a private company,” said Wang.

“Why can’t a Chinese company be successful on its own? Why can’t America accept that companies from other countries can also show their talent in business and technology?” he said.

“Maybe it doesn’t hope that other countries will develop. It doesn’t want other countries to become big and strong. It even uses rumors to defame other countries’ companies,” he said.

He called US attacks on Huawei “immoral”.

PHASE 1 TRADE DEAL INTACT

Wang also said he saw no need to re-examine what was agreed in the Phase 1 trade agreement with Washington after questions were raised as to whether China would be able to meet its commitments due to the Corona Virus’s large purchases outbreak of US goods.

“If we implement the phase 1 trade agreement, we will gain experience and then consider when to start phase 2. I think this is a sensible approach,” he said.

Still, he condemned US restrictions on passenger traffic between the two countries.

“Objectively, this will create some difficulties in implementing this agreement,” he said.

Wang noted that US President Donald Trump has praised Xi’s leadership in China’s fight against the virus, and that his government is willing to spend up to $ 100 million to support China and other coronavirus-affected countries.

(Reporting by Alessandra Galloni and Ryan Woo; additional writing by Huizhong Wu and Lusha Zhang in Beijing; editing by Tony Munroe and Alistair Bell)

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