Remarks by Ambassador Cui Tiankai at the 7th Annual US-China Civil Strategic Dialogue
July 10, 2017
Dear Mr. Douglas Paal,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Good morning. I want to thank The Carnegie Endowment, Tsinghua University and Peking University for inviting me.
As today’s discussion is about “a result-oriented US-China relationship”, let me start by raising a couple of questions about it and making a few points for us to further explore.
In general, we do not oppose the result-oriented notion. But do we have a clear and shared understanding of what it is really about? What should we do together to achieve positive results in the interests of our long-term relations? Are we fully aware of the risk of losing sight of the overall direction if we overemphasize specific results on specific issues?
- A good overall China-U.S. relationship should be the overarching “result”. In its absence, no desirable result can be achieved. In other words, do we have a long-term goal for the relationship as we ride the ups and downs forward?
There is an ongoing debate about whether China and the United States will be able to escape the so-called “Thucydides’s trap” or are we destined for war. According to historians, there have been 16 cases so far in history when a “rising power” encountered an “established power”. Out of the 16, 12 ended in war and conflict and only 4 had a relatively peaceful transition. Into which category will China-US relations eventually fall?
My answer is neither. War and conflict should certainly not be our option. Even a peaceful transition should not be what we really aim at. Our historical mission is not the transfer of global dominance from one power to another. Rather it should be the making of a new model of international relations where countries especially the major ones coexist peacefully on the basis of mutual respect and engage in win-win cooperation for global stability and prosperity. This should be the overarching result that the two countries have to work together to achieve, if a “result-oriented” approach is to be followed.
- Specific issues must be addressed within the context of our long-term relations and interests.
Between China and the U.S., there are so many and growing areas for cooperation, and naturally there are differences. Even in cooperation, our perspective or methodology could diverge. These differences and divergences are there and some of them are difficult to be removed overnight. It is clear that we should not allow lack of results on such partial differences negate the progress we have made in our cooperation. Neither should we let our bilateral relationship be hijacked by certain events every now and then.
- The results that we try to achieve should be mutually beneficial.
A relationship of “one side takes all” can never last long. If one side seeks certain result at the expense of the other, the result itself is not a good one. The interactions between China and the U.S. should not be a one-way traffic in which one side lists requirements and demands for the other side to fulfill, but a two-way traffic where both sides respect and accommodate the interest and concerns of each other and make efforts to expand common interest and cooperation.
Since President Trump took office, with the joint efforts of both sides, the China-US relationship has made important positive progress. The successful presidential meetings in Mar-a-lago and on the sidelines of the Hamburg G20 summit just two days ago have set the tone and charted the course for our relationship. The two sides have established four high-level dialogue mechanisms, namely, the Diplomatic and Security Dialogue, the Comprehensive Economic Dialogue, the Law-enforcement and Cyber Security Dialogue, and the Social and People-to-People Dialogue. The two sides also made and kick-started a “100 Day Plan” to promote the economic and trade relations between China and the U.S., which has produced mutually beneficial early harvest.
Yet what seem to have dominated our attention recently are US actions on the Taiwan issue and its political and military provocations in the South China Sea. Such actions run counter to the positive momentum of China-US relations that the two sides have painstakingly built so far. If this is allowed to go further, mutual trust will be seriously undermined. A spiral of provocations and retaliations would serve no one’s interest. Such a result should be firmly rejected.
President Xi Jinping said: “There are a thousand reasons for us to make China-US relationship work, but not a single reason to break it”. I hope that the U.S. side will work with us towards the same direction, and in good faith, for further development of China-US relations on the right track of mutual benefit and win-win outcomes.
As recent development on the Korean Peninsula has caught so much attention, let me briefly touch upon this difficult and complex issue.
First, China is committed to a denuclearized Korean Peninsula, and no one should deny China’s persistent efforts toward that goal. As a permanent member of the UN Security Council, China has consistently, fully and effectively implemented Security Council resolutions about the DPRK.
Recently, some media has been talking about trade growth between China and the DPRK in the first quarter of this year. This is a distorted picture. In fact, trade between China and the DPRK has been declining in 2015 and 2016. In February this year, China suspended coal import from the DPRK. As a result, import from DPRK has dropped 41% in April and 32% in May year-on-year. Furthermore, it should be pointed out that Security Council sanctions against the DPRK do not constitute an embargo. Normal trade between China and the DPRK is not banned by these sanctions. But China is firmly opposed to DPRK actions that violate Security Council resolutions, such as nuclear tests and ICBM launching. We support the Security Council in taking further actions against such violations.
Second, we should have a clear understanding of the crux of the Korean nuclear issue. It is in essence an issue of security, and the key to escape the “security dilemma” is to start with addressing legitimate security concerns of all sides. Sanctions are necessary, but sanctions only cannot solve the problem. The impact of sanctions would be maximized only when it is combined with more robust efforts for the resumption of negotiations.
Third, diplomatic negotiation is the only way out for the Korean nuclear issue. The U.S. side said its strategic patience has run out. We hope it will lead to proactive actions on the diplomatic front, not strategic impatience instead. There are now calls for military actions. China’s position on this is firm and clear. We would never allow war or chaos breaking out on the Korean peninsula. The cost would be too high for anyone, including the U.S. If we are talking about a result-oriented approach, neither the so-called “strategic patience” nor “strategic impatience” will lead to a good result.
China and the U.S. share the overall goal on the Korean nuclear issue, which is to realize denuclearization on the peninsula and maintaining peace and stability of the region. We are ready to develop even closer coordination with the U.S. side and make it a high priority. However, the THAAD deployment by the U.S. poses a serious threat to China’s strategic security. And attempts to create leverages against China on the Korean nuclear issue by challenging China on Taiwan and the South China Sea are equally destructive. Plus, the so-called “secondary sanctions” imposed by the U.S. on Chinese entities and individuals according to US domestic laws are not acceptable, either. Such actions are obstructing cooperation between China and the U.S. and lead to questions about the real intentions of the U.S. side.
The Korean nuclear issue is a historic problem of complex origins. To break the current impasse, China has proposed the “dual-track” approach and “suspension-for-suspension” proposal. This idea has gained more and more understanding and support in the international community. We hope the U.S. side can give it serious consideration. The “Four NOs and One Should” position of the U.S. is also of positive and constructive spirit. The U.S. side can make specific and pragmatic proposals based on this position and work for a positive response from the DPRK. China and the U.S. can perform different dances, but should aim at the same goal.