The Trend Toward China-US Cooperation Is Unstoppable
– Remarks by Vice Foreign Minister Le Yucheng at the Video Dialogue on Sino-US Relations Co-hosted by the Chinese People’s Institute of Foreign Affairs and the Asia Society
8 July 2020
Prime Minister Kevin Rudd,
President Wang Chao,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am delighted to join you today for this Dialogue on Sino-US Relations. While the ongoing COVID-19 has made it a luxury to meet in person, it is good to see my friends, both old and new, virtually. I very much look forward to your valuable insights.
Recently, I have attended quite a number of seminars, all of which have China-US relations as a fixture topic. In the face of the once-in-a-century changes, a pandemic never seen before, and constantly emerging new threats and challenges, the world is looking to China and the United States to provide answers to these crises through close cooperation and active interaction. But in reality, the US is getting more and more obsessed with “strategic competition”, “decoupling” and a “new cold war” with China, worsening the whole situation even further.
As a result, the China-US relationship has found itself to stand at a crossroads, with a historic choice about its future hanging in the air. Where will China-US relations be heading? President Abraham Lincoln once said, the best way to predict the future is to create it. The future of China-US relations will be shaped by every assessment and every decision to be made today. It is a responsibility and mission that falls on each and every one of us. In this context, I’d like to share with you some of my observations:
1. While China-US relations cannot return to its past, its achievements in the old days should not be dismissed. China-US relations has come this far because of the wisdom and efforts of the leaders of the two countries as well as the successive US administrations, both Democratic and Republican. The foundation of the relationship is built with generations of hard work, including the dedication and contributions from all of you.
This relationship has delivered enormous, tangible benefits to both peoples. The past 40-plus years have witnessed a more than 250-fold increase in bilateral trade. As a major market for US exports, China has supported around 2.6 million American jobs. A total of 72,500 US companies have investments in China, and the overwhelming majority of them have made a fortune. Needless to mention the critical role of China-US relations in tackling global challenges and promoting peace and development in the Asia-Pacific and beyond.
All things considered, it couldn’t be farther away from facts to negate the merits of China-US relations in the past four decades, and say the “engagement policy” has failed, and that the US has been ripped off.
2. Competition between China and the US shouldn’t be a “zero-sum game”. It is dangerous for the US to leverage so-called “proportional costs” to attack China. In rhetoric, the US is talking about market spirit and fair competition. In action, it just moves in the opposite direction – it does not allow anyone to be better or more competitive than itself.
With its rapid development, China has offered so much to the world: contributing to over 30% of global economic growth for years in running, and over 70% to global poverty reduction. Never ever has China exported refugees or wars.
For such a country that has done nothing but good deeds, the US has chosen to turn a blind eye and go after it by all means, and even threatened to plunge China all the way back to what it was like forty years ago. What malevolent intention! When faced with competition from prominent, private Chinese companies such as Huawei, instead of winning fair and square with better products, the US has stopped at nothing to bring Huawei down, using “national security” as an excuse.
Even in such areas as people-to-people and cultural exchanges, the US is getting more and more hysteric. It has chosen to put scholars under surveillance, expel journalists, arrest students, and shut down Confucius Institutes. Many Chinese scholars and students say that going to the US is a very risky adventure – you could be searched at the customs, interrogated, and even arbitrarily detained by the FBI. It is quite nerve-wracking. Even some US professors lost their jobs and were arrested for nothing but normal academic exchanges with China.
All this makes people wonder: is McCarthyism back in the US?! The China-US relationship is so vital for the future of China, the United States, and the world. It must not be hijacked by McCarthyism fanatics, or be dragged into a cul-de-sac.
3. The real enemy of the US is not China. It is the invisible virus and growing non-traditional security threats. Twenty years into this century, the world has seen multiple global crises, with wide and far-reaching impacts on the US and others. None of them were caused by traditional great power confrontation or geopolitical conflicts, but terrorism, financial risks, viruses, etc.
In the face of an epidemic unseen in a century, what most countries need most at this point is N95 masks, not F-35 fighters. It breaks our heart that over 130,000 Americans lost their lives to COVID-19. In the face of this raging virus, China is also a victim, and is fighting it with enormous sacrifices and at great cost. Scapegoating China by the US is unfair and morally wrong, and it doesn’t solve any problem.
Virus respects no borders, or favors anyone. It is a common enemy for all. The US should not treat a partner as an adversary, nor should it take a beggar-thy-neighbor approach, because doing so will only wear each other out. What the US should do is to work with China and the rest of the world to fight COVID-19 and come through it together.
4. Decoupling is impractical and benefits no one. In today’s world, globalization is the order of life. Countries are inter-connected in every aspect as deeply as possible. Like it or not, the tide cannot be reversed.
Although the flow of people between China and the US has paused due to COVID-19, the flow of goods has bucked the trend and continued to grow. In April, bilateral trade rose to US$41.2 billion, again making China the largest trading partner of the US. And the figure continued to grow in May to US$46.5 billion.
US businesses are still most interested in the huge market of China. A recent survey by the American Chamber of Commerce in China (AmCham China) suggests that 84% of US companies operating in China don’t want to leave, and 38% of them plan to maintain or increase their investment. Since the beginning of this year, ExxonMobil, Honeywell, Tesla, Walmart and other US companies have been expanding their investment and operation in China.
Going forward, there are many more opportunities for China-US cooperation in ICT, artificial intelligence, online education and telemedicine. Why would anyone want to cut off the cooperation that has been benefiting both sides? And why would they want to promote the so-called decoupling?
Recently, 160 US companies sent a co-signed letter to Congress urging the lifting of tariffs on China. The tariffs, they say, cost Americans US$50 billion more in duties in 2019 and raised average household expenditure by US$1,277. The trade war has wiped out US$1.7 trillion of the market value of listed American firms. This is just one simple example of the consequences of decoupling.
So I’d like to stress again that China will remain firmly committed to opening up wider to the outside world, and the door to cooperation will remain open to all countries, including the US.
5. Neither China nor the US can mold the other in one’s own image, and China-US relations should not be driven by ideologies.
The CPC is China’s governing party. This is the choice of history and the people, a choice firmly supported by the 1.4 billion Chinese people. No attempt to sever the close ties between the CPC and the Chinese people will ever succeed. During the past several decades, it is under CPC’s leadership that China has achieved rapid economic growth and enduring social stability, something often referred to as the “twin miracles”. It is the foreign policy and US policy pursued by the CPC that have led to the tremendous and incredible success in China-US cooperation. What, if I may ask, has the CPC done wrong in all this? Why are some senior US officials so hostile toward the CPC and so vicious in their verbal attacks?
I also find it hard to understand: why does the US always seek to change the other country in state-to-state relations? Why does it try to impose its own ideology on others? What is the point of stopping a country from pursuing its development path that has proved successful? “There are essential differences between China and the United States in their social systems.” Those are the exact words in the Shanghai Joint Communiqué. These differences did not prevent the two countries from establishing and growing bilateral ties 48 years ago. Today, they certainly should not be an obstacle to China-US cooperation and a future-oriented relationship.
China has all along followed the principle of non-interference in others’ internal affairs. We have no intention to meddle with US elections. Yet some in the US are resorting to all possible means to drag China into US election politics. They play the “China card”. They use China as a handy scapegoat for every problem they have. And then they accuse China of meddling with US internal affairs and swaying its elections. That is so unfair for China.
6. Forming an anti-China bloc is to divide the global village. It runs completely counter to the trend of the times. We live in a globalized world, which calls for multilateralism and global cooperation. In a world where national interests are interconnected, any attempt to exclude China, create “parallel systems”, or break the world into two markets and industrial chains is to turn back the wheel of history. To build a bloc against China and force other countries to take sides will not win hearts and minds. Many countries resent being put in such a position.
China pursues friendship with all countries around the world. We hope to boost connectivity through the Belt and Road Initiative. We put ourselves on an equal footing with all countries, and we are committed to developing friendship and cooperation. China will not be isolated. It is impossible to exclude a market of 1.4 billion people. The attempt to form blocs and split the world in this increasingly networked and digital age is just preposterous. It is doomed to fail.
7. It is important to have correct perceptions of the international role of China. Anyone without bias can see that China is a force for stability in a volatile world. It brings certainty to a rapidly-changing world and positive energy to global governance.
In the wake of COVID-19, China has launched the largest global emergency humanitarian operation in history. It has provided assistance to 150 countries and four international organizations, and shared containment experience with the world through video conferencing and sending medical expert teams. China has pledged to provide US$2 billion over two years to help with global COVID-19 response, and make its COVID-19 vaccine research and development a global public good. China will work with other G20 members to implement the Debt Service Suspension Initiative and give Africa greater support in containing the virus. China has provided over 70 billion masks to the world, including more than 60 masks on average for every American.
China’s assistance and support to other countries serves no selfish interests, and has no strings attached. China is by no means seeking geopolitical influence or predominance. What we hope to do, given our success in containing the virus inside China, is to provide more public goods to the international community in a time of crisis and step up to our responsibility as a major country.
8. China and the US must manage differences through dialogue and cooperation, and seek to accommodate each other’s core interests and concerns. I noticed that the recent China-US high-level internal dialogue in Hawaii has received a lot of attention in our respective countries and the world. This means that between China and the US, two major countries with special global responsibilities, the more difficulties and tensions there are, the more imperative it is to talk to each other and build trust. Megaphone diplomacy does not solve problems, and may even turn a small issue into a crisis. The existing communication and dialogue mechanisms should not be abandoned. New ways and channels of dialogue are also needed. We should cooperate wherever and whenever possible, and manage, to the best of our ability, differences that persist. There also need to be mechanisms in place for early warning, emergency response and consultations if problems occur to ensure that the relationship does not derail or spin out of control.
Issues related to Taiwan, Hong Kong, Xinjiang and Tibet touch on China’s sovereignty and security. There is no room for foreign interference on those issues. We firmly oppose the groundless US accusations and so-called sanctions against China for our legislation safeguarding national security in Hong Kong.
Clearly, national security legislation is a way of exercising sovereignty. It is a common international practice. The US has as many as 20 national security laws. Its legal system on national security is being constantly strengthened. Why can’t China do the same?
The legislation is designed to hold accountable a very small number of criminals who put national security in serious jeopardy. It does not affect Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy, the rights and freedoms of Hong Kong residents, or the legitimate rights and interests of foreign investors in Hong Kong. I am fully confident that the national security law will only bring about a more stable, prosperous and attractive Hong Kong. Hong Kong is poised to embrace a better future.
I am optimistic about the future of China-US relations. Although the relationship is overcast by dark clouds, the sky will not fall, and the sun will eventually shine again. Likewise, nothing can stop the general trend of China-US cooperation forever.
China remains committed to the principle of no-conflict and no-confrontation, mutual respect and win-win cooperation. China stands ready to work with the US to advance China-US relations based on coordination, cooperation and stability. I believe that the two peoples have the will and wisdom to find the way for the two major countries with different social systems and cultural backgrounds to live together on this planet in peace and to cooperate with each other for win-win results.