Stay on the Right Track and Keep Pace with the Times to Ensure the Right Direction for China-US Relations
– Remarks by State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi at the China-US Think Tanks Media Forum
Beijing, 9 July 2020
Greetings to you all.
At the outset, I would like to congratulate you on the opening of the Forum. I also wish to use this opportunity to thank and pay tribute to the people from all sectors who have long been committed to China-US relations. I want to thank Dr. Kissinger for supporting this Forum. Every time I talked with him, I was most impressed by his profound, strategic thinking on the world and on China-US relations.
Today’s Forum is highly important. As we speak, COVID-19 is raging across the globe. People’s lives are under grave threat. The world economy is in deep recession. The undercurrent against international cooperation is gathering momentum. Unilateralism and bullying are forcing their way in the world. An international disorder is more possible than ever.
More alarmingly, China-US relations, one of the most consequential bilateral relationships in the world, is faced with the most severe challenge since the establishment of diplomatic ties. Some in the US with ideological biases are resorting to all possible means to portray China as an adversary, and even an enemy. They seek relentlessly to frustrate and contain China’s development, and to impede interactions between China and the US.
Will the giant ship of China-US relations be able to stay on the right course in the future after more than four decades of voyage? The question matters not only to the interests of the Chinese and American peoples, but also to the future of the world and humanity.
How to set things right and get China-US relations back on track toward long-term, sound and steady development? I would like to offer three observations.
First, China and the US should not seek to remodel each other. Instead, they must work together to find ways to peaceful coexistence of different systems and civilizations.
Every country takes its development path on the basis of its cultural and historic traditions. China’s path of socialism with Chinese characteristics suits its own national conditions, and it is the choice of the Chinese people. Facts have proved that this has been the way out of poverty and backwardness for the 1.4 billion Chinese people, and that it has enabled the Chinese nation to make important contribution again to the progress of mankind. International public opinion surveys have indicated over and again that Chinese people’s approval ratings of the Communist Party of China (CPC) and the government rank the highest worldwide. No one has the right to rebuff the development path of other countries. And no country will remold its own system to the liking of other countries. After all, it should be the people of the country concerned to adjudicate whether their country’s choice of system and path is right or not.
One particular view has been floating around in recent years, alleging that the success of China’s path will be a blow and threat to the Western system and path. This claim is inconsistent with facts, and we do not agree with it. Aggression and expansion are never in the genes of the Chinese nation throughout its 5,000 years of history. China does not replicate any model of other countries, nor does it export its own to others. We never ask other countries to copy what we do. More than 2,500 years ago, our forefathers advocated that “All living things can grow in harmony without hurting one another, and different ways can run in parallel without interfering with one another”. This is part of the Oriental philosophy, which remains highly relevant today. The American people have long pursued equality, inclusiveness and diversity. The world should not be viewed in binary thinking, and differences in systems should not lead to a zero-sum game. China will not, and cannot, be another US. The right approach should be to respect, appreciate, learn from, and reinforce each other. In its reform and opening-up, China has learned a lot of useful experience from developed countries. Likewise, some of China’s successful experiences have also been quite relevant for some countries in tackling their current challenges. In this diverse world, China and the US, despite their different social systems, have much to offer each other and could well co-exist peacefully.
Second, China’s US policy remains unchanged. We are still willing to grow China-US relations with goodwill and sincerity.
Some friends in the US might have become suspicious or even wary of a growing China. I’d like to stress here again that China never intends to challenge or replace the US, or have full confrontation with the US. What we care most about is to improve the livelihood of our people. What we deem as the most important is to realize national renewal of the Chinese nation. And what we hope for most is to maintain peace and stability of the world. To this end, China has maintained a highly stable and consistent policy toward the US. And China stands ready to develop a China-US relationship featuring no conflict and confrontation, mutual respect and win-win cooperation based on coordination, cooperation and stability.
To achieve that goal, China and the US must work in the same direction, respect international law and international rules, and engage in equal dialogue and consultation. While the US unscrupulously encircles and smears China around the world, and meddles in China’s domestic affairs, it should not demand unrealistically that China show understanding and support to the US in bilateral and global affairs. As an independent sovereign country, China has every right to uphold its sovereignty, security and development interests, safeguard the achievements that the Chinese people have made through hard work, and reject any bullying and injustice imposed on it.
Third, it is important to have a correct view of the historical experience of China-US relations, and stay the course of dialogue and cooperation.
Some in the US have claimed that the engagement policy over the past decades has been a failure, and that the US has been ripped off in its cooperation with China. That is a comment that disrespects history and conflicts with the fact.
China and the US were allies who fought side by side during WWII. In the 1970s, the two sides reopened the door toward establishing diplomatic ties on the basis of respecting the different systems of each other. That our dialogue and cooperation have come a long way is attributable to the political wisdom and strenuous efforts by one generation after another. It reveals the inherent law of China-US relations, and also represents the trend of the times.
In the past 40 years and more since the establishment of diplomatic relations, China and the US have made the best use of their complementarity, and their interests have become highly integrated. China’s success is attributable to its opening-up to and cooperation with the US and the world. And China’s development has provided the US with sustained growth impetus and a huge market. From regional hotspots to counter-terrorism and nonproliferation, from international financial crisis to disease prevention and control, China and the US have jointly accomplished many great things to the benefit of not only the two countries but also the world.
Some say that China-US relations will not be able to return to its past. But that should not mean ignoring the history altogether and starting all over again, let alone impractical decoupling. It should mean building on past achievements and keeping pace with the times. As you may have noted, despite the impact of COVID-19, 74 percent of US businesses in China said they plan to make more investment here. Recently, 191 agricultural organizations sent a joint letter to President Donald J. Trump, calling for continued implementation of the phase one trade agreement. Many US universities have openly expressed their support for closer China-US educational exchanges. And many global leaders have called on China and the US to increase dialogue and cooperation and avoid confrontation and decoupling. These are the advice we must heed. More important, they are also the goals we must work for.
President Xi Jinping has underlined on many occasions that we have a thousand reasons to make the China-US relationship a success, and none whatsoever to wreck it. As long as both sides have the positive will to improve and grow this relationship, we will find ways to steer this relationship out of the difficulties and bring it back to the right track. To that end, I want to make three suggestions for you to discuss:
First, activate and open all the channels of dialogue. The current China policy of the US is based on ill-informed strategic miscalculation, and is fraught with emotions and whims and McCarthyist bigotry. Its suspicion about China, totally uncalled-for, has reached a point of paranoia. It seems as if every Chinese investment is politically driven, every Chinese student is a spy, and every cooperation initiative is a scheme with hidden agenda. If the US lacks confidence, openness and inclusiveness to such an extent, and chooses to conjure up “China Threats” of various kinds, its paranoia may turn into self-fulfilling prophecies at the end of the day.
Only communication can dispel falsehoods. Only dialogue can prevent miscalculation. Slandering others does not clear one’s own name, and finger-pointing cannot resolve any problems. Let me reaffirm that China’s door to dialogue remains open. As long as the US is ready, we can restore and restart the dialogue mechanisms at all levels and in all areas. All issues can be put on the table. And all differences can be addressed properly through dialogue. In the meantime, as long as the US does not set restrictions, we are also ready to promote exchanges and interactions between government departments, localities and social sectors, so as to enable the two peoples to know and understand more of each other.
Second, review and agree on the lists of interactions. Given the inter-connectedness and complexity of issues, it is useful for the two sides to sit down together, run over them, and draw up the following three lists:
The first is a list of cooperation areas. It should specify all areas, bilateral and global, where China and the US need to and can work together. The longer this list goes, the better. Cooperation on this list should be immune to the impact of other issues.
The second is a list of dialogues. It should itemize the issues of differences that could be solved through dialogues. They should be designated to the existing dialogue mechanisms and platforms as soon as possible.
The third is a list of issues that need proper management. It should identify the few tough issues that the two countries have little chance to agree on in the near future. The two sides should manage them well in the spirit of seeking common ground while putting aside differences, so as to minimize their impact on and harm to the overall China-US relations.
I encourage the think tanks of the two countries to start exploring the three lists ahead of others.
Third, focus and cooperate on COVID-19 response. Nothing is more precious than human lives. Nothing is more pressing than saving lives. We have deep sympathies for the American people for their unfortunate experiences, and have provided the US an enormous amount of badly-needed medical supplies. In the face of the virus, cooperation should be the first-order priority. China is ready to share with the US information about COVID-19 prevention and containment as well as our response experience. And we are also ready to have closer exchanges with the US on diagnostics and therapeutics, vaccines, and economic recovery.
The US, for its part, should immediately stop its acts of politicization and stigmatization. It should work with China to promote a global response to save more lives and live up to our international responsibility as two major countries.
There is an ancient Chinese axiom, which says, “Practice enriches knowledge, and more knowledge leads to better practice.”
The China-US relationship is one of the world’s most important bilateral relations. There needs to be more positive messages and energy from this relationship. I hope the US will develop more objective and cool-headed perceptions about China, and a more rational and pragmatic China policy. This is in the fundamental interests of the Chinese and American peoples. It is also what the world expects from the two countries.