Cooperation Brings Benefits while Confrontations Wound – Chinese Ambassador to the U.S. Cui Tiankai on China-U.S. Relations


By staff reporter ZHOU LIN


CHINA and the United States – the former the largest developing country and the latter the biggest developed country – are both permanent members of the United Nations Security Council. They hence wield considerable global influence. The appropriate handling of bilateral relations between the world’s top two largest economies, therefore, could bring benefits both to them and to the world as a whole.



Cui Tiankai is a member of the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) and Chinese Ambassador to the United States. He gave China Today an interview on March 4 on the sidelines of China’s NPC and CPPCC, known as the “two sessions.” Cui reiterated the fundamental consensus reached by the leaders of the two nations that: “China-U.S. cooperation would be beneficial to both countries and to the world, while confrontation would be disastrous.”


Sound and Stable Relations–a Mutual Responsibility


Chinese President Xi Jinping and U.S. President Donald Trump have so far had two telephone conversations. In the latest one President Xi commended Trump for agreeing to expand China-U.S. cooperation, thus fostering constructive bilateral relations which are beneficial to them and to the international community as a whole. Trump, meanwhile, confirmed that the U.S. government coheres to the one-China policy. The two heads of state promised to maintain close ties, and both anticipate an official meeting before long.


“The two leaders reaching a consensus on establishing powerful bilateral relations which benefit the peoples of both nations and contribute to world peace and stability. It is a positive signal from the governments of China and the U.S. to the whole world,” Chinese Ambassador Cui said. “I am very glad to see the two leaders achieve such a consensus at this early stage of President Trump’s term in office,” he added.


“Non-conflict, non-confrontation, mutual respect, and win-win cooperation” – the principles of a new model of major-country relationship between China and the United States – constitute the fruits of three long conversations between Chinese President Xi and the then U.S. President Obama. The first was in 2013 at Sunnylands in Rancho Mirage, California, the second in 2014 at Zhongnanhai in Beijing, and the last one was in 2015 at the White House in Washington.


Ambassador Cui reflected on the historical events since former U.S. President Nixon’s first visit to China over 40 years ago. The two countries have since gone to great lengths to discuss and define China-U.S. bilateral relations. The international environment and national conditions of China and the U.S. have undergone profound changes – most notably the end of the Cold War, the global financial crisis, and the onset of terrorism, climate change, and frequent epidemics of communicable diseases. Yet China-U.S. relations have absorbed and overcome all difficulties and continued to advance.


Ambassador Cui believes that this is attributable to the great importance which several generations of the leaders of both countries have attached to bilateral ties, and to their consistent consensus on maintaining sound and stable relations. China’s pioneering leaders – Chairman Mao Zedong and Premier Zhou Enlai – through to the current Chinese President Xi Jinping, and successive U.S. presidents since the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and the U.S., Democrat and Republic, have indeed upheld sound and stable China-U.S. relations.


“This primarily accords with our respective interests, because sound and stable relations are of benefit to us both; meanwhile it is the global responsibility of these two major countries,” Ambassador Cui said. “It would be disastrous for the two countries and for the world as a whole if bilateral relations were to fail or be challenged by conflict or confrontation. This is something all concerned seek to avoid.”


Differences Are under Control


Ambassador Cui recalled how over the past 40 years bilateral relations have encountered multiple difficulties and challenges. How may the new model of major-country relationship between China and the United States be best defined? The principles of “non-conflict, non-confrontation, mutual respect, and win-win cooperation” have evolved into a consensus between the two countries. Years of practice stand testament to its importance to them both. “If we could insist on these principles, China-U.S. relations could not fail to maintain a sound and stable direction,” Cui said.


When talking about how to heal the South China Sea breach, Ambassador Cui observed that there are misperceptions in the U.S. and elsewhere about China’s policy and intentions in this area. What should be clarified is that the issues in the South China Sea revolve around territorial and maritime jurisdiction between China and nearby countries. Although these disputes are relatively recent and the reasons for today’s situations somewhat complicated, we now acknowledge the existence of disputes about the territorial and maritime jurisdiction of this region.


However, China and ASEAN countries have reached a Code of Conduct (COC) in the South China Sea which clearly states that the disputes must be resolved directly among the relevant claimant states, and through peaceful and friendly negotiation rather than conflict or confrontation. This has been the desired direction and purpose of great efforts on our part for decades. 


“In that sense, since the U.S. has no territorial claim in this region, the South China Sea was not originally an issue between China and the United States.” Ambassador Cui concluded, therefore, that the South China Sea should not be a problem between China and the U.S.


As to the malicious speculations of a handful of people, Ambassador Cui’s advice to them is not to allow a territorial dispute in a specific region snowball into the completely different ambit of global strategic competition between China and the U.S. “As long as there are no misinterpretations or miscalculations, our differences remain under control.”


“The concept of freedom of navigation is frequently used to justify U.S. actions in the South China Sea. China is greatly concerned about freedom and safety of navigation, because China’s outbound economy is its lifeblood,” Ambassador Cui said. “China is now a major trading nation, and most of its cargoes sail on the South China Sea. A peaceful and stable environment and freedom of navigation, therefore, accord with China’s interests, and remain our stance on the matter,” Cui said.


“Make America Great Again” Compatible with the “Chinese Dream”


The year 2017 brings new opportunities for China- U.S. relations, but also some uncertainties. The new United States administration has only recently taken office, and the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China will convene this fall. Both countries thus bear the great burden of national development, and also face certain challenges.


“The people’s wish for a good life shows us the direction of our endeavors.” It was this statement, at the press conference after the first Plenary Session of the 18th CPC National Congress in 2012, by General Secretary of the CPC Central Committee Xi Jinping that most impressed Ambassador Cui.


At the 18th National Congress the CPC issued a call for achieving the Two Centennial Goals: building a moderately well-off society and accelerating socialist modernization. “China has arrived at the decisive stage of realizing its first Centennial Goal. Our current efforts will determine whether that goal can be achieved on time, and to a large extent the process of the second Centennial Goal. There is no doubt that China faces a major opportunity but also various challenges,” Ambassador Cui said. 


Ambassador Cui believes that the primary and fundamental challenges to all nations of the world, namely, ensuring the quality of the country’s governance, the healthy development of its economy, the stability of its society, and the happiness of its people, are rooted in their civil society. “The Chinese government and its ruling party have always regarded the people’s well-being as a core value and main interest,” Cui said.


Ambassador Cui observed that the American people have also made their demands for a better life, and are desperately appealing to their government for a response. The primary task of the Chinese and American governments, as well as those of other nations of the world, therefore, is without doubt to fulfill the demands of the people and make their lives better.


If the two countries could cooperate, it would surely contribute to the realization of their respective domestic goals. If not, chaos could ensue in the world which would exert negative impact on both nations’ development goals.


Against the backdrop of globalization, each nation is connected. No one could singly seek development while others wallow in depression and chaos. Achieving rejuvenation is the dream of the Chinese people, while making America great again is the dream of the American people. They should join hands in seeking win-win cooperation and so realize one another’s dreams.