Cui Tiankai: China and the U.S. Need to Re-normalize their Relationship

Editorial’s Notes: The Carter Center and the Chinese People’s Association for Peace and Disarmament jointly organized a virtual dialogue to commemorate the 42nd anniversary of the normalization of U.S.-China relations. His Excellency Cui Tiankai, the longest serving Chinese Ambassador to the United States, gave a keynote speech at the webinar called “U.S.-China Engagement: Past Achievements & Future Adjustments”.

January 27, 2021

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is my great pleasure to attend the dialogue organized by the Chinese People’s Association for Peace and Disarmament and the Carter Center. As we speak, COVID-19 continues to put human society to the test, and the China-U.S. relationship has come to a new crossroads. With the upcoming Year of the Ox bringing in confidence and hope, this dialogue is highly relevant and carries special significance.

Tomorrow will be the 42nd anniversary of Mr. Deng Xiaoping’s visit to the United States. 42 years ago, Mr. Deng and President Carter made the historic decision of establishing diplomatic relations between China and the United States, and our two countries were able to break the ice of the Cold War and rise above ideological differences. Since then, our ever-deepening cooperation has delivered huge benefits to the two peoples, and contributed enormously to world peace, stability and prosperity. Facts have proved that we have made the right choice and stood on the right side of history.

However, in the past few years, some people tried to deny these basic facts. By creating rumors, stoking hatred and fanning confrontation, they attempted to hijack America’s China policy and push China-U.S. relations down the precipice of confrontation. This has seriously damaged the fundamental interests of the two peoples and is doomed to failure.

There have also been calls recently for America to adjust its strategy and build an allied and partner coalition, so as to address China’s challenge and restore balance and legitimacy in the Asia-Pacific. Such an adjustment is just like putting old wine in a new bottle. It may cause the same mistakes made in the past and create new imbalances, which will further disrupt regional order.

At this historical juncture, we are facing a consequential choice again. I agree with President Carter that China and the United States must remain closely connected, and restore trust, respect and normalcy between them. While China wishes America full success in building unity, in healing and in restoration, it is also hoped that integrity, candor, respect and vision will return to its China policy. 

In his congratulatory message to President Joe Biden, President Xi Jinping pointed out: to promote sound and steady development of China-U.S. relations not only serves the fundamental interests of the Chinese and American peoples, it also meets the expectation of the wider international community. It is hoped that the two sides will follow the spirit of no conflict, no confrontation, mutual respect and win-win cooperation, so that our two sides may focus on cooperation, manage differences, move forward China-U.S. relations in a sound and steady manner and, together with other countries and the international community, advance the noble cause of world peace and development. We hope that our two countries will work together towards this goal.

— China and the United States need mutual trust, not misjudgment.

Throughout its 100-year history, the Communist Party of China has always upheld its mission to pursue happiness for the people and rejuvenation for the nation. As China enters a new development stage, we will follow a new development philosophy and foster a new development paradigm. We are deepening reform and further opening up. We are striving to eliminate absolute poverty, protect the environment and address problems resulting from unbalanced and inadequate development. Everything we do is to meet the people’s aspiration for a better life, not to challenge or displace any country. We always believe in harmony in diversity between countries and in a community with a shared future for mankind. As President Xi Jinping said in his special address at the World Economic Forum Virtual Event of the Davos Agenda, countries need to abandon ideological prejudice and jointly follow a path of peaceful coexistence, mutual benefit and win-win cooperation. Differences in history, culture and social system do not justify antagonism or confrontation; they should motivate cooperation.

It is our firm belief that China and the United States can benefit from the prosperity and development of the other side. We may have competition, but we don’t have to be rivals. Instead, we should strive to be partners. America is a great nation, but it would have to ask itself: Can it accept the development and prosperity of another nation, whose history, culture and political system is different, and live peacefully with it?

Taking China as a strategic rival and imaginary enemy would be a huge strategic misjudgment. To develop any policy on the basis of that would only lead to grave strategic mistakes.

— China and the United States need dialogue, not confrontation.

Our two countries have not a small number of differences and disagreements. The only way out of them is candid and equal-footed dialogue on the basis of mutual respect. On specific issues, we should explore solutions acceptable to both sides on the basis of goodwill for goodwill, and good faith for good faith. Claiming that dialogue is useless is no less than advocating confrontation.

At the same time, some issues have been raised in China-U.S. relations under the banner of “values”, but in fact they all focus on China’s territory, so much so that people cannot but question the real intention behind. On issues that concern its sovereignty, reunification and territorial integrity, China will not back down, and it is hoped that the U.S. side will respect China’s core interests and refrain from crossing the red line.

— China and the United States need cooperation, not fighting.

Both China and the United States gain from cooperation and lose from confrontation. Cooperation is the only right option for the two sides. Over the past two decades, we have carried out effective coordination and cooperation in a wide range of fields, from overcoming the global financial crisis to fighting terrorism, from helping African countries combat Ebola to addressing hotspots such as the Korean Peninsula issue and the Iranian nuclear issue. It has been proved time and again that when China and the United States cooperate, we can get things done, and that is good news for both countries and the whole world.

Right now, we face the common enemy of the pandemic and an increasing threat from climate change. China sincerely welcomes America’s return to the Paris Agreement and the World Health Organization and looks forward to stronger cooperation with it in these two fields. We also urgently need to enhance macroeconomic policy coordination to fend off international economic and financial risks and inject confidence into the world economy.

— China and the United States need exchanges, not estrangement.

It is distressing to see how much damage has been done to our people-to-people exchanges. More and more Chinese students and scholars are questioning if the United States is still an ideal place for education; if academic research can survive political persecution. More and more Chinese tourists are worrying if their visa application would be rejected due to their political belief. More and more Chinese companies are wondering if the “level playing field” touted by the U.S. truly exists. 

However, nothing can sever the friendly ties between the two peoples. Over the past year, I have been much busier than before the pandemic in taking part in various kinds of online meetings and talks, and I was often overwhelmed by the passion from both countries for greater exchanges and mutual understanding. There is no place for McCarthyism in the 21st century, and no one can push the two peoples back to the era of estrangement and isolation.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

As the poem recited by National Youth Poet Laureate Amanda Gorman at the Inauguration Ceremony of President Biden goes, “The new dawn blooms as we free it. For there is always light, if only we’re brave enough to see it, if only we’re brave enough to be it.”

Let’s work together, with courage and hope, to find light, spread light, and illuminate the future for China-U.S. relations and mankind.

Thank you! I wish this online dialogue a complete success!