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Foreign Policy

Guard Against "Political Viruses"

Feb 03, 2020

Ladies and Gentlemen,


It is a unique opportunity for me to meet with so many old and new friends in San Diego.

First, I want to pay tribute to the doctors, scientists, medical personnel and all the people who are fighting the coronavirus outbreak in China. Your dedication and hard work are exemplary for all of us. You are true heroes. Although we may not be able to join you on the frontline, our hearts are with you. We are fighting together. Please take good care of yourselves. I love you all.

Prevention and control of the epidemic is the top priority for China. People's well-being always comes first. We are doing whatever we can and using whatever means we have to curb the spread of the disease and cure the people affected. There is such shared determination and unity in China from the top leadership to the grassroots, from medical professionals to average persons. I am so proud of my country and my people. China is fully confident and capable to win the battle against the disease. The Chinese nation will come out of this big challenge better and stronger.

At the same time, we know that we are doing all this not just for ourselves, but for the sake of regional and global public health and safety and in the interests of the entire international community. We are sharing information and strengthening cooperation with the WHO and other countries in an open, transparent and responsible way. Let me take this opportunity to express my heartfelt thanks to the American people and people of so many countries in the world for their valuable support to China at this special moment. A friend in need is a friend indeed.

The fight against the coronavirus outbreak shows again that we live in a shared community where all of us are interlinked and interdependent. Countries must join hands to cope with the difficulties and challenges they face. Actually, the world has seen similar situations, such as the H1N1 virus, Ebola and many other health challenges. Facts prove that no matter how difficult the case may be, as long as we all work together as members of the international community and in the spirit of solidarity, we will succeed in curbing the disease and saving lives. Here I want to quote Dr. Tedros Adhanom, the WHO Director-General, "This is the time for facts, not fear; This is the time for science, not rumors; This is the time for solidarity, not stigma." This is something that also provides food for thought for our discussions about China-US relations.

Dr. Susan Shirk suggested that we not shake hands during this forum as a way to prevent possible spread of the virus. I fully support her proposal. At the same time, I suggest that we should guard against any "political virus" that prevents China and the US from joining hands to counter their common challenges. There may be someone who try to get political and economic gains from the current situation to push for the "decoupling" of our peoples. Such an attempt goes against the spirit of humanitarianism and the common interests of our people. It should be firmly rejected by all of us.

As the most important bilateral relationship in the world, the China-US relationship is at a critical juncture. The Forum on US-China Relations hosts constructive discussions on an array of important issues about our relations, and I highly applaud your efforts.

Today's world is experiencing complex and profound changes, and this is the context that we need to bear in mind in our discussions. China, the United States and the whole world are closely connected. Losing sight of this, people will easily lose sight of the whole picture and get disoriented in their observation of world affairs.

The world is moving towards globalization and multi-polarity, slowly but steadily. The new round of scientific revolution and industrial transformation is reshaping the world. International hotspots and regional turbulences persist. As a result, the international community has to make a choice between cooperation and confrontation, between multilateralism and unilateralism and between openness and seclusion, and in this process, the world view of each and every country has been put to test.

China has made an unwavering choice: we are working to build a community with a shared future for mankind. This is at the core of China's foreign policy and has been incorporated in the Constitutions of the Communist Party of China and of the People's Republic of China. Domestically, China always takes the people's aspiration for a better life as its goal and has worked diligently to modernize its governance system and capacity. This is to make itself a better country. On the international front, China has been pursuing win-win cooperation and common development with other countries and stayed committed to improving international governance. This is to make our world a better planet.

China does not develop to challenge or displace anyone, and it has no interest in regional or global hegemony. We firmly believe that a sound and steady China-US relationship is an integral and natural part of the blueprint of a community with a shared future for mankind. Our two countries can get things done if we go for cooperation, and we will both lose to no one's benefit if we end up in confrontation.

It has been noted that China's development has caused anxiety and even panic among some Americans. Some people are trying to hype up "China threat" and "China challenges" in the political, economic, military and scientific and technological fields. I have to point out, if there is anything China has brought into question about America, it is its world view that should be reconsidered. Facing China's development, it needs to answer several fundamental questions:

First, can America live with the possibility that other countries can also thrive and even get ahead in some fields? Today, it is China doing a good job; tomorrow, perhaps some other countries will catch up. Is America prepared to switch to the mode of alarmism at every turn and stop at nothing to bring them down?

Second, will we have a more diverse and inclusive world in the 21st century, or will we witness the "End of History" and "America Only"? For China, a country that has developed on a different path from the American way, is America going to live in peace and pursue win-win cooperation with it?

Third, what will be the yardstick of America's position in the world order? Is it to be decided by how many rivals America beats in either "cold wars" or even "hot wars", or is it to be defined by the international mechanisms and initiatives America participates in, by the global governance it contributes to and by the cross-border issues it helps address?

In fact, the answers to these questions boil down to one essential subject for the Americans: whether our two countries can accommodate each other's world views; whether the world can and should become a community with a shared future. Different world views on the part of America will bring about very divergent perspectives and conclusions about China.

- If we view the world as a community with a shared future, we will realize that China-US relations are no zero-sum game, and there will be no "Thucydides trap" to speak of. The success of one country is essential to the other, and world peace and prosperity will benefit from a sound China-US relationship.

- If we view the world as a community with a shared future, we will be free from the worries of "decoupling" and trade war, and our economic complementarity will unlock enormous potential for cooperation. Both countries are top engines of global growth, and both countries will drive the reform of the international trading regime.

- If we view the world as a community with a shared future, our interactions in the Asia-Pacific, the Middle East, Africa and other regions will not be dominated by competition. Instead, we will identify shared interests and the potential for cooperation in resolving regional hotspot issues.

- If we view the world as a community with a shared future, China's Belt and Road Initiative will not be described as a "debt trap" or a "geopolitical scheme" as some people did and are still doing. Rather, it is a useful platform of cooperation for countries to promote connectivity and develop together.

- If we view the world as a community with a shared future, both China and the United States are strong pillars of the existing international system. Coordination and cooperation, not conflict or confrontation, is what we should opt for. Rather than appointing a special envoy to counter China's influence in the United Nations, it would be more sensible for the US to stop withdrawing from international organizations and agreements and play a more positive role in the international system.

- If we view the world as a community with a shared future, we should be alarmed by climate change and other pressing challenges facing the entire human society. If the United States remains preoccupied with major-power confrontation and fails to cooperate with China and the rest of the international community on these issues, we can only foresee a dim future for our shared planet.

For some time, extreme rhetoric such as "new cold war", "decoupling" and "clash of civilizations" has been swirling here in America, and it has seriously damaged China-US relations and hurt the interests of our people. To our solace, these ideas have been widely criticized and condemned. Facts have proved that the people's will is not to be defied, and any attempt to create conflict and confrontation between our two countries and estrangement and animosity between the two peoples is doomed to fail.

Two weeks ago, China and the United States signed the phase one trade agreement. It is a strong testament to the extensive and crucial common interests between us. Both countries stand to gain from cooperation and lose in confrontation. As long as our two sides follow the trend of the times and keep to the principles of mutual respect and equality, there will be no insurmountable difficulty or problem between us.

Going forward, we hope to strengthen strategic communication with the US, rebuild the strategic framework of bilateral relations, enhance strategic coordination on our world views, and build a bilateral relationship based on coordination, cooperation and stability, so that our relations will return to the right track of win-win cooperation.

Half a century ago, the elder generation of China experts, such as Professor John Fairbank and Professor A. Doak Barnett, played a critical role in the debate on America's China policy. Their voice helped break the ice between our two countries, which set us on a course of peace and prosperity in the following five decades.

At this historic juncture, the ongoing debate about China bears on the future of both countries and the whole world in the 50 years and even 100 years to come. If we fail to make a rational and correct choice as to our relations and as to world peace and prosperity, I'm afraid that one day artificial intelligence will take our place with its algorithms and make the decision for us. By that time, all of us, diplomats, professors and researchers, will lose our jobs and regret the choice we make today. Therefore, if not we, who? If not now, when?
Thank you very much.

(Above are the remarks by Chinese Ambassador to the United States Mr. Cui Tiankai at the Forum on US-China Relations held on Feb 1 in San Diego, California. The remarks first appeared on the website of the Embassy of the People's Republic of China in the United States.)

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