Miao Wei, Vice Chairman of the Committee on Economic Affairs of the 13th CPPCC National Committee.
This meeting comes just one week after the inauguration of President Biden, and this demonstrates the eagerness of all social sectors in China and the United States to improve bilateral relations. The theme of the panel discussion is “China-U.S. Relations: The Way Forward.” Now I’d like to talk you through the following three points:
First, China-U.S. relations have reached their lowest point since the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries, and it is imperative that both sides take decisive measures to prevent further deterioration.
In the past few years, the China-U.S. relationship entered a difficult period and was in a downward spiral. As it continued to worsen, the relationship reached its lowest point. The turbulence in the relationship as well as its decline has been a major hindrance to the two-way flow of people and caused more obstacles to business and technological cooperation, resulting in heavy losses on the part of both countries.
After the ups and downs in the past few years, many have realized that the China-U.S. relationship is the most consequential relationship between the world’s major countries, and that both countries stand to gain from cooperation and stand to lose from confrontation. They hope that the new U.S. administration under President Biden will work together with China to stabilize their relations.
Second, China and the United States need to build a multi-level dialogue mechanism to increase communication and rebuild mutual trust.
China and the United States have the largest economies in the world, and they have significantly different historical and cultural backgrounds, social systems, ideologies and development models. As a result, differences are inevitable in their interactions. But as an old Chinese saying goes, “A gentleman seeks harmony but not uniformity.” It means that both sides can work together in spite of their different viewpoints.
Here is an example. Under President Obama, the two countries engaged in active cooperation at the Nuclear Security Summit, and China’s National Atomic Energy Authority and the U.S. Department of Energy jointly established the Nuclear Security Center, building a model of cooperation on nuclear security for the world. The facts show that the two countries can engage in intense cooperation based on their shared interests.
Similarly, there are examples that illustrate the lose-lose nature of confrontation. In 2012, the United States imposed heavy anti-dumping and countervailing duties on Chinese photovoltaic products, and repeated the tactic in 2014. For the United States, the duties could help protect the interests of domestic companies. In 2019, however, imported PV modules accounted for more than 90 percent of its domestic market. In other words, the duties and similar trade restrictions failed boost the competitiveness of the U.S. photovoltaic manufacturing industry. If the two countries had leveraged their comparative advantages and engaged in cooperation instead of rivalry, in the United States the costs of PV modules would have been significantly reduced and the transition toward green energy would have been accelerated. In addition, greater business opportunities and jobs would have been created for upstream and downstream sectors in the country.
At present, both China and the United States have some major concerns, with tremendous differences on certain issues, but these differences shouldn’t be allowed to define their relationship. It is advisable to find more common understanding and opportunities and space for cooperation. To this end, they need to strengthen dialogues and exchanges while stabilizing their relationship. It is also necessary to include the voices of all stakeholders, establish a multilevel dialogue mechanism and, in the spirt of mutual respect and win-win cooperation, engage in candid in-depth dialogues. That is how they can rebuild and expand mutual trust, effectively manage their differences and identify opportunities for cooperation.
Third, China and the United States need to find areas of convergence of their interests and promote pragmatic cooperation by seeking the low-hanging fruit before cracking tougher problems as they seek to produce win-win results and ultimately a win for all.
While Chinese and U.S. companies compete against each other, they have to more to offer each other. The two countries need to find areas of convergence of their interests, and start to work together in areas that are not in dispute. While delivering tangible benefits to the people and the business community in both countries, practical cooperation can pave the way for greater stability and development of bilateral relations.
Now I want to say a few words on climate change. Climate change is one of the issues over which the United States and China are not in dispute. They are the largest developed country and the largest developing country, respectively — and the world’s largest carbon emitters as well. Therefore, both countries have an important responsibility in the global response to climate change.
On Dec. 12, Chinese President Xi Jinping announced at the Climate Ambition Summit that China will adopt stronger policies and measures to reach peak carbon dioxide emissions by 2030 and achieve carbon neutrality by 2060. On Jan 20, U.S. President Biden announced that the United States will return to the Paris agreement. The statements made by the leaders on the issue of climate change are quite encouraging. They not only demonstrate the solidarity of the international community in addressing climate change but also underscore the possibility that China and the United States can reach consensus and cooperate on many global issues, including climate change.
Addressing climate change is a systematic undertaking that promises to bring many business opportunities and technological advances. Given the huge market demand in China and advanced technology in the U.S., the two countries are well positioned to cooperate in many areas, including the development of clean energy, promotion of electric vehicles, research and development of fuel cells, production of green hydrogen and technology research for energy storage and carbon capture. They can harness their respective expertise for complementary cooperation. In doing so, they can promote new industries and sustain economic growth while contributing to the green and low-carbon development of both countries and the world at large.
As we know, President Biden has appointed Mr. John Kerry, former secretary of state, as special presidential envoy for climate, and we stand ready to reach out to him to discuss cooperation opportunities.