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On the Theme of China-US Relations in the New Era
2011-01-15 10:55

Address by Vice Foreign Minister Cui Tiankai

At the Second Lanting Forum

14 January 2011


Friends from academic and business communities and the media,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Good afternoon. It is a great pleasure to be invited to the Lanting Forum and have an exchange with you on China-US relations in the new era.

In a few days' time, President Hu Jintao will pay a state visit to the United States at the invitation of President Barack Obama. The two sides are now making final preparations for the visit. The year 2011 marks the beginning of China's 12th Five-Year Plan period. President Hu's visit to the United States will kick off China's diplomatic agenda for the whole year.

At this point in time, friends familiar with the history of China-US relations will come to realize that this year also marks the 40th anniversary of the famous "ping-pong diplomacy". You may also recall Deng Xiaoping's historic visit to the United States in January 1979, less than a month after China and the United States established diplomatic ties and at a critical juncture when China had just made the decision to introduce the reform and opening-up policy. You may further recall President Jiang Zemin's state visit to the United States in 1997, which took a sound China-US relationship into the 21st century. As you may know, President Hu's upcoming visit will be his second visit to the United States as China's head of state. Naturally you may be interested in what impact his visit will have on China-US relations.

On the second day of this year, Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi left for the United States to discuss China-US relations and especially President Hu's forthcoming visit. When President Obama met with Minister Yang at the White House, he noted that President Hu's visit to the United States at the start of the second decade of the 21st century has both good timing and great significance and that he is looking forward to the visit. My Chinese and American colleagues at the meeting and I myself all had the same expectations that President Hu's visit will open a new chapter in the win-win cooperation between China and the United States and bring new hope and opportunities to the people of our two countries.

Having said that, we are also aware of certain doubts in the minds of some people on both sides and even in some other countries. When President Obama visited China in November 2009, the world was riveted by our two countries' renewed commitment to building a positive, cooperative and comprehensive China-US relationship for the 21st century. But in the year that followed, it seemed that what caught people's eyes was, more often than not, the "bad news" in our bilateral ties. This gives rise to the question: Can the ship of China-US relations stay on the course of cooperation and sail through the storms toward a brighter future?

To this question, our answer should be an unequivocal and emphatic "yes". China and the United States have no other alternative but cooperation. Closer cooperation will be win-win for both countries and the world at large. Closer cooperation should become the theme of our relations in the new era. I am saying this because of the following:

First, the historical trend of China-US cooperation is irreversible.

A review of our diplomatic relations over the past 30 years and more shows that:

China and the United States have increasingly closer exchanges and our relationship is striking a more positive tone. Politically, we are no longer antagonistic towards each other. On the contrary, we are vigorously pursuing strategic cooperation. Economically, we are no longer cut off from each other. Rather, we have become each other's second largest trading partner. On the military front, we are no longer adversaries on the battlefield. Instead, the two militaries are now engaged in practical exchanges in many fields. The recent successful visit to China by Secretary Gates gave a boost to the military-to-military relationship between the two countries.

China and the United States share a growing desire to move beyond our differences and learn from each other. The two sides have signed dozens of cooperation agreements in political, economic, trade, agriculture, scientific, technological and many other fields. Every year, hundreds of official delegations at various levels are sent to each other's countries for mutual visits. Every year, some 100,000 Chinese and American students go to study in each other's countries, showing a clearer pattern of two-way traffic. The United States are steadily implementing its initiative to send 100,000 students to China in four years. China also plans to send 10,000 students to study in the United States as PhD candidates on government scholarships in the coming four years.

China and the United States enjoy expanding channels of exchanges and cooperation. Over 60 cooperation mechanisms have been put in place involving various government departments, legislatures and political party leaderships. The thriving local and people-to-people exchanges lend increasing impetus to our bilateral relations. There are now 36 pairs of sister provinces and states and 161 pairs of sister cities between China and the United States. It is a fashion for Chinese tourists to visit the United States and vice versa. Over three million tourists travel between the two countries every year.

Second, the pace of China-US cooperation is unstoppable.

China-US relations had a swift, smooth transition after President Obama took office, something unprecedented since the end of the Cold War. Over the past two years, our two presidents have had seven meetings, and our heads of government and speakers of parliament have had successful meetings or mutual visits. In sum, high-level bilateral exchanges are more intensive, wide-ranging and in-depth than any time in history.

Building on the Strategic Dialogue and the Strategic Economic Dialogue we had, our two countries have established a higher-level mechanism, namely the Strategic and Economic Dialogues, which has held two successful meetings. Chaired by the Special Representatives of our two presidents, the in-depth dialogues brought together over 40 heads of departments from our two governments, who gathered to discuss a broad range of issues in our bilateral relations as well as regional and global affairs. Dialogue of this kind is unprecedented in the history of China-US relations and is seldom seen between any other two countries of the world. The size of our bilateral economic cooperation and trade has far exceeded the pre-crisis level. Our trade in 2010 is likely to top 380 billion US dollars well on a steady course toward 400 billion dollars. Our exchanges and cooperation in a host of other areas are also advancing and expanding with a positive momentum.

Third, China-US cooperation and the rejuvenation of the Asia-Pacific region are complementary to each other.

You all know about two interconnected, major events in the world in the late 1970s: the start of reform and opening-up in China and the normalization of China-US relations. In the subsequent three decades and more, the entire Asia-Pacific region has seen general stability and rapid development.

Thanks to the joint actions of China, the United States and other regional countries, some protracted hot-spot issues in the Asia-Pacific region have either been appropriately addressed or cooled down. These developments have provided an enabling environment for countries to devote themselves to economic growth and enhanced cooperation.

China and the United States are the two largest economies in the world and we have increasingly become the main engines of growth in the region. For many years now, China has been Asia's largest import market and the number one trading partner of major countries in East Asia, Northeast Asia and South Asia. Meanwhile, US annual trade with Asia-Pacific countries has gone beyond one trillion dollars.

China and the United States are conducting consultations and exchanges on a number of regional issues, including counter-terrorism, non-proliferation, combating transnational crimes, and disaster prevention and mitigation. This is having a positive impact on peace, stability and prosperity in the region.

China and the United States are also coordinating and working together to advance Asia-Pacific regional integration. The two sides both support efforts to build an open, inclusive and win-win regional framework. We both place high importance on and are actively involved in the activities of regional mechanisms, including APEC, the ASEAN Regional Forum and the East Asia Summit. Together, we have contributed positively to the steady rise of the strategic standing of the Asia-Pacific region as a whole.

China-US interactions and enduring stability and prosperity in the Asia-Pacific region form a virtuous cycle. The Asia-Pacific region is in an important period of steady rise. Countries in the region all hope to see China and the United States working together and strengthening their cooperation, and all want to share the dividends of China-US cooperation.

Fourth, there are high expectations on the prospect of China and the United States working together to address global challenges.

We are both major countries with important influence in world affairs. Our two countries have carried out effective consultation and coordination and shoulder important common responsibilities in handling regional hotspots and conflicts, opposing terrorism, safeguarding the international nuclear non-proliferation regime and responding to major global issues.

After the outbreak of the international financial crisis, China and the United States worked in concert and made important contributions to helping the Asia-Pacific region and the world move out of the crisis. Our active coordination played a big part in ensuring the success of the Copenhagen and Cancun climate conferences. We also have a shared desire to maintain peace and stability and achieve denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. To bring about an early turnaround of the situation on the Korean Peninsula, it is very important that we continue our communications and consultations with the relevant parties to reduce tension and promote dialogue.

Today, the trends toward a multi-polar world and economic globalization are gaining momentum. The world is shrinking into a global village, countries are becoming increasingly interdependent, and the development issue is ever more pronounced. In such a new environment, no country can meet emerging global challenges alone in the absence of effective international cooperation.

In this context, the strategic significance and global impact of China-US relations are on the rise. A growing number of global issues require China-US cooperation. China has never agreed to the notion of G2, but China-US cooperation is indeed indispensible to the solution of many global issues. The world looks to China and the United States to join hands and make more contribution to world peace and common development.

What must be pointed out, however, is that over the past three decades and more, China-US relations have never been plain sailing. Our relationship has, in its course of development, gone through twists and turns and run into quite a few difficulties and obstacles. Some of the issues between China and the United States have been there for a long time and are of great importance. The most important and most sensitive of these is the Taiwan issue, an issue that concerns China's core interests of sovereignty and territorial integrity as well as the political foundation of China-US relations. If the Taiwan issue is handled well, China-US relations will develop in a smooth way. Otherwise, the relationship will suffer interference and setbacks. This has been borne out time and again by the history of the last 30-plus years. There are also structural issues between China and the United States that are a result of our different social systems, historical and cultural backgrounds and development levels. We also have disagreements over specific issues due to diverging interests in certain areas or lack of effective communication and coordination. All these issues and disagreements need to be appropriately managed so as to maintain the sustained, sound and steady development of China-US relations.

These issues and differences make it all the more important for China and the United States to engage in dialogue and cooperation. Only through cooperation can we maintain and expand the positive areas of bilateral relations and manage and reduce the negative factors. Only through cooperation can we ensure that the mainstream of our relations is always aligned with the long-term interests of our two countries. This will be a future of win-win cooperation. The opposite would be a situation of lose-lose confrontation.

Therefore, both China and the United States need to remember the basic experience we have gained in developing bilateral relations and abandon the outdated mindset. Bearing in mind what is required now to move forward China-US relations, there are several points that deserve our serious consideration.

Point one, equality and respect determines how far bilateral exchanges can go. China-US relations have never been about one side begging for favor from the other side or depending on the other side. The commitment to the one China policy, the principles in the three Sino-US joint communiqués and the joint statements, and respect for each other's core interests and major concerns constitute the foundation of our relationship if it is to make steady and solid progress in the long run.

Point two, mutual trust determines how much mutual benefit we can gain from our relationship. Unfounded suspicion is not only unnecessary but also very harmful. The deepening of shared interests between China and the United States and the development of China will not threaten or undermine US interests. Quite the contrary, it will bring more opportunities to the United States and the American people in many different fields. Likewise, a prosperous United States that seeks cooperation will benefit China's development. I agree with what Treasury Secretary Geithner said the other day at my Alma Mater, that China and the United States "have a great deal invested in each other's success."

Point three, a sensible approach determines how effective we can be in addressing our differences. Like in any bilateral relationship, China-US exchanges will reveal disagreements between the two sides, and different areas of cooperation may proceed at different pace, just as a person's ten fingers are different in length. When the bilateral relationship goes well, we need to think about the long term and be prepared for potential difficulties. When the relationship is strained, we need to bear in mind the larger picture and not allow any individual issue to disrupt our overall cooperation.

If we think these points through and put them to action, we will better grasp the larger picture and theme of China-US relations and have greater confidence and perseverance to take even more solid steps to advance our bilateral cooperation.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The visit of President Hu Jintao to the United States will create an important opportunity for China-US cooperation. Both of our countries attach great importance to jointly establishing a new pattern of bilateral relations in the new era. Through the visit, our two countries will hopefully engage in new cooperation programs in a wide range of areas, including economy, trade, energy, the environment, infrastructure development, culture, people-to-people exchanges, science and technology. More importantly, through this visit, the two sides will steer the course of our relationship and take it to a new stage, one that is consistently defined by cooperation. To this end, both countries need to do the following:

- Firmly keep the overall China-US relationship in the right direction from a strategic and long-term perspective. We should continue to follow through on the important consensus of our leaders to build a positive, cooperative and comprehensive China-US relationship and see to it that our relationship will have fewer ups and downs and always be kept on an upward trajectory.

- Work more proactively to map out the progress of China-US relations at every stage of development. We should maintain and intensify exchanges at the top and other levels, give full play to the guiding role of such mechanisms as the Strategic and Economic Dialogues, coordinate and set common agenda, and create conditions to take China-US cooperation to new highs.

- Show stronger resolve to enhance mutual strategic trust. We should be more active in strengthening strategic communication, seek common ground while reserving differences, respect each other, and actively encourage our people to further improve mutual understanding so as to build stronger public support for friendly ties between our two countries.

- Work more creatively to explore all kinds of new pathways to the sustainable development of China-US cooperation. We should seize the new opportunities in the development of new and clean energy and infrastructure construction to actively expand areas of bilateral and multilateral cooperation and strive to increase converging interests.

The Chinese people believe there is nothing in the world that cannot be done for those who are really resolved. The American people often say, "Yes, we can do it". Let us make unremitting efforts to strengthen cooperation and strive for win-win outcomes.

I am confident that with the concerted efforts of both sides, President Hu's visit to the United States will be a success, that we will achieve even more in-depth development of China-US cooperation, and that such cooperation will bring more extensive and enduring benefits to people in both countries and the world over.

Thank you!

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