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On the Record

Wang Yi: Toward a New Model of Major-Country Relations Between China and the United States

Editor’s note: China’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Wang Yi visited Brookings on September 20, 2013, to deliver a speech on the state of U.S.-China relations and opportunities for further cooperation. Below are Wang’s translated remarks. 

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Dear Friends,

This is a year of great significance in China-U.S. relations. Last June, the two presidents held a successful and historic meeting in Annenberg Estate, California. The most important outcome is that China and the United States agreed to build a new model of major-country relations. The agreement is strategic, constructive and path-breaking in nature. It has charted the future course for our relations. It will surely produce a positive and profound impact on the Asia-Pacific and, indeed, the evolution of the international landscape.

With the agreement come two questions. First, what is this new model of relations about? And second, how to make it a reality?

President Xi Jinping has laid out a clear vision for the new model. In his words, the essential features of this model include number one, “no conflict or confrontation”, number two, “mutual respect” and number three, “win-win cooperation.” This answers the first question.

“No conflict or confrontation” is the prerequisite for the new model of major-country relations between us. According to some study of history, there have been about 15 cases of rise of emerging powers. In 11 cases, confrontation and war broke out between the emerging and the established powers. However, we now live in a different world. China and the United States and in fact all countries in the world are part of a community of shared interests. Countries are increasingly interconnected. Neither of us will benefit from confrontation. War will get us nowhere. “No conflict or confrontation” means that we need to follow the trend of globalization, reverse negative projections of China-U.S. relations, address strategic distrust and build confidence in the future of China-U.S. relations.

“Mutual respect” is a basic principle for this new model. We live in a world of rich diversity. For China and the United States, two major countries different in social system, history and culture yet connected by intertwined interests, mutual respect is all the more important. Only by respecting each other’s system and path chosen by their people, as well as each other’s core interests and concerns can we seek common ground while reserving differences and, on that basis, expand common ground and dissolve differences so that China and the United States will be able to live together in harmony.

“Win-win cooperation” is the only way to turn the vision into a reality. There is an enormous need and vast potential for bilateral cooperation in all fields. Besides, the world certainly needs China and the United States, two major countries with great influence, to work together and contribute on issues ranging from counterterrorism to cyber security, from nuclear non-proliferation to climate change, and from peace in the Middle East to Africa’s development. Win-win progress is only possible when both countries are committed to growing cooperation. Moreover, such win-win outcome should not just be beneficial to China and the United States, it should also be beneficial to all countries in the world.

Now let me turn to the second question, how can we make the new model of relations a reality. Indeed, this will be a systemic project that requires ideas and efforts of people from all walks of life in both countries. It also needs the sustained political resolve, persistent commitment and tireless efforts of both sides.

First, we need to enhance strategic trust to put this new model of relationship on a more solid foundation. We have all along emphasized that China’s development is peaceful in nature. We have never had the strategic intention to challenge or even replace the United States for its position in the world. We truly wish
to work together with the United States and all other countries for peace and common development. We are aware of US statement that it does not see China as a threat or intend to contain China; instead, it wishes to see a strong and stable China. This is right. As long as China and the United States can both stick to this strategic direction in their action, we will certainly build up strategic trust and strengthen the foundation for this new model of relationship.

Second, we need to promote practical cooperation to put this new model of relationship on more shared interests. Over more than four decades since the establishment of our diplomatic relations, fast growing economic cooperation and trade have brought huge benefits to each country’s development. They have served as a stabilizer that enables China-U.S. relations to forge ahead despite winds and waves. Today, bilateral trade is almost 500 billion US dollars and mutual investment more than 80 billion. According to the latest report from China-US Exchange Foundation, by 2022, our two countries will become each other’s top trading partner. By then, US export to China will exceed 450 billion dollars, which means over 2.5 million jobs created in this country. The number of Chinese tourists visiting the United States will grow to 10 million from 1.5 million in 2012. These are conclusions of the joint study by Chinese and American scholars. They will give a strong impetus to the historic process of this new model of relationship.

Recently, China has agreed to carry out substantive negotiations with the United States on the bilateral investment treaty (BIT) on the basis of pre-establishment national treatment and negative list. This shows the great sincerity and resolve of the Chinese government. We will advance reform and opening-up and deepen China-US economic cooperation and trade. This will open up new prospects for bilateral business ties. There is also a need for the two countries to tap cooperation potential in such fields as energy, environmental protection, urbanization, bio-tech and infrastructure. China takes US concerns on market access and IPR protection seriously and is prepared to take measures to address them. At the same time, China hopes the United States will ease its control over high-tech export to China and give fair treatment to Chinese companies investing in this country.

Third, we need to enhance people-to-people and cultural exchange and put this new model of relationship on stronger public support. State-to-state relations, at the end of the day, are about people-to-people relations. In today’s world, public opinion has increasingly become a significant factor shaping or even defining bilateral relationship. Friendship between peoples leads to amity between nations and vice versa. Therefore , the success of our endeavor to build a new model of major-country relationship hinges greatly upon the understanding, involvement and support of the majority of our two peoples. With this in mind, we need to encourage and expand interactions in various areas and between various groups, including families, communities, schools, and NGOs at the grass root level, so that our peoples will understand each other better and deepen friendship. We need to strengthen cultural exchange and as the two sides meet and interact, they will gradually achieve mutual tolerance and inclusiveness. We also need to lead public opinion in respective countries so that the voice advocating China-U.S. friendship and cooperation will become the mainstream and public support for our relations will grow stronger.

Fourth, we need to strengthen cooperation in international and regional hotspots and global issues and put this new model of relationship on greater common responsibilities. The United States is the biggest developed country while China is the biggest developing country in the world . The two countries share ever-growing converging interests and shoulder increasingly greater common responsibilities on such major issues as maintaining regional and international stability and promoting sustainable development of mankind. Joint contribution to world peace and stability and progress of civilization is what the international community expects of our two countries. It should, therefore, also be an inherent feature of this new model of relationship. China is prepared to engage in all-dimensional cooperation with the United States at regional and global levels. What we seek is not the so-called “G2”, but each complementing the other with its respective advantages. China is ready to shoulder international responsibilities commensurate with its national strength and realities, and together with the United States, offer more quality public goods for the international community. China and the United States can cooperate on any issue. We may not always see eye to eye, but that should not prevent us from talking to each other. As long as we truly act in the shared interests of the two countries and for the benefit of regional and global stability and prosperity, our positions will get closer and our strategic trust will surely get enhanced.

On cyber security, a peaceful, secure, open and cooperative cyber space is in the interest of all countries in the world, including China and the United States. China firmly opposes any behavior that disrupts order in cyberspace and endangers cyber security. As a matter of fact, China is a victim of hacking and other cyber attacks. To safeguard cyber security, we need cooperation instead of finger-pointing. The first meeting of China-US cyber working group made a good beginning. We need to keep up constructive dialogue and promote the formulation of international cyber rules to help ensure cyber security.

On climate change, our two sides have set up a climate change working group within the S&ED framework. As China is committed to deepening economic structural readjustment and accelerating the shift of growth model, addressing climate change, meets its own need of sustainable development in the first place. We are ready to enhance cooperation with the United States on environmental protection , energy conservation and emissions reduction, and alternative and renewable energy, take part in relevant climate change negotiations in a responsible manner and jointly contribute to sustainable development.

On Syria, China is firmly opposed to the use of chemical weapons by any country or individual. We believe that political settlement is the only right way out in defusing the Syrian crisis. We support an early launch of the process to destroy Syria’s chemical weapons. At the same time a Geneva II should be held as soon as possible, thus bringing the Syrian issue back to the track of political settlement.

On Palestine and Israel, China has promoted peace talks in a responsible manner, and stands ready to work closely with the United States to push the two sides to make concerted efforts. On the Iranian nuclear issue, China and the United States have maintained close communication both bilaterally and through PS+ 1. There have emerged positive factors in Iranian nuclear dialogue. We should seize the opportunities to work for early, substantive progress in the dialogue.

Fifth, we need to prioritize our cooperation on Asia-Pacific affairs and start the building of this new model of relationship from the Asia -Pacific region. The Asia-Pacific is the world’s fastest-growing and most promising region; it is also home to most of the hotspot issues. China and the Un ited States have more converging interests and frequent interactions in the Asia-Pacific than anywhere else. Therefore , it is both possible and imperative that our two countries start the building of this new model of relationship from the Asia-Pacific. Just think: if China and the United States can avoid conflict and confrontation in the Asia-Pacific, there is no reason we cannot co-exist in peace in other parts of the world; if China and the United States can respect each other and conduct win-win cooperation on Asia-Pacific affairs, there is no reason we cannot work together on other issues. But how to tum the Asia-Pacific into the “testing ground” for our new model of relationship? I think the following two points are extremely important.

First, China and the United States should genuinely respect and accommodate each other’s interests and concerns in the Asia-Pacific. China respects the traditional influence and immediate interests of the United States in the Asia-Pacific. We have never thought about pushing the U.S. out of the region. Rather, we hope the United States will play a positive and constructive role in safeguarding peace, stability and development in the Asia-Pacific. As President Xi Jinping aptly pointed out, “The vast Pacific Ocean is broad enough to accommodate our two big countries.” The Asia-Pacific has been the home and root of the Chinese nation for thousands of years. Therefore, we hope the United States will also respect China’s interests and concerns.

The Taiwan question concerns China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. It bears on the national sentiments of the 1.3 billion Chinese people. Right now, cross-Straits relations enjoy a momentum of peaceful development. It is the common desire of people on both sides of the Straits to have peace rather than war, cooperation rather than confrontation, and exchanges rather than estrangement. Gradual integration of the two sides through two-way interactions and cooperation will lead to ultimate reunification. This is a historical trend that no one can stop. For many years, the Taiwan question has been a liability in China-US relations that undermines mutual trust and disrupts cooperation. However, if the United States can go along with the prevailing trend of peaceful development of cross-Straits relations, and genuinely appreciate and respect China’s efforts to oppose separation and achieve peaceful reunification , the issue – once a liability and negative factor in our relationship — will be turned into an asset and a positive factor, providing guarantee to the long-term, steady growth of China-U.S. relations and opening prospect for all-round cooperation.

Second, China and the United States should work together to produce substantive results in our cooperation over hotspot issues in the Asia-Pacific. If we can succeed in doing so, we will be able to accumulate experience for strategic cooperation on a global scale, and demonstrate to the rest of the world our ability and resolve to jointly safeguard regional peace and stability. A case in point is the Korean nuclear issue. China and the United States have built much consensus on the issue. It is our common responsibility to advance denuclearization on the Korean Peninsula and maintain peace in Northeast Asia. Yesterday was the eighth anniversary of the September 19 Joint Statement. The day before yesterday, China hosted an international workshop in Beijing to mark the tenth anniversary of the Six-Party Talks. China believes that dialogue and negotiation is the right path toward a nuclear-weapon-free Peninsula, and that the Six-Party Talks have turned out to be an effective mechanism for dialogue. The parties concerned should recommit themselves as soon as possible to the Joint Statement, and work together to create the necessary conditions for the restart of the Six-Party Talks. The U.S. position on this is of vital importance. China is ready to keep in touch with the U.S. side.

We are also ready to cooperate with the United States on other regional hotspot issues such as Afghanistan. Ten days ago, the second China-U.S. collaborative training course for Afghan diplomats was launched here in DC. I sent a congratulatory message to the program. Afghanistan is now in a phase of crucial transition.

Whether the country can proceed smoothly with domestic reconciliation and reconstruction concerns the common interests of China, the United States and other countries in the region. China-U.S. cooperation on Afghanistan has just started; there is great potential and room for enhanced cooperation. If our two countries can work with each other and bring out our respective strength, we can turn the issue into a new highlight in our bilateral cooperation.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Not long ago, President Xi and President Obama met again on the margins of the G20 summit in St Petersburg. The two leaders reiterated their commitment to this new model of major-country relationship. Yet the building of such a relationship requires not only political guidance from our leaders, but also and more importantly, the involvement and support of people across the society in both countries, including the continuous intellectual input from the academia. The Brookings Institution is one of the most influential think-tanks in the United States. According to my American friends, to find out what the U.S. government will do next, one only has to look at what the Brookings Institution is working on. The Brookings Institution has always had a keen interest in US relations with China. For this purpose , it has set up John L. Thornton China Center, bringing together many renowned experts on China-US relations and doing a great deal of work in promoting bilateral ties. I hope and I am confident that as China and the United States build this new model of major-country relationship, the Brookings Institution will continue to play a positive role and make an important contribution.

Thank you. Now I will be glad to take your questions.

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