Reviving the Cold War Is Anachronistic
Vice Foreign Minister Le Yucheng’s Exclusive Interview with Guancha.cn
12 August 2020
Guancha: Recently, senior US officials have come out frequently to attack and smear China. Their onslaught has gone far beyond even the wildest imaginations. A handful of US politicians have abandoned fundamental laws and rules, diplomatic norms and political ethics, and have acted in pure political hooliganism. What’s your comment on such degenerate practices of US politicians?
Le Yucheng: Your question rightly sums up the two major features of some US politicians. First, they lie readily. Second, they break the law habitually.
Do not lie – that is the most basic norm for the general public, let alone key government officials and senior diplomats. You may dissent, disgruntle, and object, or just make no comment. But you may not ignore facts and churn out rumors. Some US politicians, however, are telling packs of lies, particularly when it comes to smearing China. They do so without even the slightest trace of shame. Among many others, they claim that the United States rebuilt China; China wants to rule the United States; the United States is ripped off by doing business with China; COVID-19 was created in the Wuhan Institute of Virology; China steals US intellectual property on COVID-19 vaccines; Huawei, TikTok and other companies directly provide personal data to China’s national security authorities; the 1.4 billion Chinese people are under surveillance and persecution in China; the Chinese government is carrying out religious persecution and ethnic genocide in Xinjiang. These assertions are so fictional and preposterous that they cannot even deceive little kids. Some Internet users are collecting these political lies and plan to publish them. Once published, it will be a typical negative example for the world.
As for breaking laws, the United States is always selective about the application of international law. It preaches international law to others but sticks to “American Exceptionalism”, putting itself above the international law. The US repressive moves against China have no legal basis at all. None of its actions conforms with international law – increasing tariffs, cutting off supplies to Huawei, banning TikTok, detaining Chinese citizens, selling arms to Taiwan, imposing sanctions on Chinese central government and Hong Kong SAR government officials, and closing Chinese Consulate-General in Houston. Over the years, the United States has been acting with absolutely no respect for the law and justice when it goes around the world to incite color revolution here and there, grossly interfere in others’ internal affairs, arbitrarily enforce long-arm jurisdiction, threaten use of force, and even carry out decapitation operations. The United States has withdrawn from over a dozen international treaties and organizations, crowning itself as the world champion in this respect. In particular, at the critical moment of global cooperation against COVID-19, the United States made groundless accusations against the World Health Organization, pulled out of it, and suspended its funding for WHO. That is like when everyone is busy putting off the fire, the US moves to shut off the water. And that has crossed the moral line in international relations, and completely violated the basic principles of international law and the UN Charter. The United States claims that it wants a rules-based international order. But in fact, its so-called “rules” is nothing but power politics and US privileges to do whatever it wants. As former US Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch pointed out, the United States “blunt and amoral” foreign policy “cannot work over the long haul”.
Guancha: A few US politicians have taken a wholesale approach against China, provoking ideological confrontation between the two countries and demanding other countries side with their anti-China policy. They have touted a list of countries and regions as the pawns or sidekicks of the United States. Do you think the United States will get what it wants by using others as “cannon fodder” to advance its own agenda? Is the US dragging China and the US into a “new Cold War”?
美国近期针对中国的一系列做法，是在挑动意识形态对抗，在21世纪复活“冷战”，让人感到“麦卡锡主义”的幽灵又在美重现。上世纪50年代，美国国内掀起了疯狂的反共浪潮，成千上万的华裔被怀疑为“间谍”，2000多万人接受了所谓“清查”，甚至3岁的小孩也要签署“忠诚宣誓书”。对于这一荒唐行径，英语里都留下了一句话叫“find reds under the beds”，意思就是“到床底下查找赤色分子”。现在美国对华人科学家进行“猎巫”行动，任意滋扰、抓捕中国留学生的做法，同当年麦卡锡时代何其相似。美国国内的华裔科学家、教授、学者，以及支持同中国开展合作的美国人，现在都噤若寒蝉，人人自危，随时都有可能被FBI约谈、搜查甚至抓捕入狱。这种以种族和意识形态划线的做法很危险，不要忘了当年希特勒法西斯就是从反共和迫害犹太人起家的，我们不能不引以为戒。
Le Yucheng: The string of recent actions taken by the United States against China are aimed at stoking ideological confrontation and reviving the Cold War in the 21st century. It feels like that the specter of McCarthyism is resurfacing in the United States. In the 1950s when the United States was gripped by anti-communist hysteria, tens of thousands of people from the Chinese community there were suspected as “spies”. Over 20 million people had to go through “screening”. Even three-year-old kids had to sign a “loyalty oath”. The idiom, “find reds under the beds”, was coined to describe such insane paranoia. Today, the witch hunt among Chinese scientists as well as arbitrary harassment and willful detainment of Chinese students in the United States are so reminiscent of the dark era of McCarthyism. Scientists, professors and scholars of Chinese descendant in the United States and those Americans who support cooperation with China are too scared to speak up. None of them feels safe anymore. They may be interrogated, searched, or even arrested by the FBI anytime. Taking actions on the basis of race and ideology is very dangerous. People should not forget that Adolf Hitler and fascism rose from suppressing communism and persecuting Jews. We must take a warning from these lessons.
In fact, through their anti-communism craziness and the hyping up of the so-called “red menace”, the US politicians are attempting to define China-US relations with ideological confrontation and cover up their real strategic agenda to contain China, put together a so-called “coalition of free democracies”, and build a clique against China. But they seem to still live in the past and have forgotten that the Cold War has been long gone, and that mankind are already in the age of globalization in the 21st century. Other than one or two US henchmen, the overwhelming majority of countries refuse to be hijacked by the US onto its chariot. All they think about is how to work together to defeat COVID-19, save lives, and revive the economy. They have no interest in, and even resent, ideological confrontation and a “new Cold War”. Recently, a group of former statesmen and scholars from 48 countries initiated an online event themed “A new Cold War against China is against the interests of humanity”. They issued a joint statement, “No to the New Cold War”, in 14 languages. It was a strong call for the United States to stop forming cliques and dividing the world. Even Secretary Pompeo himself admitted the difficulty in building an international alliance against China, and was “surprised and dismayed” that so many countries support China.
Guancha: The United States threatened to shut down TikTok and demanded that the company sell its US business within 45 days. Two executive orders were signed to crack down on TikTok and the parent company of WeChat. Senior US officials have also taken sanctioning measures against Huawei and other Chinese companies as well as Chinese APPs. What do you think is the purpose of the United States?
Le Yucheng: Your question reminds me of a cartoon I saw on social media: At the entrance to a road erects a US signpost that reads “free market”. Along the road, a cute piglet, representing TikTok, is strolling and eating. What awaits it at the end of the road, however, is Uncle Sam with a knife in hand, ready to slaughter it after it becomes fattening. That is a vivid image of the situation of Chinese businesses in the United States today.
The TikTok-bashing by the United States has caused quite a stir in recent days. Without producing any solid evidence, the US administration is taking actions against TikTok based on the presumption of guilt, and threatening to force a sellout within 45 days or simply ban it. To save the company, TikTok has been communicating with the US for nearly a year. It has even made such big compromises as instituting an all-American management team, storing all US user data in the United States and Singapore, making its review policy and algorithm source code public, hiring 1,500 Americans, and promising to create another 10,000 jobs. The company has met almost all US demands, but still cannot be spared. Even if it ends up being acquired, a substantial portion of the money must be paid to the US government. What kind of “art of the deal” is this? This is sheer gangster logic and daylight robbery.
What sin has TikTok committed? It is simply a platform for the American public to showcase their talent and spread joy. It has nothing to do with national security. But wrongdoings can always be conveniently fabricated. The United States wants to strangle TikTok, no matter what painful compromises the company makes. The real and the only reason is that it is a Chinese company. As some Chinese Internet users commented, these US moves are “utterly disgraceful”. To suppress a private company from China, the whole of the US government, from President to the powerful agencies, is ganging up, like tigers preying on a little rabbit. The whole world is watching with contempt the looting and robbery by the United States.
This also reminds me of what Huawei has been through. With similarly fabricated allegations, the United States is hunting down Huawei around the world. It even went after Ms. Meng Wanzhou, who has been put under house arrest in Canada for more than 600 days. Such actions have sent chills down the spines of Chinese businesses, whose executives no longer dare to travel to the United States. People cannot help asking: Where is the United States that styles itself as the example of free market, competitive neutrality and the rule of law? Some international media describe the United States as being “technophobic” and pursuing a “digital gunboat policy”, but what it actually fears is other countries getting ahead of it in high-tech. Preaching a “clean network” while having stains all over itself, the United States is turning the “Internet” into a “US-net” that only serves its own interests.
Guancha: The United States pursues unilateralism unscrupulously and withdraws from international organizations and treaties at will. It has become the biggest destabilizing factor in global governance, and made the prospects of global stability and development very uncertain. What do you make of this? What role can China play in global governance?
Le Yucheng: The United States is stoking division and confrontation, attacking dissenting views, and creating disorder around the world. It has caused predicament for international institutions including the UN, WTO and WHO, and put global governance and international cooperation agenda in jeopardy. Its sole aim is to install a uni-polar world where the United States lords it over all others, where globalization becomes “Americanization”, and where global governance gives way to US hegemony. The US attempt contravenes the trend of our times and the will of the people. It is destined to fail.
China is committed to pursing peaceful development and building a community with a shared future for mankind. This commitment is rooted in the traditional Chinese value of “common good of the world” and “peace and harmony among all nations”. It is also the shared aspiration of people across the world. China never has the intention to rule the world; we want to contribute to the common good of the world. China strives for development not to compete with the United States for supremacy, but to bring a better life to its own people. China takes an active part in global governance not to supplant anyone, but to play its due role as a major country. In responding to COVID-19, China has offered assistance to more than 150 countries and international organizations. We have shared our containment experience, and helped other developing countries, especially the least developed ones, to cope with the virus. We have supported WHO in playing its important role, and worked to improve global public health governance. China and the United States form a sharp contrast when it comes to vaccine development and distribution. China is making every effort to develop a COVID-19 vaccine and has pledged to make it a global public good, whereas the United States is trying to hoard and monopolize vaccines, caring about no one but itself.
In essence, the difference between China and the United States on the international order and global governance is not what some US politicians have portrayed as “tyranny vs. freedom”, but between multilateralism and unilateralism, between equity and justice on the one hand and hegemony and “might makes right” on the other, and between the common good and “America First”. It is only too clear to the world which one is the right way to go and represents the trend of history. All peace- and justice-loving people in the world should stand up to US unilateralist moves and power politics, and come together in getting the United States to return to the right path of reason, law and justice.
Guancha: Trump administration officials are using all occasions to viciously attack the Communist Party of China (CPC) and pitting the Chinese people against the CPC. But at the same time, they claim that they side with the Chinese people. What do you make of all this?
Le Yucheng: The hostile remarks on the CPC by some US politicians only expose their ignorance of China and the Party. The CPC has unbreakable bond with the Chinese people, and stands with them rain or shine. The Party’s faithful commitment to the people is best described by a famous quote from President Xi Jinping, “For the good of my people, I will put aside my own well-being.”
In recent years, CPC members always took the lead to brave danger and disasters to serve the people. When COVID-19 hit the country, over 39 million CPC members nationwide stepped up to fight the virus on the front line. Of the medical workers sent to Wuhan, 80 percent were CPC members. In the battle against abject poverty, CPC members have been the mainstay as well. Nearly three million CPC members have been selected to serve as Party secretaries or take charge of poverty alleviation in poor villages. Nearly 800 officials responsible for poverty alleviation made the ultimate sacrifice on duty. One of them was Huang Wenxiu, who worked for poverty alleviation in Guangxi and died at the age of only 30. When floods hit southern China recently, those on the front line of disaster relief were again CPC members. Chen Lu, a CPC member and a fire fighter in Anhui Province, was taken away by floods in a search and rescue operation. He exemplified CPC’s ethos with his life – step forward whenever our people need us, come what may. There are numerous examples like this.
The performance of the CPC can only be evaluated by the Chinese people, instead of a few anti-China Americans. Many US scholars have expressed the view recently that under the CPC leadership, the Chinese government has boosted the economy and responded promptly to people’s needs, and that the overwhelming majority of the Chinese people support the CPC and feel proud of their country. As recent polls conducted by multiple US institutions have shown, the approval rating for the CPC among the Chinese people is as high as 95 percent. Having such a high level of popular support is very rare, if not unique, for a political party around the world.
In the nearly 50 years of China-US interaction, the CPC has never been an obstacle to bilateral relations. On the contrary, it has been the leading and driving force for mutually beneficial cooperation. I find it difficult to understand why those US politicians get so hostile to the CPC. In the final analysis, it was with CPC leaders that President Richard Nixon had the handshake across the Pacific Ocean. It was with CPC leaders that the United States agreed on the three China-US joint communiqués. White House and State Department officials are dealing with CPC members almost everyday. How could the CPC suddenly become a threat and challenge to the United States? Since the CPC remains unchanged, the problem is with the US politicians.
Guancha: There are two different views at home and abroad on how China should respond to US crackdown and containment. One argues that China should put up with them, and should not lower itself to the same level as those anti-China US politicians so as not to fall into their trap of China-US confrontation. The other believes that China should not appear weak and it should fight back resolutely with tit-for-tat countermeasures. Which one do you agree with?
Le Yucheng: China always pursues an independent foreign policy of peace, and hopes to make friends and maintain good relations with all countries. The Chinese people are aboveboard, honest and sincere. We are not aggressive. We do not bully. Nevertheless, being modest and gracious does not mean having no sense of right and wrong or giving up principles. On issues concerning China’s core interests and national dignity, there is simply no room for us to back down. If we give up an inch, they will ask us to back off a mile and through salami tactics, they will never stop undermining China’s sovereignty and dignity. Some people in the United States have been spreading rumors and making slanderous attacks on China. If we always stay silent and do nothing about it, the international community will be easily misled by these lies. We should not forget that Iraq was destroyed because the United States displayed a little test tube containing washing powder, and Syria suffered military strikes because of a few staged photos of alleged chemical weapons attacks. We will never allow such tragedies to happen to China.
Our guiding principles are very clear. We do not provoke, and we will not flinch from provocations, either. We will not move to the beat of villains, and we will not put up with their wickedness, either. We never fire the first shot. Every response has been a move of self-defense and counterattack. It’s been almost 100 years since the founding of the CPC and 70-plus years since the founding of the People’s Republic. We have endured all kinds of challenges and hardships. The United States tried many times before to contain and impose sanctions on China in history. We have not only survived, but also thrived. As Comrade Deng Xiaoping once pointed out, “The last country in the world to be afraid of isolation, blockade or sanctions is China”. We are not intimidated by the recent US sanctions against 11 officials from China’s central government and the government of the Hong Kong SAR. On the contrary, people feel honored to be on that list. The list of sanction has become a “list of recognition”.
Some people attribute the tensions between China and the United States to China’s allegedly more assertive and aggressive foreign policy. I do not agree. Expansionism and hegemony are never part of China’s cultural tradition. While China is making progress in its development, it should naturally shoulder greater international responsibility and make more contribution to the world. And that is also a common expectation from the international community. For example, China’s share in membership contributions to the UN has jumped from one percent 20 years ago to today’s 12.5 percent. Its share in UN peacekeeping budget has gone up to 15 percent. China has sent more peacekeepers than any other permanent members of the UN Security Council. Our assistance to other developing countries has also significantly increased. Which part of this is not good for the world? What is there to accuse? Some Americans used to call China a “free-rider”. But when China is contributing financially and materially to the world and providing more public goods, they say this is driven by strategic motives and hegemonic ambitions. Aren’t they self-contradictory?
Guancha: The situation of China-US relations is getting more and more grave. How long do you think this will last? What are the most pressing issues to be resolved at the moment?
Le Yucheng: The way China and the United States choose to live with each other concerns the well-being of the 1.7 billion Chinese and American peoples, and the future of the over seven billion people on this planet. When handling the China-US relationship, one should not only focus on what is at hand, or allow a tiny minority of anti-China elements to set the tone or lead it astray. It is vital to put the relationship in the broader context of the changing international landscape unseen in a century and the defining trend of peace and development of our times. Some issues may take more than one or two years to resolve. Yet we must shoulder the historic responsibility, take a forward-looking attitude, and assume a long-term perspective. It is important to think outside the box of electoral politics, take emotions out of the equation, and return to reason and pragmatism. We should start with the “three lists” proposed by State Councilor Wang Yi. Then the way forward won’t be so hard to find.
First, keep the lines of communication open. Dialogue should not be put on hold. In particular, there should be no “radio silence” between the two foreign ministries. That means no matter how difficult and complex the issues may be, they should be put on the table. How can any problem get resolved without discussions? I myself stand ready for talks with my US counterpart at any time. Second, focus on cooperation. There are many areas where the two countries can and should cooperate. Cooperation in COVID-19 response should be a first-order priority. When lives are at stake, cooperation should come first. In addition, there is vast room for coordination and cooperation in bilateral areas such as economy, trade, law enforcement, counter-narcotics, and sub-national exchanges, on global governance such as climate change and poverty relief, and on hotspot issues such as the Korean nuclear issue, the Middle East, and Afghanistan. Third, properly manage differences. Disagreements exist naturally between China and the United States, and they should be handled with a rational and pragmatic attitude. In particular, differences must not be widened on purpose, let alone creating new ones. There are already too many problems for the two sides, and what is needed is subtraction rather than addition. The next few months will be critical. We must stay focused without being swayed by any extreme forces, keep to the right direction of the bilateral relationship, and prevent it from spiraling out of control or getting derailed.