Speech by Consul General Zhao Jian at the Virtual Dialogue with World Affairs Council of Western Michigan
20 February 2021
Executive Director Michael Van Denend,
Members of the World Affairs Council of Western Michigan,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is a pleasure to have this virtual conversation with you. Today is the fifth day of the Chinese Lunar New Year. Let me start by extending New Year greetings to members of the World Affairs Council of Western Michigan and friends from various sectors in the state. I wish you all a healthy and auspicious Year of the Ox.
I know you have been following closely China-U.S. relations. The past couple of years have seen the most difficult time in China-U.S. relationship since the establishment of diplomatic ties. Some people in the U.S., clinging to the Cold War mentality and ideological bias, have done many things that have disrupted the normal exchanges and mutually beneficial cooperation between our two sides. There have also been attempts to seek “decoupling” and start a so-called “new Cold War”, seriously damaging China-U.S. relations. Their actions, deeply deplored by many people of vision, have not only hurt China’s interests, but also the interests of the American people, and made the whole world suffer.
Where should this relationship go from here? This is a question the two countries cannot shy away from. During his phone conversation with President Biden on February 11, President Xi Jinping pointed out that China-U.S. relations now stand at a critical juncture. It is the common desire of both peoples and the wider international community to see the sound and stable development of China-U.S. relations. For that to happen, the two sides need to make joint efforts in the same direction, and focus on cooperation and manage differences in the spirit of no conflict, no confrontation, mutual respect and win-win cooperation, so as to bring more tangible benefits to the two peoples and make our due contributions in defeating the pandemic, recovering the world economy and maintaining regional peace and stability. This is the basic position of China in approaching relations with the U.S.
I think to that end, we need to do the following: First, we need to have appropriate assessment of bilateral relations in the past more than 40 years and put this relationship in right perspective. Despite the twists and turns in the past 40 years and more, China-U.S. relations have on the whole kept moving forward with fruitful results, delivering enormous benefits to the two peoples and contributing significantly to world peace, stability and prosperity. Whether the world’s two largest economies can live in peace and cooperate in a mutually beneficial manner affects not only the interests of our two peoples, but also the well-being of the people around the world. When China and the U.S. work together, they can make great things happen for the good of the two countries and the world at large; when they have serious problems or confrontation, it will definitely spell disaster for both sides and beyond.
Second, we need to take an objective view of each other’s development path and strategic intention, respect each other, and seek common ground while shelving differences. Both Chinese and American systems are chosen by our people and deeply rooted in our respective historical and cultural traditions. The Chinese culture values harmony without uniformity and believes that diversity and mutual respect makes a better world. Socialism with Chinese characteristics is a pathway chosen by the Chinese people that has been proven suitable to China’s national conditions. China’s development is essentially about bettering the lives of the people, and has been delivered by the hard work and dedication of the people. Aggression and expansion have never been in the genes of the Chinese nation throughout its 5,000 years of history. China is committed to the path of peaceful development, the win-win strategy of opening up, and common development of all countries. We are ready to work with the United States and other countries to deliver a better future for all. China never seeks to export its ideology or development model and has no intention to challenge or replace the U.S. position in the world. China is not U.S.’ enemy, nor is it a security threat or strategic rival of the U.S. The bilateral relationship is not a zero-sum game in which one’s gain is the other’s loss. The success of one side does not have to entail the failure of the other. At the same time, China’s national sovereignty, security and development interests and the Chinese people’s right to pursue a better life must be respected. We believe that countries of different social systems can coexist peacefully, so long as they respect each other’s historical and cultural traditions, respect each other’s core interests and major concerns and choice of political system and development path. By respecting, appreciating and learning from each other, we can contribute to each other’s success.
Third, we need to continue with dialogue and exchanges, enhance mutual trust and cooperation to advance common interests and fulfill our responsibility as major countries.
China and the U.S. are highly complementary economically, and our interests are deeply interwoven. While China benefited from its opening up to and economic cooperation with the rest of the world, its development has provided the U.S. and other countries with an impetus for sustained growth and a huge market space. It is estimated that in the coming decade, China’s accumulative import of goods will exceed US$22 trillion, which will provide vast opportunities to companies around the world, including those in the U.S. China will, as always, welcome U.S. business investment in China, and it falls on both sides to provide a fair, open and non-discriminatory environment for each other’s companies.
The growth of China-U.S. relations is the result of decades of commitment and hard work by Chinese and Americans of all walks of life in maintaining bilateral exchanges, communication and cooperation. It is not something to be taken for granted. We hope that the U.S. side will remove the stumbling blocks to people-to-people exchanges, like harassing Chinese students, restricting Chinese media outlets, shutting down Confucius Institutes and suppressing Chinese companies. These policy measures are not only wrong but also unpopular.
COVID-19 is a stark reminder that all countries are in a community with a shared future. No global challenges can be addressed by any country acting alone. Solidarity and cooperation is the only right choice to make. As permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, China and the United States need to strengthen communication and coordination on regional hot-spot issues and major global challenges such as pandemic response, climate change, poverty reduction through development, counter-terrorism and nonproliferation. Together, we could provide more public goods to the world. We could also step up cooperation at the U.N., W.H.O, the G20, APEC and other multilateral fora to enhance global governance and make globalization more open, inclusive, balanced and beneficial to all.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Many of the friends attending this event are from the business community and have followed China’s development closely. In 2020, in the face of the COVID-19 outbreak, the Chinese government, putting the people’s life and interest first, acted quickly and decisively, bringing the epidemic under control in a short span of time, and delivered a GDP growth of 2.3% year-on-year. Proud as we are of this achievement, we know full well that it has not come easily. Also last year, China eradicated extreme poverty as scheduled. That means all the rural residents living under the current poverty line in China have shed off poverty, putting an end to the extreme poverty that has plagued the Chinese people for centuries. Statistics have shown that China has enabled 850 million people to get rid of poverty in the past 70 years and more. We will keep up the effort to lock in the gains against poverty and bring more prosperity to the entire population. This is the solemn commitment the Chinese government has made to its people.
Now China has entered a new development stage and will focus its attention on addressing uneven and inadequate development and achieving high-quality growth. To that end, we will fully apply the new vision of innovative, coordinated, green, open and shared development, and foster a new development paradigm with domestic circulation as the mainstay and domestic and international circulations mutually reinforcing each other. We will further promote trade and investment liberalization and facilitation, improve our system for foreign investment management based on pre-establishment national treatment and negative list, and open up the service sector in a well-planned way. We will strengthen IPR protection and protect the lawful rights and interests of all businesses including foreign investors according to law. Meanwhile, China will continue to deeply involve itself in the international circulation and work to make domestic and international circulations reinforce and complement each other. This will help promote win-win cooperation among countries for common prosperity.
China’s development has benefited a lot from its exchanges and cooperation with the United States and other countries. In the friendly exchanges between China and the U.S., the State of Michigan has played an important role. The economic and trade ties between Michigan and China are particularly close, which led to the establishment of the “China Provinces and U.S. State of Michigan Joint Working Group on Trade and Investment Cooperation” in 2016. Now China is Michigan’s third largest trading partner and third largest export market, only behind U.S. next-door neighbors of Canada and Mexico. The National Committee on U.S.-China Relations and Rhodium Group reports show that from 2000 to 2018, Chinese companies invested US$2.8 billion in Michigan, creating more than 10,000 jobs. Exports of goods to China supported nearly 30,000 jobs in Michigan in 2018, according to the data from the U.S.-China Business Council.
What is worth noting in particular is the people-to-people exchanges between Michigan and China. This state played an important part in the famous “ping pong diplomacy”. Two of the nine members on the first U.S. table tennis delegation to China 50 years ago were from Michigan, including one from the City of Grand Rapids. And Michigan was one of the states the Chinese ping pong team visited on their return visit to the U.S. in 1972. Now Michigan is one of the most popular U.S. destinations for Chinese students. And its sister relations with Guangdong and Sichuan provinces have grown from strength to strength. In the fight against COVID-19 last year, the people of Michigan and China stood together, helping each other with donations in cash and kind and moral support. The friendship between our people has grown ever stronger.
I have noted that in her State of the State Address last month, Governor Whitmer set out her government priorities for this year, including pandemic response, economic recovery and improving infrastructure. I think in all these areas our two sides can explore ways to strengthen exchanges and cooperation to the benefit of our people.
Last September, at the invitation of the World Affairs Council of Western Michigan, I attended the virtual commemoration of the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II hosted by the Ford Presidential Museum. More than 75 years ago, Chinese and American people stood on the right side of history, fighting shoulder to shoulder and making historic contributions to safeguarding world peace. Now in the new era of history, it is even more important for our two great nations to work together to meet the difficulties and challenges facing the world, as we shoulder special responsibility for world peace, stability and prosperity.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
This year is the Year of the Ox in the Chinese lunar calendar. The Ox symbolizes diligence, perseverance and hard work. I hope all of us will carry forward the spirit of the Ox and do our best to contribute to the healthy and steady development of China-U.S. relations and the deepening of exchanges and cooperation between China and Michigan.