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A New Year, A New Vision: China & U.S. Relations
——Speech by Consul General Zhang Ping at SDSU President’s Lecture Series
2021/03/17

It gives me great pleasure and honor to speak at the joint President’s and Charles Hostler Institute on World Affairs Lecture Series to share my view on China-U.S. relations.

SDSU and the Charles Hostler Institute have a long history and a fine tradition of cultivating students’ international vision, and emphasizing on listening to different voices. This is very similar to the idea of openness and inclusiveness in Chinese culture.

What impresses me deeply is SDSU’s top ranking both nationally and in California for the number of students participating in international exchange activities and the number of exchange programs offered to the students. This is an incredible achievement. International exchange programs help students to broaden their vision, cultivate their interest in global affairs and elevate their ability to adapt to different cultures. This is of particular importance in the era of globalization. I would like to pay tribute to Mrs. Hostler and her late husband, Ambassador Hostler. Their contribution to education and enthusiasm for world affairs has greatly benefited the faculties and students of SDSU.

2020 was an extraordinary year. COVID-19 pandemic came all of sudden and ravaged the world, bringing huge impact to almost every country’s economy, society and people's livelihood. Millions of people lost their precious lives. Global economy has fallen into a deep recession. The pandemic, overlapping and interacting with the profound transformation and change that the world is experiencing, has accelerated the evolution of the international landscape. The global governance system and international order are facing unprecedented challenges. The world has entered a period of uneasy transformation.

2020 was also the most challenging year for China-U.S. relations. While the Covid virus was encroaching upon the human health, the "political virus" was fanatically eroding the hard-won achievements of China-U.S. relations.

Out of its own political needs and geopolitical purpose, the U.S. previous administration has adopted an erroneous and hostile policy toward China and resorted to every conceivable means to suppress and contain China. Some people in the U.S, clinging to the cold war mentality and ideological bias, took a series of actions which interfered China’s internal affairs, undermined China’s interest and disrupted the normal exchange and cooperation, causing unprecedented damages to China-U.S. relations and plunging the relationship into the lowest point since the establishment of diplomatic ties.

New year brings new hope. With rolling out of the COVID vaccines, we have seen the light at the end of the tunnel. Although the pandemic is far from being over and the task of containing the pandemic remains arduous, we believe, in not too distant future, humanity will eventually defeat the virus and the world will regain its vigor and vitality.

The new year also ushers in a new beginning for China-U.S. relations. With the inauguration of the new U.S. administration, the relationship has come up to a new crossroad, facing with new opportunities and challenges as well. Where this relationship is heading concerns the people in both our countries and the international community. We hope the relationship could be repaired and improved and go back to a predictable and constructive track of development, and the two countries could build a model of interaction that focuses on peaceful coexistence and win-win cooperation. This is also the expectation of all other countries in the world.

On the Lunar New Year's eve, President Xi Jinping and President Biden had a long phone conversation. President Xi indicated that China is willing to work with the U.S. side, in the spirit of no conflict, no confrontation, mutual respect and win-win cooperation, to promote sound and steady development of China-U.S. relations by focusing on cooperation and properly managing the differences. The two heads of state held the same view that the two countries should enhance mutual understanding, avoid misperception and miscalculation, treat each other with candor and sincerity and not engage in conflict or confrontation; and that the two countries should unclog communication channels and facilitate exchange and cooperation. This important phone call has pointed out the right direction for China-U.S. relations at this critical juncture, and sent out the encouraging news to the whole world.

The latest development is that Mr. Yang Jiechi, Member of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee and Director of the Office of the Central Commission for Foreign Affairs, and Mr. Wang Yi, State Councilor and Foreign Minister of China, will have a senior-level strategic dialogue with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan tomorrow in the State of Alaska. This is the first face to face senior level meeting between China and U.S. since the new administration took office, which is of great importance for two sides to enhance communication and increase mutual understanding. We hope the meeting will produce positive outcomes and play its role of managing the differences and seeking cooperation to bring the China-U.S. relations back to the right track of sound and steady development.

However, to get China-U.S. relations back to the right track requires both sides to move in the same direction.. It requires both sides to take courage, demonstrate foresight and stand on the right side of the history to make the right decision.

China-U.S. relationship is one of the most important bilateral relations in the world. It is also most complicated relationship which involves many difficult issues both on the strategic level and practical level. The core issue of China-U.S. relations is how China’s development is to be perceived, whether China should be seen as a threat or as an opportunity, as an adversary or as a partner; whether China and the U.S., being the two big countries that have different social systems and ideologies, can accommodate each other and live together in peace; and whether the relationship is a zero sum game or a win-win cooperation.

At this crucial moment, as the relationship gets more complex and difficult, it is important that we manage the relationship carefully and make sure that the relationship stays on the right track.

First, we need to have a correct understanding of each other's strategic intentions, prevent strategic miscaculaiton and avoid conflict or confrontation.

Since China started the reform and opening up in late 1970s, particularly over the last two decades, China has managed to achieve a rapid progress in its development. China now becomes the second largest economy in the world and the momentum of growth remains strong. This has caused some anxiety among some people in the U.S. They worry that China may overtake the U.S. and challenge the U.S. supremacy.

The root cause that the previous U.S. administration has pursued misguided policies towards China is that they have made a strategic miscalculation which sees China as a major strategic competitor or even an adversary. That is historically, fundamentally and strategically wrong.

In recent Chinese history, there was a century long period after the Opium War in 1840 in which China remained poor and weak. China was repeatedly invaded by foreign powers and suffered humiliation of foreign bullying. This tragic experience has left a deep imprint in the memory of the Chinese people. It makes the Chinese people understand the truth that lagging behind leaves the country vulnerable and poverty leads to humiliation. It inspired the Chinese people's strong determination to strive for the prosperity of the country. The pursuit of the Chinese people for nation’s rejuvenation is to keep up with the pace of modernization, build a better life for their own and prevent that part of the humiliated history from happening again. There is nothing wrong with this intention. To pursue a better life through development is the legitimate right of the Chinese people, no one has the right to deprive it. China will continue its development toward the goal of national rejuvenation, no force can hold back this process.

China‘s development doesn’t constitute any threat to any country. We stick to the path of peaceful development and seek peaceful rise. China does not seek hegemony or engage in military expansion. We have no intention to challenge or replace the United States nor do we want to compete with the U.S. for the dominance of the world.

China’s U.S policy is stable and consistent. We are prepared to work with the U.S. to move the relationship forward along the track of no conflict, no confrontation, mutual respect and win-win cooperation. China has never provoked any dispute. However when someone provoke the dispute, we will definitely respond. We will stand firm to defend our sovereignty, security and development interests.

China upholds international peace and is committed to promoting the building of a community with a shared future for mankind. We will promote a new type of international relations, advocate peace, development, equity, justice, democracy and freedom as the common values of humanity and strive for common development of humanity.

China is a maintainer of international system. It advocates multilateralism, firmly upholds the international system centered on the UN, the international order underpinned by international law, and the basic principles of international law and basic norms of international relations based on the purposes and principles of the UN Charter. We are against building small circles or blocs which target specific countries. These small circles or blocs are built though in the name of common values, but in fact is to seek certain countries own interest; it will lead to split, conflict and confrontation among international community.

Second, we need to have a correct understanding of competition, rejecting the Cold-War mindset and zero-sum mentality, manage the differences properly and build a mutually beneficial relationship of win-win cooperation.

Cold war has long gone. Time has changed. Cold War and zero-sum mentality is outdated. Peace and development are the main features of present world. To handle present day international relations with cold war and zero-sum mentality goes against the tide of history.

China and U.S. may have competition, but we do not have to be adversaries. Instead, we should strive to be partners. The competition between China and U.S. should be like competing with each other for excellence in a racing field, not beating each other on a wrestling arena. The two sides should advocate healthy competition on a fair and just basis for the purpose of self-improvement and mutual enhancement, rather than finger pointing and zero sum competition. We should raise our own competitiveness by managing our own business well rather than blocking others from doing things well. More importantly we should seek more ways for better cooperation. This should be the main goal for both China and the United States.

China and U.S. share many common interests. There are a wide range of areas where we can cooperate and the potential for cooperation is enormous. As President Xi pointed out in his phone conversation with President Biden, when China and the U.S. work together, we can accomplish a great deal for the good of both countries and the world at large, confrontation between the two countries will definitely be disastrous.

China will keep the reform and opening-up as its basic national policy and is committed to bringing more benefits to other countries while achieving its own development. We will proceed with more in-depth reform and open up wider to the outside world. China is fostering a new development paradigm to adapt to the new development stage in China. We will emphasize on high quality development and promote further opening-up to connect the Chinese market with the international market and better coordinate import and export. It is estimated that in the next ten years, China will import as many as over 22 trillion USD of goods from foreign countries. This will bring more market opportunities to other countries and inject strong momentum to the world economy. Both sides need to get hold of these opportunities to expand practical cooperation.

At present, the two countries can work together to address some of the urgent issues that confront the world, like COVID response, economic recovery, and climate change. We also need to strengthen coordination and collaboration on many international and regional hotspot issues.

To facilitate bilateral cooperation, we need to create a good political environment, public opinion environment, and market environment and avoid the abused use of "national security" concept and prevent political manipulation, stigmatization, and demonization. We hope that the U.S. side will remove unreasonable restrictions on bilateral cooperation as early as possible, and not create new obstacles.

Third, we need to discard ideological prejudice and uphold the principles of mutual respect and non-interference and properly handle those sensitive issues in the bilateral relations.

Diversity is the feature of human civilization. China and the U.S. differ from each other in history, culture. The two countries have adopted different social systems and development paths. It is natural that the two countries may have differences and disagreements on many things. They should not stand in the way of peaceful coexistence. Both countries should accommodate and respect the differences in each other's political and social systems.

Socialism is the choice of the Chinese people. It fits China's national conditions. The Communist Party of China has made the pursuit of happiness for the people and of national rejuvenation as its mission, and has been working hard to serve the people and build the country. It has won the firm support of the Chinese people. Some people in U.S. targeted their attacks at CPC, in an attempt to sever the close ties between the CPC and the Chinese people, this will never succeed.

China never interferes in the internal affairs of other countries, never exports its ideology. We have no intention to engage in competition of different systems, let alone overturn the government of other countries.

We are ready to have peaceful coexistence with the U.S and seek common development on the basis of mutual respect and seeking common ground while putting aside differences. Likewise, we hope the U.S. will respect China's core interests, national dignity, and rights to development. We urge the U.S to handle those issues which involve China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity such as Taiwan, Hong Kong, Xinjiang and Tibet with caution. These issues bear the core interests of China and touch upon the sentiments of 1.4 billion Chinese people. Any improper handling will create serious damages to the relationship. We hope that the US side will stop meddling in China's internal affairs and stop using these issues to hold back China's development.

The question of Taiwan is the most important and sensitive core issue in China-U.S. relations. The one-China principle is the political foundation of the relationship, a red line that cannot be trespassed or crossed. There is no room for compromise or concession from the Chinese side on that issue. The Chinese government’s resolve to safeguard national sovereignty and territorial integrity is rock-firm. We hope the U.S. side will abide by the one-China principle and the three Sino-US joint communiqués, handle the Taiwan question prudently and properly.

Issues in relation to Xinjiang in essence are about fighting against violence, terrorism and separatism. The claim that there is genocide in Xinjiang couldn’t be more preposterous. It is just a lie fabricated with ulterior motives.

Over the past four decades and more, the Uyghur population in Xinjiang has more than doubled from 5.5 million to over 12 million. Between 2010 and 2018, the Uyghur population in Xinjiang increased by nearly 25%. This is far higher than the growth rate of the entire population and Han population in Xinjiang. There are more than 24,000 mosques in Xinjiang, which means on average there is one mosque for every 530 Muslims. The freedom of religious belief of all ethnic groups is well protected in accordance with law. Some western politicians intentionally disregard the basic facts and make political maneuvering in an attempt to artificially create the so-called Xinjiang issues. Their ulterior motive is to undermine security and stability in Xinjiang, and hold back China's development. Their miscalculated attempt is doomed to fail.

Hong Kong is a special administrative region of China, a part of the People's Republic. In recent years, Hong Kong has experienced prolonged social unrest. Violence went rampant. One of the reasons is that there are deficiencies and loopholes in Hong Kong’s legal system, including its electoral system. Some forces have entered various government and legislative institutions via election and engaged in anti-China activities to disrupt Hong Kong’s social order. The National People's Congress's recent decision to improve Hong Kong's electoral system is necessitated by the need to advance the One Country, Two Systems cause and maintain long-term stability in Hong Kong. It is totally constitutional, lawful and justified. Implementing the requirement of "patriots administering Hong Kong" is essential to improving Hong Kong's electoral system. Loyalty to the motherland is a basic political ethic of all public office holders and aspirants anywhere in the world. Here in the U.S, citizens need to swear allegiance to the state, and for those in public office, the requirement is more stringent. On this issue, the U.S. side should not apply double standards, not to mention that it should not interfere.

Forth, we need to strengthen sub-national cooperation and people to people exchanges, and build up public support for friendship and cooperation.

Sub-national cooperation and people-to-people exchanges constitute an important part of China-U.S. relations. Southern California has close ties with China. Exchanges and cooperation between the two sides are extensive and in-depth, which have brought tangible benefits to both our peoples. Before the pandemic, there were nearly 100 flights between Chinese cities and Los Angeles every week. At its peak, the number of Chinese tourists visiting Los Angeles reached more than 1 million every year. The number of Chinese students in Southern California was as many as 40,000. I am pleased to learn that about 700 Chinese students are studying in SDSU, which constitutes the largest group of international students in SDSU. About one-third of the cargo volume of China-U.S. trade was handled through the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach. In 2019, China was the largest trading partner of California. California had the biggest China trade volume among all the U.S. states. California is also the U.S. state where Chinese companies invested most.

We need to preserve such hard won outcome of China-U.S. sub-national cooperation and minimize the negative impact of the ups and downs in the political dimension of the bilateral relations. We hope that the U.S. side will remove the stumbling blocks to people-to-people exchanges and resume the normal exchange in education, culture and media. This is also the appeal of many people in the U.S.

Ladies and gentlemen,

This year is of critical importance to both China and the U.S. as both countries are faced with important domestic agendas and policy priorities. This year marks the 100th anniversary of the founding of CPC. Also in this year, China will realize its first centenary goal of completing the building of a moderately prosperous society in all respects. Based on what we have achieved, we will embark on a new journey of comprehensively building a modern socialist country.

For China-U.S. relations, this year marks the 50th anniversary of Ping Pong Diplomacy and Dr. Kissinger’s first visit to China. We need to sum up the experiences and draw the lessons of the past 50 years, and open up a better future. At this critical moment, we do need to ensure that the relationship heads to the right direction and will not fall into the trap of conflict.

To what direction the relationship is heading depends on what vision we have and what choices we are to make. At present, peace and development still remain the trend of our time. We have every reason to believe no matter what challenges the bilateral relations may encounter, so long as we have the support of our two peoples, the China-U.S. relationship will have a bright future.

Our two peoples should take the destiny of China-U.S. relations into our own hands. We need to work hard so that we can create a bright future for our children and grandchildren. Let us work together.

Thank you.

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