Ambassador Cui Tiankai taking an interview with Gzero World (Transcript)


On April 3, 2020, Ambassador Cui Tiankai took an interview with Ian Bremmer at Gzero World. Here is the full transcript of the interview:

Ian Bremmer: Chinese Ambassador to the United States Cui Tiankai. Wonderful to be with you. Thank you so much.

Ambassador Cui: So nice to see you again, Mr. Bremmer, on the screen of course.

Ian Bremmer: Absolutely. First tell me how you're holding up. It looks like if you're sheltering in place, you seem to be at the embassy. Is that all right? Are you at home right now?

Ambassador Cui: I'm in the embassy. I still come here every day because of a lot of work to do. I have to maintain communication between the two governments and help American companies to solve their specific problems in making shipments from China to the United States for medical supplies and also communicating to the media. And also, we have a huge number of Chinese citizens, especially students here. Honestly, some of them are a little bit worried. I have to take care of them, talk to them, try to solve their problems. So there are still a lot of things to do.

Ian Bremmer: The State Department, I know, in the United States has been overwhelmed just with the issue of repatriation of American citizens back to the US. That's probably the single thing that's taken most of the diplomatic efforts in the past weeks. Is that the single most overwhelming task for you right now? Is all of the Chinese that are in the United States?

Ambassador Cui: I think, generally speaking, maybe all governments are faced with this tremendous task: how to take care of their citizens overseas. So in this regard, I do have sympathy with the State Department. But for us, maybe we have somehow a different situation. Because many of the people of the Chinese origin, they have their families here, they have their jobs here, they have their business here. As far as I know, not too many of them are thinking seriously about going back to China. I don't know how things will change even tomorrow. But for so many students, they are so far away from their parents, from their families. Some of them are, their visa will end very soon, because normally American schools will end the semester by May or sometime around May. Some of them may even no longer have financial support. So they are the priorities for us honestly.

Ian Bremmer: Now of course, at this time, the United States government is overwhelmed with an unprecedented crisis. I'm wondering, I remember when we did the phase one trade deal between the US and the Chinese, you were talking with Secretary of the Treasury Mnuchin 20-30 times a day. Has this affected the ability that you have or your government has had to maintain regular ties and contacts at the appropriate level with the US government?

Ambassador Cui: I have to say, our two economic teams, they have to take most of the credit for the phase one trade deal. They worked very hard for almost two years on this deal. It was for mutual benefit they have concluded the deal. I think as far as I know, even for the last few weeks, when we are faced with this very serious, critical situation, people are still working on the implementation of this phase one deal. Hopefully, we can still do it.

Ian Bremmer: But the US and China now have a series of very significant challenges to work on, even getting beyond this phase one trade deal implementation. What's the nature of your bilateral relations been with America? Would you say it's been suitably open? Has it been at the right level? Has there been enough of it? Are we building a level of trust? And how would you describe it?

Ambassador Cui: I don't think I could describe all this in one sentence or even a few sentences. This is such a complex and comprehensive relationship. But fortunately at the top level, our two Presidents have maintained good communication between them. Just last week, President Xi Jinping and President Donald Trump had another phone call, and it was very long, very constructive phone call. They agreed that our two countries should really work together. This is the time for solidarity and cooperation.

As far as we are concerned in the embassy, we are doing basically three things, maybe more than three. First, we have to facilitate cooperation between our two countries to combat the virus, to contain the pandemic and to save people's lives. Whether it's about medical supplies, or about technical cooperation between the CDCs, research institutions, we in the embassy are doing our best to facilitate such communication and coordination between us. Actually, last Sunday, our two CDCs had another video conference between themselves of a very technical nature.

Second, as agreed by the two Presidents and as agreed by the leaders of G20 at a special summit, we have been really making good efforts to stabilize global market, boost global economic growth, and protect people's jobs and livelihood. This is, I think, one of the priorities for us.

Then maybe as important as all these things for me and for the embassy, honestly, we have to make sure that we have a supportive public opinion for cooperation between our two countries. This is maybe as difficult as the previous two, but this is crucial.

In addition to all this, we have to take care of the overseas Chinese here, the students, and my responsibility would also include to take good care of my colleagues in the embassy and their families.

Ian Bremmer: There is a lot on your plate. No question. There're so many things I want to ask you about. Maybe I will start broadly, about the fact that China has, of course, been looking down the barrel of the most serious crisis that we've experienced since World War II. You started with the initial explosion. We're now facing it in the United States and about to see the kind of numbers that we never thought we would have to. Tell us a little bit to start. How you think China looks right now domestically in terms of the response to the virus? What does it feel like for you when you're talking to the Chinese?

Ambassador Cui: I think maybe everybody in the world was caught quite unprepared by this pandemic, by this virus, because this is a new type of virus. Very few people, I don't think anybody knew anything about it just a few months ago. So it was a painful process of discovering more, learning more about this virus and knowing how to deal with it. I think this is a challenge for all of us. We are one of the first to handle this critical situation. And we made tremendous efforts at a very high cost.

Now things are getting better in China. We have very few cases. We still have about 3000 cases, confirmed cases. People are still in serious condition to treat, but at least we know how to treat them much better than before. So we're trying very hard to prevent any so-called "second wave" of the confirmed cases. And we are making our great efforts to restart the economic engine, to restore things to normal economic and social activity. This is a tremendous task, but at the same time, we are fully aware that we cannot succeed all by ourselves. We have to contribute to international efforts, international cooperation, globally, to combat this virus, because unless we have global success in containing and treating this virus, no country will be safe, including China, including the United States. So we are working very hard on all these fronts.

Ian Bremmer: You had a longer experience now responding to this crisis than any other country in the world. What advice, if any, would you give to the American government in what we need to do going forward? As a consequence, the lessons that you've learned?

Ambassador Cui: I don't think I can give any professional advice to anybody in terms of public health, because I'm not specialist in public health. But I think what we have learned from our experience and from the experience of other countries is that we really have to put people's lives and health first. This is the most important thing for us to do. And we should do it at any cost. We have to save lives, to protect people's health, especially the more vulnerable groups, old people, people with underlying diseases, and maybe poor people in many countries. We have to make this our top priority at any cost.

Number two, we really have to enhance international cooperation. We really have to reject any attempt at taking political advantage of other people's sufferings. Unfortunately, there are still elements here, maybe elsewhere in the world, who are making such an attempt.

We have to work together and firmly reject all such attempts. Then in the long run, I think we should draw the proper lessons from this pandemic. You see, for the last few years, so many people were talking about strategic rivalry among the major powers, the so-called "Thucydides' trap", and so on and so forth. But very few people anticipated that such an invisible virus has made such a big impact on all of us. So I think people have to give serious thinking to what is a real threat for all of us. What is our real enemy? And where lies our common interest? How we should respond globally together to such global challenges?

Ian Bremmer: Are you worried? We live with globalization, we live with a just-in-time supply chain, which is very efficient, and which China is a core component of, but that means if anything goes wrong that you're vulnerable. And you certainly see a lot of efforts as a consequence to move to localization to produce a lot more products where the consumers are. That has the potential to create much less mutual interdependence between the US and the Chinese economy. How do you respond to the concerns about the just-in-time supply chain and what companies need to do to ensure that they are less vulnerable to these sorts of sudden shocks?

Ambassador Cui: I think this is something our economists really have to look at. But I believe, you see, so far the virus has moved much faster than any shift in the supply chain. You have to recognize this. And globalization, the process of globalization was driven by economic efficiency and technology. I don't think it was just designed by some people. It was driven by these objective forces. I don't think we can really stop these forces. These are more fundamental forces in the world. And I can understand that now people want to have more diversification of supply chain. So when they are faced with a crisis, they could still have supplies.

I think this is understandable. And this should be done, but maybe only to some extent, because it's quite clear you cannot confine everything within national borders. This pandemic proves again this is a global challenge. The virus recognizes no national boundaries, no difference in political system, in culture, in religion whatsoever. It attacks all of us the same way. So there is an even greater need for closer and more effective global cooperation. So if there's anything wrong with the past process of globalization, I think we have to make it more open, inclusive, with more equitable distribution of benefits for everybody. Take care of the weaker people, the more vulnerable people, the poorer people. That's something we have to do to correct the past weakness or deficiency of globalization. But still, this pandemic has proved, again, we are so closely connected globally. So when we are faced with such serious global challenges, how can we make ourselves more divided rather than united?

Ian Bremmer: Now you've said a few times already. So I understand this is a clear priority for you that it's a global crisis. We need global cooperation to respond. Now, so far we've not seen much global cooperation. The reality is that the G7 has met a couple of times, said it's going to monitor the situation. The G20 has met and said it's going to monitor the situation. We don't see a lot of coordination, either political, economic, monetary or on the healthcare side. We see individual countries responding individually. What do you think concretely the Chinese can do to help facilitate a more international response?

Ambassador Cui: I think you're right. Of course we have to recognize the G20 had a good special summit, also a video call, and they have taken a number of good decisions. Now the task is to implement these decisions. But still, I think, the current situation and the current deficiency in global governance, I hope, will make people give more serious thinking to your idea of this Gzero. We don't have a very good functioning global governance so far, whether for the global economy or for global public health. I think people really have to make serious efforts to think about what kind of global governance we should be building. What should we aim at?

You see, I think we have had a number of crises in this 21st century, maybe starting with the terrorist attack 9/11, then the financial crisis, now this COVID-19 virus. The security challenges, the financial instability, now public health. If we can still call this a wakeup call, I think we should have woken up long time ago, but still, if we have not started yet, we have to start real efforts to build a good international governance system for the 21st century, for the future. But I think that all would depend on what we aim at. If we still want to build some international governance system based on a particular political model or with the dominance of one or two particular countries, I don't think we can succeed. If we aim at a new system of international governance that is open, inclusive, that is based on mutual respect among all countries, on the full recognition of the diversity of culture, civilization, political system, economic system, if we can do this, then I think all the things are ready for us to build a new and effective international governance system. We have to make the right choice now.

Ian Bremmer: Ambassador, I understand your point very well. When you say existing institutions that are dominated by one or two countries, that are not going to work as effectively, are you talking specifically about, say, the Bretton Woods institutions, the IMF, the World Bank, the WTO? Is that what you're referring to?

Ambassador Cui: I think to be fair, all these institutions are making their best efforts to reform and to improve, to catch up with tremendous changes going on in the world. For instance, since the financial crisis in 2008, the World Bank and the IMF have had major reforms about the quota system, about how they respond to the member states' needs. I think they are making good efforts. Even at the recent G20 summit, these institutions are offering their contribution. They are ready to play their due role. Of course we have to encourage them to do more. And for the WTO, it was very unfortunate that the Doha Round did not succeed. And many of the rules were set up before we have had all these new technologies. So I think there is a real need for us to support reform of the WTO, make it more up-to-date, make it better able to meet the challenge. But to be fair, I think these people are doing a lot, are making a lot of efforts. But you see I spent many years dealing with multilateral institutions. There is always a saying: the organization is as good as its member states. So we the member states have to take the lead.

Ian Bremmer: I guess what I'm asking is, as we look ahead three years', five years' time and as you're saying that some of these institutions that have been dominated by one or two countries are not going to be adequate for the task, which is a pretty direct statement. Do you think that these institutions reformed will become adequate? Or do you think it's more likely that we need new architecture, some of which will come from China, some of which will come from other places? What's the direction that you think we're more likely heading of those two?

Ambassador Cui: Honestly, I think if these existing institutions can respond to the needs and aspirations of their member states, when I say member states, it is not just a few of them, but their entire membership, if these institutions can respond in a timely and effective manner, then they can have good reforms. They could make themselves better able to perform their function. If they fail to do that, that might force the member countries to think about the possibility of setting up new structures. But I do hope that we can carry out reform with the existing institutions, just make them better.

Ian Bremmer: We talk about the United States and China, two big countries which obviously have the ability to put stimulus in place to ensure that we get through this economic crisis. You and I both know that there are many countries in the world that don't have that capacity. The IMF is looking to raise a lot of money to help ensure that we don't see emerging markets, developing countries crash. Should we expect that the Chinese are going to do a lot more in terms of providing leadership role and provide a lot more money to contribute to that process as we start to see some of the worst economic conditions for some of these developing nations around the world?

Ambassador Cui: Actually, China has been very actively involved in the process, even for the international response to the financial crisis in the last decade also. We increased our contribution to these institutions. Now we are the second largest contributor to United Nations' budget, second largest contributor to United Nations peacekeeping operations, the largest troops contributing country among the permanent members of the Security Council to UN peacekeeping operations. So we are increasing our contribution. We are doing our best to do more for the international community, because we believe we are all part of this community of nations. We do have a shared destiny. We do have a shared future. But of course, it is very much hoped that the United States will continue to do more.

Ian Bremmer: I mean these institutions, they were set up as Western institutions. If it turns out the Chinese are doing the lion's share or much more in terms of spending and contributions, what kind of conditionality do you think is likely to be attached? Are we talking about, for example, the ability to have much more say in the appointments of key leaders in these organizations? Is it change in voting rights and quotas? Is it the way the loans are repaid and the kind of conditionality attached? How is the Chinese government thinking about this as you play a much larger role in the global state?

Ambassador Cui: You see, different organizations have different structures. For instance, for World Bank and the IMF, their voting right is based on the distribution of quotas on your contribution. So if we contribute more, of course, we have bigger voting rights. For the United Nations, it's equality for all the member states, whether they're big or small, strong or weak, rich or poor. So in the United Nations General Assembly, China and the United States, both of us only have one vote as all the other countries. Of course in the Security Council it's different. We are permanent members because we have greater responsibilities. We are really contributing more. But what China wants is not selfish interests. We want the purposes and principles of the UN Charter to be widely observed. If we can have all these principles implemented and respected globally, I don't think we want anything more for ourselves.

Ian Bremmer: Do you think, I mean, obviously, we see coming out of this crisis, China's economy is rebounding the fastest. China is critical for the distribution of medical supplies and personnel. Do you see China playing a fundamentally different role on the global stage? Do you see China emerging as a global leader in a way that hasn't before on the back of this crisis? And if you do, is that an intentional strategy? Do you see this as more of a reactive response? Do you see this as the desire of the Chinese government to say, this is the moment when China should lead.

Ambassador Cui: If we could have our preference, certainly we don't want to see this moment, because this is a huge crisis for all of us. So what is driving our action right now is our understanding that we're all part of the community. We have to help others, because nobody could be safe if others are still threatened. We have a clear understanding of this. So we are doing our best to help others just to save lives. And in a sense, it is also helping ourselves. China cannot be safe from the virus if all the other countries are still struggling. So we are helping others. That's true. But in a sense, we are also helping ourselves by helping others. And I don't think our aim is to be the so-called the "leader of the world", because we never believe that there should be a leader for the world. We believe in equality of all the countries. Of course, some countries are more powerful, more capable of doing things and should make bigger contribution. And we're ready to do that. But still, what we really want to have is mutual respect, true respect with each other, and full recognition that differences among countries will continue to exist. We should see these differences as a source of diversity, complementarity rather than confrontation or conflicts.

Ian Bremmer: What kind of response have you been getting from countries around the world? We've seen very active public diplomacy, very active humanitarian support, especially in Europe, obviously, key allies of the United States. What kind of response and reaction concretely have you been getting from those governments?

Ambassador Cui: I think people welcome our help, of course, and we are trying our best to deliver some technical assistance, some medical supplies, and share with them our own experience of dealing with this virus. But we also make it clear what we have done in China is based on China's conditions, on China's circumstances. For instance, we have such a huge population. Many other countries don't have such a huge population. We have such a density of population in some of the big cities. So there are things that we are doing in China, which work for China, they may not be very suitable for other countries. So we keep telling people this: you have to develop a whole strategy based on your own conditions that would work for your own country. But as far as technical and medical assistance is concerned, we are ready to provide that.

Ian Bremmer: Let me turn to some of the more challenging points out there, and maybe start with a little bit inside China itself. I mean, obviously, there's been a lot of criticism about the fact that the Chinese government, initially, was not forthcoming about the explosion of these cases, and particularly this whistleblower, Li Wenliang, the doctor who was exonerated afterwards by the local Chinese officials, but originally was suppressed. Are there any lessons that the Chinese government has learned from the early missteps that were made in responding to the coronavirus?

Ambassador Cui: Now let me tell you, some of the things that have been reported in the media here or claimed by politicians here are just not facts. So let me try to give you some facts. You mentioned this doctor, Li Wenliang. He was a great doctor. He was a great person. It's so unfortunate that he passed away. He was, by profession, he was an eye doctor. He was not a specialist on this kind of virus, you see. But even before him… of course Dr. Li did raise some alarm among his colleagues, among his medical colleagues. He did not intend to make it public, but somehow his message got out.

But even before him, there was a doctor, who was a lady in Wuhan, she got three cases, suspicious cases of people running fever for unknown reasons, without any clear cause. So she reported and within a couple of days, the local CDC sent some experts to the hospital to look at these cases. And the next day, three days after this lady doctor put forward the reporting, the local CDC sent an alert to all the local hospitals to say that there are suspicious cases, people running fevers, and we could not identify the cause. That was very late December.

The first reporting was on December 27 last year. Then on January 3, we informed the World Health Organization of this particular situation. So it's just within a few days, and we alerted all the member countries of the WHO. Then a day after that, the CDCs of our two countries had their first communication. So you see, I'm not a medical professional, I cannot tell you whether this kind of reporting response is sufficiently clear or good, but I think in terms of time, it was done within a very short period of time.

Then when people came to realize this virus could be transmitted between human beings, even before that, the central government sent experts to Wuhan to look at these suspicious cases. Then when they came to realize that this is transmittable between human beings, we locked down the whole city of Wuhan with 10 million people. Then actually the Province of Hubei was also kind of closed down with 60 million people. Then two days after the lockdown of Wuhan, the United States evacuated its Consulate from Wuhan together with its citizens. Then in early February, the United States stopped all travelers from China (who had been in China for the last 14 days), whether Chinese or foreigners. So a number of measures were taken.

Ian Bremmer: The Chinese government objected to it at the time, as you know.

Ambassador Cui:So what I want to say is that, the fact is we reported to the WHO in the early days, when we saw these suspicious cases, just within a few days and everybody was alerted, but whether they have done enough or not, this is not up to me to judge, you see.

Ian Bremmer: That's fair. President Trump has actually said in recent press conferences that the Chinese obviously have been hurt by this much more as a consequence of the explosion. So he's not, I think, reflecting this was intentional on the part of the Chinese government, that they knew what was going to happen in any way. But you have seen President Trump recently say that the Chinese numbers are a little on the light side. And then just most recently we saw on news of a classified US intelligence report that concluded that the Chinese government actually concealed the extent of the virus outbreak. I'm sure you've seen all of these reports because you're dealing with it. How do you respond to those direct accusations by the US government?

Ambassador Cui: The fact is we started daily briefing to the press in the very early stage of this crisis. We are still doing daily briefing to the press, announcing all the updates, the numbers, the cases treated, the cases confirmed, all these things. We are making it public on a daily basis. And we're also sharing, at very early stage, in early January, what we have found out about the genome sequences of the virus and everything we learned from our own experience. We shared it with the world.

We even publicized all the possible treatments. We keep updating it, from time to time, including how to use traditional Chinese medicine to treat the patients. We made it public, all this information, all our experience. For the accusations that China is hiding the numbers, just think about it, we have such a huge population, such a big country, you cannot hide the cases of a very vicious virus, because if you have patients, they are just patients. If people are infected, they're just infected. How can you hide them?

Ian Bremmer: Well, you count them as something else. I mean, Russia clearly has been undercounting recently. Iran has been vastly undercounting. You see satellite imagery in Iran of these mass graves they dug, but they're not talking to their people or to the rest of the world about how expansive the cases are. In some cases you undertest. A lot of ways that you don't necessarily come out with the numbers as they necessarily are. I'm simply saying if the US intelligence agencies are making a direct accusation and President Trump is as well, it's important for me to give the opportunity for the chief Chinese diplomat in the US to respond directly to those accusations.

Ambassador Cui: You see, I don't know if you can go to China now, if you want to go to China, but if you look at the media…

Ian Bremmer: I am not sure I would be allowed to go to China right now. With the recent visa constraints, I don't think I'd be considered essential personnel.

Ambassador Cui: You see, people are really worried about the possibility of importing the virus again back to China. These are very reasonable precautions people have to take. But anyway, if you look at the media report, people in China are working very hard to restart the economy, to restore economic and social activities. Many of the companies are working again, and also many of the shops are open again. And for many of our provinces, schools are open again. So you cannot do all these things if you have no confidence that you are able to contain the virus. And the number of infected people is coming down, this is quite clear.

Ian Bremmer: I know you've been worried about a secondary outbreak, and everybody is obviously, something, we clearly want to do it together. Some steps the Chinese government has taken, opening some tourist destinations, opening movie theaters and then quickly closing them down again. Is this because of additional cases in China?

Ambassador Cui: No, we just want to make sure there will not be a so-called second wave of these cases. And we are very careful, and we are very cautious about any possibility of such… You see, people may be infected but without symptoms. So if they come in, and they would pass on the disease to others, we have to be very careful about that. But I think all these measures are based on scientific knowledge, on the medical need. You see, as for those people and some of the institutions who are saying or accusing China of concealing things, hiding things, normally, if you look at their own history, normally they are the people and institutions who are always hiding and concealing something from the public. I don't know what is under their dirty carpet. Maybe you could have a look.

Ian Bremmer: Let me ask you quickly. After the lockdown, the mayor of Wuhan was widely quoted as saying some 5 million Chinese from Wuhan were traveling during the period of time that we now know that this virus was starting to explode. Do we know anything about either where they've gone or how many of them have returned at this point?

Ambassador Cui: First of all, I don't have the exact number because I was not there. Secondly, even a large number of people left Wuhan before the lockdown, the fact is I think the overwhelming majority of them didn't have visa to go to any other country, because if they left in a hurry, they just didn't have time to apply for any visa. So if they left Wuhan, most of them must have stayed in China. But if you look at the numbers, the confirmed cases in other Chinese provinces, even provinces next to Wuhan, the numbers are not very high. That means we have effectively contained the spread of virus within China. So I don't think people could put the blame on us for the increasing number in countries far far away from China. Maybe they are from elsewhere.

Ian Bremmer: So let me ask you, in terms of the restart of the Chinese economy and expectations for growth right now for this year, do you have your latest sense of when you think supply chain will be fully up and functioning? And do you have any expected numbers for this year, for 2020? What we might see from Chinese growth?

Ambassador Cui: I think honestly, we are faced with a tremendous challenge with regard to our economy, I mean with regard to the world economy, our economy, the global economy, I don't think I can predict now how the economic performance of the world will end up by the end of this year. But we in China are doing our best to restore the supply chain, to resume production. But you see this is a global supply chain. We cannot do everything all by ourselves. You have upstream, you have downstream, you have to make sure that everything would work. So we are making a lot of efforts to get supplies and to sell our products, especially these medical supplies. And we are also working with other countries to make sure the global supply chain will function again.

Ian Bremmer: But as China is a piece of the global supply chain and just being able to get people back in all of their workplaces, do you think when China is fully functional in that regard? Is it May? Is it June? Is it later than that? Your sense?

Ambassador Cui: We are not yet to our full capacity. We are not yet. Maybe for some of the provinces or cities, they are very close to full capacity. But nationwide, we're not there yet. So we'll try to do our best to speed up the process, so that we'll get back to full capacity as soon as possible. So we'll see how our efforts would work. And of course a lot would depend on our efforts to contain the virus, to make sure that there would not be another wave of cases. So all these things are interconnected, and of course it will depend on how stable the international financial market is. If there's a huge fluctuation on the international financial market, it would certainly spill over to our economy, to manufacturing, to our own finance. So we are still globally connected. We have to help each other. We have to work together.

Ian Bremmer: Given all of that uncertainty, you talked at the beginning about the need to work together, to hopefully still implement phase one of the trade deal. There were a lot of commitments in place that presume a very different economy than what we're facing right now. What does that mean to you in terms of the flexibility of implementation in that deal and whether or not both sides will be able to achieve it?

Ambassador Cui: As far as I know, we're still doing our part of the deal. For instance, we are still purchasing some of the agricultural products from the United States. We are still removing some of the restrictions on foreign companies in China's financial market. We are still doing all these things. But of course as you said, the global economic landscape has been drastically changed. So I just hope our two economic teams, if they can sit down together or just have a conference call, they can really make good assessment of the changing realities and coordinate our response to that.

Ian Bremmer: Let me add just a last couple of questions about the trust between the two countries. There have obviously been some insults hurled at each other from different politicians on both sides. The Chinese recently made a decision to take the visas from all of the New York Times, Washington Post, and Wall Street Journal journalists from the mainland, Hong Kong, and Macao. Were you surprised by that decision? And do you think it can be overturned?

Ambassador Cui: Honestly, I was not surprised. I have to say the fact is not all of them have their visa terminated. These papers still have some people working in China. Not all of them have their visas terminated. But I am not really surprised by this decision because it was all initiated in the United States. Look at how the US government is treating our journalists here in the United States. They have driven out about 60 Chinese journalists from this country, on the basis that they represent or they believe in a certain ideology or political system. But as far as I know, you don't make any distinction among the journalists based on their political beliefs. They could have whatever political belief, but they're still journalists by profession. But you see how our journalists are treated here. So what we are doing is in response to what has been done here to our journalists.

Ian Bremmer: Do you see any space for an opening between the Americans and Chinese? As I look at this, I see the biggest crisis that we've experienced in our lifetimes. I see several concrete steps by both countries that are not moving to cooperation, they are actually moving towards more confrontation. And these decisions around the media are only one. Do you see any concrete steps that I'm perhaps not seeing that imply our countries are coming together more?

Ambassador Cui: I certainly don't want to see any escalation of tensions between our two countries anytime, and especially at this critical moment. I certainly don't want to see any further deterioration, and I'm doing my best to prevent this from happening. But what is surprising to me is how low people could go here sometimes, for some of the politicians, how low they could go. It was really surprising to me.

Ian Bremmer: Are you talking about the Senator that suggested that this was created in a biolab in Wuhan?

Ambassador Cui: Well, I don't want to name any names.

Ian Bremmer: No, I'm just saying that because the Chinese government made very similar accusations and officially so. I just wonder if that's the kind of thing that you say is only coming from the US, it's actually coming from both sides.

Ambassador Cui: I think the fact is that we do not initiate all these escalations. We do not make the provocations. But if other people choose to do that, we have to respond.

Ian Bremmer: And what do we do to get out of this cycle?

Ambassador Cui: Let's concentrate on the positive things. Let's focus on our common interests and mutual needs. Let's work together to respond to this global crisis, to save people's lives, to save the future of global economy, and to save the future of the global community. This is our paramount task.

Ian Bremmer: President Trump, before he spoke with your President, was calling the virus the "China virus". After he spoke with him, he stopped doing that. Was there anything direct in the conversation between the two leaders that gives you reason to believe that our countries are going to move closer together again?

Ambassador Cui: Based on my own experience here, our two leaders have a very good and effective working relationship between them. Their meetings and their phone calls have been, all of them, constructive and giving us some guidance about the relations. So hopefully, everybody would work together with us to implement such agreement between the two Presidents, and really focus on the constructive things that we really have to do together.

Ian Bremmer: Did either of them offer anything concrete in terms of ways that we might cooperate? A summit that we might have? Anything that can give some hope? Because again, when you talk to the CEOs, you talk to the decision makers, the people that you and I both know very well, there's not a lot of hope that this relationship is going well.

Ambassador Cui: Well, I think we need some intellectual guidance from people like you, to make people look ahead, have broader vision, and have a full recognition of the realities, the changing realities of the world in the 21st century and reject all such Cold-War mentality, zero-sum game. All these are kind of thinking from the 19th or early 20th century.

Ian Bremmer: Ambassador, if you're hoping on me, we are completely screwed.

Ambassador Cui: I have high hopes on you.

Ian Bremmer: Very good to see you, my friend. Thank you very much.

Ambassador Cui: Thank you.

Ian Bremmer: OK. Anything else that is important to you?

Ambassador Cui: I hope maybe in the not-so-distant future, we can really talk about, instead of Gzero, we can talk about G-something, something good for all of us.

Ian Bremmer: What do you think G-something is? If you have to pick, what is G-something?

Ambassador Cui: I think we have, as I said earlier, we really have to look at what kind of global governance we need. I think it should be a global governance based on recognition of diversity, mutual respect, more open and more inclusive, without any attempt to achieve kind of dominance by any single country.

Ian Bremmer: So is it a new G grouping that's required?

Ambassador Cui: It's not a kind of grouping. I think it's a change of mindset.

Ian Bremmer: But you agree that the mindset right now among the world leaders is not there.

Ambassador Cui: I think actually many of the conditions are already there. And they are calling for such a vision, for such a new global governance. It depends on how fast and how well we can respond. What is lacking is a real vision. Maybe some people already have this vision. That's why we're talking about the community of nations. But I don't think all the global leaders already have this vision.

Ian Bremmer: This is interesting. So if we leave aside the United States and China, which you and I have spent a lot of time on, and we want to see outside of those two countries, who is "somebody" that has that vision? A government, a leader, a person, who's someone that has that, some of that vision right now, in your view, not Chinese, not American?

Ambassador Cui: I think, to some extent, you are right. Because we are two big countries, we have great responsibilities. I don't know if it's good or bad, we do have a group of intellectuals or people working in all these think tanks thinking about this grand strategy every day. We are flooded with such thinking. But even for other countries, some smaller, maybe poorer countries, countries that unfortunately don't have a lot of say in international decision-making, I think they are keenly aware of their vulnerability, of the lack of effective, efficient and equitable global governance system. It is ineffective, but they are not in a position to change it. So maybe they have hopes on us to take the lead for the international efforts to build such a good governance system for everybody.

Ian Bremmer: No names. This conversation pains me because by far the least I've spoken anytime you and I have met, so it's hard to me intellectually. But that's OK. We will fix this next time you and I are together. I hope it will be soon. I really do. This is a mess.

Ambassador Cui: Me too. I also hope we can meet again very soon.

Ian Bremmer: Thank you for doing this.

Ambassador Cui: New York city is still my favorite city in America.

Ian Bremmer: Me too. That's why I'm not going anywhere. I'm sitting here.

Ambassador Cui: Let's wish New York, every New Yorker good luck.

Ian Bremmer: Absolutely. I'm going to use that saying that the New York city is your favorite city.

Ambassador Cui: Thank you.

Suggest to a Friend: