When Political Relationship Between Two Countries Turns Confrontational
It Is Impossible To Keep Other Spheres Intact
--Q&A by Amb. Qin Gang with Carter Center and George H.W. Bush Foundation for US-China Relations

On September 22, 2021, Ambassador Qin Gang was invited to attend an online conversation jointly held by The Carter Center and The George H.W. Bush Foundation for US-China Relations and delivered a speech. The Ambassador also answered questions from the participants. The Q&A is as follows:


Q1: How to interpret and handle public mutual criticisms and blaming from China and the US?

A: A very important thing between China and the US is mutual respect. China is open and inclusive. We welcome and readily accept various suggestions or criticisms, as long as they are objective, truthful, well-intentioned and constructive, and we will make improvements according to them. As Chinese Ambassador to the US, a very important job of mine is to communicate and listen. However, we do not accept baseless slander and disinformation. We do not accept condescending lecturing. And we do not accept words or deeds that undermine China's sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity. Citizens must abide by the law. Likewise, countries must abide by the basic norms governing international relations. US law prohibits secession and racial hatred, but why do some Americans want to treat China in this way?

Q2: What is China's reaction to the cooperation between Australia, the UK and the US about nuclear submarines?

A: China has expressed concerns to the US side. Foreign Ministry spokesperson has made it clear. In fact, not only China, but also many other regional countries have stated their concerns and even opposition. The nuclear submarine cooperation between the US, the UK and Australia will intensify arms race, undermine regional peace and stability, and sabotage international nuclear non-proliferation efforts. It is extremely irresponsible. We urge these countries to discard Cold-War zero-sum mentality and narrow-minded geopolitical perception, and not to gang up. Security affairs of the Asia-Pacific should be jointly decided by people in the region, and not be dominated by the Anglo-Saxons. China will closely monitor the developments of the situation.

Q3: What is the role China will play in Asia-Pacific regional economic integration?

A: First, as the world's second biggest economy and the number one trading partner of over 120 countries, especially Asian countries, China has maintained stable economic growth. This is in itself a powerhouse and a source of confidence for the growth of Asian and world economy and trade. China is a strong link in the global supply chain.

Second, China is striving towards common prosperity. It is committed to high-level opening-up. This means it will provide a broader market and greater development opportunities for Asian countries.

Third, China is committed to economic globalization and regional economic integration. We have joined the RCEP (Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership), and are applying to join the CPTPP (Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership). We will also upgrade FTA arrangements with the Republic of Korea and Singapore, and speed up negotiations of a China-Japan-ROK FTA. These initiatives will inject strong impetus into regional economic integration of the Asia-Pacific, advance integrated development of regional industrial chain, supply chain and value chain, boost trade and investment, and promote development and prosperity of the Asia-Pacific.

Q4: What are the concrete measures that can be taken by the US and China to promote mutual confidence, especially on the resumption of effective cooperation in educational, scientific and technological fields?

A: China-US relations were seriously damaged during the previous US administration. Our educational, technological and people-to-people exchanges also suffered. Some Americans say Chinese students are spies, and Confucius Institutes are engaging in cultural infiltration. Many Chinese students and scholars have been repatriated, denied visas, interrogated, and harassed for no reason. Scientific and technological exchanges between the two sides have almost been cut off. Educational, technological and cultural exchanges serve the interests of both countries. They are critical for our mutual understanding and trust. Since I assumed office, over 10 American universities and educational institutions have written to me, expressing their hope for continued US-China educational exchanges and cooperation. We hope that the Biden administration will turn this around as soon as possible. I noticed that the US side has recently issued visas to 85,000 Chinese students, but still some Chinese students' applications got rejected. We hope that the US side will do more things to lift the iron curtain between our people, and allow our students, scholars, scientists and artists to talk and work together without fear and obstacles. For example, our scientists could cooperate on major infectious diseases and on climate change. China also welcomes American students to study in China.

Not long ago, President Xi Jinping spoke with President Joe Biden on the phone. They had candid, in-depth and strategic communication and exchanges, sending out positive signals. They have agreed to maintain frequent contact by multiple means and instructed officials at the working level to conduct extensive dialogue, tap the potential of cooperation, effectively manage differences so as to avoid conflict and create conditions for the further development of China-US relations. President Xi stressed that the two sides should advance coordination and cooperation on the basis of respecting each other's core concerns and properly managing differences. To be frank, what I worry about is that the US uses competition to define China-US relations, while competition on the US side often takes the form of confrontation, especially on major issues concerning China's core interests. If this does not change, it will undermine China's efforts to promote our mutual trust and cooperation. There isn't any example in the history of international relations where the political relationship between two countries is in competition or even confrontation but other spheres remain safe and sound.

Q5: At present, non-Chinese citizens need to wait several weeks or even months to get their visas to travel to China for emergent humanitarian reasons. Will the embassy re-consider expediting the processing of such visa at the shortest timeline possible in days? Have the US and China begun discussion on reopening the Consulates in Chengdu and Houston?

A: Due to the pandemic, in-person visa application has been replaced by a mail-in process. This has caused inconveniences to the applicants and affected the processing speed. In July last year, the US suddenly and unilaterally demanded China shut down the Consulate General in Houston. This is against the China-US Consular Convention, international law and basic norms governing international relations. It has seriously damaged China-US relations. Visa applications which used to be processed by Chinese Consulate General in Houston have been transferred to the Embassy, so there has been a sharp increase of workload for us, which makes the processing time somehow longer. Our staff at the Embassy will do their best to speed up. We also hope that visa applicants will provide complete and accurate information as required to avoid hiccups and delays.

Facing the abrupt closure of the Consulate General in Houston, the Chinese side had no choice but to reciprocate and close the US Consulate General in Chengdu. Let the person who tied the bell on the tiger take it off. This is something unilaterally started by the US side, and the US side must act first to resolve it.

Q6: Over the next decades, global issues where the United States and China must work together (global warming, nuclear proliferation, limits on cyber-warfare, and new technologies) will likely become more salient and their solutions more complex. What should be done to ensure that the next generation of US and Chinese diplomats are well equipped to handle these issues?

A: During the telephone conversation between President Xi Jinping and President Biden, President Xi emphasized that with the international community facing many common challenges, China and the US need to show broad vision and shoulder great responsibilities. On the basis of respecting each other's core concerns and properly managing differences, the two countries need to continue their engagement and dialogue to advance coordination and cooperation on major international and regional issues.

On climate change, China and the US must first do their own things well. Both sides have announced their NDC goals, so we must honor our words with real actions. The international community has misgivings about whether the US can fulfill its promises and whether it will flip again.

Both China and the US should practice multilateralism, and safeguard the international system with the UN as the core and the international order based on international law. For example, on nuclear non-proliferation, the US cooperation with Australia on nuclear submarines give people reasons to question their sincerity and ability to honor international responsibilities and obligations, including non-proliferation commitments. If a country likes to talk about safeguarding a rules-based international order, but does not follow the rules set by itself, or only follows them selectively, or keeps flip-flopping, how can you expect other countries to trust this country?

The Internet and other new technologies have enabled progress, but also brought about risks and challenges. The international community must have new norms and standards to regulate them, so as to maximize their pros and minimize their cons. China and the US can negotiate and coordinate in this field. For example, China has put forward a Global Digital Security Initiative. We welcome the response from the US side, so that we can jointly maintain global digital and cyber security.

Q7: The US-China relationship is inching toward the danger of a conflict. What can China unilaterally do to deescalate the tensions in this relationship, so as to avoid conflict and confrontation between the two countries?

A: China has great sincerity in starting up a dialogue with the United States to deescalate the tensions in bilateral relationship. We will continue to work with the US side, as long as there are opportunities for cooperation. However, the cooperation between the two countries must be conducted in the principle of mutual respect. And the United States should not expect China's cooperation in areas where only the US has demand and interests, while neglecting or even undermining China's interests at the same time, in particular on these core issues concerning China's sovereignty and territorial integrity.

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