Interview Zhou Wenzhong: Where Is the Sino-US Relationship Heading for?
Origin:Boao Forum for Asia      Time:2015-10-20 16:55:35     Views:1316871

Journalist: Mr. Lampton, Dean of the Department of China Study, Johns Hopkins University, has said that he is worrying about where the Sino-US relations would go. He also felt that an important part of the American policy elites and that of the Chinese elites have a mutual misunderstanding. Lampton is rated as one of the most influential China experts in the US. Many American scholars agree with him and share his concerns about the future of the Sino-US relations. So, has the Sino-US relationship really reached a tipping point?

ZHOU Wenzhong: The development of the Sino-US relations meets with both parties’ desire and interests. The fact that the Sino-US relations have kept moving forward will remain unchanged. So Lampton’s argument about “Tipping Point” is inconsistent with the reality.

He has focused only on the passive side of the status quo of the Sino-US relations. “Tipping Point” means the direction of the Sino-US relations may encounter a reverse. However, when we take a look at the history of the Sino-US relations in the past three decades, we find that the relationship has kept moving forward though there have been ups and downs. Spurring on amid ups and downs is a characterization of the development trend of the Sino-US relations in a long run. In its history, no matter bilaterally or multi-laterally, no matter at international level or at regional level, the Sino-US relationship has encountered lots of obstacles. After all, the two countries have different ideologies as well as political and social systems and are at different development stages. Nevertheless, throughout the past 30 years, the Sino-US relations have kept moving forward, which shows the vitality of the relationship.

Of course, the Sino-US relations will face new problems inevitably in the days to come. That’s why President Xi Jinping put emphasis on “managing the differences properly and effectively”. In his speech in Seattle last month, President Xi said that both sides have four things to do if they want to push forward the relations from the new starting point. First of all, they should judge the strategic intentions of each other correctly and have right perceptions on each other. As to the US, the US Government should see China as a real friend and partner. In the achievement list of the visit, the US side said that they are happy to see a strong, prosperous and stable China which will play a bigger role in international affairs. However, to keep this promise and do accordingly is a challenge to the US. More and more American people take China as a friend and partner. However, there are still some people who, for ideological reason or domestic political consideration, are still unfriendly to China and even against China. Trump, who is running for the Republican nomination, is such an example. It is not surprising that in a pluralistic society such as the United States, different voices cannot be avoided. For China, we should push forward the relations in the direction of a new model of major power relations agreed by the leaders of the two countries. I’m confident about the future of the Sino-US relations.

Journalist: Just before President Xi’s visit to the US, Foreign Minister WANG Yi has mentioned four “journeys” at Lanting Forum including “a journey of cooperation”. Besides, there is a new phrase on the Internet: President Xi started a “Buy! Buy! Buy! ” trip.

ZHOU Wenzhong: This shows that the Sino-US trade relations are complementary and mutually-beneficial. As to why we ordered 300 Boeing planes, according to a report, Boeing has forecasted that China would order 5000 new planes in the coming 20 years worth USD 600 B. With an annual growth of 7.6%, China would become the second biggest plane market in the world.

The Sino-US trade volume is in excess of over USD 550 B, which shows the two countries need each other. Today, there is a problem in the Sino-US trade relations: China has a large trade surplus of more than USD 400 B, while the US export to China is USD 120 B only. Why? The reason is that the US is still pursuing an embargo policy towards China in respect of high-tech products. So the big surplus in favor of China is the result of the American policy. One way to change the long-term unbalanced Sino-US economical and trade cooperation is to increase mutual investments. Both parties are still in negotiation of an investment treaty. After the two parties reach an agreement about the treaty, China will be able to change the mode from selling products and services to investing in factories and companies in the US. This would be win-win for all. The negotiations started in 2008. So far, they have had 19 rounds of negotiations and much progress has been made. According to the US Ambassador to China, an agreement is expected to be reached by the end of next year. Let’s have a look at the list of outcomes of President Xi’s visit to the US. It says that the leaders of the two countries made positive appraisals on the progress made in the BIT negotiations and both agree to facilitate the negotiation and speed up the progress in order to conclude a win-win and high-level investment treaty. Once this treaty is executed, the Sino-US relations will enter a new stage.

Journalist: There is an inevitable topic: mindset. As a senior diplomat to the US for years, you visited officials in many states and delivered speeches in many famous American universities. Now when working for the Boao Forum for Asia, you still have the opportunity to come into contact with people from the US. In your opinion, what kind of concern the US has about China? Do they see China in the same way?

ZHOU Wenzhong: About this question, President Xi has expressed his views clearly at the joint welcome banquet which was held by the Washington state Government and US friendly groups in Seattle. He talked about there were four tasks for the two countries. He also made nine points on the actual situation and development strategies of China, as well as the direction of the Sino-US relations.

In my opinion, the concern of the US is that they are afraid that China becomes a challenger. President Xi has said especially in one of his speech that China is a participant, builder and contributor as far as the existing international system is concerned. We persist on safeguarding the international order and international system taking the UN Charter and Principles as the core. President Xi also emphasized that development remains the primary task for China. I hope the Americans can really appreciate President Xi’s words. According to the UN standard, there are still 200 million poor people in China.

In terms of China’s own standard, there are 70 million poor people and 80 million disables; in per capita terms, China’s GDP ranks the 80th in the world. So China has a long way to go. The Chinese Government will never change its peaceful development strategy and will continue to follow the policy of reform and opening up to the world.

In history, the Sino-US relations had many ups and downs, which is in some way reflecting the policy of the US Government in office then towards China in different phases. In the years of Clinton Administration, Chinese President JIANG Zemin visited the US in 1997. The two sides agreed on working towards a constructive strategic partnership. However, President Bush said before and after he came into office that China is a strategic competitor to the US. Soon after the start of his second term, the “9·11” happened, President Bush gradually realized the significance of the Sino-US relations and the importance of China to the US. China’s firm attitude against terrorism was important for the US, so President Bush agreed to develop constructive and cooperative relations with China, but stops there. During Obama’s visit to China in 2009, the two parties agreed to make the Sino-US relations positive, cooperative and comprehensive for the 21st century. By comparison, the expression “positive, cooperative and comprehensive” is a small step forward. In 2011, President HU Jintao visited the US and the two parties entered into an agreement on building up a partnership based on mutual respect, mutual benefit and win-win cooperation. This expression is yet another step forward in comparison with those in the era of President Bush and in the early days of Obama Administration. In 2013, at Annenberg Retreat, President Xi proposed to President Obama, China and the US should try to develop a new model of major power relationship, which is different from the old model, whereby conflicts between big powers are inevitalbe.

The history tells us that the state of the Sino-US relations changes when the perception of the US Government on China changes. That’s why among the four tasks for China and the US mentioned in President Xi’s speech, to correctly judge strategic intentions of each other comes the first. The history also tells us that how we see each other is vital. That is why we hope the US Government would not make any mistake in understanding and judging the strategic intentions of the Chinese Government. The US side should have more trust and less suspicion about China.

In addition, we hope that the US would learn how to share with others. The philosophy “mine is mine and yours is mine” cannot work nowadays. The trend of multi-polarization is unstoppable in the world. In short, we hope the US would see China in a wise way, treat others as equals and discuss with others about ways to deal with the global affairs.

As for people to people contacts, friendship between China and the US go back a long way. Even in WWII, they were allies. Even though for years contacts were cut off between them, the people in China and the people in the US had great interest in understanding the civilizations of each other’s country. In his trip, President Xi’s first stop was Seattle. Wherever he goes, be it at Boeing, or Microsoft, or the Lincoln High School, Xi was warmly welcomed, and the scenes were very touching. It shows the Sino-US friendship is deeply rooted among the American people. From this perspective, I believe the Sino-US relations have great potentials and a bright future.

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