Speech by H.E. Ambassador Xie Feng at the Carter Center Forum commemorating the 45th anniversary of the establishment of China-U.S. relations
Chief Executive Officer Alexander,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
January 1 this year marked the 45th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the People’s Republic of China and the United States of America. President Xi Jinping and President Joe Biden exchanged congratulatory letters, speaking highly of the historical significance of the event, recognizing the historic achievements in China-U.S. relations over the past 45 years, and expressing readiness to jointly steer the relationship forward.
As you gather in Atlanta, I am on the flight from Beijing to D.C., so please allow me to join you virtually through this video speech. Atlanta is the hometown of President Jimmy Carter, and was also an important stop in Vice Premier Deng Xiaoping’s visit to the United States in January, 1979 shortly after the establishment of diplomatic relations. President Carter sees establishing diplomatic relations with China as one of the most correct decisions he has ever made in his life. It is therefore of special significance that the Carter Center, the National Committee on US-China Relations, the US-China Business Council and the Center for American Studies at Fudan University are co-hosting this forum at this moment in Atlanta to commemorate the 45th anniversary of China-U.S. diplomatic ties.
I would like to propose that we first pay tribute to the older generation of Chinese and American leaders, including Mr. Deng Xiaoping and President Carter, who made the historic decision to establish diplomatic relations with extraordinary political courage and vision. Our heartfelt thanks also go to all friends in both countries who have long cared for and supported the development of the relationship. May President Carter enjoy good health and every happiness.
Over the past 45 years, the China-U.S. relationship has kept forging ahead despite twists and turns, growing into the most important bilateral relationship in the world today. It has boosted the well-being of the two peoples, and also contributed to peace, stability and prosperity in the Asia-Pacific and the world. Taking stock of the past 45 years, we believe that the most important inspiration is that China and the United States stand to gain from cooperation and lose from confrontation, and working together is our only correct choice. The broadest consensus is that we should make the China-U.S. relationship work and not mess it up, which is also a shared expectation of the international community. The only right way to get along is mutual respect, peaceful coexistence and win-win cooperation.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
In the recent years, the China-U.S. relationship has run into unprecedented difficulties. But to our encouragement, President Xi and President Biden held a historic summit meeting in San Francisco two months ago. It has not only helped to restore stability to the bilateral relationship, but also fostered a future-oriented San Francisco vision, charting the course for the sound, stable and sustainable development of China-U.S. relations in the new era. We need to embark on a new journey from San Francisco onward, start with concrete steps, and faithfully deliver on the important common understandings reached between our Presidents.
It is important to reject the Cold War mentality, and develop a right perception toward each other. Policymaking is based on how we perceive each other, which will then lead to actions with results. Are we adversaries, or partners? This is the fundamental and overarching question we need to answer. If one sees the other side as a primary competitor, a pacing threat and a target for containment, improving and stabilizing bilateral relations would be out of the question.
China’s domestic and foreign policies are open and transparent, with clearly stated strategic intentions and development goals. Our central task is to advance national rejuvenation on all fronts by pursuing Chinese modernization, so as to deliver better jobs and better lives to the 1.4 billion people, and ensure every child receives good education.
Following the path of peaceful development is China’s solemn commitment. We aspire to build a community with a shared future for mankind with other countries. We will never seek hegemony with growing strength. Still less do we plan to challenge or unseat the United States. It is our sincere hope to be partners and friends with the United States. We are convinced that the Earth is big enough for China and the United States to develop respectively and prosper together, that our success is each other’s opportunity rather than challenge, that the two sides need to help each other succeed instead of undercutting one another, and that the world should not be thrust back into division and bloc confrontation. At the same time, China has interests that must be safeguarded, principles that must be upheld, and red lines that must not be crossed.
It is important to manage differences and disagreements, and keep to the right direction of China-U.S. relations. This relationship has always been based on recognizing differences and respecting each other’s core interests. Differences abound even between the United States and its allies, not to mention between China and the United States, two countries different in history, culture, social system and stage of development. But this does not mean that we are bound to collide head-on. Differences did not prevent us from establishing and developing relations 45 years ago. There is even less reason why they should block our exchanges and cooperation now.
Some people in the United States often talk about “competition”. Indeed, competition is commonplace in the modern world. But it should be fair competition that abides by rules and a healthy race to the top, not a zero-sum game, still less a pretext for depriving others of their legitimate development rights and interests. Competition between countries should be like competing with each other for excellence in a racing field, not beating one another in a wrestling ring. If we do need to compete, then let’s compete to do a better job in running our country and contribute more to the stability and prosperity in the region and the world.
The Taiwan question is the most important and sensitive question in China-U.S. relations. No one cherishes more than the Chinese side peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait. But separatism for “Taiwan independence” is as incompatible with peace of the Strait as fire with water. When it comes to “Taiwan independence” separatists who betray their motherland and refuse to identify themselves as Chinese, the Chinese government simply has no room for compromise.
The U.S. side should abide by the one-China principle and the three Sino-U.S. joint communiques with concrete actions, earnestly deliver on the statements by American leaders that the United States does not support “Taiwan independence” and has no intention to use Taiwan as a tool to contain China, and work with China to maintain peace and stability across the Strait and the overall China-U.S. relations.
It is important to focus on common interests and let dialogue and cooperation define the relationship. It is common interests that brought China and the United States together 45 years ago. It is also common interests that have kept driving our relationship forward.
The world today has entered a new period of turbulence and transformation. As permanent members of the Security Council and the two largest economies, China and the United States have only more, rather than fewer, common interests and shared responsibilities in safeguarding world peace and promoting development for all. Whether it is in bilateral areas such as economy and trade, energy, agriculture, law enforcement, education and people-to-people exchanges, or in combating global challenges like climate change and public health, or on international and regional hotspots such as the Middle East, Ukraine and the Korean Peninsula, there are a lot of things that China and the United States can and should coordinate and cooperate on.
Recently, China has taken a series of positive measures to further open up and facilitate China-U.S. exchanges and cooperation:
•We have authorized Mastercard NUCC to conduct bank card clearing operations in China, and approved Broadcom’s acquisition of VMware. All Boeing 737 MAX aircraft in China are back in service.
•We are discussing new plans for cooperation on panda conservation.
•After the U.S. side lifted sanctions on relevant Chinese authorities, China has been conducting campaigns against fentanyl and its precursor chemicals. The two sides are discussing the establishment of a working group on counternarcotics cooperation.
•On the basis of equality and mutual respect, General Liu Zhenli, Chief of the Joint Staff Department of China’s Central Military Commission, had a video teleconference with General Charles Q. Brown, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the United States.
•The ongoing China-U.S. Defense Policy Coordination Talks are discussing plans for mil-to-mil exchanges for this year.
•The two sides have launched a working group on enhancing climate action, and jointly worked for the success of COP28.
•The two sides have also agreed on government talks on artificial intelligence (AI) to explore exchanges and cooperation in the area, enhance global AI governance, and jointly manage risks and challenges brought by the technology, so that the Terminator scenario where machines wage war against humans will not become a reality.
We hope the U.S. side will also take real actions in the same spirit to address China’s concerns. It is important to start with small steps which can go a long way, pursue reciprocity and mutual benefit, both give and take, fully utilize the restored and new mechanisms in foreign policy, economy, finance, commerce, agriculture and other fields, expand the list of cooperation and shorten the negative list, and solve rather than create problems.
It is also important to remove obstacles and spark a new boom in people-to-people exchanges. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic and worsening China-U.S. relations, a chill loomed over people-to-people exchanges in the past few years. When travel went down, estrangement and misunderstanding went up. But the more difficulties there are, the greater the need for us to forge a closer bond between our peoples, encourage more to speak up for the relationship, plant more flowers rather than thorns, and build more roads rather than barriers.
China is now actively implementing President Xi’s initiative to invite 50,000 young Americans to China on exchange and study programs in the next five years. We have also rolled out policies to facilitate travels between our two countries. For instance, we now provide walk-in visa application services, and have significantly optimized the visa policy for travelers from within the United States. Tourist visa applicants within the United States will no longer be required to submit round-trip air ticket booking record, proof of hotel reservation, itinerary or invitation letter. I would encourage all of you to visit our country and see it for yourselves.
At the reception commemorating the 45th anniversary of China-U.S. diplomatic relations co-hosted by the Chinese People’s Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries and the Chinese People’s Institute of Foreign Affairs on January 5 in Beijing, I had the pleasure to meet a group of American students from Columbia University and the University of Virginia. They shared with me excitedly what they had seen and heard in China, expressed their admiration for China's time-honored history and splendid culture, marveled at the warm hospitality of the Chinese people, and ranked China as one of the most open and safest countries in the world.
We hope the U.S. side will work with China in the same direction, take measures to clear obstacles in travel, visa and border entry policies, further increase direct flights significantly, adjust the China travel advisory as soon as possible, encourage and support business, educational, cultural, sports, youth, sub-national and media exchanges, and especially stop interrogating, harassing and repatriating Chinese students. We count on friends at the Carter Center, the National Committee on US-China Relations, the US-China Business Council and the Center for American Studies at Fudan University to continue playing a constructive role in boosting mutual understanding and cooperation between our peoples.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
When our two countries established diplomatic relations in 1979, Mr. Deng Xiaoping pointed out that friendship and cooperation between Chinese and American peoples will surely have positive and far-reaching influence on how the world will evolve. When we celebrated the 40th anniversary of the relationship, President Carter wrote that “Leaders must bring new vision, courage and ingenuity to new challenges and opportunities, but I believe they also must accept our conviction that the United States and China need to build their futures together, for themselves and for humanity at large.”
As we speak, the China-U.S. relationship is again at a new historical starting point. Let’s stay true to the commitment we made when establishing diplomatic ties, act in line with the trend of the times, show foresight, courage and creativity, and live up to our responsibilities. Let’s work together to earnestly implement the important common understandings reached between President Xi and President Biden,turn the San Francisco vision into reality, and write more success stories of mutual respect, peaceful coexistence and win-win cooperation between our two countries.
Thank you very much.