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Cui: China-US relationship needs a 'reset'

By ZHAO HUANXIN in Washington | chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2020-07-31 07:45
China's Ambassador to the United States Cui Tiankai. [Photo/Agencies]

The China-US relationship can have a future only if it is built on dialogue and cooperation, and the two countries should be partners, not imaginary enemies, Beijing's top envoy in Washington said Thursday.

"If there is a side to choose, then all countries, China and the US included, should choose the right side of history," wrote Chinese Ambassador Cui Tiankai in an op-ed piece for politico.com.

This will require countries to improve their own domestic governance while working "outside their borders to build a world with lasting peace, common security and shared prosperity", as the world needs "strong solidarity, not growing division", Cui noted.

The article follows the latest escalation in the already tumultuous bilateral relationship, in which the US State Department's abrupt order July 21 to shut the Chinese consulate in Houston prompted Beijing to order the shuttering of the US consulate in Chengdu in Southwest China on Monday.

In the article, titled "China and the US Should Reset Their Relationship", Cui highlighted the positive history between the two countries.

It was at a Texas rodeo in Simonton, near Houston, in early 1979, soon after the two countries established diplomatic relations, that Deng Xiaoping, then vice-premier of China, was pictured donning a cowboy hat, which had become a lasting symbol of China-US friendship.

It was during that visit that the two countries signed an agreement to open consulates in each other's country, Cui wrote. Houston was where China set up its first consulate in the US to serve a consular district that covered eight states in the South and Puerto Rico.

Cui cited a Houston Chronicle editorial stating that China is the region's second-largest trading partner. According to statistics from the consulate, trade in that part of America reached $125.1 billion in 2018, and nearly 300 China-invested companies had established their presence there by 2019, with a combined investment topping $23.2 billion.

Half a globe away, Chinese basketball fans regard the NBA's Houston Rockets almost as their home team because of Yao Ming, and beefsteaks from Texas have become a favorite on the table in many Chinese households, according to Cui.

"These benefits wouldn't have been possible without the atmosphere of amity and cooperation the Consulate-General helped to foster," Cui wrote.

The shutting of the Houston consulate was an "unusual break in international diplomacy" that shocked many people inside and outside China, the ambassador noted.

In an interview with China Daily last week, veteran US diplomat Charles Freeman Jr, who was an interpreter for President Richard Nixon during his 1972 China visit, also said the consulate closure was "very unwelcome to people in Texas who have become accustomed to the consulate, valued its presence, and I think could be very sorry to see it go".

Cui pointed out that from a broader perspective, it is only one in a series of moves to demonize China and ramp up ideological confrontation.

"However, no sensible foreign policy is based on ignorance, arrogance or shortsightedness, let alone hatred," he added.

In the article, the ambassador also revisited the historic visit by Nixon, who said, "It is not our common beliefs that have brought us together here, but our common interests and our common hopes … the hope that each of us has to build a new world order in which nations of people with different systems and different values can live together in peace, respecting one another while disagreeing with one another."

The central premise of Nixon's approach to China was that, notwithstanding profound differences in political values and political systems, Washington and Beijing could nonetheless work together in ways that benefited both countries and the world, according to David Firestein, president and CEO at the George H.W. Bush Foundation for US-China Relations in Houston.

Cui said China's US policy remains unchanged. "We are still willing to grow China-US relations with goodwill and sincerity and hope the US will return to the right track," he wrote.

The ambassador also said the attempts by some US policymakers to "drive a wedge between the Chinese people and the Communist Party of China" are doomed to fail.

"The CPC, whose philosophy is to place the people's interests and trust above all else, has drawn strength from the 5,000-year Chinese civilization, and has found a path of development best suited to China," he wrote.

A recent report, based on 13 years of surveys in China by Harvard's Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation, found that citizen satisfaction with China's government has increased virtually across the board, with the central authorities receiving the strongest level of approval, ranging from 86 percent to 93 percent, between 2003 and 2016.

During his visit to China, Nixon quoted President George Washington at a banquet: "Observe good faith and justice towards all nations. Cultivate peace and harmony with all."

His words are still resoundingly true, Cui concluded.

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