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Envoy: Growing 'threat phobia' leads US-China ties astray

By ZHAO HUANXIN in Washington | China Daily Global | Updated: 2022-08-19 09:36
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Chinese Ambassador to the US Qin Gang takes a joint interview of the US mainstream media in Washington DC. [Photo/]

China-US relations have been derailed by "fear phobia" in the world's largest economy, and it's time to reinstate common interests and responsibilities to the center of the relationship, the top Chinese envoy in Washington has said.

A year into office as Chinese ambassador to the United States, Qin Gang told the media corps in the US on Tuesday that he found he was "in an environment of 'threat phobia'."

"My country is being greatly misperceived and miscalculated as a challenge or even a threat to the United States," he said in taking a question from a Politico reporter, who said the notion of a China threat is a big part of the political rhetoric in many places in the US and could be midterm election rhetoric.

"This relationship, which is so important and so consequential, is now being driven by fear, not by common interests and common responsibilities," Qin said.

In another interview with Al Jazeera the same day, Qin said that there is "indeed" a fear or "China phobia" in the United States, and it is spreading, according to a transcript the embassy released on Thursday.

He noted that the status quo of China-US relations is "sadly" going downhill, and it is very worrisome.

But these are two countries whose bilateral trade volume annually has exceeded $750 billion and had 5 million mutual visits before the pandemic, Qin said.

In addition, there are hundreds of thousands of Chinese students studying in the United States, and more and more American young people are choosing China for their studies.

"I think it's time to bring common sense, common interests and common responsibility back to the center stage of China-US relations, and our differences and disagreements cannot justify confrontation and should not lead us to a wrong path to confrontation and conflict," he said.

Chinese Ambassador to the US Qin Gang takes an exclusive interview with Steve Clemons, host of Al Jazeera English channel's The Bottom Line and editor-at-large of The Hill and "Semafor". [Photo/]

Steve Clemons, host of Al Jazeera English channel's The Bottom Line and editor-at-large of The Hill, asked if "China phobia" is racism.

Qin said, "Maybe you can make a judgment, but I do feel that in this country, Asian hate is on the rise. Chinese scientists, Chinese students feel more and more unsafe in the country. Our normal interactions, cooperation in various fields, are now being affected negatively by fear."

An annual business survey released by the China General Chamber of Commerce – USA in June found that prevailing anti-China sentiments in US public discourse ranked second in the top five challenges facing Chinese companies doing business in the US.

A case in point is a planned corn mill in Grand Forks, North Dakota, which could bring as many as 1,000 construction jobs and more than 200 permanent jobs to the city, but its "connection to China stoked a backlash", The New York Times reported on July 17.

The agriculture business was proposed by Fufeng USA, the American subsidiary of a Chinese company that makes components for animal feed, according to the report.

The report noted that "attitudes toward China have turned sharply negative as politicians from both parties have increasingly portrayed the country as a threat".

In a speech addressed to the business community on Aug 9, Qin noted that normal economic and trade cooperation has been politicized and linked to security issues, with tariffs on China still in place, and more than 1,000 Chinese entities and individuals being put on various lists of sanctions and restrictions.

Furthermore, investments from Chinese enterprises are being closely scrutinized, while American companies are not allowed to invest in some "key industries" in China, he said at the fourth China-US Business Forum held by Forbes.

"Our economic and trade cooperation should be driven by our common interests, not by fear," he said.

In the Al Jazeera interview, Qin said he was concerned about the level of trust between China and the US, because China is being seen as a challenge and "China phobia" is widespread in the US.

To restore trust, the US side needs to have a "fair and objective" view of China's development intentions, which are to deliver a better life to its own people and also deliver for world peace, security and common development.

"Some people see China as a challenge or even a threat trying to replace the United States. It's not our intention," Qin said.

China wants to have stable and cooperative relations with the US because the two countries have massive shared responsibilities and common interests, and each has challenges at home, meaning the first thing to do for both is to "manage our own affairs well", he said.

"As ambassador, my role is trying to distract the United States from the fear of China and from 'China phobia'," Qin said.  

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