China- US conflict averted after a virtual meeting12 min read
On the morning of 16 November, President Xi Jinping had a virtual meeting with US President Joe Biden. The two sides had thorough and in-depth communication and exchanges on issues of strategic, overarching and fundamental importance shaping the development of China-US relations and on important issues of mutual interest.
President Xi pointed out that both China and the US are at critical stages of development, and the “global village” of humanity faces multiple challenges. As the world’s two largest economies and permanent members of the UN Security Council, China and the US need to increase communication and cooperation, each run their domestic affairs well and, at the same time, shoulder their share of international responsibilities, and work together to advance the noble cause of world peace and development. This is the shared desire of the people of the two countries and around the world, and the joint mission of Chinese and American leaders.
President Xi stressed that a sound and stable China-US relationship is required for advancing the two countries’ respective development and for safeguarding a peaceful and stable international environment, including finding effective responses to global challenges such as climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic. China and the US should respect each other, coexist in peace, and pursue win-win cooperation. President Xi expressed his readiness to work with President Biden to build consensus and take active steps to move China-US relations forward in a positive direction. Doing so will advance the interests of the two peoples and meet the expectation of the international community.
President Xi pointed out that the most important event in international relations over the past 50 years was the reopening and development of China-US relations, which has benefited the two countries and the whole world. The most important event in international relations in the coming 50 years will be for China and the US to find the right way to get along. History is a fair judge. What a statesman does, be it right or wrong, be it an accomplishment or a failure, will all be recorded by history. It is hoped that President Biden will demonstrate political leadership and steer America’s China policy back on the track of reason and pragmatism.
President Xi highlighted that a review of the experience and lessons learned in growing China-US relations shows that for the two countries to get along in the new era, three principles must be followed. First, mutual respect. The two countries need to respect each other’s social systems and development paths, respect each other’s core interests and major concerns, and respect each other’s right to development. They need to treat each other as equals, keep differences under control, and seek common ground while reserving differences. Second, peaceful coexistence. No conflict and no confrontation is a line that both sides must hold. The US side has suggested coexistence between China and the US. One more word can be added to make it peaceful coexistence. Third, win-win cooperation. With their interests deeply intertwined, China and the US stand to gain from cooperation and lose from confrontation. The world is big enough for the two countries to develop individually and collectively. The right thing to do is to choose mutual benefit over zero-sum game or the I-win-you-lose approach.
President Xi identified four priority areas where China and the US should focus their efforts on.
First, shouldering responsibilities of major countries and leading global response to outstanding challenges. China-US cooperation may not solve all problems, but few problems can be solved without China-US cooperation. The global initiatives China has proposed are all open to the US. We hope the reverse is also true. Second, acting in the spirit of equality and mutual benefit to move forward exchanges at all levels and in all areas and generate more positive energy for China-US relations. President Xi expressed his readiness to stay in touch with President Biden through multiple means to set the direction and inject more momentum into bilateral relations. The two countries, with broad common interests in a wide range of areas including economy, energy, mil-to-mil, law-enforcement, education, science and technology, cyber, environmental protection and sub-national interactions, should complement each other to make the cake bigger for China-US cooperation. The two sides could fully harness the dialogue channels and mechanisms between their diplomatic and security, economic and financial, and climate change teams, in an effort to advance practical cooperation and resolve specific issues. Third, managing differences and sensitive issues in a constructive way to prevent China-US relations from getting derailed or out of control. It is only natural for the two countries to have differences. The key is to manage them constructively so that they don’t magnify or exacerbate. China will certainly defend its sovereignty, security and development interests. It is important that the US properly handle the relevant issues with prudence. Fourth, strengthening coordination and cooperation on major international and regional hotspot issues to provide more public goods to the world. The world is not tranquil. China and the US need to work together with the rest of the international community to defend world peace, promote global development, and safeguard a fair and equitable international order.
President Xi compared China and the US to two giant ships sailing in the ocean. It is important for the two sides to keep a steady hand on the tiller, so that the two giant ships will break waves and forge ahead together, without losing direction or speed, still less colliding with each other.
President Xi explained China’s development path and strategic intentions. The just concluded sixth Plenary Session of the 19th CPC Central Committee took stock of the major achievements and historical experience of the CPC in the past 100 years. Over the past century, the CPC has kept to its founding aspiration and mission of striving for the happiness of the Chinese people and rejuvenation of the Chinese nation. A lot has been accomplished in this direction, but that is far from enough. More needs to be done. President Xi said that when he took office, he said publicly that the Chinese people’s aspiration for a better life is the goal to strive for. The Chinese people’s aspiration for a better life is the biggest internal driver for China’s development and an inevitable trend of history. Any attempt to stop this historical trend will be rejected by the Chinese people, and will by no means succeed. President Xi said that as China’s leader, serving the 1.4 billion Chinese people and working with them for a better life is a great challenge and a great responsibility. “I shall put aside my own well-being and live up to people’s expectations,”President Xi said.
President Xi pointed out that the Chinese people have always loved and valued peace. Aggression or hegemony is not in the blood of the Chinese nation. Since the founding of the People’s Republic, China has never started a single war or conflict, and has never taken one inch of land from other countries. China has no intention to sell its own development path around the world. On the contrary, Chinaencourages all countries to find development paths tailored to their respective national conditions.
President Xi stressed that opening-up is a fundamental state policy and a hallmark of China. China will not change its determination to open up at a higher level. China will not change its determination to share development opportunities with the rest of the world. And China will not change its determination to make economic globalization more open, inclusive, balanced and beneficial to all. The new development paradigm that China is working to establish is aimed at expanding domestic market, fostering both domestic and international circulations with greater scope and scale, and building a business environment that is more market-oriented, law-based and up to international standards. All this will provide a bigger market and more opportunities to other countries.
President Xi highlighted China’s commitment to peace, development, equity, justice, democracy and freedom, which are common values of humanity. Drawing ideological lines or dividing the world into different camps or rival groups will only make the world suffer. The bitter lessons of the Cold War are still fresh in memory. We hope that the US side can meet its word of not seeking a “new Cold War” with concrete actions.
President Xi stated China’s principled position on the Taiwan question. He noted the new wave of tensions across the Taiwan Strait, and ascribed the tensions to the repeated attempts by the Taiwan authorities to look for US support for their independence agenda as well as the intention of some Americans to use Taiwan to contain China. Such moves are extremely dangerous, just like playing with fire. Whoever plays with fire will get burnt. The one-China principle and the three China-US Joint Communiqués are the political foundation of China-US relations. Previous US administrations have all made clear commitments on this question. The true status quo of the Taiwan question and what lies at the heart of one China are as follows: there is but one China in the world and Taiwan is part of China, and the Government of the People’s Republic of China is the sole legal government representing China. Achieving China’s complete reunification is an aspiration shared by all sons and daughters of the Chinese nation. We have patience and will strive for the prospect of peaceful reunification with utmost sincerity and efforts. That said, should the separatist forces for Taiwan independence provoke us, force our hands or even cross the red line, we will be compelled to take resolute measures.
President Xi highlighted that civilizations are rich and diverse, and so is democracy. Democracy is not mass produced with a uniform model or configuration for countries around the world. Whether a country is democratic or not should be left to its own people to decide. Dismissing forms of democracy that are different from one’s own is in itself undemocratic. China is ready to have dialogues on human rights on the basis of mutual respect, but we oppose using human rights to meddle in other countries’internal affairs.
President Xi pointed out that China and the US need to uphold the international system with the UN at its core, the international order underpinned by international law, and the basic norms governing international relations based on the purposes and principles of the UN Charter. Multilateralism without China-US cooperation is incomplete.
On trade ties, President Xi described the China-US economic and trade relations as mutually beneficial in nature. Business is business. Economic and trade issues between the two countries should not be politicized. The two sides need to make the cake bigger for cooperation. China takes seriously the wishes of US business community to travel to China more easily, and has agreed to upgrade fast-track arrangement, which will further enhance economic and trade exchanges between China and the US and boost the recovery of the two economies. The US should stop abusing or overstretching the concept of national security to suppress Chinese businesses. It is imperative for China and the US to maintain communication on macroeconomic policies, support world economic recovery and guard against economic and financial risks. The US should be mindful of the spillover effects of its domestic macro policies, and adopt responsible macroeconomic policies.
On energy security, President Xi noted the need for China and the US to call on the international community to jointly protect global energy security, strengthen cooperation on natural gas and new energy, and work with other countries to keep global industrial and supply chains safe and stable.
On climate change, President Xi recalled China-US cooperation that helped bring about the Paris Agreement. He pointed out that, as both countries are transitioning to green and low-carbon economy, climate change can well become a new highlight of cooperation. President Xi reiterated his belief that clear water and green mountains are as valuable as gold and silver, and that we must protect the environment the way we protect our own eyes, and treat the environment the way we treat our own lives. Today, ecological conservation has become a household concept and social consensus in China. China will make the world’s biggest cut in carbon emission intensity in the shortest time frame in history, a task that will require extraordinary efforts. China means what it says. It only commits to what it can deliver, and never makes a promise it cannot keep. China is still the largest developing country in the world. The issue of unbalanced and inadequate development still stands out. All countries need to uphold the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities, and strike a balance between addressing climate change and protecting livelihoods. What the world needs is less finger-pointing or blame game, but more solidarity and cooperation. Words matter, but actions matter even more. Developed countries need to earnestly fulfill their historical responsibilities and due obligations, and maintain policy consistency.
On public health, President Xi pointed out that the pandemic once again proves that humanity lives in a community with a shared future. There is no higher priority than people’s lives. Solidarity and cooperation is the most powerful weapon for the international community to defeat COVID-19. Response to any major disease must be based on science. Politicizing diseases does no good but only harm. The pressing priority in the global COVID response is to address the vaccine deficits and close the vaccination gap. President Xi said that he suggested making COVID vaccines a global public good at the early stage of the pandemic last year, and put forth a Global Vaccine Cooperation Initiative just recently. China is among the first to offer vaccines to developing countries in need, delivering over 1.7 billion doses of finished and bulk vaccines to the world. We will consider making additional donations in light of the needs of developing countries. COVID-19 will not be the last public health crisis facing humanity. China and the US need to call for the establishment of a cooperation mechanism for global public health and communicable disease prevention and control, and promote further international exchanges and cooperation.
President Biden said that the US-China relationship is the most important bilateral relations in the world. As two major countries, the US and China have a responsibility to the world as well as to our people. The two sides need to have open and candid dialogues to enhance understanding of each other’s intentions, and make sure that competition between the two countries is fair and healthy and does not veer into conflict. President Biden echoed President Xi’s comment that history is a fair judge, and that they should make the relationship work and not mess it up. China has been a major power since 5,000 years ago. Biden reiterated that the US does not seek to change China’s system, the revitalization of its alliances is not anti-China, and the US has no intention to have a conflict with China. Biden reaffirmed the US government’s long-standing one-China policy, stated that the US does not support “Taiwan independence”, and expressed the hope for peace and stability to be maintained in the Taiwan Strait. The US is willing to work with China on the basis of mutual respect and peaceful coexistence, increase communication, reduce misperception, and handle differences constructively. Biden emphasized the need for the US and China to work more closely in areas where their interests align, respond to global challenges such as the COVID pandemic and climate change, and deliver better lives to the two peoples. We should encourage the younger generation to interact more and be more exposed to each other’s culture, which will help make the world a better place.
The two sides also exchanged views on Afghanistan, the Iranian nuclear issue, the situation on the Korean Peninsula, and other international and regional issues of mutual interest.
The two Presidents agreed that their meeting is candid, constructive, substantive and productive. It helps increase mutual understanding, adds to the positive expectation of the international community for this relationship, and sends a powerful message to the two countries and the world. The two sides agreed to maintain close communication in different forms and steer China-US relations back on the right track of sound and steady development, for the good of the people in both countries and around the world.
Ding Xuexiang, Liu He, Yang Jiechi and Wang Yi were present at the meeting.