Remarks by DCM & Minister Li Kexin at the Annual Gala Dinner of US-China Policy Foundation

Dec. 5, 2018

Your Excellencies Dr. Chi Wang,

Ambassador Locke, Ambassador Horowitz,

Fellow members of the Diplomatic Corps,

Distinguished Guests,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Good evening.

First of all, on this special day, let’s mourn the loss of George H.W. Bush, 41st President of the United States. He is an old friend of the Chinese people. His important contribution to China-US relations will always be remembered.

It's my great honor to participate in today's event.

Let me convey the congratulation from Ambassador Cui Tiankai, to US-China Policy Foundation on your successful launching of the annual gala dinner. Let me also send my regards to all the distinguished guests present tonight. To the Starr Foundation and South China Morning Post, I wish to express my sincere congratulations. You’ve done a great job.

A few days ago, President Xi Jinping and President Trump held a very successful meeting on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Argentina. The two leaders had two and a half hours of in-depth exchanges on the bilateral relationship and issues of mutual concern in a friendly and frank atmosphere and reached new and important consensus, especially on trade, Korean Peninsula issue, counter-narcotics and others. Both sides agreed that the China-US relationship should be promoted based on coordination, cooperation and stability.

This is surely encouraging, but it is still not the time for party. We have many follow-ups, and some of fundamental issues between our two countries deserve serious attention.

The motto of the US-China Policy Foundation, “Enhancing mutual understanding and promoting positive relations” is very relevant. In our bilateral relations, there’s a deficit of understanding, and therefore, a deficit of trust.

Next year marks the 40th anniversary of the bilateral relationship. Confucius said, when you reach forty years of age, you're not confused. But I believe, to a few questions, we need a better answer. Do Americans, especially the decision makers in this administration, well understand China, of its past, today, and future? Do we Chinese understand the logic of current American policy in a real sense? Can we see our differences soberly, and chances of cooperation with an open mind?

If you don’t give a close look to the modern history of China, especially since the year of 1840, all the miseries that China suffered, hunger and poverty, conflicts and wars, humiliation and desperation, you will not understand the way that Chinese take when they negotiate with a foreign country. You cannot expect we bend our principles under pressure. It doesn’t mean we have no flexibility. Those spending much time in China, including many of you in this room, must find there’s a lot of flexibility in Chinese culture, but you will get it by an alternative way. Read our national anthem carefully, you will see the gist of our national character.

If you ignore the path-finding agonies by China for about 100 years before 1949, you will not understand why we choose the present approach to govern our country. Visit the Forbidden City, you will see how a nation is run by a family-centred manner.

If you don’t read more chapters of Chinese history for the whole 5000 years, you will not understand that Thucydides Trap is not necessarily a fate for major powers in the world. Please go to the Great Wall, you will see a nation built on a defensive nature.

What about today’s China? Are we that big, that strong? Well, 60% is the reality. 20% is the imagination by the outside world. And another 20% is the nationalist bubble we’ve created by ourselves, with the pride naturally from a fast catching-up nation, and some media has played a very bad role for it. Yes we have made tremendous progress economically and substantial contribution to the world. We are proud of it. But if you don’t see the appalling poverty in many parts of China, (thank Ambassador Locke who mentioned the real pictures) and astonishing differences between regions, you will not understand the huge development agenda we face and how such issues like IPR and air pollution are so difficult to address though the government takes them very seriously.

What’s China’s strategy into the future? That is very simple, to realize the nation-wide full development, from poor to prosperous, from a developing country to a developed country. For this purpose, we will continue to open up and reform, and we want to develop good relations with all countries, including the US. This open and peaceful development trajectory will lie ahead for the next 5 years, 10 years, 50 years. This is the permanent road map we’ve already adopted, no change.

So those might be the ways in which you understand China a bit well. Don’t waste your time reading the books by some no-sense scholars, using sporadic evidence and superficial knowledge of Chinese philosophy to weave an imagined plot of deception--China taking over the US by a 100 year marathon. Ambassador Baucus, proud of travelling all provinces in China, now repeatedly tells his American fellows that Chinese people have exactly the same happiness, sadness and pursuance with that of American people--career development, children’s education, caring the old, etc., not so much sophistication.

Then, the other way around. We Chinese tend to think we understand the US better, but it is not necessarily true.

From middle school classroom, we’ve learned Marxism about the nature of capital and capitalism. But most of Chinese cannot imagine how powerful role that capital plays in American political life.

We know the US is a country with ideals. You hold ideas of individual freedom, democracy and human rights. It’s your business to have all these ideas in your own country, but why in other countries? We try to understand it through your history, western movement and manifest destiny. This might give your motivation to take responsibilities at the global level. Surely such understanding is not sufficient.

More importantly we need to understand today’s American society, which is different from what we found before. The US was promoting globalization. Why it becomes unpopular here? You were the flagship of free and open trade. Why there’s a rise of protectionism? How can the white working class, the main body of American dream, have complaints, disappointment, fire and fury?

With such deficit of understanding, it’s more imperative than ever to have close interaction between our two countries. Some people talk about “decouple”. That’s the least we should do in our relations. Restriction on students exchange is unwise.

At the same time, we should take actions.

We should first make a choice on how to define each other, friend or foe, confrontation or partnership. China’s choice is there. We always want to have a friendly, constructive relationship with the US. Now it is up to the US to make a choice.

Then we work on the differences. I think for most of differences, we can find compromise, but not sovereignty. The issue of Taiwan should be dealt with caution and controlled within a clear framework, that is One China Policy. I see danger that some people in the US want to break and try to break that framework. I don’t think politicians in China have much room for compromise if that framework is broken. Let’s work together to avoid any unwanted consequences.

We should concentrate on the areas of cooperation. I think our two presidents in Argentina were very happy about the progress made on Fentanyl control. Korean Peninsula should be the shining point for our cooperation. We welcome the summit that President Trump and Chairman Kim held in Singapore and hope to see the second summit happen soon.

On trade, though very tough, I believe we can finally reach a deal for the two biggest economies benefiting from each other. Last week, I had a trip to Seattle, Ambassador Locke, your beautiful Washington state. I attended the delivery ceremony of the 2000th Boeing aircraft to China. Now China is the biggest Boeing aircraft market outside the US. This is a good example for how the two economies are complementary to each other.

Even on South China Sea, if we change the prospective, the potential conflicts can turn into benefits. Oklahoma Congressman Steve Russell, once a Lieutenant Colonel in the US army, said to me, “Why can’t our two militaries conduct joint exercise on disaster relief in the South China Sea?” I think this is an excellent idea. If we do so, that will send a very strong positive signal to the regional countries.

Finally, since the US-China Policy Foundation has attracted a number of senior diplomats and politicians who served in various administrations, I appeal you to think about creating a channel of communication just below the presidents, with full authority, to have real strategic dialogue, note comparison, and give advice to leaders, as we cannot push all issues to President Xi and President Trump to rap a gavel. Such channel of communication will no doubt help to reduce the deficit of understanding and promote positive relations.

Before I conclude, I’d like to thank the US-China Policy Foundation and its members, former ambassadors, members of Congress, diplomatic corps, those from different foundations, private sectors and the media. You are our long-term friends, and you are the fundamentals of China-US relations.

Dr. Chi Wang, you are the son of a Chinese general, but your unselfish dedication to China’s development by promoting China-US relations tells us you are the son of the entire nation. We are lucky and proud to have you. Thank you, Dr. Chi Wang.

And I thank you very much for your attention.

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