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New Era of China-US Relations

--Speech by Consul General Zhao Weiping at Eastern Illinois University

(From Chinese Consulate General in Chicago)

2015/09/12

(September 2, 2015)

President Glassman,
Faculty Members and Students,

Good evening. I'm so delighted to visit the historic Eastern Illinois University at the kind invitation of President Glassman. First, I wish to thank President Glassman for his warm hospitality and thank all of you for your attendance. It's my honor to have the opportunity of exchanging views with you on China-US relations.

In less than three weeks, Chinese President Xi Jinping will pay his first state visit to the US at the invitation of President Obama. This will be President Xi's second visit to the US since his presidential term started in early 2013. He had a stop-over in California on the way back from his visit to Latin America in June 2013 and held his first summit meeting with President Obama at Annenberg Estate near Los Angeles. This will also be a return visit for President Obama's visit to China last November.

It is indeed encouraging that there is a presidential visit between our two countries every single year since the beginning of the new session of the current Chinese government and President Obama's second term. In addition, President Xi and President Obama met each other several times on various international occasions such as G20, APEC and Nuclear Security Summit. They also kept communications through phone calls and letters. These close contacts between the two leaders have exactly demonstrated the importance of China-US relations.

I am sure the forthcoming visit to the US by President Xi will further promote the good momentum of China-US relations,give a great boost to bilateral cooperation in extensive areas, and provide important guidance for the future development of the bilateral relations.

China-US relations have also witnessed frequent exchange of visits at all levels between our two governments. Over 90 inter-governmental dialogues and communication mechanisms have been set up by both sides, with almost all the government agencies included who are responsible for foreign affairs, national defense, trade and economic cooperation, science and technology, law enforcement, culture and education etc.

Looking back, the progress in our bilateral relations in the past three years has indeed been impressive.

First, President Xi Jinping and President Obama agreed at Annenberg Estate to build a new model of major-country relationship featuring "no conflict or confrontation", "mutual respect" and "win-win cooperation", which has set the direction for the future development of China-US relations and is certainly of great historic significance.

Second, practical cooperation has been greatly advanced in various bilateral areas.

Our bilateral trade volume has climbed over the historic height of 500 billion US dollars in 2013 and continued to expand last year, further strengthening the position of our two countries as each other's second largest trading partner. Two-way investment has been growing very fast, and the Chinese investment in the US had accumulated to 46 billion US dollars by the end of last year. In particular, I wish to mention the agreement by both sides to accelerate substantive negotiations of the Bilateral Investment Treaty, which,once concluded, will for sure give a big boost to our bilateral economic cooperation.

Many cooperative projects have been carried out in the areas of science and technology, environmental protection and clean energy. If time permits, I can give you a very long list of specific projects in this regard.

New measures have been adopted to promote people-to-people exchanges, including a reciprocal agreement on 10-year multiple-entry visas for respective business travelers and tourists and 5-year multiple-entry visas for students, which has won a wide acclaim among the general public, the tourism and education sectors of our two countries. Currently, nearly 300,000 Chinese students are studying in American universities, and last year saw a total of 4.3 million trips made by Chinese and American people across the Pacific Ocean. The new visa arrangement will make it easier for the two peoples to visit each other more often.

The relationship between our two militaries has also been pushed forward in the fields of high-level exchange of visits, joint training and exercises, and other institutionalized exchange programs. Last year, both sides signed MoU on establishing the mechanism of mutual notification of major military activities and the code of conduct on military security in international waters and its associated airspace.

Third, we have been conducting fruitful cooperation on major international and regional issues.

The latest example was the Iran nuclear agreement, which was achieved because of the joint efforts of the six countries, including China and the US. Although some people hold different opinions here in the US, China does believe this agreement serves the long-term interests of the peace and stability in the Middle East.

Another milestone achievement in our international cooperation was the joint announcement made by our two governments as an outcome of President Obama's visit to China last November, in which, both sides declared their respective post-2020 actions on climate change. China makes it clear that it intends to achieve the peaking of CO2 emissions around 2030 and to make best efforts to peak early and intends to increase the share of non-fossil fuels in primary energy consumption to around 20% by 2030.

Our two countries have conducted close cooperation to support Afghanistan's peaceful reconciliation and reconstruction process. Last year, China hosted the Fourth Ministerial Conference of the Istanbul Process on Afghanistan in Beijing and both China and the US have decided to work together to support Pakistan's chairmanship of the process in 2015.

When the Ebola epidemic raged in West African countries, our two countries worked closely with each other to provide financial and material assistance to the countries affected, help them train the local medical workers, and set up treatment centers in the affected areas.

Our two countries are also working together in combating international terrorism, and the mechanism for China-US Counter-terrorism Dialogue has been established. Both sides have agreed to enhance counter-terrorism cooperation on a wider range of issues, including on how to address the transnational flow of foreign terrorist fighters, crack down on terrorist funding networks, and increase information exchange on terrorist threats.

There are many positive things going on in our bilateral relations, much more than the general public can imagine. However, it's not easy for people to find good stories of China-US cooperation in the US media. On the contrary, some US media always focus on the negative aspects of the relationship. Even worse, they are keen to play up the negative things and sometimes I have to doubt their true motive. People will not be able to develop a balanced view on China-US relations if they rely on the media as the only source of information and don't use their own judgment.

Regarding the future development of China-US relations, I wish to emphasize the following three points.

First, China's economy will continue to grow at a medium high speed, which will provide a lasting driving force for further expansion of mutually-beneficial cooperation in various fields between our two countries.

Recently, there has been too much pessimistic media coverage on China's economy. Actually, most media reports and commentaries have exaggerated the problems in the Chinese economy. It's true China's economic growth has been slowing down since 2012, but the slowdown itself has been slow and manageable. As a matter of fact, the slowdown is to certain extent the result of the deliberate policy choice by the Chinese government, which is now focusing more on improving the quality of the economy rather than simply seeking a high growth rate.

For the first half of this year, China has achieved a growth rate of 7%, which is well in line with the government's target for this year's economic growth. In addition, employment situation is still good and the inflation rate is low. Although the downward pressure for economic growth remains huge for the rest of the year, the Chinese government has full confidence in achieving the set goal for this year's economic growth, because there are still many policy instruments at disposal and the government still has strong financial capability to deal with the current complicate situation. One thing is for sure, there will be a bottom line for the slowdown of China's economic growth. The Chinese government is firmly determined to prevent the economy from running out of control.

As you may be aware, China has recently announced its decision to improve quotation of the central parity of RMB against US dollar. The new policy means that the daily central parity of RMB will be set by referring to the closing rate on the previous trading day, while in the past the central parity was set basically in disregard of the market price.

In essence, such a move by China was a major step in reforming its foreign exchange rate in the direction of marketization. The purpose is not for devaluation so as to gain export advantage at the expense of others, but rather to give the market a bigger play in deciding the value of the Chinese currency. China has no intention to devalue its currency by a large margin. As the Chinese government has said time and again, there is no basis for sustained devaluation of the Chinese currency. China doesn't see the need to devalue its currency for the purpose of saving its economy as alleged by some US media, because China's economy is still safe and there is no need to save it in the first place.

Some US media are indeed very unprofessional. They have gone so far as to blame China for all the problems in the global economy today. And they seem to believe that China's economy has reached a point which is not far away from a collapse. I really didn't see any logic or persuasion in their argument.

Actually, even more than two decades ago, some people already began to drum up the so-called theory of China's collapse. To their disappointment, the collapse didn't come at all. They may be still hoping for such a collapse in the near future, but China will prove them wrong again. As the world's second largest economy, China will for sure remain a major engine for global economic growth.

Second, China is firmly committed to the path of peaceful development, and sincerely hopes to maintain a sound bilateral relationship with the US.

The purpose of our development is to rejuvenate the Chinese nation and ensure a better life for the Chinese people. The rejuvenation of the Chinese nation will certainly put China in a better position to safeguard its sovereignty and national interests, but it doesn't mean in any way that China will seek hegemony and challenge or threaten other countries once it becomes stronger.

China is just commemorating the 70th anniversary of the victory of World's Anti-Fascist War and Chinese People's War of Resistance Against Japanese Aggression. China has suffered so much from foreign invasions in history, and we fully understand the value of peace. Still less, China has a long way to go in its national development and is more enthusiastic than many other countries in maintaining a long-term peaceful and stable international environment.

Facts have proven that China's rise in the past three decades has been peaceful and contributed greatly to the stability and peace of the world. However, there are still some counties which are trying hard to tarnish China's image for their ulterior purposes by fabricating various stories of so-called China's aggressiveness.

One of their fallacies is regarding the South China Sea issue. They accuse China of violating their maritime sovereignty. In fact, as early as in the 1930s, the then Chinese government had already officially listed the islands of the South China Sea as part of the Chinese territory. After the founding of the People's Republic of China, the Chinese government issued the Statement on the Territorial Sea in 1958, reaffirming its sovereignty over the islands. It was only since the 1970's that some neighboring countries put forth their claims over the islands in the South China Sea and illegally occupied some of the islands.

China stands for peaceful solution of disputes on the South China Sea issue through negotiation with parties directly concerned and has exercised utmost restraint all the years. Neighboring countries have drilled about 1,380 oil wells in the South China Sea since 1970s, and many of them are located in the disputed waters. In addition, those countries have also carried out land reclamation and relevant construction on the Chinese islands they illegally occupied for many years. On the contrary, China doesn't have any oil well in the waters of Nansha Islands, where most of the disputed islands concentrate. And China was not the first country to conduct land reclamation in the South China Sea.

It should be pointed out that China's land reclamation and construction on some islands and reefs in the South China Sea is to improve the working and living conditions of personnel stationed there. In the process, we have enforced strict environmental standards. Next, we will build facilities mainly for public good, including multi-functional lighthouse, search and rescue center, as well as medical and first aid facilities, which will be open to other countries upon completion.

Currently, the situation in the South China Sea is stable on the whole, and there is no possibility of major conflicts. China therefore objects to any non-constructive words or deeds that attempt to exaggerate the disagreements, hype up confrontation and heat up tensions, which does not conform to reality. Just like any other country, China has the right to safeguard its sovereignty and territorial integrity.

Regarding China-US relations, China's intention is very clear: we want to build a new type of major-country relationship with the US. We don't want to see conflict or confrontation. We hope our two countries will respect each other and achieve win-win cooperation. We firmly believe that a good China-US relationship not only serves the fundamental interests of our two countries, but also benefits world peace and stability.

Third, it's critically important to effectively manage the difficult issues in our bilateral relations.

Due to different histories and national conditions, China and the US don't see eye to eye on many issues and even have serious differences sometimes. However, both sides should always keep in mind that the common interests between our two countries far outweigh our differences. Our two economies are so deeply intertwined that we can hardly be separated from each other. Only cooperation will lead our two countries and the whole world to lasting prosperity. Our two countries also share huge common interests on many international and regional issues. The world would be a better place so long as we cooperate with each other, otherwise there could be more problems. Because there is so much at stake, we should be very careful in dealing with our differences and do our best to avoid any mistake which may cause harm on the overall interests of the bilateral relations. And I believe we have the wisdom to handle our differences in a constructive way.

When China and US established diplomatic ties in 1979, there must be very few people, if any, would have foreseen the scale and scope of China-US relations today. Similarly, I don't know how many of us can tell what our bilateral relationship will look like in the coming ten or twenty years. It's always difficult to predict the future. But for me, I do believe our bilateral relationship has entered a new era that we need to cooperate and must cooperate for the benefits of our two peoples and the whole world. Let's get ready for this new era and work together for an even brighter future of China-US relations.

Thank you.

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