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Vice Foreign Minister Le Yucheng: Anything is Possible When China and the United States Choose to Cooperate

2021/01/28

On January 28, 2021, Vice Foreign Minister Le Yucheng attended and addressed the virtual Vision China event with the theme "Moving Forward: The Future of China-U.S. Relations" organized by China Daily.

Le Yucheng said, as the new year has begun, and a new U.S. administration was just sworn in, it is particularly timely and meaningful to explore the future of China-U.S. relations. Last year was extremely challenging. The world was hit by the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic, and China-U.S. relations suffered the worst setback of the last forty years. He hopes that the new year of 2021 will bring a new start to the world and to China-U.S. relations.

Le Yucheng said, this year marks the 50th anniversary of Dr. Kissinger's historic visit to China as well as the famous "ping-pong diplomacy". It took those great men before us extraordinary wisdom and courage to break the ice in China-U.S. relations. The challenges we face today call for the same vision and courage to break the ice again.

President Joe Biden has visited China a total of four times, and has a better knowledge of China. He first visited China as a young Senator in 1979 and met with Mr. Deng Xiaoping. It was the same year the two countries normalized bilateral relations. Le Yucheng said that he was especially impressed by President Joe Biden's repeated appeal to the American people for unity over division in his inauguration speech. This is exactly the same spirit and attitude for China-U.S. relations.

Le Yucheng stated that the real enemy of the United States is COVID-19, not China. The Trump administration's misguided China policy in the past four years has been a harsh lesson which taught us that China and the United States, as two major countries in the world, should treat each other as partners rather than adversaries, help rather than fight each other, and lead with the power of example rather than the example of power, in face of such common challenges for mankind as COVID-19.

Le Yucheng stressed that in his congratulatory message to then President-elect Joe Biden, President Xi Jinping stated that China and the United States should act "in the spirit of no conflict, no confrontation, mutual respect and win-win cooperation, so as to focus on cooperation, manage differences, move the relationship forward in a sound and steady manner and, together with other countries and the international community, advance the noble cause of world peace and development." This is China's vision and expectation for China-U.S. relations, which also charts the course for the future development of the bilateral relations.

Le Yucheng summarized his four-point expectation for the future development of China-U.S. relations by quoting four "R" words.

The first R is "respect". It is not a difficult starting point to show mutual respect between the two countries. China has stated repeatedly that it has no intention to challenge or replace the United States. We don't even think the relationship should be defined by "competition", because we keep challenging ourselves, not the United States. The only thing that China asks of the United States is to respect the development path we have chosen, respect our legitimate interests, and respect our pursuit for a better life, and to quit its obsession with changing or splitting China. The world would be better off if our two countries would respect and help each other succeed.

The second R is "reversal". The last four years' journey of the China-U.S. relationship has seen too many "traps" of mistrust, "pitfalls" of division and "poison" of hatred. It is imperative to reverse the wrong course. He agrees with American friends' suggestion that both sides take small steps first to create conditions for improving the relationship. But we have to act now to bring China-U.S. relations back on track.

The third R is "renewal". China and the U.S. are different, but our shared interests and needs for cooperation far outweigh our differences. China believes COVID-19, economic recovery and climate change could be priority areas for cooperation for the near term. The Chinese people empathize with the American plight under COVID-19. China will continue to support the U.S. COVID response, increase experience-sharing on diagnostics and treatment, and work more closely with the United States on the research, production and distribution of vaccines. China will also enhance macroeconomic policy coordination with the United States to help global economic recovery. China is ready to renew cooperation with the United States. Our closer results-oriented cooperation on clean energy, low-carbon technologies, and environmental protection will go a long way toward protecting Mother Earth.

The fourth R is "responsibility". As two major countries in the world, China and the United States should shoulder important responsibilities for world peace and development. Our choice and action today will have far-reaching impact on the future of our world. Our two countries enjoyed successful cooperation in the past: jointly fighting terrorism in 2001, tackling the global financial crisis in 2008, combating Ebola in 2014, and collaborating on the Paris Agreement in 2016. History has taught us that working together, we could get great things done to the benefit of the two countries and the world. Anything is possible when China and the United States choose to cooperate.

He concluded his speech with a quote from Shakespeare: "It is not in the stars to hold our destiny but in ourselves." He said that China and the United States can work together to avoid the so-called Thucydides Trap. There is no predestined fate for the world. The future of China-U.S. relations and the future of the world depend on what vision we embrace and what choice we make.

Vision China, which was launched in 2018, has been held for 17 sessions so far. This event was held online.

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