The United States and China face a "historic challenge" in shaping their future relationship, Beijing’s ambassador to Washington said.
Given the risks of either economic confrontation or military conflict, both nations understand “there is actually no alternative,” Cui Tiankai said Tuesday.
“China and the U.S. have to work together to build a strong and stable relationship that is based on the principles of non-conflict, non-confrontation, mutual respect and win-win cooperation,” Cui said.
Cui emphasized positive trends in the relationship, according to the transcript of his speech at the annual conference of the Institute for China-America Studies in Washington. He said that since President Donald Trump took office this year, the leaders of the two countries have “set a constructive tone” for the relationship.
Upbeat on economic talks
Cui was upbeat about the first round of the two countries’ Comprehensive Economic Dialogue last week.
“The fact that the two largest economies in the world have chosen to engage in constructive dialogue for mutual benefit gives the world the optimism it badly needs,” he said.
The talks, however, produced no new steps to reduce the U.S. trade deficit with China. Since then, there has been considerable speculation that the United States might impose tariffs on Chinese steel imports, which Washington says undercut U.S. steelmakers as China dumps steel on the world market.
Cui did warn of challenges to the relationship. Chief among them were “alarming developments” that undermine the One China policy – under which Washington recognizes only the Beijing government, and has just informal ties with Taiwan. Beijing considers the island a breakaway province.
“China is firmly opposed to such provocations,” such as U.S. arms sales to Taipei, and what Cui said were efforts to upgrade official contact between the island and Washington.
Differences on North Korea
Cui also noted differences in how the U.S. and China seek to end North Korea’s nuclear weapons program. He said Beijing aims to use dialogue and gradually suspending sanctions on North Korea to build compliance. He stressed China’s opposition to the U.S. deployment of an anti-missile system in South Korea and to secondary sanctions on Chinese businesses and citizens who deal with North Korea.
Cui also was firm in saying that the United States had no role in the South China Sea. Beijing claims most of the waterway, despite overlapping the territorial claims of several other nations.
The issue was a dispute over territory and maritime jurisdiction among neighboring countries, “not strategic rivalry between China and the U.S.,” Cui said.
What’s more, he said, U.S. naval operations in the area “violate China’s rights, fan up tensions in the region and run counter” to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. He noted, too, that the U.S. has not signed on to that convention.