Dec 05, 2019 07:18 PM

Cui Tiankai: There Is No ‘Thucydides Trap’

Will America opt for mutual respect and win-win cooperation, or will it play a zero-sum game? Photo: IC Photo
Will America opt for mutual respect and win-win cooperation, or will it play a zero-sum game? Photo: IC Photo

We sometimes hear people say “business is business.” But far too often, business is not just business, as economics and politics are always interwoven and interdependent. Our friends at the US-China Business Council (USCBC) and in the American business community know this very well. The USCBC was founded in 1973, six years before the establishment of China-US diplomatic relations. Since then, it has been a pioneer and pathfinder for our economic and trade cooperation, and for bilateral relations overall. Over the past four decades, your wisdom, vision and commitment have produced concrete, fruitful achievements in China-US relations, which will always be remembered by the Chinese and American people.

Today, China-US relations are at a critical crossroads. Over the past year or so, our two countries have been overshadowed by trade frictions, and both sides are working hard to address our differences. We believe that as long as we engage in dialogue and consultation on the basis of equality, mutual benefit and mutual respect, we will be able to tide over the difficulties and return to the right track of win-win cooperation.

At the same time, we must be alert that some destructive forces are taking advantage of the ongoing trade frictions. Extreme rhetoric, talking about decoupling, a new “Cold War”, and clash of civilizations, is having its way here. Some people in this country are pointing fingers at the governing party and national system of China. They are trying to rebuild the “Berlin Wall” between China and the US in the economic, technological and ideological fields. They are trying to spread hostility, and even create conflict between us. In this context, we cannot help but ask, “Is this the China-US relationship for which we have worked so hard over the last 40 years?” If suspicion, animosity, estrangement and confrontation are allowed to grow without any constraint, what consequences will our two peoples and the whole world have to suffer?

As President Xi Jinping pointed out, China and the United States need to get the basics of their relations right and strengthen communication on strategic issues. There is no “Thucydides trap” in the world: the real trap will only come from misunderstanding, misjudgment and obstinate prejudice.

Since the People’s Republic of China was founded 70 years ago, led by the Communist Party of China (CPC), the Chinese people have made painstaking efforts to develop the country and blazed a path of socialism with Chinese characteristics. We have taken the people’s aspiration for a better life as our goal, and we have worked tirelessly to address the problem of unbalanced and inadequate development. Not long ago, the Fourth Plenum of the 19th CPC Central Committee made a major decision to uphold and improve the system of socialism with Chinese characteristics and modernize China’s governance system and capacity. This is for us to better cope with the risks and challenges on our way ahead, and to ensure the success of reform and opening-up, so that we will meet the goal of national rejuvenation.

At the same time, China develops to be a better self, not to displace others, and it has not the slightest interest in global or regional hegemony. Instead, a developing China is making a greater contribution to human progress and will continue to do so. We hope to work with other countries to build a community of shared future for mankind. In this context, we look forward to working with the United States to develop a relationship with sound and sustained growth based on coordination, cooperation and stability. This is for the interests of our two peoples, for the world and for our shared future.

Facing today’s China, will America opt for mutual respect and win-win cooperation, or will it play a zero-sum game and enter a lose-lose scenario? Facing the collective rise of developing countries, will America choose to welcome more cooperation partners, or will it be single-minded about rivalry and resist this historical trend? I hope that our American friends will make a wise choice.

This commentary has been edited for length and clarity, with hyper-linked references.

Cui Tiankai is the Chinese ambassador to the United States. This article was part of his Dec. 4 speech delivered at the the US-China Business Council 2019 Gala in Washington D.C.

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