Sep 18, 2020 06:56 PM

China’s Ambassador to U.S. Suggests Relations Could Be More ‘Constructive’

Cui Tiankai, Chinese ambassador to the U.S.
Cui Tiankai, Chinese ambassador to the U.S.

The Chinese ambassador to the United States said there will “always be differences” between the two countries and urged both sides to deal with their issues in a “constructive” way.

In an interview aired Monday with former U.S. Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson, Cui Tiankai said some disagreements between the world’s two largest economies would “remain for many years to come” and called for greater understanding and cooperation.

But he also warned the U.S. against involving itself in hot-button issues like Hong Kong and Xinjiang, saying there were “clear attempts … to cross what people call the ‘red line’ with very serious consequences.”

Beijing and Washington have clashed this year over trade, a controversial national security law in Hong Kong, Beijing’s longstanding claims to Taiwan and parts of the South China Sea, and alleged rights abuses in Northwest China’s Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region. Cui said those matters were “internal issues for China” that touched on its sovereignty.

In a wide-ranging half-hour interview, Cui, who has served as ambassador to Washington since 2013, discussed trade, technology and global governance.

He said China was continuing efforts to lower barriers to foreign trade that would give “better access, better opportunities and certainly greater predictability” for American companies operating in China.

But he chastised “some people in other parts of the world” for imposing barriers on major Chinese-linked companies like short-video app TikTok, telecoms giant Huawei Communications Co. Ltd. and social messaging service WeChat, all of which have been targeted by U.S. sanctions.

“This is a real challenge for us,” he said. “We are trying to open our door wider, but they are building walls.”

Cui also called for Beijing and Washington to strengthen cooperation on issues like climate change and nuclear proliferation. He pointed to collaboration between Chinese and American cities, companies and institutions during the coronavirus pandemic as examples of the two countries uniting in the face of a shared challenge.

“We want to have a constructive and cooperative, rather than confrontational, relationship with the United States,” he said. “We want to base ourselves on mutual respect, mutual understanding, and hopefully mutual accommodation with the aim of mutual benefit.”

In a year when both sides have shuttered consulates and expelled journalists on national security grounds, Cui cautioned against the further deterioration of China-U.S. ties.

“If you have more interaction with each other, you know better the other side,” Cui said. “This is the experience we have learned over the last 40 or 50 years. Why should we change it?”

Contact reporter Matthew Walsh ( and editor Michael Bellart (

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