WASHINGTON – Beijing does not want a cold war between China and the United States and both countries must work to repair relations that are under “unprecedented” tension, Beijing’s envoy to Washington said Tuesday.
“I don’t think a new Cold War would serve anyone’s interest,” Cui Tiankai, a veteran diplomat serving as China’s ambassador to the United States, said at the Aspen Security Conference.
“I don’t know why people like the term Cold War so much,” Cui told Andrea Mitchell of NBC News, who interviewed the ambassador and also answered questions from the virtual audience. He accused the Trump administration of fueling tensions and said, “We are in the 21
Cui’s comments came against the backdrop of growing friction between Beijing and Washington and an emerging bipartisan consensus in Congress that the United States must take a hard line with China.
The ambassador dismissed US criticisms of China’s business practices and allegations that Chinese tech companies like TikTok pose a threat to consumer privacy in America and elsewhere.
“I don’t think there is any evidence that a company is providing such information to the Chinese government. People make these allegations but they never show us any evidence,” he said when asked about TikTok.
Cui said the Trump administration’s threats to ban TikTok in the United States contradicted Washington’s publicly stated commitment to open markets.
“Accusing China of not giving American companies a level playing field, while at the same time denying a Chinese company a level playing field – this is extremely unfair,” he said.
President Donald Trump initially threatened to expel TikTok from the US market, but has since said it would be open to software giant Microsoft who will buy the company.
The lowest point in nearly 50 years
Cui said US-China relations are at their lowest in nearly 50 years, since President Richard Nixon opened a dialogue with Beijing in 1971.
“We are at a very critical time in our relationship,” the ambassador said.
The deterioration in relations is “unprecedented since Dr. Kissinger’s visit nearly half a century ago,” he said, referring to the groundbreaking trip to China by then National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger in 1971.
“The normalization of relations between our two countries and the growth of this relationship over decades … has served the interests of both countries and the world very well,” the ambassador said.
Despite the current tensions, Cui said there is room for cooperation on a range of issues, including trade, the coronavirus pandemic, climate change and nuclear proliferation.
“Both sides, we both have to work harder to overcome the current difficulties, to try to dispel suspicions, doubts or even fear,” he said. “We need to build a constructive and mutually beneficial relationship for the future.”
Although Trump previously publicized his relationship with the Chinese president, Xi Jinping, and often refrained from criticizing Beijing for its human rights record, the administration has taken on an increasingly confrontational tone with China.
In recent weeks, in addition to threatening to block TikTok, the Trump administration has ordered the closure of the Chinese consulate in Houston on espionage charges, imposed sanctions on senior Chinese officials and Chinese companies for the treatment of Uighurs in Xinjiang, and labeled the territorial claims of China in the south. Illegal China Sea.
Cui said the Trump administration’s actions and language have caused public outrage in his country. “The Chinese are also very shocked, they feel very disappointed with what happened,” he said. “There is a growing anger among the Chinese public.”
Trump touted the “Phase One” trade deal agreed this year with China as a success and accused his predecessors of allowing Beijing to have an unfair advantage over American companies. But some Chinese hawks in Washington questioned the trade deal and suggested the administration consider blowing the deal.
Cui, however, expressed optimism on the trade front, saying the “Phase One” deal was being implemented and the two sides were discussing a second trade deal.
“As far as I know, the two business teams have been in contact with each other. We are making good progress,” he said.
China has kept all its commitments in the Phase One agreement within the first four months, it said, including the purchase of American agricultural products, although the coronavirus pandemic has hampered trade.
Cui defended China’s handling of the pandemic, saying his government promptly shared information with the rest of the world. And he rejected criticism of China’s behavior in the strategic South China Sea, where Beijing clashed with neighboring countries over territorial disputes.
The ambassador accused the United States of stoking tensions in the South China Sea by deploying ships and planes to the region.
“This is really increasing the risk of a conflict or confrontation,” he said.
Washington says US Navy patrols are conducted in international waters and airspace to uphold “freedom of navigation” rights for all countries.