Minister Xu Xueyuan Attends the Annual Conference of the Institute for China-America Studies
2021/12/10 21:51

On December 9, Minister Xu Xueyuan attended the annual conference on "China-US Relations under the Biden Administration" held by the Institute for China-America Studies and had a keynote dialogue with Susan Thornton, former acting Assistant Secretary of State. The dialogue was moderated by Gordon Houlden, professor of the China Institute at the University of Alberta, Canada. Minister Xu elaborated on the Sixth Plenary Session of the 19th CPC Central Committee and articulated China's position on China-US relations, the Taiwan question, the “Summit for Democracy” held by the US and the fight against COVID-19. Minister Xu’s remarks are as follows:

I'm so delighted to attend the annual conference of ICAS and have a dialogue with Assistant Secretary Susan Thornton. Our meeting today comes at a very special time, right on the heels of two historic events:

The first major event is the successful conclusion of the Sixth Plenary Session of the 19th CPC Central Committee. At this plenary, the Resolution on the Major Achievements and Historical Experience of the Party over the Past Century was adopted, which reviews the CPC's major achievements and historical experience over the past century. Facts have proved that the CPC is one of the most successful political parties in the world, and socialism with Chinese characteristics is a most successful development path that fits China's conditions. The 10 points of experience summed up in the Resolution hold the key to the CPC's success and answer the following questions: namely, why the CPC succeeded in the past, why Marxism works, and why socialism with Chinese characteristics is good. The Resolution states that China will implement a more proactive opening-up strategy, foster a pattern of opening-up at a larger scale, a broader scope and a deeper level, and build an open economic system that is mutually beneficial, diverse, balanced, safe and efficient. This shows that China led by the CPC will share development opportunities with other countries in the world.

The second major event is the virtual meeting between President Xi Jinping and President Joe Biden. The two Presidents exchanged views on issues of strategic, overarching and fundamental importance, which will help steer the course of China-US relations. During the meeting, both Presidents underscored the importance of our bilateral relationship. They agreed that we must get the China-US relationship right and never mess it up. Both expressed their opposition to a "new Cold War", confrontation or conflict between China and the US. They sent a strong message to our two countries and the world that China-US relations should and must return to the right track of sound and stable development. The China-US relationship stands at a crossroads. We hope that the United States will work with China, follow the spirit of the two Presidents’ meeting with concrete actions, maintain dialogue and communication, strengthen exchanges and cooperation, and manage differences in a responsible way, so as to promote sound and stable development of the China-US relationship.

The moderator asked, what is the Chinese government’s view of the Democracy Summit? What’s your view on Taipei’s participation in the proceedings?

Xu: Western democracy, as far as I know, has its roots in the city-state system of Athens in Ancient Greece. Its essence is "full participation" and "majority decision". The US prides itself as a beacon of democracy, but its democracy is now a far cry from its forefathers' intention. According to a recent poll of Harvard Kennedy School, 39% of respondents believe that US democracy is in trouble, 13% believe that it is failing, and only 7% believe that the US is a healthy democracy. A recent Pew poll of 17 democracies found that only 17% of respondents thought the US remained a model democracy. Freedom House's latest report downgraded the state of US democracy to below Chile and Costa Rica. Can you believe that?

I have no intention to make distinction about “good” and “bad”. As I emphasized in opening remarks, China's model only fits China's national conditions. China prides itself on its whole-process democracy, which can better reflect full participation and majority decision. In China, the people have the right to election, and they can get deeply involved in national governance. On matters concerning people's keen interests, there are broad-based and sufficient consultations and discussions before any decision is made. Policies and measures can be introduced only when there is a consensus that they are what the people want and will serve the people's needs. For example, in the drafting process of the Resolution I mentioned earlier, we solicited opinions, comments and suggestions from various localities, departments and sectors. A total of 547 revisions were made to the preliminary draft. The Standing Committee of the Political Bureau met 3 times and the Political Bureau twice for the purpose of discussing and finalizing the draft. The current draft is a product of these meetings.

It is totally a wrong decision for the US to invite Taiwan authorities to the Summit for Democracy, no matter what form its participation will take or who will represent it. As we speak, Taiwan suffers from prevalent populism, intense ethnic conflicts and rampant separatism. These all hurt people's livelihood and the economy, and the Democratic-Progressive Party's policy causes deep political fear in Taiwan. So many people in Taiwan doubt this is genuine democracy. I made this conclusion according to news reports and public discussions in Taiwan. More importantly, Taiwan is a province of China, and the US inviting this province to the Summit is unreasonable. It violates the one-China principle and the three Sino-US joint communiqués.

When talking about the US policy towards Taiwan, Xu further elaborated:

On the Taiwan question, some people in the US believe that the US actions are to react to China's provocative steps on Taiwan, but in our view, we are forced to respond to the separatist forces which are colluding with their international supporters, including the US, to advance "Taiwan independence" agenda and jeopardize China's goal of reunification. I think it is very dangerous for some people in the US to advocate that "Taiwan's status is uncertain" and make policies based on this idea. Let me be clear, the status quo on the Taiwan question is and should only be: there is only one China in the world; Taiwan is an inalienable part of China's territory; and the Government of the People's Republic of China is the sole legal government representing the whole of China. If the US side looks at the "status of Taiwan" in accordance with the facts universally recognized by the international community and handles Taiwan-related matters on the basis of this, the differences between China and the US will be much smaller.

The moderator asked, is there a timeline for China relaxing its ‘Zero COVID’ restrictions that would allow avoidance of a long period of quarantine?

Xu: China's "zero COVID" strategy has been questioned and criticized by many Western media. But after the emergence of Omicron variant, we find that many Western media, including Bloomberg and The New York Times, reported that the Omicron variant has caused many countries and regions to impose border and travel restrictions, but for China, it is business as usual. These media used to doubt China's pandemic control policies, but now they think China is right.

For Western observers, it's important for them to know that China puts people and their lives first. It's the basic consideration and goal of our measures. At present, we will still try our best to clear all the cases. And we will also monitor the developments of the pandemic to decide on our response measures and adjust our border control policies correspondingly when safety can be ensured.

In response to questions about China's lack of transparency and criticism of its own failings, Xu said:

To understand China's policies, you must study the official documents of the CPC and the Chinese government carefully. As China's governing party, CPC's official documents provide the most authoritative interpretation of China's policies. China's policies and intentions can only be understood by truly understanding these documents. That's why I spent much time elaborating the Resolution of the Sixth Plenary Session of the 19th CPC Central Committee. China never considers itself perfect. We are willing to review our own shortcomings in our own way.  For example, the resolution adopted at the Fourth Plenary Session of the 19th CPC Central Committee is about modernizing national governance system and capacity. It has identified problems in China's reform and opening-up policy and put forward a host of measures to improve the situation. It shows the CPC's determination and capability to acknowledge and fix its own problems and deficiencies.

The moderator asked, what are the most immediate actions each side could take today that would improve the relationship beyond just more meetings?

Xu: Many people say that the China-US relationship can no longer go back to its past. Indeed, China, the US and the whole world have undergone dramatic changes. China-US relations don't need to go back to the past. Instead, we should look to the future and move forward to achieve mutual respect, peaceful coexistence and win-win cooperation. As to what should be done now, first of all, we have to reduce risks. Taiwan is the single most dangerous issue that can bring about confrontation, conflict and even hot war between the two countries. We can focus more on our cooperation, and take positive steps to release the potential of such cooperation at bilateral and international levels to jointly address global challenges, such as climate change and COVID-19. We think the United States should abolish the additional tariffs on China, since it has not benefited from the trade war at all. Actually US trade deficit increased by a big margin last year. China-US trade, including China’s imports to the US, has kept growing. Ordinary Americans have been heavily burdened by the tariffs. In addition, it's also very important to revive and enhance people-to-people exchanges, which serve the fundamental interests of both the Chinese and American people.

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