Cui Tiankai: China and the United States are at a critical moment. Todays choice will shape the future of the world

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 Cui Tiankai: China and the United States are at a critical moment. Todays choice will shape the future of the world


Burns: Id like to extend my warmest welcome to you, Ambassador Cui. Before passing on the interview to Andrea Michelle, I would like to make a few comments. I think us China relations may be at the lowest point since President Nixon opened the door to China in 1971 and 1972. In the United States, people are very concerned about the Chinese governments abandonment of its commitment to the people of Hong Kong, the border conflict between India and China in the Himalayas, and Chinas activities in the South China Sea. For decades, you and I have been involved in U.S. - China relations in the government. In my opinion, we are moving away from the track of cooperation over the past 40 years and moving towards competition, including on military, economic and 5g issues. My question to Andrea, you and your interview is, can we find a way to cooperate on addressing climate change, epidemics and other major global issues while we compete, of course?

Michelle: Thank you very much. Thank you, Mr. ambassador. We are very honored to have you here today. Id like to start the conversation with a question from Nick burns. Most of us in both countries are convinced that this is the most difficult period. I have said that this is the most difficult period since 1979. But burns just said that it can be counted from Dr. Kissingers visit to China in 1971, which is really true. Is there a way to First of all, do you agree that this is a dangerous situation? How do you think this situation should be reversed, or do you think it should be reversed?

Ambassador Cui: first of all, thank you very much for the opportunity to have this conversation. At present, Sino US relations are at a very critical moment. In a sense, this is unprecedented since Dr. Kissinger visited China nearly half a century ago. The choices we are making today will not only truly determine the relationship between our two great powers, but also shape the future of the world. Therefore, we must make the right choice based on the long-term interests of our two peoples and the world.

Michelle: from the perspective of the United States and the rest of the world, one of the major causes of the current tension is the epidemic. President trump accused China of failing to inform the World Health Organization (who) of the human to human transmission of the new coronavirus in time and failed to make sufficient efforts to contain the epidemic. How do you respond to this criticism?

Ambassador Cui: I think we have to be based on the real facts. The facts are very clear, the timeline is very clear. Novel coronavirus pneumonia is one of the earliest reported cases in China, but now more and more reports and information show that there may be earlier cases in other parts of the world.

Scientists around the world are still working hard around the epidemic and the virus. At the end of December last year, we found several cases in Wuhan. But even those doctors - who like to call them whistleblowers - say they have had cases of unexplained pneumonia. This suggests that little was known about the new virus at that time. At that time, very few people in the world even knew anything about the new virus. But as soon as we found these cases, we immediately reported them to who.

On January 3, just after the new year, we made our first report, only a few days before the initial discovery of the case. On January 4, the CDC of China and the CDC of the United States had the first communication on this virus, even before the new coronavirus was officially named. At that time, people still called it unexplained pneumonia. On 12 January, we immediately shared the gene sequence of the new coronavirus with who and the international community. It can be seen that everything is done very quickly.

Of course, people are still trying to learn more about the virus, and we dont know it very well. Thats true. But it is also true that as soon as we find something, we will immediately share it with the international community. When we first reported to the World Health Organization, when we first shared all this information with the international community, there were only a few cases in the United States.

Michelle: of course thats right. But the question is, did you report human to human transmission? You did share the viral genome sequence, but did you share the human to human information as soon as possible?

Ambassador Cui: of course. This is indeed extremely important for us to respond to the epidemic in a timely manner. Thats why we sent experts from China to Wuhan to determine whether there is human to human transmission of the virus. Once we have confirmed the existence of the phenomenon of human to human transmission, we have sealed the city of Wuhan. Within two or three days, we closed Wuhan, a city of 12 million people. This is because, as we all know, this is an infectious disease that can be transmitted from person to person. In the next two or three days, the United States evacuated its Consulate General in Wuhan. It also shows that everyone knows that the disease is very dangerous.

Ambassador Cui: in the past few months, the heads of state of China and the United States have made two phone calls, and the working level of the two sides has also maintained communication. Of course, the economic and trade teams of the two countries have more frequent exchanges. More importantly, scientists from the two countries are cooperating. At the beginning of the outbreak, some American experts and some very famous professors in the field of public health went to China and joined the WHO expert group sent to China in February. So, were lucky that our scientists are still working together.

Michelle: Recently, the United States has sued some researchers and scholars, accusing them of trying to steal information about the new crown vaccine from US technology companies or universities, and said it was part of Chinas massive theft of US intellectual property rights. Can you respond to this?

Michelle: as one of the leading research companies, Moderna of the United States has entered the third stage of the experiment. Hackers associated with the Chinese government tried to steal their data, the company said.

Ambassador Cui: the fact is, as early as March this year, some American companies came to me. They asked to work with Chinese partners to develop drugs or vaccines. We should encourage scientists from both countries and other countries to cooperate. If someone wants to make an accusation, they have to produce evidence. It is likely that hackers from other countries are trying to penetrate or attack our research institutions in China. This is also possible.

Michelle: lets talk about the Chinese Consulate General in Houston. As you know, it is the first Consulate General opened by China in 1979, so it has very important foundational significance. In response to the US closure, China closed the US Consulate General in Chengdu. Do you think the situation will further escalate?

Ambassador Cui: it is very clear that the whole incident was not initiated by the Chinese side. We certainly hope that both consulates general can be retained. As you said, our Consulate General in Houston is the first Chinese Consulate General in the United States. Its establishment was the result of Mr. Deng Xiaopings first visit to the United States in 1979. People like Texas, like Houston, like the rockets and Yao Ming, like Texas steak, and so on. The Chinese Consulate General in Houston has done a lot of work to promote exchanges between the two countries, including personnel exchanges, cultural, sports and educational exchanges, and has done a lot of good things for the two countries. Unfortunately, the US side has asked China to close its Consulate General in Houston, which is very bad. According to the principle of diplomatic reciprocity, we must respond. But we didnt want this to happen in the first place, and of course we didnt want to see it escalate.

Ambassador Cui: these accusations against our Consulate General in Houston or any of our diplomatic agencies are groundless. Some people cant assume that others are doing the same thing just because they may be doing it in other countries. Thats the problem. But they are now accusing other countries of doing similar things. We never do this kind of thing.

Michelle: let me ask you a question about our chief diplomat, the Secretary of state of the United States. You should know him very well. He recently delivered a speech in the Nixon Library, which is of great symbolic significance, because it was President Nixon who opened the door to us China exchanges. He said some very tough words, saying that if we succumb now, our future generations may be at the mercy of the Communist Party of China, which is the primary challenge to todays free world. What do you think of this? Is this a direct provocation to the Chinese government?

Ambassador Cui: I have been to Nixon Library more than once. A few years ago, Dr. Kissinger and I were invited to join Dr. Nixon to reopen the library. I was very impressed by the Nixon Library. By the way, I have visited several American Presidential Libraries and found each one very unique. I think that if we seriously review the history of Sino US relations since President Nixons visit to China or Dr. Kissingers visit to China, several points will be very clear.

Second, there are great differences in history, culture, economic development and political system between China and the United States, and these differences may exist for a long time, but they should not be regarded as an obstacle to establishing closer relations between us. They provide opportunities and possibilities for both sides to learn from each other and cooperate with each other.

Michelle: a Chinese foreign policy expert in Beijing said pompeios speech was a declaration of the United States to launch a new cold war against China. Do you think this is the declaration of the US Secretary of state to launch the new cold war?

Michelle: is there any way to lower the tune? You mentioned global hegemony just now, and President trump talked about China flu. These are harsh words.

Ambassador Cui: it is certainly wrong to stigmatize. The virus has been designated by who as covid-19 (2019 Coronavirus). Who has a rule that the name of any virus should not be associated with any particular person, group or animal. Its an international rule that we all should abide by. As for global hegemony, China certainly has no intention of seeking global hegemony. But in the United States, people are so enthusiastic about this topic that I feel as if there is obsession about it.

Michelle: Id like to ask you a question about the new law in Hong Kong, which has been criticized by officials in the United States, the United Kingdom and other countries. The Hong Kong Legislative Council election was originally scheduled for September 6, but now China has decided to postpone it for one year. Cant an election be held safely in the event of an epidemic? Why is the election postponed for one year? Can you assure the people of Hong Kong and the people of the world that democratic elections will be held in Hong Kong?

Ambassador Cui: the decision to postpone the election of the Hong Kong Legislative Council was made by the Hong Kong SAR government because of the epidemic. In recent days, people have seen a very serious rebound in the epidemic situation in Hong Kong and the situation is worrying. The Hong Kong SAR government believes that if elections are held on schedule, there is a significant risk of further spread of the epidemic. In fact, in other parts of the world, dozens of countries or regions have decided to postpone elections or similar activities in some way.

As for the new law of Hong Kong, that is, the national security law of Hong Kong, as the name implies, it is about national security. In fact, according to the basic law of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, Hong Kong should have enacted its own national security law. Since Hong Kongs return to the motherland for 23 years, the national security law has not been promulgated, which has led to many serious consequences. People have seen that the violence in Hong Kong is on the rise and the stability of the city has been greatly damaged. People feel that Hong Kong is no longer a safe place to live or do business. The lack of such a law undermines Chinas national security interests, the security of the people in the mainland and Hong Kong, and the interests of Hong Kongs international economic partners.

In a sense, we are forced to enact this law. In this way, the stability of Hong Kong can be better guaranteed, the rising violence can be stopped more effectively, everyone can have a safer environment and a safer place to live, so that Hong Kong can continue to function as an international financial, trade and transportation center and continue to implement the one country, two systems policy.

Michelle: it is very difficult for the Hong Kong government to decide to postpone the election independently of Beijing. In Hong Kong, people who have invested in democracy want elections; people around the world who want Hong Kong to have a stable economic foundation also want elections and stable democracy. Today, China has issued arrest warrants for six Democrats, one of whom is an American citizen and the famous Nathan law, who is already in the UK. What actions have they taken to threaten the stability of Hong Kong?

Ambassador Cui: there should be no distinction between democracy and anti democracy. In fact, all of these enforcement actions are carried out in accordance with the law. Anyone who breaks the law should be punished, and thats what happened. No matter what kind of political views, no one should violate the law.

Michelle: I want to ask a question about tiktok. President trump said it would be banned, and now it is likely to be acquired by Microsoft. According to Chinas laws and capabilities, Beijing can request data information from any such Chinese company. Based on this, can you understand why President trump and the U.S. government want to ensure that Beijing does not have access to any data about U.S. citizens when tiktok operates in the United States?

Ambassador Cui: there is no evidence that any company has provided such information to the Chinese government. Such accusations have been made, but no evidence has ever been given. We often hear complaints here that China does not provide a level playing field for American companies. But I am more and more convinced that we should complain that Chinese enterprises do not have a level playing field in the United States. The degree of political intervention and government intervention in the market is so high, and the discrimination against Chinese enterprises is so deep. And these companies are just private enterprises.

Michelle: Despite the tension between the two sides, you mentioned that the two sides still maintain a dialogue on economic issues at the working level. Will the US China Economic and trade agreement continue? Do you still think the agreement is in Chinas interests? Obviously, the US side has to weigh whether the agreement is still in its own interests. Do you think this agreement is in danger now?

Michelle: I want to raise a question about military tension. The US side said that the areas where China claims rights and interests in the South China Sea are international waters, which is an aggressive act. Do you think the United States and China are getting closer to some form of military conflict?

Ambassador Cui: the situation in the South China Sea has a long history. In fact, before the 1970s or 1960s, there was no territorial dispute in the region. However, since the 1960s or 1970s, some countries have claimed sovereignty. The South China Sea Islands have been Chinas territory since ancient times, and China has sufficient historical and legal basis for this. Nevertheless, we are willing to seek peaceful settlement of disputes through consultation with other relevant countries.

Over the years, we have been working with ASEAN countries on this issue. I have worked with ASEAN partners for many years and participated in the drafting of the Declaration on the conduct of parties in the South China Sea. Now, China is working with ASEAN countries to formulate the code of conduct in the South China Sea and has made positive progress. We always believe that any territorial dispute should be settled through negotiation and consultation between the parties directly concerned, and we are committed to seeking a diplomatic solution. Its our commitment, it hasnt changed.

At the same time, we should really work together to maintain regional stability. All the channels here are extremely important to Chinas economy. A large number of our import and export trade must go through these channels, so we have a great interest in ensuring the safety of navigation. If these problems are solved by the countries concerned in the region, the situation will be much better. The problem is that the U.S. military activities in the South China Sea continue to intensify, sending more and more ships and aircraft, and the activities are becoming more and more frequent, which is increasing the risk of friction and conflict.

Michelle: President trump and Secretary of state pompeio have talked about trying to get China to conduct trilateral arms control talks with Russia and the United States. They said that one of the reasons for the United States to withdraw from the treaty was Russias deception and, more importantly, negotiations with China. Will China be interested in reaching an agreement with Russia and the United States and negotiating a missile limitation?

Ambassador Cui: the United States and Russia are conducting important negotiations on issues related to the existing agreement, which is extremely important for international strategic stability. We hope that the relevant agreements can be extended. But I dont know how the negotiations between the United States and Russia are progressing. Maybe we should - and I do hope - have reason to be optimistic, but I dont know. We just hope that the United States and Russia can extend the agreement to maintain international strategic stability.

The United States and Russia have the largest nuclear arsenals in the world, and everyone knows that. This is an international consensus. Therefore, the United States and Russia should take the lead in international nuclear disarmament. I hope they can show us leadership. China has a very small number of nuclear weapons, which is not at the same level as the United States and Russia, and is far behind. Some of my colleagues in Disarmament Affairs have asked a very good question. They want to know whether the United States is willing to reduce its nuclear arsenals to the level of China, and then we can start real negotiations. I hope we can get a very convincing answer.

Michelle: Id like to ask you another question about Uighurs because weve heard some shocking reports about them. Please tell the world why China feels threatened by this Muslim minority? According to reliable human rights activists, a large number of Uighurs have been imprisoned, abused and slaughtered.

Michelle: Mr. ambassador, according to the United Nations, there are more than two million people in detention camps.

Michelle: you mean there arent millions of people in detention camps there?

Ambassador Cui: there is no such thing. In April last year, I visited one of the training centers in Xinjiang. I met some Uighurs there and talked to them. I met a young Uighur couple who opened a restaurant in one of the training centers, and the business was very good.

Michelle: obviously, we have to do more homework on this. But I know that this is almost universal criticism of China, and its something the world really needs more answers to.

Ambassador Cui: with all due respect, I often hear in this country that this is a universal thing. However, when they say universality, they mainly refer to the United States and a few European countries. If you want to talk about anything universal, you have to think about a country like China, which accounts for 20% of the worlds population. If you include countries like India, Africa and Latin America, the so-called universality usually does not include most of the worlds population.

Ambassador Cui: This is not something that I should explain. I attended most of the meetings between the two heads of state, including at Haihu manor, Beijing and Buenos Aires, and last year in Osaka. The meeting between the two heads of state has provided important guidance for the overall relations between the two countries. All these meetings have been very positive. Of course, I look forward to more such interactions and to maintaining an effective working relationship between the two heads of state and the two governments.

Michelle: is there any chance to try something? Is it possible for China to take the initiative to contact Washington, or should Washington take the initiative to contact China? At the head of state level, who should take the first step?

Ambassador Cui: This is what we diplomats really have to do. My good friend Ambassador Branstad is in Beijing, I am in Washington, and we will continue to do our best.

Michelle: Nick burns raised the issue of cooperation on global warming and climate change. This is perhaps the biggest threat to the world, and certainly the biggest threat to the world. Can progress be made if the United States does not rejoin the Paris agreement?

Ambassador Cui: whether the United States will return to the Paris Agreement is a decision that the United States should make. But obviously, climate change is a good example of how we live in a very different world. We live in a globalized world, whether you like it or not, thats the reality. We must work together to address all these global challenges. No country can deal with all these things alone, and we have to cooperate. For China and the United States, because we are the two largest economies in the world, and because we are permanent members of the UN Security Council, we do share special responsibilities, not only for the people of our two countries, but also for the international community. We should play a leading role in promoting international cooperation to meet all these challenges. Of course we are willing to do such things.

Ambassador Cui: it is up to the Hong Kong SAR government to make a decision in accordance with the basic law and Hong Kongs own laws. It is not a question that I can answer.

Michelle: can they really make a decision without Beijings approval?

Michelle: Yes, Hong Kong used to have it, but it no longer does. According to most people

Ambassador Cui: people must pay attention to the fact that a high degree of autonomy is different from complete independence. Hong Kong is not a sovereign state. It is a part of China and a special administrative region of China. Therefore, the governance of Hong Kong is based on the constitution of China and the basic law of Hong Kong. In fact, the Chinese Constitution and the basic law of Hong Kong provide a real guarantee for one country, two systems.

Michelle: but under the concept of one country, two systems, if Hong Kong does not have an independent status and if Beijing does not want to, can the Hong Kong government continue to hold elections?

Ambassador Cui: the decision to postpone the election is based on the assessment of the epidemic situation, which is the only reason. They cant take risks, otherwise more and more people will be affected and the epidemic will get out of control. The risk is too high for them.

Michelle: I know there are a lot of people who want to ask questions. I dont want to take up all your time. Mr. ambassador, you have given us such a long time very, very generously today.

Audience 1: Thank you very much. Thank you, Ms. Michelle and Mr. ambassador. The question I want to raise has nothing to do with the discussion just now. I want to talk about the Arctic and ask about Chinas interest in the Arctic. China is not an Arctic country, but thinks it needs to declare itself a near Arctic country. So the question I ask you is, what is the motivation behind Chinas great interest in the Arctic? Do you want to get mineral resources, or is it related to transportation? Is it strategic and related to the movement of potential military resources? Or to catch up with your friendly country, Russia, or even us? Ill bring this to you as an open question. Thank you very much.

Ambassador Cui: I am not an expert on these issues. China is the second largest economy in the world. Of course, we have many interests in the world and hope to contribute to the protection and utilization of various parts of the Arctic. We want to make our contribution and are willing to cooperate with other countries and have no military intentions towards these places. We want to contribute to the peaceful use and environmental protection there and are willing to talk to other countries. We know that the United States, Russia and other countries also have a very strong interest. We should communicate and cooperate to avoid doing anything wrong in that part of the earth.

Audience 2: Thank you very much. My question has to do with access policy. In fact, domestic discussions in the United States suggest that the engagement policy is dying. I feel that the relationship between our two countries is obviously dominated by the security issue, showing a spiral decline. So the question I ask you is, what do you think can be used as engagement policy version 2.0? What measures will we try and are willing to take? What steps do you think the US side needs to take? If you look at the US trade representative and the trade agreement, we have reached the first stage agreement. In my view, the second phase agreement will be a big step in the right direction. What do you think of the above issues? thank you!

Ambassador Cui: the need for comprehensive contacts between our two countries is obvious, including on trade, finance, environment, security and international and regional hot spots. Because we are the two largest economies in the world and permanent members of the UN Security Council. We do have common interests and responsibilities.

At the same time, I think that what we must do more and better now is to build mutual trust, work to better understand each others intentions, and avoid the relationship between the two countries being kidnapped by any misunderstanding and misjudgment. Without this mutual understanding, it will be very difficult for us to cooperate, contact or coordinate in any field, even in economic and trade agreements. If we really want to make progress in economic and trade, we must enhance mutual understanding. We must also promote mutual respect and try to compromise with each other. The relationship between two countries is very similar to that between two people. How can cooperation be possible without mutual respect and understanding? If we have this foundation, the potential and opportunities for cooperation between our two countries on many issues will be obvious.

Audience 3: I want to follow up on the question. According to the Wall Street Journal, the United States and China will hold a special meeting on August 15 to reassess the trade agreement, is that right? If so, what is Chinas position on this? Thank you very much.

Ambassador Cui: Thank you for your question. According to the original plan, the two teams will meet within six months after the implementation of the first phase of the economic and trade agreement. I think the two teams are still negotiating. But they may not be able to meet face to face and have to hold online video conferences like we do now. I think if they make a decision, they will announce it. If they do hold such a meeting, it will be very positive.

Audience 4: Hello, Ambassador! Thank you very much for your kind and informative conversation. It is such talks that will hopefully bring the two countries back together and become friends, as we have long hoped. I personally feel that China is just returning to its status as an equal member of the international community for thousands of years. What symbolic things do you think the United States and China can do to bring our relationship back to where it was not long ago? We should bear in mind that during the 2008 financial crisis, it was China that spent a lot of money to support the world economy. How do you think the two countries in the world should help you? thank you.

Ambassador Cui: Thank you very much for your inspiring comments. I have exactly the same hope as you. If we look at the three major international crises since the beginning of this century, namely, the 9.11 terrorist attacks, the international financial crisis and the current epidemic situation, it is obvious that the global challenges we are facing today are truly global and need global cooperation, especially between our two great countries. Otherwise, none of us can really solve these problems, overcome these difficulties, and truly make our future better. China and the United States have maintained cooperation on many international and regional issues, from the Korean Peninsula nuclear issue to the Iranian nuclear issue, from Afghanistan to the Middle East. Solving all these problems requires bilateral and multilateral cooperation between our two countries.

Michelle: Mr. ambassador, I know Nick burns will ask you one last question. I just want to say thank you for joining the forum. The Aspen security forum is a very important forum.

Ambassador Cui: Thank you very much. You have raised a very good question.

Burns: Thank you very much, Andrea. Thank you, Mr. ambassador. I want to ask you one last question. 18 months ago, I met with Mr. ambassador in Grand Rapids, Michigan. We had a dialogue at a meeting of 500 business people to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the United States and China by President Jimmy Carter and Mr. Deng Xiaoping. The United States and China have done a lot and achieved a lot. There was a celebration atmosphere at the meeting.

But now, Mr. ambassador, the mood in the United States has changed dramatically. The United States is generally disappointed and even angry at Chinas anti democratic behavior in Hong Kong. It is felt that the PLA is taking illegal actions against the Philippines and Vietnam in the South China Sea, pushing forward excessive legal claims. There is widespread opposition to the PLAs actions against India on the long Himalayan border. Andrea also asked you about Uighur just now. In this country, there is a lot of evidence to make us believe that as many as one million Uighurs may have been unfairly oppressed and treated unfairly. Mr. ambassador and I have known each other for a long time, and I want to tell you that in the United States, views are getting tough. Even most Democrats and Republicans agree that China is too aggressive in the Indo Pacific region and that we may be at a fundamental turning point towards competition.

So my question is, is Beijing aware of the very tough attitude here? Are you aware that the two parties and almost all leaders in the United States hold negative views on China and the Beijing government? What can Beijing do to ease this concern? Because its part of diplomacy. At present, we have not seen any sign of reconciliation from the Chinese government.

Ambassador Cui: Andrea and I talked about many of the issues you mentioned just now. I know time is limited and I dont want to repeat it all, but I want to tell you that the Chinese people are also very shocked. They are very disappointed with what the United States has done to China, and the anger of the Chinese public is rising. People here have to be aware of that. What can China do to improve Sino US relations. The Chinese people are also asking what the United States can do to improve Sino US relations. On many issues, sometimes I dont understand why misunderstandings persist or even spread.

I have personally participated in the process of dealing with many problems in Asia. China and all our neighbors only want to establish normal, stable, friendly and mutually beneficial relations. We do have disputes, such as the border dispute with India and the territorial dispute in the South China Sea. But on the whole, all countries in our region want to develop mutually beneficial relations. None of them wants to see tensions escalate. Therefore, I am fully confident that China and our neighbors will be able to resolve any problems through friendly and peaceful negotiations without external intervention and attempts to escalate the situation. For example, China has 14 Land neighbors, which means that we have land borders with 14 countries. Of these 14 countries, we have settled border issues and concluded treaties with 12 countries, leaving only India and Bhutan. We may not be able to solve the border issue in the short term, but it should not dominate Sino Indian relations. I dont think our Indian friends like that either.

Therefore, we hope that our American friends can really better understand the reality of our region, truly understand our concerns, views and demands, know what the people in the region really need, and avoid taking any action aimed at profiting from any disputes in the region, and even escalate the situation.

I want to be honest with you. The real question for the United States is: is the United States ready to coexist with another country with a different history, culture and system, but not with the United States competing for global dominance? Are you ready to live in peace with us? This is a fundamental problem. I hope that politicians, diplomats, journalists and scholars can really seriously consider this issue.

Michelle: Thank you again. I think Nick correctly pointed out that at present, there are few things that the Democratic Party and the Republican Party in the United States can reach a political consensus, but the doubt and hostility to China is one of them. So there is work for both of us to do to overcome those differences.

Ambassador Cui: both of us need to work harder to overcome the current difficulties and try to solve and eliminate such doubts and even fears. We must face the future and build a constructive and mutually beneficial relationship.

Ambassador Cui: Thank you.