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 it 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.
Michel: a few months ago, when the epidemic began to prevail, President Trump praised Xi Jinping for his strong response, but now things are quite different. Is there any communication between them?
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?
Ambassador Cui: the problem now is that the US side often makes accusations without providing conclusive evidence. In fact, the urgent task is for the international community to really strengthen cooperation and develop effective vaccines as soon as possible so that they can be used all over the world. For this reason, President Xi Jinping announced at the opening ceremony of the World Health Assembly that if Chinas energy rate first developed vaccines, it would be regarded as a global public product.
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.
Michelle: I do have to ask you questions about the larger scale of the charges. US officials said the Consulate General in Houston is a paradise for espionage and intellectual property theft. They said that 80% of the worlds Espionage cases and 60% of commercial secrets are related to China, which is more responsible for trade and intellectual property theft than any other country.
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, after the renovation of the Nixon Library was completed, I was invited to attend the reopening ceremony with Dr. Kissinger and others. 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.
First of all, the normalization of bilateral relations and the development of bilateral relations in the past decades are in the interests of both countries and the world. It is very clear that all of us are still benefiting from the positive development of Sino US relations. No one can deny that.
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.
Frankly, we have learned a lot from the United States over the past few decades. There are some things we have not learned, and there are some things we can never learn from the United States, such as obsession with global hegemony. We are two different countries, but we have to cooperate. We live in the same world, in the same small global village. We face many common global challenges that no country can really deal with alone. For example, Nick just mentioned climate change, terrorism, and natural disasters. The people of our two countries yearn for a better life. If we can cooperate, we can better meet the needs of the people. Therefore, this is a choice that we must make and should cooperate rather than confront.
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?
Ambassador Cui: the lesson we should learn from past history is that the cold war is not in the real interests of either side. Today, we are in the 21st century. Why do we want history to repeat itself? In the face of so many new global challenges, why should we repeat what happened in the last century? The new cold war is not in the interests of anyone and can not provide us with any solution to the problem.
Michelle: is there any way to lower the tune? You just mentioned global hegemony and President trump talked about China flu. These are harsh words.
Michelle: how do you interpret global hegemony? Do you mean us first? Or, when you look at the United States, how do you understand what global hegemony means?
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?
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?
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.
On the one hand, the US side makes groundless accusations, accusing China of not providing equal competition environment for American enterprises, on the other hand, it refuses to provide a fair competition environment for Chinese companies, which is extremely unfair.
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. Is the agreement still in line with US interests. Do you think this agreement is in danger now?
Ambassador Cui: since the signing of the first stage economic and trade agreement between China and the United States in January this year, the economic and trade teams of the two sides have maintained communication at different levels, and positive progress has been made in the implementation of the agreement. For example, the 50 tasks that China has promised to do in the first four months of implementing the agreement have been completed. We continue to buy American agricultural products and other commodities. It is also a reality that the epidemic has affected normal trade. China is doing its best to overcome the current difficulties, maintain trade circulation and implement the agreement as effectively as possible.
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.
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?
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.
Ambassador Cui: the fact is that the people of all ethnic groups in Xinjiang, no matter what ethnic group, have long been threatened by terrorism and extremist activities. In recent years, hundreds or even thousands of such terrorist attacks have taken place in Xinjiang, and thousands of innocent people have been injured or even killed. The people there are under real threat, and we must take measures to stop the spread and threat of terrorist activities. Some of these terrorist groups are linked to the Islamic state (ISIS) and try to spread extremist ideas. Due to the measures taken in the past few years, there has been no such terrorist attack in Xinjiang in the past three years. People live in a much safer environment and can really enjoy a better life. This happens to all the people, no ethnic distinction.
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.
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.
Michel: I want to return to the relationship between President Trump and President Xi Jinping. We saw them meet at sea lake manor and see the grandchildren of President trump singing songs in Chinese in 2017. This relationship continued until January and February this year, when President trump was still praising President Xi. After that, he began to use racist terms like Kung Fu flu and Chinese Flu. How did we get there? Why do you think he blamed China for all this?
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? Who should take the first step at the head of state level?
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: back to Hong Kong, I just want to ask you, can you promise to hold elections in Hong Kong in one year?
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
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 for Chinas great interest in the Arctic? Is it to acquire mineral resources, or is it related to transportation? Is it strategic and related to the movement of potential military resources? Or is it to catch up with your friendly country, Russia, or even us? I will bring this to you as an open question. Thank you very much.
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, my question to 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 questions? 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 friendly 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 U.S. and China can do to bring our relationship back to where it was not long ago? We should remember that during the 2008 financial crisis, it was China that supported the world economy. What do you think we can do to help the two most powerful countries in the world to restore the ship of good relations? 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.
A good example is the climate change we just talked about. Another example is the current epidemic. No country can really deal with the epidemic alone. Of course, due to the different situations in different countries, the epidemic situation is also different. Still, no country can feel 100% safe while others are struggling. We must help each other, we must ensure that the epidemic is contained and eventually defeated, and that effective vaccines and effective drugs are developed to save lives and enable people to better protect their own health. This has to be done by the entire international community. I hope our two countries can really set an example.
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? Is it 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.
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 has no intention of competing with the United States for global dominance? Are you ready to coexist peacefully with us? This is the fundamental question. I hope that politicians, diplomats, journalists and scholars can really seriously consider this issue.
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.
Michelle: its a common wish of all. Thank you very much.