What China wants from U. S.
Beijing sees nonconfrontation, cooperation and mutual respect as key
BEIJING — The world’s two biggest economies have been eyeing each other warily lately. Like two heavyweight contenders angling for a match, the U. S. and China have been managing a hugely productive economic relationship — two- way trade hit $ 590 billion last year — all the while trying to f igure out who runs the world.
The two nations have forged common ground on big- ticket items such as climate change and concerns over nuclear proliferation in North Korea and Iran. But there’s been tension over China’s moves to secure disputed territory in the South China Sea, and accusations that recent large- scale hacking of U. S. government computers had a Chinese fingerprint.
Both nations are hurrying to lock in separate Pacific trade agreements that stand to give them a powerful foothold in commerce across Asia.
More than 400 Chinese officials are in Washington this week for talks aimed at making progress in a relationship regarded by almost everyone as vital. On the eve of the talks that began Tuesday, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi met with The Times in Beijing as part of a delegation hosted by the New York- based Asia Society. The interview has been edited for length and clarity. You have emphasized that China and the U. S. are “not competitors, much less adversaries,” but what about the allegations of computer hacking that the U. S. administration makes against China?
The position of the Chinese government is very clear: The Chinese government opposes any hacking activities or the theft of commercial secrets. This is the set policy of the Chinese government, and we have very strict regulations.
As a matter of fact, China has suffered from hacking. Every day, China is subject to more than 300 large- scale hacking activities, and every month, more than 10,000 Chinese websites are changed by hackers, and 80% of the government websites are attacked. We have evidence to show that many of these hacking activities come from the U. S. We cannot say who inside the U. S., but these attacks come from U. S. soil. What is the biggest mistake the U. S. has made in its relationship with China?
I’m afraid you have too pessimistic a perception in raising this question. Instead of thinking of the mistakes and errors, why not think of the achievements?
An important agreement that we reached between our two countries in recent years is to work together to build a new model of a major- country relationship.
Some argue that it will mean a world of G- 2 [ in which China and the U. S. jointly tackle the world’s problems], but China does not subscribe to this view — in the first place, because we do not believe that world affairs can be decided by one or two countries.
The second inaccurate contention we hear is that China is seeking parity with the United States. This is not true. Because the United States is the biggest developed country, and China is the biggest developing country. We still have a very big gap between us.
Our goal is that by the centenary of the founding of the People’s Republic, that is, by 2049, China will become a medium- income developed country; and even by then, there will be a big gap between China and the United States.
To have this new model of a major- country relationship, we need to have three things. The first element is nonconflict, nonconfrontation. Second, we need to have a win- win cooperation, and we need to reject the thinking that winner takes it all. And third, we need to have mutual respect. China has recently announced that it has halted some controversial construction work on one of several disputed islands in the South China Sea. Is this in response to international criticism?
We have anticipated comments from the media saying that China had to stop the construction because of pressure from the U. S. Well, this is totally not true. But we cannot simply go on with construction work forever, simply because we are afraid of such comments from the media. At some point we have to stop because the construction plan is completed.
Incidentally, I want to tell you that construction on the islands and reefs in the South China Sea did not start yesterday, and it was not started first by China. We need to be very clear about this. Vietnam and the Philippines started largescale construction work 20 or 30 years ago on islands they had illegally occupied. And China has all along exercised great restraint.
I think there is one basic fact that the international community has to learn, and that is that the islands and reefs of the Spratly Islands we are talking about are Chinese territory. I think the U. S. knows better than anyone else about this. Because at the end of the Second World War, China retook the sovereignty over these Spratly Islands from the Japanese troops which occupied these islands, and it was a joint operation between China and the United States.
China has sovereignty over these islands and reefs, and our sovereignty has been seriously infringed upon. This is the basic reality. But despite all this, China is still for a peaceful settlement to the disputes, through dialogue and consultation. You mentioned that the world can’t be ruled by a G- 2, but do you worry that a binary equation is being created — that you’re either with China, or you’re with the United States? It has been suggested that one of the reasons 20 countries in the region wanted to join the Trans- Pacific Partnership proposed by President Obama was that they wanted to be with America.
I don’t think we should run the risk of oversimplifying this by interpreting the situation like this. As I mentioned earlier, China and the United States are having cooperation at various levels and in various fields. So if China and the United States are cooperating, then there is no question of asking those regional countries to take sides with one or the other.
As for TPP, I see it as an economic and trade treaty. We don’t want to over-politicize it.... Rather, we hope that the TPP will not affect the free- trade regime under the World Trade Organization mechanism. Now some American friends may think that now that there is a TPP, the U. S. can do without [ the World Trade Organization]. So I think more thinking is needed on whether this kind of thinking is good for the U. S. or not.
FOREIGN MINISTER Wang Yi, who said China and the U. S. are “not competitors, much less adversaries,” also spoke about hacking, sovereignty and trade.