Qin Gang, the new Chinese Ambassador to the United States, gave a speech at an August 31 event held by the National Committee on US-China Relations. It was characterized by one U.S. publication as a "wolf warrior"-style speech, but looking at the speech as a whole, it can be seen as more of a mix of conciliatory and confrontational statements. For people trying to grasp the nuances of Chinese foreign policy, it is helpful to examine the full details of Qin's statement, which is summarized below.
Qin began on a positive note, pointing out that China and the United States "have put down past grudges" over the last few decades, which "has delivered huge benefits to the two peoples." He said that "[t]he growth of China-US relations has changed the international strategic landscape, accelerated the end of the Cold War, advanced globalization, brought unprecedented opportunities to the Asia-Pacific, and greatly promoted world peace and prosperity."
However, he acknowledged that the China-US relationship now "faces a very severe situation." He argued that "[t]he extreme China policy of the previous US administration has caused serious damage to our relations," and said that "such a situation has not changed" and is "even continuing" in the Biden administration. He expressed concern that "[s]ome people are trying to deny the achievements of China-US ties in the past 50 years and redefine our relations by strategic competition," as "[t]hey assert that the era of engagement and cooperation is over, and it must be replaced by competition and confrontation."
Dismissing such a view, Qin emphasized that China never takes "surpassing the US as our goal, and we never have the ambition to challenge and displace America, or to seek hegemony in the world," and also that "[w]e are glad to see America remain prosperous and strong, and make greater contribution to world peace and stability."
Noting the Cold War analogy that has been put forward, he then said that some people think "America can win the new 'Cold War' against China, just as it defeated the Soviet Union." This, he said, "reflects a serious ignorance of history and China."
First of all, he said, "China never engages in aggression or expansion" and "never exports its political system or development model." It is "committed to peaceful, open, cooperative and common development, and works to build a community with a shared future for mankind." "Does such a country look like the Soviet Union?", he asked.
Noting that it "would be absurd and dangerous to apply the 'Cold War playbook' to today's China-US relations," he said that "many countries are reluctant or concerned about being forced by the US to pick sides." He asked U.S. politicians to consider: "Does suppressing China really serve their purpose? Does it really meet America's own interests? Who can bear the disastrous consequences to China-US relations and the world?"
After noting that "the need for China-US cooperation is not decreasing, but increasing" and that "[o]ur two countries should not be enemies, but partners," he then turned his emphasis to how China reacts to being pushed around. He said that "China knows how it feels to have its back to the wall," and "[w]hen the US chooses to use state power to bring down Huawei, it can only expect, in the words of many Chinese, not the collapse of Huawei, but the emerging of more companies like Huawei."
He concluded with several "observations."
First, he said that "the two sides should be clear about each other's bottom lines and show mutual respect." In particular, "[i]t is hoped that the US side will exercise caution on issues concerning Taiwan, Hong Kong, Xinjiang, Xizang and the South China Sea, respect China's sovereignty, security and development interests, stop interfering in China's internal affairs, and avoid touching or challenging China's red line." He explained that "Taiwan has been an inseparable part of China since ancient times," and said, "[j]ust imagine, if anyone wants to get an American state independent from the US, will the American people say yes?" He hoped that "the US side will earnestly respect China's core interests, and cautiously handle these issues."
Second, the two sides should maintain dialogue, in order "to accurately understand each other's policy intentions, properly manage and handle differences in a constructive way, prevent misunderstanding and misjudgment from becoming conflict and confrontation, avoid further damage to our relationship, and realize the stable development of the relations."
And finally, he said that "the two sides should remove disturbances and focus on cooperation." It is hoped, he stated, "that the US would recognize that COVID-19 is its real enemy, respect science, and stop political manipulation on the origins tracing of the virus." He also said that "[a] little more than six months into this Congress, there have already been more than 260 bills with negative content on China, out of no knowledge, misunderstanding and disinformation of China, particularly the Innovation and Competition Act of 2021 and the EAGLES Act." If they become law, he stated, "they will hijack China-US relations and gravely damage America's own interests."