News - Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard Kennedy School

Chinese Envoy Urges Deeper Strategic Partnership with U.S.

| Oct. 13, 2011

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The United States and China need to move beyond a Cold War mindset and reframe their relationship as “a community of interests” in which they work together as partners, the Chinese ambassador to the United States said in a policy address at Harvard Kennedy School.

Ambassador Zhang Yesui spoke to an overflow audience in the Wiener Auditorium on Wednesday, Oct. 12, in an event hosted by the Future of Diplomacy Project in the School’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs. Zhang also took questions from the audience after his speech in an off-the-record discussion moderated by R. Nicholas Burns, professor of the practice of diplomacy and international politics and director of the Future of Diplomacy Project.

Zhang sketched a Chinese relationship with the United States that has mushroomed in the 40 years since the secret visit to China by then-Secretary of State (and Harvard professor ) Henry Kissinger: Trade last year reached $385 billion, and U.S. exports to China have grown 468 percent from 2000 to 2010, he noted, even amid complaints that China has not opened its markets sufficiently.

Zhang said 130,000 Chinese students are studying in the U.S., and over 20,000 Americans are studying in China. The countries have 36 pairs of sister province/states and 161 sister city relationships.

“At the same time, the China-U.S. relationship is probably one of the most complex in the world,” he said, pointing to differences in political systems, cultural traditions, levels of development.

He recalled the joint statement of Presidents Obama and Hu Jintao in January during Hu’s American visit, pledging that China and the U.S. “will work together to build a cooperative partnership based on mutual respect and mutual benefit.”

The resulting community of interest, Zhang said, “is not and should not be a zero-sum game relationship. If people continue to look at each other with the Cold War mindset, China and the United States will be drawn into confrontation and conflict. It is imperative to shift from the old habitual way of thinking and begin to frame China-U.S. relations from a strategic and long-term perspective. We could both emerge as winners if we work together as true partners.”

He said China’s latest Five-Year Plan focuses in part on expanding domestic consumption, and the U.S. is determined to revitalize manufacturing and expand exports. “This offers real opportunities, not only for expanding cooperation in such areas as clean enegy, energy conservation, environmental protection and infrastructure.”

Zhang said building “strategic mutual trust” must be the basis for partnership, and that the recent U.S. announcement of large-scale arms sales to Taiwan “has seriously interfered in China’s internal affairs, undermined China’s security and damaged the China-U.S. relations.”

The ambassador, a career diplomat who also served as China’s envoy to the United Nations and as deputy foreign minister, said China was working to open its markets to imports and foreign investment. He said it would be wrong to politicize trade disputes or blame China’s currency exchange rate for U.S. unemployment.

“We do not seek a trade surplus with the U.S.,” he declared. He cited Vice President Joseph Biden’s comment that a successful China can contribute to U.S. prosperity, and added, “Equally, a successful and growing America is also in China’s interests.”

He concluded by quoting another Harvard graduate, Ralph Waldo Emerson: “Don’t go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.” Zhang said that to face the next 40 years, “We need vision, courage and wisdom in order to leave a trail, a trail toward a new type of relationship, a trail toward a new model for different social systems to grow and flourish together.”

For more information on this publication: Belfer Communications Office
For Academic Citation: Smith, James F.. “Chinese Envoy Urges Deeper Strategic Partnership with U.S..” News, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard Kennedy School, Oct. 13, 2011.

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