•Throughout the 70 years and more since the founding of the People's Republic, China has not provoked a conflict or war, or occupied a single inch of foreign land.
•US should not to bet against China, or interfere in China's internal affairs. It should instead welcome a peaceful, stable and prosperous China.
Chinese President Xi Jinping met with his United States counterpart Joe Biden on November 15 in Woodside, California. This was the first of three planned meetings between the two leaders in the sidelines of the ongoing Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in San Francisco. Going by the body language of the two leaders and their delegates, it was not an easy meeting.
The delegates looked pensive, probably hoping that there would be no surprises amid the heightened tension. Amid the perennial differences, the meeting went on with the understanding that each side would keep to its lane. Xi’s remark about the need for “respect” as a foundation for normalisation of relations spoke volumes about the real cause of misunderstanding between the US and China. Indeed, in his words, “it’s unrealistic for one country to remodel the other”.
Xi focused more on the global importance of a China-US rapprochement, rather than any tendency towards hegemony, or direct grievance against its partner. He addressed the ramifications of the Covid-19 pandemic on the global economy, not just on the negative impact on China’s growth, which US experts and Western media seem to relish.
Xi said for China and the US, turning their back on each other is not an option. It is unrealistic for one side to remodel the other, and conflict and confrontation has unbearable consequences for both sides.
He stated that China is promoting the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation on all fronts through Chinese modernisation. The country will not take the old path of colonisation and plundering, or the wrong path of seeking hegemony with growing strength. It does not export its ideology, nor have a plan to surpass or unseat the US Likewise, the US should not scheme to suppress and contain China.
China is consistently committed to having a stable, healthy and sustainable relationship with the US, and China has interests that must be safeguarded, principles that must be upheld, and red lines that must not be crossed. The two countries have broad common interests in a wide range of areas, including traditional areas such as the economy, trade and agriculture, as well as emerging areas such as climate change and artificial intelligence. China and the US should lead by example, step up coordination and cooperation on international and regional issues, and provide more public goods for the world.
Taiwan question remains the most important and most sensitive issue in China-US relations. China takes seriously the positive statements made by the US in the Bali meeting last year. Xi said that the US side should take real actions to honor its commitment of not supporting "Taiwan independence," stop arming Taiwan, and support China's peaceful reunification. China will realise reunification, and this is unstoppable.
China's development is driven by innovation, and stifling China's technological progress is nothing but a move to contain China's high-quality development and deprive the Chinese people of their right to development.
Later on while speaking at a welcome dinner by Friendly Organisations in the United States, Xi said that he was convinced that once opened, the door of China-US relations cannot be shut again. Once started, the cause of China-US friendship cannot be derailed halfway. The tree of the peoples' friendship has grown tall and strong; and it can surely withstand the assault of any wind or storm.
“Our paths are different, but both are the choice by our peoples, and both lead to the realisation of the common values of humanity. They should be both respected,” Xi noted.
China never bets against the US, and never interferes in its internal affairs. China has no intention to challenge the superpower or to unseat it. Instead, he noted that China will be glad to see a confident, open, ever-growing and prosperous US. Likewise, he urged the US not to bet against China, or interfere in China's internal affairs. It should instead welcome a peaceful, stable and prosperous China.
Pandas have long been envoys of friendship between the Chinese and American peoples. China is ready to continue her cooperation with the US on panda conservation, and do her best to meet the wishes of Californians so as to deepen the friendly ties between the two peoples.
Xi also stated that the Communist Party of China is committed to working for the people, and the people's expectation for a better life is the Party’s goal. “This means we must work hard to secure their support,” he said.
Throughout the 70 years and more since the founding of the People's Republic, China has not provoked a conflict or war, or occupied a single inch of foreign land. China is the only major country that has written peaceful development into the Constitution of the country, and the Constitution of the governing party, thus making peaceful development a commitment of the nation. It benefits from and safeguards the current international order.
China will remain committed to dialogue and oppose confrontation, and build partnerships instead of alliances. It will continue to pursue a mutually beneficial strategy of opening up. Xi stated that the modernisation it is pursuing is not for selfish purposes.
Stephen Ndegwa is the Executive Director of South-South Dialogues, a Nairobi-based communications development think tank.