Don't treat China as strategic rival, says its envoy to US

BEIJING • Treating China as a "strategic rival" of the United States is a misjudgment that could lead to mistakes, the Chinese ambassador to the US said in a speech at an online forum.

Since the Trump administration defined China as a strategic rival in 2018, Washington and Beijing have frequently clashed over issues ranging from trade to the Chinese government's handling of the coronavirus outbreak, and the new administration of President Joe Biden is expected to maintain pressure on China.

In the first major speech by a Chinese official on relations between the world's two biggest economies since Mr Biden took office, Ambassador Cui Tiankai reasserted China's longstanding position of seeking peaceful coexistence with the US, while warning it not to cross China's red lines.

"Treating China as a strategic rival and imaginary enemy would be a huge strategic misjudgment," Mr Cui told the forum that took place late on Wednesday.

"To develop any policy on the basis of that would only lead to grave strategic mistakes."

Mr Cui stressed that China wanted cooperation, not confrontation, and called for both sides to address differences through dialogue. But he also said China would not yield on matters concerning sovereignty and territorial integrity.

"China will not back down. We hope the United States will respect China's core interest and refrain from crossing the red line," he said.

Hong Kong, the western region of Xinjiang, the South China Sea and Taiwan were points of intensifying contention between Beijing and Washington during the Trump administration.

With the Biden administration expected to take a more multilateral approach to China, Mr Cui warned that a coalition of allies against China could create "new imbalances".

He said China welcomed Mr Biden's decisions to rejoin the Paris climate agreement and the World Health Organisation, and added that Beijing hoped to work with Washington on fighting the coronavirus pandemic and on global policy coordination to fend off economic and financial risk.

Meanwhile, the Biden administration has said it will work to safeguard American telecoms networks from "untrusted vendors" like Huawei Technologies that threaten national security, offering some insight into its plans for China's top telecoms equipment company, long in Washington's crosshairs.

"Telecommunications equipment made by untrusted vendors, including Huawei, is a threat to the security of the US and our allies," White House press secretary Jen Psaki said at a daily briefing.

"We'll ensure that the American telecommunications networks... do not use equipment from untrusted vendors and we'll work with allies to secure their telecommunications networks and make investments to expand production of telecommunications equipment by trusted US and allied companies," she added.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 29, 2021, with the headline 'Don't treat China as strategic rival, says its envoy to US'. Subscribe