US, China aim to avoid power struggle, says envoy

Updated: 2013-05-20 11:07

By Chen Weihua in Washington (China Daily)

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China's Ambassador to the United States Cui Tiankai believes China and the US are committed to avoiding a big-power rivalry that has been common throughout history and often led to conflict or even war.

"Now, there is a determination both in China and in the United States to not allow history to repeat itself," Cui told Foreign Affairs magazine in an interview published on Thursday.

"We'll have to find a new way for a developing power and an existing power to work with each other, not against each other."

Cui said there is a clear understanding between the two governments about the need for a constructive and steady relationship, to base the bilateral partnership on mutual respect and benefit.

He also characterized Chinese President Xi Jinping's proposal for establishing a new type of relationship between the two countries as a goal.

"This is a long-term goal and we have to give more substance to it," he said.

Senior US officials have welcomed Xi's proposal, while many US pundits have sought to interpret its meaning.

The two countries have held more frequent high-level meetings in recent years. Hu Jintao, the former Chinese president who stepped down in March, met US President Barack Obama 12 times during Obama's first term.

Xi had a phone conversation with Obama shortly after becoming president to reaffirm their commitment to building a cooperative partnership.

Xi also visited the US a year ago when he was vice-president.

Cui, 60, described such frequent top-level contacts as "quite rare, even between the US and its allies."

"It's certainly rare for China's relations with other countries," said Cui, who arrived in Washington in March to assume his new post after serving as China's vice-foreign minister since 2009.

"I have to make sure that the frequency of the high-level contacts continues, and the mechanisms that we have set up between the two countries also continue and, where necessary, improve," he said.

Cui believes China and the US aren't alike in terms of power.

"The US is still much more developed, much stronger. China is huge but still a developing country, whether in terms of economy, science and technology, or military power," he said.

"In many respects, we still have a long way to go before we can really be seen as on par with the United States," said Cui, a graduate of Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies in Washington.

Cui said China has listened very carefully to statements made by many senior US officials that the US "pivot", or rebalancing to the Asia-Pacific region, isn't aimed against China and that China will be an essential part of the approach.

"But, of course, we have to wait and see what will happen in reality," he said.

The Chinese ambassador said the two countries have many common interests when it comes to on the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, but slightly different approaches on how to reach common goals.

Cui said Western media have exaggerated China's influence over the DPRK.

"The DPRK is a sovereign state," he said. "It could choose not to listen to us. It could decline whatever we might suggest."

Cui described accusations that the Chinese government is involved in cyberattacks against the US as "irresponsible".

"I don't think anybody has so far presented any hard evidence, evidence that could stand up in court, to prove that there is really somebody in China, Chinese nationals, that are doing these things," he said.

"Cyberattacks can come from anywhere in the world. Even if you could locate a computer, you cannot say that computer belongs to the government of that particular country or even that the people who are doing this are nationals of that country. It's very hard to prove."

He said a huge number of computers of Chinese companies and Chinese government agencies have also been attacked by hackers.

"If we trace these attacks, maybe some of them, or even most of them, would come from the United States. But we are not in the position to come to the conclusion that these attacks are sponsored or supported by the US government," he said.

"This is not a very responsible way of making such claims," Cui said.

"What is important is for the two governments to sit down, work out a new set of rules, and find out ways that we can work together to prevent such attacks from happening again."

(China Daily 05/20/2013 page1)