The recent report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is a stark reminder of the work ahead to curb the disastrous effects of climate change. More importantly, it highlights the dire need to cooperate multilaterally in our intergovernmental system. China and the United States have a lot to gain from working together to realize common goals and improve lives around the world. Yet, this cannot be done without sitting across the table from one another and opening discussions on the many challenges the world faces.
After years of increased tensions between China and the United States, the tides are turning with renewed meetings between high-level U.S. officials and their Chinese counterparts. While friction remains present, the increased dialogues between the two countries are promising for the future of diplomacy.
In the second set of face-to-face talks between senior-level diplomats since President Biden was elected, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman met with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi on July 26 to discuss the evolving nature of the bilateral relationship and “keep the channels of communication open.” Both diplomats agreed that continued talks are vital to mitigate points of contention and find common ground.
Speaking in an interview with the Associated Press, Sherman said that the U.S. welcomes vigorous economic competition with China but does not want it to veer into conflict. Moreover, she stressed the opportunity for China and the U.S. to set their differences aside and work together on global issues, such as climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic.
“There are some things that rise above specific differences that are the global responsibility of great powers,” Sherman stated in a phone interview shortly after she wrapped up successive meetings with Foreign Minister Wang Yi and Vice Foreign Minister Xie Feng in the Chinese city of Tianjin. To Sherman, these meetings were another step forward in working through crucial issues with China.
Across the table sat Foreign Minister Wang Yi with similar viewpoints: although China-U.S. relations are currently at a “stalemate”, ...China sticks to the path of peaceful development and follows an open strategy of a win-win cooperation. China will never tread the beaten track of big powers in seeking hegemony, and is willing to realize common development and prosperity with all countries including the United States,” he said. Wang went on to emphasize important differences between the countries. China, as the largest developing country, and the U.S., as the largest developed country, cannot replace or defeat the other.
“We have a clear view on where China-U.S. relations are headed, that is, to find a way for two major countries with different systems, cultures and stages of development to coexist peacefully on this planet through dialogue. It would be even better if it could be mutually beneficial. This is a good thing for both China and the United States, and a great boon for the world,” Wang declared.
In Washington, the arrival of the new Chinese ambassador to the United States on July 28 renewed optimism for peaceful relations. Qin Gang, 55, offers a fresh perspective after serving as Vice Foreign Minister of China, as well as in various attaché and senior foreign ministry positions in both the United Kingdom and Western Europe. Though his assertive style of communication with the foreign press and diplomats no doubt sets an authoritative tone for future discussions as ambassador, experts believe his bold demeanor is necessary for China to match the strength of current U.S. rhetoric on China.
“At this new historical juncture, our two countries need to follow the trend of the times and the general expectation of the international community, treat each other with mutual respect and equality, and pursue peaceful coexistence and win-win cooperation, as this will be the blessing of our two peoples and the whole world,” Ambassador Qin noted in a message on the Chinese Embassy’s website shortly after his arrival.
He underscored the significance of diplomacy. In a message reiterating the Embassy’s commitment to strengthening communication, exchanges, and cooperation with various sectors of American society, Ambassador Qin ended his speech with the following: “Mutual understanding is necessary for the development of any relations, and communication is necessary for mutual understanding.”
Both China and the U.S. have shown their willingness to continue having open and candid conversations. Sherman confirmed the U.S. desire to see China develop, and both diplomats reaffirmed their commitment to coexist harmoniously and take joint action to improve bilateral relations in the coming years. To Chinese and American officials alike, diplomacy is the only path forward.