Ambassador Xie Feng: As the world is emerging from the pandemic, China-U.S. relations also need to come out of the woods.


Chairman Zhang Zhao, Executive Vice-Chairman Bi Jingquan, Ambassador Barshefsky, Ambassador Burns, Ambassador Baucus, ladies and gentlemen,

It is a great pleasure to revisit Hong Kong virtually and join friends, old and new, online at the Hong Kong Forum on U.S.-China Relations to discuss the bilateral relationship and explore the path forward.

Since its inception in 2008, the China-U.S. Exchange Foundation has stayed committed to encouraging constructive dialogue and diverse exchanges between our two peoples and made positive contribution to promoting China-U.S. communication and cooperation.

As a Chinese saying goes, “when drinking water from the well, one should never forget those who dug it.”

Let me first take this opportunity to salute and express my heartfelt gratitude to Chairman Emeritus Tung Chee Hwa and all friends who have been long caring for and supporting China-U.S. Relations! When I was the DCM of the Chinese Embassy in the United States in 2008, I witnessed how Mr. Tung travelled back and forth and worked relentlessly to boost China-U.S. exchanges and cooperation. The memory is as vivid as ever.

The theme of the Forum this year “Change and Progress” is highly relevant in the context of the current international situation and China-U.S. relations. It reflects the vision and courage to foster new opportunities amid crises and open up new horizons on a shifting landscape.

Right now, changes in the world in our times and in history are unfolding in ways like never before. The world economy is coming under greater downward pressure. The crisis in Ukraine is lingering on. Conflicts have again flared up in the Middle East. Instabilities and uncertainties are apparently on the rise.

At the same time, around the world, people's appeal for peace, development, and cooperation is getting louder and louder, and their aspiration for a better life is unstoppable.

As China-U.S. relations suffered from serious difficulties in the past few years and hit the lowest point since the establishment of diplomatic ties, there has also been a growing call for stopping the downward spiral.

To our encouragement, under the guidance of President Xi Jinping and President Joe Biden, and with joint efforts of both sides, we have seen some positive signs of a more stable China-U.S. relationship recently. The two sides have conducted a series of high - level interactions. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Secretary of the Treasury Janet Yellen, Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo, and Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry paid visits to China. Vice President Han Zhen visited the United States to attend UNGA, and had bilateral meetings with the U.S. side. Member of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee and Foreign Minister Wang Yi recently concluded his successful visit to the United States, during which he had candid, in-depth, substantive, and constructive communication with the U.S. Side. All these have together sent out a positive signal of stabilizing China-U.S. relations.

Both sides believe that this is beneficial and necessary for our two countries to maintain dialogue. Both share the hope to stabilize and improve bilateral relations as soon as possible, and both agreed to work together toward a meeting between the two presidents in San Francisco. The two sides have launched a series of dialogue mechanisms. China - U.S. consultations on Asia-Pacific affairs, maritime affairs, arms control and non-proliferation, and foreign policies have been rolled out.

The two sides have set up economic and financial working groups, and the two commerce authorities have established communication channels involving the business communities, as well as an export control information exchange mechanism. China's Special Envoy for Climate Change, Xu Zhengyuan, just had climate consultations with its counterpart Mr. Kerry in Sunnylands in California. While our two countries do have differences, our common interests are not to be dismissed. We should and must expand the list of cooperation through dialogue and manage differences and disagreements.

The two sides have reignited exchanges and cooperation at various levels. President Xi Jinping personally met with the bipartisan delegation of the U.S. Senate led by Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, and Governor of California Gavin Newsom. The China-U.S. Sister Cities Conference was held in Suzhou last week.

All these are examples of more lively exchanges between the legislatures and more robust cooperation at a subnational level. Also, good news keeps coming in people - to - people exchanges. Passenger flights will increase to 70 every week. China has resumed group tours to the United States and streamlined the visa application process and will continue to facilitate people's travels.

Not long ago, I visited the state of Iowa, which President Xi first visited in 1985 and revisited in 2012. There I felt it more acutely that the foundation and hope of the China-U.S. relationship lie in the people, its future lies in the youth, and its vitality comes from the subnational level. It is heartwarming to see more friends who cherish China -U.S. friendship and support our relations coming out, speaking up and pitching in.

Dear friends, of course, we are still facing great challenges and there remains a long way to go to stabilize and improve the bilateral relationship.

Most importantly, we need to find the right way for our two countries to get along in a new era. The three principles outlined by President Xi Jinping, namely mutual respect, peaceful coexistence, and win-win cooperation have pointed us in the right direction. The top priority is for both sides to make joint efforts toward a meeting between the two presidents in San Francisco by removing disruptions and creating an enabling environment.

To move toward San Francisco, it is important to return to the Bali consensus. This means earnestly acting on the important common understanding reached between our presidents in Bali and translating President Biden's statements into concrete actions, including that the United States does not seek to change China's system, does not seek a new Cold War, does not support Taiwan independence, does not support “two Chinas” or “one China, one Taiwan”, and has no intention to seek decoupling from China or to halt China's economic development.

To move toward San Francisco, it is important to enhance whole-process management. The path to San Francisco cannot rely on autopilot. It is necessary to foster a sound atmosphere before dialogue, build up positive outcomes during the process, and take solid follow -up actions afterwards. A good host needs to avoid creating any new trouble or obstacle, still less say one thing but do another.

To move towards San Francisco, it is also important to work in the same direction.

This includes clearing obstacles and managing differences with concrete actions, avoid playing with fire or crossing the line, and properly handling sensitive issues such as the Taiwan question in accordance with the one China principle and the three Sino-U.S. joint communiques.

It is also about enhancing dialogue and cooperation in good faith and starting with small concrete steps that truly deliver for the two peoples, so as to help stabilize and improve the bilateral relationship. As the world is emerging from the pandemic, China-U.S. relations also need to come out of the woods.

We encourage people from various sectors in both countries to travel more and have more dialogue and exchanges, so as to gradually thaw the ice of misunderstanding and misperception and build bridges for mutual understanding.

I count on the China-United States Exchange Foundation and all the friends here to continue to make your voices of reason heard, pool wisdom, foster public support for China-U.S. friendship, and make new contribution to bringing China-U.S. relations back to the track of healthy, stable and sustainable development. I wish the Hong Kong Forum on U.S.-China Relations 2023 a great success. May Hong Kong, the Pearl of the Orient, shine brighter than ever, and let us together usher in a brighter future for China-U.S. relations.

Thank you!