China’s new ambassador to the United States, Cui Tiankai, gave an exclusive interview to Foreign Affairs managing editor Jonathan Tepperman on his vision for China-U.S. relations, touching on topics of cybersecurity and Japan.
Cui emphasized that China’s integration into international organizations must be met with a reform of outdated rules:
So we are ready to integrate ourselves into the global system, and we are ready to follow the international rules. Of course, these rules were set without much participation by China, and the world is changing. You cannot say that the rules that were set up half a century ago can be applied without any change today. But what we want is not a revolution. We stand for necessary reform of the international system, but we have no intention of overthrowing it or setting up an entirely new one.
When Tepperman questioned China’s engagement on an international scale, Cui explained that interfering in other country’s matters is not China’s responsibility or the U.S.’s responsibility. Tepperman said, “Americans sometimes wonder whether China is really willing to help solve key international problems” and pointed out that China “has not been very cooperative” in Syria. Cui explained:
If we are really serious about building a new type of relationship, we have to have mutual accommodation and mutual understanding. It’s not that we are just helping the United States, or that the United States is just helping us. We have to help each other. We must make efforts to see issues from the other guy’s point of view. We certainly don’t want chaos and civil war in Syria or anywhere in the world. We understand there are political differences in the country. But we always follow the principle that the affairs of a particular country should be determined by its own people, not by us, not by outsiders. It’s not up to China or the United States to decide the future of the country. [Source]
When asked about Chinese cybersecurity threats launched at the U.S., particularly the case of threats against The New York Times, Cui pointed out there is no hard evidence against China, that the United States is the more powerful country in this regard, and that international rules need to be determined:
Cybersecurity is a new issue for the international community at large. First of all, the technologies are new, and the attacks are invisible. Traditionally, if you perceived a threat, it could be seen. It was physical. But not in cyberspace. Second, very few international rules have been designed for these kind of problems. So we have to work out a new set of international rules for everybody to follow.
[…] if we look at the development of IT and at the industry itself, the United States is much more advanced than China. So logically, I think the weaker should be more concerned about the stronger. The stronger is in a better position both to defend itself and to maybe go on the offensive against others. […] 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. [Source]
On whether or not the U.S should take a stance on issues facing China and Japan, Cui echoed his previous stance on China’s willingness to interfere in foreign conflicts. He said: “The most helpful thing the U.S. could do is to remain truly neutral, to take no side.”
In a recent conference held in New York City, the Committee of 100 Annual Conference, Cui also expressed his hope that the media would provide more “objective, accurate, and balance reports on China and China-US relations” to create “more positive energy for a stable and healthy China-US relationship.”
Cui Tiankai is the current Chinese Ambassador to the U.S. and previously served as the Vice-Minister of Foreign Affairs.