China’s new ambassador to the US delivered a speech on Wednesday urging the US to drop its Cold War mentality towards Beijing. Qin Gang’s message to the US is that China is “not the Soviet Union.”
“The Soviet Union’s collapse was its own making. The Communist Party of the Soviet Union had been rigid, corrupt, closed to the outside world, and detached from the people. It had been obsessed with arms race and external aggression. As a result, the country’s development halted,” Qin said at an event hosted by the National Committee on US-China Relations.
One major difference between the Soviet Union and China that Qin pointed out is that the US had little engagement with the Soviets, while Beijing today is Washington’s top trading partner. “Our two countries should not be enemies, but partners. Over 70,000 American companies have investments in China, and these investments pay well,” he said.
A common talking point coming from the Biden administration is that China threatens the so-called “international rules-based order,” which essentially means it is a threat to US global hegemony. China hawks and US military leaders often claim that China seeks to supplant the US as the world’s dominant superpower, but Qin says Beijing is not looking to overtake Washington.
“China never bets its own future on other countries. We only want to surpass ourselves. We never take surpassing the US as our goal, and we never have the ambition to challenge and displace America, or to seek hegemony in the world,” he said.
Qin noted that China’s growth was due largely in part to the robust trade relationship with the US and said US prosperity is good for China. “I believe that both countries can benefit from the development and prosperity of the other side,” he said.
Qin said that the policies of the Trump administration “caused serious damage” to US-China relations and that the situation has not changed under the new administration. President Biden has framed the US-China relationship as an ideological competition and has frequently said the two countries are in a competition to “win the 21st century.”
Besides the rhetoric, Biden has maintained tariffs on Chinese goods, stepped up military activity near China’s coast, sanctioned Chinese officials and companies, and is taking steps to boost ties with Taiwan. These policies appear to have bipartisan support since Biden and Trump have carried them out, and nobody in Washington is speaking out against them. While Qin made a plea for better relations, it appears the US is on a course to further escalate tensions with Beijing.