Chinese Ambassador Cui Advises U.S. Against Zero-Sum Game Mentality

Michael Szonyi, director of the Fairbank Center at Harvard University, introduces Chinese ambassador Cui Tiankai at Harvard University on Tuesday, April 17, 2018. Photo by Xue Xia / BU News Service.

By Xue Xia
BU News Service

Cui Tiankai, Ambassador of the People’s Republic of China, discussed U.S.-China relations at Fairbank Center for Chinese studies at Harvard University Tuesday. The lecture and discussion were moderated by Michael Szonyi, director of the Fairbank Center at Harvard.

Cui pointed out that the U.S. sees China as a revisionist country and that the existing international order, built by the U.S. after the World War II, is designed to serve the interest of the U.S. rather than international interests. He said the U.S. should be careful about its mentality of zero-sum game, which is a very competitive situation in which one country’s gain is another’s loss.

In the current global political situation with multiple major powers, the U.S. should build inclusive attitudes towards other major powers and not panic about China’s rapid development, explained Cui.

“The American politicians should see today’s world as the 21st century world,” Cui said. “Why are people afraid of someone catching up? Don’t be afraid or you will slow yourself down.”

Cui said the American intervention in other countries’ domestic affairs has violated the principle of non-intervention in international law. He mentioned the U.S. has also had “bloodshed in the name of humanitarian action.”

Szonyi asked the ambassador whether he believed the trade war would result in maintaining the current growth rate of both countries. Cui said he agrees there will not be a dramatic effect on the growth rate but the trade war will undermine the confidence between the two countries, as well as the confidence of global economies.

The U.S.-China trade war has been escalating. On Monday, the U.S. Department of Commerce cracked down on ZTE Corporation, a Chinese multinational telecommunication company, forbidding it from buying smartphone components from the U.S for the next seven years. It is estimated that 80 to 90 percent of its products depended on parts from America and half of its phones are sold in the U.S.

Qualcomm, a major American chip supplier to ZTE, will also lose large amount of revenues. On Tuesday, China announced it would charge U.S. exports of sorghum, a grain used to feed livestock and make liquor, an import tax. China’s import sales of sorghum last year reached $1 billion.  

Szonyi said some American politicians and business leaders believe the real problem is not trade deficit but the difference in openness in the tech market, the unfair requirement of tech transfers from the U.S. to China and China’s failure to protect intellectual property.

There is no policy forcing tech transfer and those transfers are settled as deals between Chinese and American companies, explained Cui.

“China cannot reach the same level of liberation as the U.S. overnight,” the Cui said.

The ambassador also said technology should be shared with countries and preserving intellectual property rights without sharing them will jeopardize innovation.

“Whether the playfield is level or not really depends on where you stand,” Cui said.

In March of this year, Chinese leadership abolished the presidential term limits for President Xi. While the American media’s coverage has focused on the word “term limit,” in China’s media, the biggest word is “new era.”

Szonyi asked Cui about what is going on with the Chinese constitution. “[The amendment of Chinese Constitution] doesn’t mean life presidency [for President Xi],” Cui said. “Currently, China needs strong leadership and stability for unity.”

Li Xinwei, a juris doctoral student at Harvard Law school asked Cui’s opinion on whether Chinese students studying in the U.S. should go back to China or stay in the U.S.

“No matter you students go back to China or stay in the U.S, you are contributing to your generation,” Cui said.

After the speech and panel discussion concluded, Richard Zhang, a doctoral student who studies artificial intelligence at MIT, said Ambassador Cui’s speech was very objective.

“What I am concerned about is if the hostility between the two countries will contain the technology progress,” Zhang said. “I agree with Ambassador Cui that the two countries should avoid zero-sum game and figure out win-win cooperation.”

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