Insights and Analysis

China’s Ambassador on U.S. Relations, Google, and Democracy

January 20, 2010

China’s Ambassador to the United States Zhou Wenzhong spoke to a packed room of 350+ yesterday at a World Affairs Council event, co-sponsored by The Asia Foundation, on the future of U.S.-China relations. In an atmosphere of increasing tensions between the U.S. and China, due in part to recent reports of wide-scale cyberattacks, the ambassador referred to the relationship between the two countries as “one of the most dynamic and influential bilateral relationships in the world.” The Ambassador praised President Obama’s trip to Beijing in November to meet with China’s President Hu Jintao, and said, with the signing of the Sino-U.S. joint statement, the two leaders “have pledged to work together to build a cooperative China-U.S. relationship for the 21st century and to steadily build a partnership to address common challenges.”  The audience challenged the Ambassador’s upbeat remarks with some tough questions on Google in China, the environment, human rights, and China’s relationship with an increasingly unstable North Korea. The Ambassador spoke just up the street from The Asia Foundation, in the Gold Room at the Fairmont Hotel.  Below are some of the Ambassador’s responses to questions the audience posed.

On Google: China manages the Internet in accordance with its laws. As you know, the Internet has grown very fast in China and now China has the largest number of people [in the world] who are using the Internet.  So, we welcome foreign Internet companies to operate in China, and I’m glad to hear that Google management is saying they want to stay.

On balancing China’s rising demand for energy and global concern for the environment: China has already set a number of goals [that include] energy efficiency and reducing carbon dioxide emissions. Between 2005 and 2010 the goal is to reduce green house gas emissions by 10 percent, and to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 40-45 percent by 2020 (on the basis of emission level from 2005). China is a country with a very large population, and we are just starting the industrialization and modernization process. Naturally the economy will continue to grow, and emissions will increase. But we have already undertaken these commitments, and these commitments are legally binding as far as China is concerned because the National People’s Congress will review the progress we have made.

On China’s relationship with North Korea: “Bilaterally speaking, China and DPRK have developed very good relations. North Korea is one of our neighbors and so we have an assistance program for them, and want the economy to develop and we want the people to improve their well-being. I think that China will continue to do what we can to help so that the North Korean people will have a better standard of living.”

On China’s view of democracy as a system of governance: “The world is very diverse and we think that diversity and harmony without sameness is the best thing for us to have. It is this diversity that makes the world so colorful. Different countries have different histories, and different cultures and traditions and should be allowed to select the model that best suits the conditions of their country. I don’t believe there is ‘the’ model that suits everyone. As far as China is concerned, I think we have found a model that suits China. Since 1978, we have embarked upon a road of opening and reform. And, while the changes that have taken place in the last 30 years have shown, this is a model that suits China. If you compare China today with China 40 or 50 years ago, you will conclude that today’s China is much more democratic.

Hosted by the World Affairs Council, the event was co-sponsored by The Asia Foundation, Cal-Asia, and the Asia Society of Northern California.

Related locations: China, Korea
Related topics: North Korea


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