Xinhua published unusual Op-Ed with unfamiliar byline and explicit calls, apparently signaling Biden
Dr. Henry Kissinger's secret 1971 trip to Beijing is invoked.
It has just come to the attention of your Pekingnologist that just before Christmas, Xinhua News Agency, China’s state news agency, published an unusual Op-Ed with an unfamiliar byline and explicit calls. It’s now almost two weeks later, but still worth a deep dive.
in Chinese Dec. 23 新华社特约评论员：聚焦合作 中美才能走向更美好的未来
in English Dec. 24 Op-Ed: China, U.S. can have better future by focusing on cooperation, which is a word-by-word translation of the Chinese version.
It is unusual because Xinhua, mostly a wire service, rarely publishes English-language “Op-Ed.” In fact, the use of “Op-Ed” is rare by the nature of a wire service - it’s a term usually reserved for traditional newspapers but NOT wire services. Xinhua did - and does - publish commentaries, but those titles start with Commentary/Xinhua Commentary, and the use of “Op-Ed” is rare if not unprecedented.
Also, the title of the Chinese-language piece starts with 新华社特约评论员, which is rare. The usage of this term is highly selective. Based on your Pekingnologist’s finding from searching the Xinhua service, such wording only appears one or two times a year in recent years and none of those occasions touch China’s foreign relations.
(This is a conclusion that can be independently reached by a seasoned China watcher who is deeply observant based on purely outside knowledge, as the two above paragraphs can be validated by searching the Xinhua wire service, which major news organizations across the world should have subscriptions to.)
by contributing writer Zheng Tao
The byline is unfamiliar because the Chinese word 特约评论员 and the English words contributing writer inherently suggests the author is not on Xinhua staff.
Plus, your Pekingnologist can think of no policymaker or expert on China-U.S. relations named 郑韬 Zheng Tao.
Go Google, Baidu, or ask your contacts. That name is unheard of in China’s foreign policy circles.
(This is also a conclusion that can be independently reached by a seasoned China watcher who is deeply observant based on purely outside knowledge.)
The calls in the Op-Ed are explicit, including:
After the U.S. election, China-U.S. relations once again stand at a crossroads fraught with risks and challenges as well as new opportunities. Whether bilateral relations can get back on track is the focus of the world.
NOTE: So this is written for the Biden administration.
The coming year marks the 50th anniversary of Dr. Henry Kissinger's secret trip to China.
The top priority for the two countries now is to sit down, have a comprehensive, candid and in-depth dialogue, clarify the strategic intentions of both sides, and rebuild mutual trust. Dr. Kissinger made the trip to China about 50 years ago to have in-depth talks with Chinese leaders. Now, we once again call for such spirit and actions.
NOTE: These words are as explicit as they get. Your Pekingnologist can not think of any other way of reading into it, except Zheng Tao, or whoever that is, is calling for Dr. Henry Kissinger - or somebody of his stature, courage, judgment, and abilities - to visit Beijing via Xinhua: the word here is not just 精神 spirit, but also 做法 actions.
Your Pekingnologist is unfamiliar with the actual diplomatic exchanges between China and the U.S. in recent months. But based on the wording here, maybe it’s like the weather today in Beijing. He is willing to go out on a limb and say: should Dr. Kissinger, or somebody of his stature, courage, judgment, and abilities, decide to step up and lead U.S.-China relations back to normality, he or she will be warmly welcomed in Beijing.
BUT NOT WITHOUT PRECONDITIONS:
The two sides should stick to a fundamental principle. China and the United States follow different social systems. These are choices made by the people of the two countries and they deserve mutual respect. China has no intention of changing the United States or replacing it. Likewise, the United States should not stick to its wishful thinking of changing China. It is impossible for the United States to block China's historical progress toward modernization.
NOTE: This is Beijing’s standard talking point, but your Pekingnologist wants to emphasize the highlighted sentence, which so often goes unmentioned or outrightly dismissed in the U.S. Beijing has repeatedly said China is uninterested in influencing, infiltrating, subverting, or meddling in the internal affairs including the elections of the U.S.; furthermore, China does not seek to replace the leadership role of the U.S. internationally.
The two sides should keep an essential bottom line in mind. The CPC is the ruling party of China, and it enjoys a high approval rate of 95 percent among the Chinese people. It is a force leading and driving China-U.S. relations forward. Since the two countries established diplomatic relations, the United States has been dealing with the CPC. Accepting and respecting the CPC constitute the pre-requisite for developing China-U.S. relations. Dismissing the CPC amounts to dismissing the foundation of China-U.S. exchanges.
NOTE: Beijing has repeatedly pointed out that a fundamental error of the Trump administration, and in particular Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, is to try to sow division between the CPC and the Chinese people, or even attempt to overthrow the CPC’s governance of China. That is unacceptable. Beijing is willing to engage, but Washington must cease and desist in any attempt for regime change.
The two sides should agree on a cooperation framework through negotiations. There are indeed differences between China and the United States, but this doesn't mean that the two sides cannot cooperate. In the spirit of seeking common ground while reserving differences, the two sides should take an accommodating attitude to each other's demands and concerns, explore new paths to dialogue and cooperation, and find a way of promoting peaceful co-existence and mutually beneficial cooperation.
The framework cannot be agreed on overnight. While showing patience, the two sides should take it as an urgent task. Making a long-term plan while taking immediate action can be the right choice.
NOTE: Zheng Tao, or whoever that is, says Beijing is willing to talk NOW - an urgent task, taking immediate action.
NOW, what specific common ground?
Jointly fighting COVID-19. This is the most pressing issue globally, and also a common concern of the international community. In the past, China and the United States had successful experience in jointly combating epidemics such as SARS and Ebola. The health sectors of the two countries formed a sound relationship of cooperation. The two sides should enhance exchanges and cooperation in areas such as quarantine and tracing measures, medication and vaccines. If the United States returns to the World Health Organization and joins the COVAX, China and the United States can cooperate in global vaccine distribution and epidemic prevention through multilateral frameworks, joining hands to help countries with weak health-care systems, which would be good news for the whole world.
NOTE: First things first, COVID. Zheng Tao, or whoever that is, invites the U.S. back to WHO and COVAX, the mechanism aims to help developing countries with COVID vaccines.
Your Pekingnologist feels heartened that Beijing has developing countries in mind when approaching Washington because he has long wanted to give a shout out to the People’s Vaccine Alliance, a group of campaigning organizations that highlight the dangerously unequal vaccine distribution the world is facing now.
Jointly stabilizing economic and trade relations. This is a prominent area of mutual benefit and win-win results, and there is an urgent need to break new ground for cooperation. President Xi Jinping said at the opening ceremony of the third CIIE that "our aim is to turn the China market into a market for the world, a market shared by all, and a market accessible to all." Apparently, China, with stable development and consistent opening-up, would bring opportunities to the world as well as to the United States. "Decoupling" with China is nothing but giving up on future development opportunities. The two sides should initiate economic policy coordination that connects China's new development paradigm with the U.S. post-pandemic economic recovery. The two sides should strengthen cooperation in fields such as information and communication, artificial intelligence, online education and telemedicine, jointly stabilize the markets, secure growth and safeguard people's wellbeing. The two sides should also ensure the smooth operation of the global industrial and supply chains, thus leading the recovery and development of the world economy.
NOTE: The Chinese market is open to the U.S. More bluntly, there is big money to be made here. If the U.S. doesn’t tap the Chinese market, others - like the EU - will.
U.S. businesses in information and communication, artificial intelligence, online education, and telemedicine should take notice and maybe start lobbying?
The smooth operation of the global industrial and supply chains is apparently a reference to the numerous sanctions placed on Chinese companies by the Trump administration.
Jointly tackling climate change. The Chinese and U.S. governments had cooperated to realize the adoption of the Paris Agreement, jointly leading other countries to slow down and adapt to climate change. At the general debate of the 75th session of the United Nations General Assembly in September, President Xi Jinping put forth China's pledge to attain the CO2 emissions peak before 2030 and achieve carbon neutrality before 2060. China and the United States have opportunities to strengthen cooperation and deepen exchanges in climate change. Promoting bilateral cooperation in this field will greatly benefit generations to come.
NOTE: CLIMATE CHANGE.
Jointly resuming people-to-people exchanges. Earlier, China and the United States saw an average of 14,000 visits a day, with one flight taking off or landing between the two countries every 17 minutes. A total of 50 pairs of sister provinces/states and 231 pairs of sister cities were forged between the two sides. More than 400,000 Chinese students once studied in the United States. These exchanges brought people closer and helped promote friendship. In the past few years, however, people-to-people exchanges have suffered grave disruption, with the number of U.S. visas for Chinese students falling 99 percent year on year from April to September this year. The two sides should resume normal people-to-people exchanges as soon as possible, and make new exchange plans involving think tanks, civil aviation and students, to consolidate the foundation of people-to-people bond in bilateral relations.
NOTE: If the U.S. engages, people-to-people exchanges are a priority, especially involving think tanks, civil aviation, and students.
As China and the United States already had good cooperation on matters like non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, the Iranian nuclear issue, the Korean Peninsula nuclear issue, anti-terrorism, and disaster relief, both sides may resume dialogue and cooperation on these important areas.
The paragraphs above are selective. Please refer to the full text
in Chinese 新华社特约评论员：聚焦合作 中美才能走向更美好的未来
in English Op-Ed: China, U.S. can have better future by focusing on cooperation, which is a word-by-word translation of the Chinese version.
In the spirit of full disclosure and to avoid misunderstandings, let your Pekingnologist stress that he has been employed by Xinhua News Agency since July 2011, and has been writing this PERSONAL, UNPAID newsletter called Pekingnology in his NON-OFFICIAL capacity since late 2020. He has repeatedly made similar disclosures in earlier newsletters, a purposefully provocative About page, and his Twitter bio which mentions @xhnews.
Anything he wrote and is writing now is of his own idea, his own decision-making, and his own responsibility. He wrote - and is writing now - out of his own volition. He has NOT been directed by anybody to write anything here, which is also true with today’s newsletter.
Therefore, this newsletter should NOT be regarded as OFFICIAL or AUTHORITATIVE. It’s purely PERSONAL.
In recent days, weeks, and months, China’s top diplomats have repeatedly signaled the U.S. of Beijing’s readiness to engage while drawing bottom lines. Most recently, State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi said in a joint interview with Xinhua and China Media Group (CHN)
In recent years, Sino-US relations have fallen into an unprecedented predicament, the root cause of which is the serious deviation in the perception of China by the US administration, which regards China as the so-called greatest threat and thus adopts a completely wrong policy toward China. It has been proven that the U.S. approach of suppressing and containing China and trying to provoke a new "Cold War" is not only seriously damaging to the interests of the two peoples, but also brings great harm to the world, and is doomed to failure and unpopularity.
At present, China-US relations have come to a new crossroads, and a new window of hope is expected to open. We hope that the new U.S. administration will regain rationality and reopen dialogue, so that relations between the two countries can get back on track and restart cooperation.
For China's part, our policy toward the United States maintains continuity and stability, and we are willing to develop with the U.S. a Sino-U.S. relationship with coordination, cooperation and stability as its keynote. China has never interfered in the internal affairs of the United States and is willing to live in peace with the United States and cooperate for a win-win situation. Likewise, the U.S. side should respect the social system and development path chosen by the Chinese people, and respect the legitimate rights of the Chinese people to pursue a better life.
We know that some on the U.S. side are anxious about China's rapid development, but the most sustainable lead is to keep improving oneself, not blocking the development of other countries. The world of the future should not and cannot allow China to become the United States, but rather the United States should make itself a better America, and China will certainly become a better China. We believe that as long as the U.S. side learns its lessons in time and truly moves in the same direction as the Chinese side, China and the U.S. can fully resolve conflicts and differences through dialogue, expand common interests through cooperation, find a model for the two countries to get along with each other that will benefit both countries and the world, and open up the prospect of development that follows the direction of history.
Cartoon by my friend who goes by the name Mondphase.
Penned by Zichen Wang, founder of Pekingnology. Errors may well exist, so suggestions for corrections and feedback are welcome - feel free to reply or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org .