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US envoy sees 'big areas' for teamwork

By Zhao Huanxin in Washington | chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2022-11-30 21:51

Washington's top envoy in Beijing says the United States wants a peaceful relationship with China, and he hopes the countries can work together "in a couple of big areas" like climate change and food security despite their many differences.

Speaking from Beijing at a webinar hosted by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs early on Wednesday, Ambassador Nicholas Burns said the US has a "consequential" relationship with China. While it is the most important of the country's bilateral relationships, it is also the most challenging, he said.

"We do not want this relationship to end up in conflict. We want a peaceful relationship with China," Burns said.

Burns, who arrived in Beijing to take up his post in early March, shared his experiences of working in China, which has worked to curb outbreaks of COVID-19 with the dynamic zero-COVID approach.

He talked about "both the competitive aspects of this relationship and the more cooperative ones," by revisiting the US' threefold China strategy — "invest, align, compete", and singling out the farm states in the US heartland as an example of what the US can get from "this very important market for us".

"Coming out here in the Midwest, obviously one-fifth of all US agricultural exports in the world go to China, about $38 billion last year. We think it'll be a higher number by 2022," he said.

Agriculture exports have boosted farmers' fortunes in the Midwest, where agricultural products dominate exports. There, US farmers and ranchers exported billions of dollars more in oilseeds and grains and over $1 billion more in meat products to China last year, according to "US Export Report 2022" released by the US-China Business Council in April.

More than a dozen agriculture-exporting congressional districts in the Midwest added thousands of jobs last year. Seeing increases of more than 5,000 jobs supported by US exports to China were Kansas's 1st, Iowa's 4th, and Nebraska's 3rd districts, according to the report.

Burns also said the US seeks to "continue to have a very robust trade relationship" with China, the US' third-largest trade partner.

He said there are some "areas of concern" and some limits, relating to both Chinese investments in US companies and US investment in China that could have an impact on "national security".

China's Foreign Ministry, in "Reality Check: Falsehoods in US Perceptions of China" released on June 19, noted that the US has tightened up export controls and investment scrutiny and has "overstretched the concept of national security" to contain and even stranglehold the development of high-tech industries in other countries.

Still, Burns said: "But I do expect we'll continue to see a strong economic relationship between the two countries.

" I really do want to say in addition to the competitive aspects of this relationship, we're trying to work with China in a couple of big areas,"he added.

On climate change, with both countries being the largest carbon emitters, the US and China have a "self-interest" and an obligation to the rest of the world as well as their own countries to work together, he said.

In his talk, Burns asked for China's help in dealing with the "major problem" of fentanyl overdoses in the US, by cracking down on what he called "illicit Chinese companies", which he said "are shipping precursor chemicals from China" to the narco-trafficking rings in Mexico and Central America to produce synthetic opioid.

Burns' counterpart, Chinese Ambassador to the US Qin Gang, has refuted the accusations that link China with places of drug production.

Qin said China and the US have had decades of productive cooperation in combating narcotics, and although China is not faced with the problem of overdoses or deaths related to fentanyl use — because of its rigorous control measures, the country has done everything possible to help the US address this problem.

"The fact is, however, that China has never received any report or data from Mexico on the use of Chinese precursor chemicals for drug production there, nor has the US provided any evidence about the flow of Chinese chemicals into Mexico for fentanyl production," Qin said in an interview with Newsweek in late September.

The scope of the problem is magnified by the innocuous nature of these precursors and even the legitimate medical applications of fentanyl itself, especially as the burden often falls on importers, not exporters, to prevent illicit diversion of materials, Newsweek said in an online report on its interview with Qin.

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