October 9, 2023 – U.S. Embassy Beijing, China – Beijing American Center
Local time 20:05
U.S. AMBASSADOR TO CHINA NICHOLAS BURNS: Good evening, everyone. Very sorry to be late. I’m Nick Burns, the American ambassador here in China. It is a very great, great pleasure to me to welcome this bipartisan Senate delegation here to China. It’s the first delegation of senators, of any member of Congress, that we’ve had here in well more than four years. I want to thank the Majority Leader of the Senate, Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, for leading this delegation. Thanks, Senator Mike Crapo of Idaho, the lead Republican member on this delegation. Senator Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, Senator Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire, Senator John Kennedy of Louisiana, and Senator Jon Ossoff of Georgia.
Our two countries needed to have the conversations that they had today with President Xi Jinping, with the Chairman of the National People’s Congress Zhao Leji, with the Foreign Minister and Director of the Foreign Affairs Commission Wang Yi, and of course with the Minister of Commerce Wang Wentao. In my experience here, this was a productive day. These were detailed conversations. They were substantive. They were productive. They were very frank, and I think they were honest discussions. I do think, as Ambassador here, this was a step forward for the United States, for the American people, as we engage the people and the government of China in a very difficult and very challenging relationship. It was important, in my view, that the Chinese leadership heard from leaders in the Senate – three Democrats, three Republicans – in great detail their views on these challenging issues and therefore, through them, the views of the American people. So, I want to thank this delegation. It’s been a real pleasure to host them. They had a great meeting in Shanghai with the party secretary, and a lot more to come. I turn to Senator Schumer. Welcome.
MAJORITY LEADER SENATOR CHUCK SCHUMER: Thank you, Ambassador and thank you for the great job you do in helping us facilitate and get these meetings done. Here’s the statement that we are together on:
The United States and China are at a historic decision point in the relationship between our countries.
Our bipartisan Senate delegation spoke candidly with President Xi, about a range of issues and our respective priorities. We made clear to President Xi that America wants fairness and stability. At the foundation of the relationship must be a level playing field for American businesses and workers, as well as responsible competition. We made clear we don’t think that level playing field exists right now. We need reciprocity. That means that the American companies are able to compete as freely in China as Chinese companies are able to compete in America. We made clear to President Xi that we don’t think reciprocity exists either.
We raised the huge structural inequalities and serious imbalances the U.S. faces in its economic and trade relationship with China. For decades, the Chinese government has erected significant barriers aimed at restricting the ability of American companies to compete in an open and fair manner. We made clear the United States cannot sit idly by and that we must address the Chinese government’s forced technology transfers, theft of intellectual property, required joint ventures, and intimidation of U.S. businesses operating in China, among other troubling activities that undermine the lack of reciprocity.
Specifically, we also raised the need to remove restrictions and open up Chinese markets to U.S. companies, including from the semiconductor, financial services, and aerospace industries. China must also end the policies that intimidate U.S. businesses operating in China. We had a long list of issues we feel China had to address. And we were very, very clear and specific on all of those.
The United States is ready to compete vigorously with the PRC. But we also must hold China accountable for any unfair practices that undermine the relationship between our countries.
Equally important to the need for reciprocity is the need for China to take more aggressive action to stop fentanyl from coming into America. Our delegation shared personal stories of how the scourge of fentanyl is costing tens of thousands of lives and destroying American families. We spent a great deal of time on this issue because we believe it is so important. We called on President Xi to work with the United States to stem the flow of precursor chemicals that are fueling America’s fentanyl crisis. We urged President Xi to open a channel of communication to stem the flow of fentanyl precursor chemicals. We believe it’s imperative on this issue that China act.
While we must ensure that our trade policies are fair, the United States will also prioritize economic and national security, including protecting advanced technologies. Our delegation is clear that we do not seek a confrontation with China. But we will remain steadfast in our commitment to promoting stability in the region, freedom and democratic principles, and vigorously defend our values.
We are looking forward to building on the honest and productive conversations we had today with President Xi and other government officials to discuss our shared interest in long term stability for the two countries. The best path forward for the United States remains cooperation and fair competition.
And one other point. I also made a request, a direct request to President Xi, that the Foreign Ministry strengthen their statement on the Middle East, which didn’t even mention the losses, the horrible, gut-wrenching loss of civilian life. I’m gratified the Foreign Ministry issued a new statement that did condemn the loss of civilian life.
We’re ready for your questions.
MODERATOR: The first question comes from Vivian Wang at the New York Times.
QUESTION: Senator Schumer, did you make any specific requests for specific actions from China on the Israel situation, for example, negotiating hostage releases? And in the past China has talked about potentially playing a mediating role in conflict. Did you hear any of that?
SENATOR SCHUMER: I first made the, I told him how deeply disappointed I was. You heard me, I think some of you were in the room and I actually said how deeply disappointed I was in the initial statement. And they rectified that. We also, a bunch of us made the request that China use its influence on Iran to not allow the conflagration to spread. We said they have influence with Iran in many different ways and we asked them to do everything they could to not have Iran spread this conflagration through themselves and through Hezbollah.
MODERATOR: The second question goes to Brian Spegele from the Wall Street Journal.
QUESTION: Thank you very much. Just following up on what you just said. How did they respond? Specifically on the point of Iran, how did President Xi respond on that? And more broadly, if I could just kind of ask a broader question. Many analysts cite a lack of trust between the U.S. and China as one of the biggest stumbling blocks to better ties between the countries. After your meeting with President Xi today, do you trust him more or less than you do [inaudible]?
SENATOR SCHUMER: Let me just say this. Both sides, the Chinese and U.S. said unless we have sincere conversations about our differences, and not pull any punches, that we would never solve these problems. And the thing that I think we respected is the Chinese leadership from President Xi on down understood that we were going to be strong, understood that we’re going to be tough, but also understood that’s a necessity if we’re ever going to improve the relationship. On the first question: he listened. I don’t recall him saying anything specific on it, but he listened several times. Go ahead. They said they will deliver the message.
QUESTION: To the Iranians?
SENATOR SCHUMER: Yes.
MODERATOR: Okay. The next question goes to John Ruwitch from NPR.
QUESTION: Thanks. Your message today across the board was consistent with all the leaders that you’ve met. And Xi Jinping, Wang Yi, and all the others said they hoped that your visit would help the Congress in the United States better understand China. To be blunt: did you get past talking points and do you leave here with a better understanding of China?
SENATOR SCHUMER: Look, we made a number of specific requests. They said they would consider those specific requests. And we’re going to continue to pursue, now that we’ve established these relationships, we’re going to pursue them.
MODERATOR: Ni Xiaowen from Phoenix TV.
QUESTION: Thank you, Senator Schumer. I’m with Phoenix TV. Recently the Biden administration has sent a number of high-level officials to China to ease tensions. But we know this Congress has passed a number of laws and actions to strengthen competition with China and called for a tougher stance on China. So how do you see your visit to China? Is it to continue communication to ease tensions, or is it to reaffirm competition and rivalry with China?
SENATOR SCHUMER: Well, look, as I mentioned at one of the meetings, competition, if it’s fair is good, and it strengthens both sides. But we saw a fair competition, a level playing field, we don’t believe we have that yet. And that’s why we were here. And we thought, I think, and it was acknowledged by a good number of the Chinese leadership, that speaking to Congress, speaking to Senators who are in direct touch with the American people, and we talk in a little less varnish, unvarnished diplomatic language than some of the diplomats, was a good thing.
Okay, one or two more.
MODERATOR: Okay, next one to Marc Stewart from CNN.
QUESTION: Hello, Senator Schumer. You talked about your dissatisfaction about the statement toward Israel. You also earlier today talked about your concern about the relationship between China, Russia, and how it relates to the Ukraine war. Is there a threshold in this relationship, a line that China would cross, where it’s not acting in good diplomatic faith with these other nations that would cause you to pause this diplomatic discussion?
SENATOR SCHUMER: Look, discussion is always good, even when you disagree. But we made clear over and over again that we thought that China doesn’t help itself by aligning itself with Putin, that China cares about world opinion. This is what the Belt & Road is supposed to do. And when they align themselves with Russia, an outlaw nation like Russia, they are not helping their own cause. We made that repeatedly not just to the Foreign Minister, but to everybody else. And almost every one of these things we brought up, we brought up with President Xi and all the others that we had seen.
MODERATOR: Last question to Evelyn Cheng from CNBC.
QUESTION: Thank you. Wondering if you have more details on the trade aspects, are there specific areas that you expect next steps on?
SENATOR SCHUMER: We mentioned a whole lot of specific areas, the general areas of theft of intellectual property, the forcing of 51/49 mergers, that there had to be Chinese ownership, also talking about forcing companies to give up intellectual property. And then we went into a whole bunch of specific areas: airlines, finance, and we were very specific. These meetings lasted a long time because we were very specific. This wasn’t just a general conversation, and we asked action on all of them. Okay? Thank you, everybody. And sorry you had to wait for us.
The Ambassador wanted to say one last thing about how our meetings went, in terms of his tone and all of that, in terms of how it compares to other meetings.
AMBASSADOR BURNS: Thank you Majority Leader. Again, I want to thank this bipartisan delegation. I thought this was a good step forward for the United States, for our Administration and the Congress and the American people. Because there was a level of detail in these meetings, on these issues that we haven’t had in four plus years. I felt that the Chinese leadership prepared very carefully for these meetings. They were ready for these detailed discussions. There was a level of, of energy on both sides and I think a commitment to extend this conversation that that will be good for us and productive for us as we go forward. Many of the meetings, including the meeting with President Xi Jinping, went well beyond the time that we felt had been allotted by the Chinese side. But there was a level of engagement from the Leader and from others, I think, frankly, that was gratifying.
SENATOR SCHUMER: We spent 80 minutes with President Xi, we thought it would be much, maybe half of that. But he was engaged.
AMBASSADOR BURNS: Yeah. Thank you so much.
20:21 local time.