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Ex-Chinese envoy warns China on US ties, takes a dig at ‘wolf warrior diplomacy’

China should not fight a war with the US for which it is not prepared and its diplomats instead of trying to become online celebrities should have the country’s welfare in mind, former Chinese ambassador to the US, Cui Tiankai, has said.

Cui, in what is being interpreted as a rare, candid speech from a Chinese official, added that China should not suffer losses because of its own carelessness and incompetence.

The longest serving Chinese ambassador to the US, Cui, retired in the middle of 2021 to be replaced by senior diplomat, Qing Gang.

Cui warned about the pitfalls of China-US ties in his speech.

“We need to be clear headed and fully prepared to deal with the twists and turns of China-US relations and even the roller-coaster scenario in the future, and resolutely safeguard our sovereignty, security and development interests,” Cui was quoted by the Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post and Tokyo-based Nikkei as saying.

“In principle, we should not fight a war we are not prepared for, a war we are not sure of winning, a war of anger and attrition,” Cui said.

“Every ounce of our peoples’ gains has been hard-won, and we must not allow them to be plundered by anyone or suffer losses due to our own carelessness, laziness and incompetence,” Cui said.

The annual speech, attended by state councillor and foreign minister, Wang Yi, was organised by the foreign ministry-affiliated China Institute of International Studies at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing on December 20.

Analysing the speech, the Nikkei report, published on Thursday, said Cui took a “not-so-subtle jab at China’s wolf warriors”, or aggressive diplomats, by saying: “In the face of complex situations, we must always have the country at large in mind, and not always think about being an internet celebrity.”

The main thrust of the speech was a criticism of the US, including a controversial analysis that racism features in American policy towards China, “although people don’t say it,” the Nikkei analysis said, quoting him.

“But a deeper look at Cui’s remarks shows the diplomat clearly differs from other Chinese government bureaucrats who play up to the top leader. Cui presented a sharp analysis of problems with China’s diplomacy,” it said.

The words of caution come against the backdrop of President Joe Biden administration’s strengthening of ties with allies such as Britain, Japan, Australia and China’s neighbour India.

China’s current tough line on the US has been spearheaded by top diplomat Yang Jiechi, a member of the Chinese Communist Party’s powerful Politburo, and foreign minister, Wang Yi.

Cui, who was China’s top envoy in the US from 2013 until stepping down in June, said Sino-US relations were unlikely to improve in the near future.

“The current stage of history in US-China relations will continue for quite some time, and the US will not willingly accept the rise of a power with a very different social system, ideology, cultural traditions and even ethnicity,” Cui said.

The US announced a diplomatic boycott of the upcoming 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing in December, less than a month after Chinese President Xi Jinping and his US counterpart Joe Biden talked about avoiding conflict and jointly responding to global challenges like climate change.

The two leaders had met for more than 200 minutes via video link in November, the first such meeting since Biden became president in January.

Ties between the countries in recent years have been deeply acrimonious over wide-ranging issues including alleged human rights abuses in Xinjiang and Tibet, Beijing’s crackdown on the democracy protests in Hong Kong and US’s ties with self-ruled Taiwan, which China sees as interference in its internal matters, and trade.

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