No hope for China-U.S. rapprochement before election, says former U.S. Ambassador
World Insight with Tian Wei

Amid the escalating tit for tat measures between China and the U.S., bilateral relations has hit the lowest point since the two countries resumed diplomatic ties in 1979. That is the assessment of Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi during a recent speech. As America's former ambassador to China, Max Baucus gave his take on where the two countries are headed in an interview with CGTN Host Tian Wei.

Tian Wei: What do you think could be the worst-case scenario as we approach the U.S. presidential election?

Max Baucus: It's possible that the U.S. government will wrench up even more pressure against China. Given President Trump's recent actions regarding Hong Kong and Huawei, there could be more sanctions on the way.  Although I think it's unlikely, because if it goes too far then it's going to make it very difficult for normalcy to occur after the election.

Tian: We understand the U.S. is actively persuading European nations to ban Huawei. Do you think that efforts will be expanded to other regions of the world?

Baucus: I don't think it will happen much more beyond the Five Eyes intelligence-sharing alliance, but we'll see.

Tian: We have seen conspiracy theories being spread in certain parts of the U.S. regarding 5G and even about Bill Gates. In such environment, how can China persuade the American people with facts?

Baucus: I think the U.S. has been hyper critical of China. Like you said, sometimes without any proof. This is a political season in the U.S., and politicians are using China as a scapegoat to help them get elected. It's very easy to criticize. It's very hard to be more constructive. I do think the only solution out of this very low point in relations is for both countries to be much more transparent. There should be some kind of a cyber working group on cyber alone. It will take a long time but it will help a little bit.

Tian: But given how determined the current U.S. administration seems to be to decouple from China, can a mechanism like the one you described really be established?

Baucus: Well nothing can be done before the election. The situation is just too toxic for any meaningful action to be done. But after the election, it will need a solid administration to say, China is not going anywhere, it is growing. So we need to find a way to deal with each other as adults. I also think we should set up some lines privately. Our approaches and criticism of China are way too public in my opinion.

Tian: Earlier Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi suggested China and the U.S. to review and agree on three lists of interactions to improve relations. First is on cooperation areas. Second is on possible dialogues. Third is on issues and risks that the two sides need to properly manage. What do you think is a good way to control damages?

Baucus: I know Mr. Wang Yi. He is a very reasonable person. I've always liked working with him and these are good approaches. I think the Chinese government can be a little more transparent, and explains in more detail what it is doing, and show that it wants to work with the other side companies such as Huawei can also invite people to come see their software for better transparency.

Tian: May I mention that Huawei founder Ren Zhengfei had said that the company is willing to open its system for relative parties to see and verify that there is no so called backdoor. So is it a case of no matter what China does, it will always be designated as an enemy?

Baucus: Yes, Foreign Minister Wang Yi also made that point recently. Like I said the atmosphere in Washington, D.C. today is totally toxic on both the Republican and Democrat side. We will have to see if this will change after the election.

Tian: Mr. Ambassador, when you were in China, you traveled extensively. You visited every single province. But that people-to-people exchange seems to be fading now.

Baucus: Not many Americans have been to China and that's part of the problem. Americans really don't understand China. I wonder how much time Secretary of State Pompeo has personally spent in China other than his official capacity. U.S. officials do not know China very well, too few members of Congress too few members in the United States government have been to China. They got to go to see it, taste it, smell it, feel it, understand what it is, and then realize that Chinese people are very similar to American people, have the same hopes and desires. What if, for example, if Biden was elected as president and to go to China and spend some time going around China. Not just meet with President Xi in Zhongnanhai, but to go around the country, go to various provinces, and have stinky tofu with Chinese people.

Tian: You even designed the menu for him already.

Baucus: I think that will go a long way. It would really help.

World Insight with Tian Wei is an international platform for debate and intelligent discussion. It is the meeting point of both the highly influential and rising voices, facilitated by host Tian Wei. It provides nutrition to form your own thoughts and ideas through a 45-minute live debate and interviews.

Schedule: Monday-Saturday

Time (GMT): 1415, 2015

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