China and the United States should not think that just "lying flat" would automatically prevent any disastrous confrontations between the two countries, China's former top diplomat to the U.S. warned on Sunday.
Cui Tiankai, the former Chinese ambassador to the U.S., made the remarks during the 10th Beijing Xiangshan Forum, which kicked off on Sunday. More than 90 delegations from different countries and international organizations are attending the three-day forum, including from Russia, the U.S., Iran, Singapore, Nigeria, South Korea and Saudi Arabia.
The phrase "lying flat", which means to adopt an idle stance in the face of constant social changes, went viral on Chinese social media this year.
Cui said most people in China and the U.S. are aware that any conflict between the two countries would spell disaster for the world.
"But this does not mean that we can automatically avoid conflict and confrontation by doing nothing. It requires joint efforts from both sides," he said.
"If we 'lie flat' and do nothing, the least desired thing is likely to happen," Cui added.
He highlighted that cooperation between the two countries still exists and has expanded in dealing with global challenges such as climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic, while noting that "the existence of cooperation doesn't mean that the differences would disappear naturally".
"Our keynote has always been to cooperate with each other, to find the right way to get along and then to find ways to deal with the differences and solve problems within this framework," he said.
In Cui's eyes, the core of the U.S. policy towards China should be respecting China and accepting China's development in key areas.
"The first point should be China's sovereignty and territorial integrity, and its national reunification, especially the Taiwan question," he said. "The second is China's own development path, system and culture."
"Third, can the U.S. accept that China practices democracy and promotes human rights in a way that suits China's national conditions? Fourth, can the U.S. accept China's pursuit of Chinese modernization?" he asked.
Therefore, no matter what the U.S. says, the key is whether it can achieve mutual respect, peaceful coexistence and win-win cooperation on such fundamental aspects, said the veteran diplomat.
Of late, China-U.S. exchanges have been gradually resuming, he said. "Such exchanges should be expanded and deepened," he added.
Speaking at the forum, Major General Meng Xiangqing, a professor at the People's Liberation Army National Defense University, said that in recent years, the U.S. has strengthened its military deployment in the Asia-Pacific region, which has created tensions in the region.
He said he felt the U.S.' recent charges of "dangerous interception" by Chinese fighter jets were aimed at hyping the China threat theory and finding excuses to justify the next phase of its military deployment in the region.
In recent times, the U.S. has repeatedly spoken of the threat posed by the "unprofessional response" of Chinese fighter jets and warships, but all the so-called maritime and air crises hyped by the U.S. have occurred in the waters and airspace around China, he said.
"So, the U.S. hyping this issue is a bit ridiculous," said Meng. "If you are not there, how can there be these sea and air crises?"
Last week, China's Defense Ministry released video evidence of harassment by U.S. warships of a PLA Navy task group that was undergoing routine training in the South China Sea.
Defense Ministry spokesman Wu Qian said in a media briefing, "How is the Chinese military supposed to intercept U.S. aircraft and warships if those were not there?"
Meng said that the fact is that over the past few years, the U.S. has conducted long-term, large-scale and highly frequent reconnaissance in the sea and airspace around China.
If similar incidents occurred in the waters and airspace around the U.S., the response by the U.S. side would not have been limited to protesting, tracking and warning, he said. "It would be even more serious."
The intention behind the U.S. hyping "dangerous interception" by China is very obvious: One is to continue to hype the so-called China threat theory, while the other is to find reasons for its new military deployment in the next phase, said Meng.
In addition, the U.S. is also attempting to strengthen its relations with its allies in the South China Sea through such hype, said the military expert, noting that the U.S. does not rule out the possibility of instigating relevant countries in the region to confront China.