Ambassador: China ‘is the most important, most competitive, and most dangerous relationship’ the US has

Nicholas Burns, the U.S. ambassador to China, revealed concerns about the impact of tense relations between the two countries, calling China the “most important” yet “most dangerous relationship” the U.S. has.

Burns, speaking with CBS News’s “60 Minutes,” said he is nervous about the U.S.’s relationship with China as ongoing tensions and mistrust continue to disrupt the confidence of the business world.

Asked if it is the U.S.’s most competitive relationship, Burns said: “This is the most important, most competitive, and most dangerous relationship that the United States has in the world right now and will, I think, for the next decade or so.”

Burns said the two countries must “live together” and argued this point is the greatest area of tension between the two nations.

“China’s our most significant competitor, and at the same time, China is our third-largest trade partner — 750,000 American jobs at stake. Agriculture — China’s the largest market for U.S. agriculture — one-fifth of all of our export … products from agriculture are sent to China. That was $40.9 billion last year.”

Pressed further if the U.S. cannot afford to “have a real break” from China, Burns said “it’s complicated.”

“Some people are saying, ‘Well, we’re so competitive with China, we should end the economic relationship.’ Well, the consequence of that would be 750,000 American families wouldn’t be able to put dinner on the table. And so this makes for an extraordinarily difficult balancing act in my job,” Burns added.

His comments follow those he made in December, when Burns said he does not feel “optimistic” but remains “hopeful.”

Contention between the U.S. and China has flared up in recent years with regard to multiple issues — including the U.S. government’s sanctions on Chinese citizens and officials, restricted import of Chinese semiconductors, debate over the Chinese-owned social media platform TikTok, and Taiwan.

Both sides have recently signaled an easing of some of the tension, however, and President Biden in December said his meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping produced “positive steps.”

Burns told “60 Minutes” correspondent Lesley Stahl the U.S. and China will inevitably need to compete but it needs to be done “responsibly” to “keep the peace” between the two nations.

“One in every 5 people in the world is Chinese. China’s population is four times that of the U.S., and the country is vast: 3.7 million square miles. President Xi likes to say that the East is rising, the West is declining, but economically, the U.S. is thriving compared to China,” he said, later pointing to the credit rating agency Moody’s Analytics and how it switched its outlook for China to “negative.”

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