As prepared for delivery
President Chen, faculty and students of Beijing Foreign Studies University:
Thank you for inviting me here today. It is truly an honor to be here, and I congratulate you on celebrating your 70th anniversary.
The start of a school year marks a new beginning for students. And so it’s fitting that I’m here to talk about a new beginning of my own.
I want to say how grateful I am for the warm welcome that my family and I have received from the Chinese people.
As you know, my ancestral home is in Taishan in Guangdong province. Since our arrival, the people of China have made my entire family feel, simply put: at home – And we are grateful.
I know that there are very high expectations for my tenure as ambassador.
I understand why: I am the first Chinese-American to hold this post. And I do have a proven record:
- As a governor;
- As Commerce Secretary; and
- As a man who has mastered the art of buying his own coffee AND carrying his own luggage!
I will do the best I can as U.S. Ambassador.
And although there is much work ahead to strengthen and expand U.S.-China cooperation – and to manage our differences when we don’t see eye-to-eye — I begin my ambassadorship with confidence that the overall state of our relationship is strong.
One thing I do know is that the people in this room will have a lot of influence in the future of the U.S.-China relationship.
For 70 years, Beijing Foreign Studies University has been a training ground for hundreds of China’s top leaders including my friend and YOUR ambassador to the U.S., Zhang Yesui.
Whatever your careers, in the years ahead, you will be the international face of China, and your choices will determine the steps China takes in confronting its own – and the world’s — challenges.
But today, I’d like to discuss the steps I believe we must all take in strengthening the US- China relationship.
To understand where the U.S.-China relationship is going, it’s helpful to remember just how far it has come already.
When I first attended college in 1968, a gathering like this would not have been possible – because America did not even have an ambassador in Beijing.
Contrast that with today, when it could be argued that the U.S.-China bond is one of the most important bilateral relationships in the world.
For 40 years, our two countries have been increasing our cooperation and interconnectedness for a very simple reason:
It is in our mutual interest.
Millions of jobs are sustained in China and the United States by the trade we do with one another. American consumers benefit from the goods made in China and daily the Chinese people rely on high quality U.S. products and services. And, as our companies make investments in each other’s countries, we are creating jobs for our peoples.
Every year, the comprehensive Strategic and Economic Dialogue brings together policymakers from across both governments to discuss topics ranging from breaking down trade barriers to economic cooperation to collaborating on pressing regional and global issues.
To meet the challenge of global climate change, the U.S. and China can build on a legacy of over 30 years of cooperation on Science and Technology issues.
Similarly, the United States and China share an interest in maintaining peace and prosperity around the world.
Our defense ties extend back to World War II, when our soldiers fought and sacrificed together.
Today, our defense interactions take place at the most senior levels, with the PLA Chief of the General Staff and the U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff working to improve lines of communication and strengthen the U.S.-China military to military relationship.
Perhaps our greatest security challenge is the existential threat posed by the proliferation of nuclear weapons and materials, in particular from North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs.
China has been a vital partner as chair of the Six-Party Talks, with a unique role because of its historic relationship with, and influence on, North Korea. The United States and China share the common goals of peace and prosperity on the Korean Peninsula and North Korea’s complete and verifiable denuclearization in a peaceful manner.
Our countries must also continue to work together to address the Iranian nuclear program. We have coordinated an effective dual-track approach – leveraging international diplomacy and sanctions – with the other Permanent UN Security Council members as well as Germany to send a clear message from the international community to the Iranian regime that it must live up to its international obligations.
And the examples of shared security interests go on: from Afghanistan to Sudan.
We may not always initially agree on exactly how best to achieve our shared objectives. But when we successfully work together we often find mutually beneficial outcomes that serve the interests of all parties.
Think broadly about the contributions our nations have made to civilization. I recently visited the Diaoyutai guest house where four wood panels illustrate the Chinese contributions that defined the world for centuries: the compass, gunpowder, papermaking and the printing press.
And in the United States, we take great pride in our contributions – such as the light bulb, the television, the personal computer, and the Internet, which has changed all of our lives so profoundly.
From the flash of gunpowder to the light of electricity, from the printed page to a webpage, from navigating the waters of the globe to navigating the Internet, our two nations have contributed so much to the world of today.
Think about what we can do, in partnership, to improve the world of tomorrow.
So many problems in the world today – from climate change, to poverty and disease – simply will not be solved without strong U.S.-China cooperation.
That’s why I’d like to state unequivocally that the United States welcomes the rise of a prosperous and successful China that plays a greater role in world affairs.
I reject the notion that China and the United States are engaged in a zero-sum competition, where one side must fall for the other to rise.
We can and must achieve security and prosperity together.
Certainly, we will have our disagreements. That’s to be expected from two large and complex nations with different histories and different political systems.
As an example, let me take a moment to speak about the issue of human rights, which is an essential element of U.S. global policy. In discussing this issue, with China or any other country, we start from the premise that all people are entitled to the protections contained in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. These are universal standards, and they include the right to due process of law, to be able to speak freely, to associate openly, to pray in the manner one chooses and to enjoy the benefits of a free press.
We believe that societies that respect human rights and address the aspirations of their people are more prosperous, successful and stable.
And, of course, we will compete economically – as we should, because healthy, fair competition prompts companies to be more efficient with lower cost goods and helps spur new innovations and products.
But competition and disagreements can’t obscure the fact that we are moving ever closer together. The important thing is that we have mechanisms to broaden our areas of cooperation while managing our differences.
We have worked hard over the last few years to lay this foundation:
- Through launching the Strategic and Economic Dialogue;
- Through a rapid pace of meetings between our most senior leaders;
- Through expanding our cooperation between our states, provinces, and cities;
- And, through increasing the number of exchanges between the Chinese and American peoples.
All of these mechanisms will help us increase mutual understanding and trust, which will be crucial to advancing our relationship in the 21st century.
This reality was confirmed earlier this year when President Obama and President Hu pledged to expand bilateral cooperation on a range of issues and when Vice President Biden spoke about this cooperation during his recent trip to China.
As Ambassador, I will continue to support our two countries’ efforts to work together.
I will seek to further the economic and commercial ties between the U.S. and China by building our trade relationship in a mutually beneficial manner that reduces barriers to trade and increases jobs in both our countries.
As President Obama told the United States Congress in a speech this morning, the highest priority of the United States today is to create jobs for Americans and revitalize our economy. Given our economic interdependence, a stronger American economy is in the economic interest of the Chinese people. And, my top priority here in China is to carry out the policies that will support this effort:
- Helping to double our exports – creating jobs in the U.S. and providing high quality American products and services which are in high demand in China;
- Increasing Chinese investment in the U.S. which will help Chinese companies prosper while at the same time creating jobs in America;
- And ensuring that U.S. companies can compete on a level playing field in China and be able to operate in the same open and fair environment that Chinese companies enjoy in the U.S.
In the coming weeks, I will talk more about our economic and commercial ties at an event with the business community here in Beijing.
At the same time, I will work to further our two countries’ dialogue on human rights, religious freedom and civil society on the basis of mutual respect. I will also listen carefully to your views to understand your perspective.
And I will do everything in my power to increase the essential people–to–people interactions and cultural exchanges that do so much to build genuine understanding and cooperation.
The American and Chinese people want to work, live and learn together. The numbers tell the story.
Last year, over 800,000 Chinese and two million Americans traveled between our countries to live, work and study together. And, more than 130,000 Chinese students attended American universities last year. In the last decade, the number of visitors from China to the United States increased by more than 200 percent. Your fellow citizens are traveling to the United States at an unprecedented rate, and China-wide demand for visas to the U.S is at an all-time high.
We have made great strides toward meeting this demand, and we will be doing even more to reduce the amount of time Chinese students, business people and tourists must wait to obtain a visa.
The ultimate strength of our partnership and the degree to which we build mutual trust will depend on the investment, support and active engagement of the American and Chinese peoples.
That’s why President Obama launched the 100,000 Strong Initiative to bring American students to live and study in China, and why we welcome even more Chinese students to the U.S., to experience American culture and society.
And of course, there are millions more Chinese – like my family – who have experienced America as immigrants.
In the 1890s, my grandfather first left his ancestral village near Jiangmen City for America. He arrived in Olympia, Washington to work as a houseboy in exchange for English lessons.
A hundred years later, I was elected the Governor of Washington State, becoming the first Asian-American governor on the U.S. mainland. And I moved into the Governor’s mansion just one mile from the house where my grandfather washed dishes and swept floors.
I’ve sometimes asked myself:
How did the Locke family go in just two generations from living in a small rural village in China to the governor’s mansion?
The answer is American openness – building and sustaining an open economy and an open society.
America was open to my grandfather and millions of other immigrants like him, coming to its shores to pursue a better life.
America was open to my father staking his small claim to the American dream, a small grocery store that he and my mother worked in seven days a week, 365 days a year to support our family.
And the America I was raised in was open to new ideas, where I was allowed to think what I wanted to think and say what I wanted to say…to join organizations that could question or challenge American government policy.
Our family’s story is the story of America.
Tens of millions of American families have travelled the same path as ours. They’ve found success through their own hard work and initiative, but it was only possible because:
- they lived in an open, vibrant society that rewarded individual initiative;
- allowed dissent and disagreement;
- and enabled anyone, anywhere to fully participate in our economy.
While the direction China chooses is solely for it and its people to decide, we believe these values are independent of any particular political system. They are universal, and universally beneficial to societal advance.
Increasing openness is already transforming Chinese society. As it has around the world, the Internet has provided a platform for millions of Chinese citizens to make their voices heard about the issues affecting their daily lives and has provided them with unprecedented access to their leaders. From property rights, to food safety to environmental protection, Chinese citizens are increasingly engaging in a national dialogue that has led to meaningful advances improving the lives of all the people of this country.
I speak of openness because it is the reason I am privileged to stand on this stage today.
I speak of openness because I believe the economic and cultural opening that began with Deng Xiaoping has led to a China that is fairer, freer, and more prosperous, respected, and successful.
I hope this opening will continue and accelerate. Because China’s own recent history proves that when it unlocks the full potential of its people, great things are possible.
I hope the opening will continue in other realms of Chinese life as well.
Think for a moment about the people who invent new technologies and build new companies, who write books and music and create art. These are the people who grow our economies and enrich our culture.
What these people have in common is that they think differently.
They ask questions.
They’re willing to suggest new ideas.
These are the people the world needs if we’re going to:
- Find a cure for AIDS or other diseases;
- Find cleaner, cheaper sources of energy to protect our climate; or
- Revitalize the global economy.
And that’s why it’s so important for societies to be open, to accommodate new thinking that can help us solve old problems.
There’s plenty of new thinking occurring everyday here at Beijing Foreign Studies University.
By the very nature of your study of different languages and cultures, you’re opening your minds to a world of possibilities.
In the years ahead, as you become the leaders and entrepreneurs and artists who shape China, I hope you will stay open, and encourage the same sensibility among your countrymen and women.
We know that a more open China will lead to a stronger China and a more prosperous China.
And more transparency in the U.S.-China relationship will help us further increase U.S.-China cooperation, improve mutual understanding, and deepen our relationship.
I look forward to working with you, China’s leaders and the Chinese people on finding new ways to cooperate and continuing to advance our relationship to meet the challenges not only of today, but of tomorrow as well.
当我1968年第一次上大学时，这样的聚会是不可能的 – 因为美国甚至还没有驻北京的大使。
我们的国家也必须继续在处理伊朗核计划上共同努力。我们已经与联合国安理会常任理事国的其他成员以及德国配合得出一种有效的双轨方式 – 利用多边外交和制裁 – 从国际社会向伊朗政权发出一条明确的信息，即它必须履行自己的国际义务。
在美国，我们为我们的贡献而倍感自豪 – 如电灯，电视，个人电脑，以及如此深刻地改变了我们生活方方面面的互联网。
今天世界上有这么多问题 – 从气候变化，到贫困和疾病 – 没有强大的美中合作，根本无法得到解决。
当然，我们将在经济上竞争 – 我们应该这样，因为健康、公平的竞争促使企业更有效率地产出成本更低的商品，而且有助于激发新的创新和产品。