BY DEPUTY NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR BEN RHODES;
NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR TO THE VICE PRESIDENT
DEPUTY NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR MICHAEL FROMAN;
AND SENIOR DIRECTOR FOR ASIAN AFFAIRS DANIEL RUSSEL
ON THE VISIT OF VICE PRESIDENT XI JINPING OF CHINA
Via Conference Call
4:25 P.M. EST
MR. RHODES: Thanks, everybody, for joining the call. We’re here to preview Vice President Xi’s visit to the United States next week. We have a number of officials on the phone here — myself; Tony Blinken, the Vice President’s National Security Advisor; Mike Froman, the Assistant to the President for International Economic Affairs; and Danny Russel, our Senior Director for Asian Policy here at the White House.
I’ll just say a few words by way of introduction before turning it over to my colleagues to talk about the different aspects of the visit. First of all, I think it’s important to put this visit in the larger context of the fact that from the beginning of this administration, the President has really made a concerted effort to focus American foreign policy and economic policy on the Asia Pacific region.
We’ve pursued this strategic pivot to the Asia Pacific because we’re focused on increasing our presence in the fastest growing market in the world, which is absolutely critical to achieving the administration’s goal of doubling U.S. exports and creating jobs back at home. We’ve also done so because the United States has a range of very critical security interests across the region as well. We thought that the United States was under-weighted in the Asia Pacific and needed to take steps to reestablish our presence across the region.
In doing so, we’ve, of course, focused on shoring up our core alliances and partnerships across the region. We’ve reengaged in the regional architecture of the region through organizations like the East Asia Summit, ASEAN, and APEC — which the President recently hosted in Hawaii. The President’s recent trip to the Asia Pacific I think was an opportunity for him to expand our trade relationships across the region, including to the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement that we’re pursuing, as well as reaffirming our security commitments in the region as we ensure the United States can be a source for stability in the Asia Pacific in this century as it was in the last.
A critical part of our Asia Pacific policy is the very deep relationship and cooperation that we have with China on a range of areas. We’ve invested an extraordinary amount of time and energy in the U.S.-China relationship, which can be both cooperative on the range of issues where we work together and, at times, competitive on issues where we differ and where we’re reaffirming the rules of the road that all nations must abide by.
And this visit is very much in the line of our Asia policy and our China policy since we took office. It’s an opportunity to further get to know the likely future leader of China.
And with that, I’ll turn it over to Danny Russel to say a few words about our China policy to date. And then Mike can discuss the economic components of the relationship.
MR. RUSSEL: Great. Thanks Ben. As Ben Rhodes just said, we look at this visit by Vice President Xi as part of the policy continuum, which is in part predicated on the importance of getting the U.S./China relationship right, which in turn is central to the President’s Asia policy. And that involves engaging China, and especially engaging Chinese leadership in ways that increase the quality of our communication and elicit better cooperation.
The fact is, also, more broadly, that the way that we deal with China affects our own influence and leadership in Asia, because this relationship is something that the other countries in the region care a great deal about. As Ben said, there are elements of competition and elements of cooperation in the relationship. But it matters to the region and to the world how the U.S. and China deal with each other. And certainly, they value the principles of playing by the rules that the President has consistently articulated.
So in dealing with China’s leaders in general, and certainly both with respect to Vice President Biden’s visit in August and this visit now by the Chinese Vice President Xi, we are building up areas of cooperation, we’re dealing consistently and directly with our differences, and we’re managing problems. As the President has articulated frequently, we welcome the rise of China at the same time that we insist that China adhere to accepted rules and norms of regional and global economic and security behavior.
So a large part of our engagement with China and our China policy has been holding frequent high-level contacts with Chinese leaders because it allows us to speak directly and authoritatively to them about the range of bilateral and regional and global issues that are in play both in our relationship and of concern to both countries.
And so with Vice President Xi, during this visit, as the Vice President did when he traveled, we fully expect him to be discussing all the important issues in the U.S.-China relationship on the political, security, economic, human rights side.
I think the last thing I would say is that in Asia, generally, but in China certainly, relationships matter, and high-level relationships particularly matter. There are always going to be ups and downs in the relationship, but the high tempo of meetings that the President has had with President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao is an important component of the Obama administration’s ability to manage this extraordinarily complex relationship, and I think the reason that that engagement is important is because it allows us to set expectations to reduce misunderstandings. It helps us to build confidence and avoid surprises in either direction.
So building a relationship with the official in China who seems likely destined to be a central figure in the Chinese political system for years to come obviously is important, which is why President Obama and President Hu Jintao agreed to this pair of visits.
And for Vice President Xi to come to Washington now allows us to, in the first instance, make clear to him the strength of U.S. views on key issues, but also allows him to see the United States anew for himself and hear what Americans are concerned about and what we’re thinking.
Now, in fairness, Xi Jinping isn’t yet the number one official in China, so one likely wouldn’t expect him to be breaking new ground. He’s got a long runway ahead of him before takeoff. He’s one of nine members of the Standing Committee of the Politburo. The expectation is that he may well become head of the Party in the fall, and then President of China in the spring of 2013. So it is in that respect markedly different than the head of state visit that President Hu Jintao conducted last year.
But the trip will be very important, as an opportunity, as I said, for us to learn more about him, to build on the work that we have been doing over the past three years, and the Vice President’s trip and, again, to allow him to broaden his understanding of the United States. I’ll stop there.
MR. FROMAN: Hi, it’s Mike Froman. I’m just going to say a few words about the economic relationship, which, obviously, is one of the most important bilateral relationships we have in the world. Last year our exports of goods alone to China exceeded $100 billion, and have been growing almost twice as fast as our exports to the rest of the world. So it’s a market of great potential for us, and the relationship is extremely important.
And over the last few years, we have begun to make progress on a whole range of issues between us including the exchange rate, which has been appreciating since June 2010. We helped secure China’s commitment, both in the G20 and elsewhere, to reduce its current account surplus, to shift its economic growth model toward greater domestic demand. And China has agreed to remove certain discriminatory procurement policies and business innovation policies, and to strengthen their enforcement of intellectual property rights.
Having said that, there’s a lot more to be done in each of these areas and in other areas, and we see the visit of Vice President Xi as an opportunity to continue that dialogue that we’ve had with President Hu and Premier Wen, and other Chinese senior officials, with President Obama and Vice President Biden, but also through the JCCT, the S&ED and other forums, to try and make progress on these issues — issues like rebalancing their economy, spurring domestic demand, leveling the playing field, and enhancing their protection of IPR and U.S. technology.
As Danny and Ben has said, this is likely to be the future leader of China, and this visit gives President Obama and Vice President Biden the opportunity to share our perspective on what that relationship can be and should be based on going forward, including underscoring the importance of international rules and norms.
So it’s a great — it’s a strong relationship now, it’s a relationship with great potential, and we have several issues that we need to continue to work through. And this visit gives us an opportunity to continue that dialogue.
MR. BLINKEN: And this is Tony Blinken. Let me conclude by walking you through the visit, and then we can take some questions after that.
As Ben and my other colleagues mentioned, this visit is part of a continuum of high level engagements with China that date back to the start of the administration, and, in particular, President Obama’s multiple meetings with President Hu and other senior leaders in China. But it is also — it also flows from Vice President Biden’s August trip to China.
As I think most of you know, when President Hu was here on his state visit, President Obama and President Hu announced that our Vice Presidents would exchange visits. And so this is now the return visit from Vice President Biden’s August [trip] to China.
So, for us, this is really an opportunity to reciprocate, to build on the August visit, and to further develop our relationship with Vice President Xi. As Danny said, given the expectation that Vice President Xi will succeed President Hu, this visit is really an investment in the future of the U.S.-China relationship. Back in August, when Vice President Biden was in China, I think he set the stage for this visit in a couple of ways.
First, the amount of time that the two Vice Presidents spent together — hours of time, I think about 10 all told, which is unusual for meetings at this level — and that time was spent in both formal and informal settings, and we’ll do the same thing on this visit next week.
Second, the nature of their conversations. In China, in part because of the amount of time they spent together and the informality, the conversations were just that: real conversations. Direct, interactive, broad-ranging. They covered the waterfront in the relationship — economic trade issues, security, military, regional and global challenges.
So we expect that this visit will be more of the same in its tenor, style, the substance and the interactions, including, very importantly, Vice President Xi’s first meeting with President Obama. So now to just walk quickly through the broad outlines of the visit.
Vice President Xi arrives on Monday, the 13th. And the first full day of the visit is Tuesday, the 14th. In the morning, we’ll welcome Vice President Xi to the White House for official meetings. It will start with a meeting hosted by the Vice President and a number of senior Cabinet members and other senior officials. That will be followed by a smaller meeting with the Vice President and Vice President Xi with some senior advisors. That’s about two hours of conversation and exchange. And then the Vice President will walk Vice President Xi over to the Oval Office for his meeting with President Obama.
After the White House meetings, the Vice President and Secretary Clinton will host lunch for Vice President Xi and the Chinese delegation at the State Department. And both Secretary Clinton and Vice President Biden as well as Vice President Xi will make brief remarks at the top of that lunch. We’ll put out the guest list next week, but it includes a broad cross-section of prominent Americans from government, business, NGOs, academia, and the arts.
After lunch, Vice President Xi will visit the Pentagon, where he will be hosted by Secretary Panetta and Chairman Dempsey. As I think many of you know, Xi is the vice chair currently of China’s Central Military Commission in addition to his role as a political leader. And we think this is a very important opportunity to engage Vice President Xi with our military leaders and to discuss the importance of our military-to-military relationship.
After that meeting at the Pentagon, Vice President Biden will meet up with Vice President Xi again, and together they will take part in a roundtable discussion with American and Chinese business leaders at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. This is something we did in Beijing in August, and we thought it was a very good opportunity for an in-depth discussion of economic trade issues, including areas of real challenge and friction. It’s important for the Chinese leadership to hear directly from our business community both the promise but also the problems of doing business with China, and also for them to hear from us about the critical importance of the level playing field that Mike Froman alluded to. And we’ll put out the list of participants early next week as well.
Finally, the last event of Tuesday, the 14th, is a dinner hosted by Vice President Biden and Dr. Biden at their official residence, the Naval Observatory — will host the Chinese delegation and their American counterparts.
Then we get to Wednesday, the 15th. Vice President Xi is still in Washington for the first part of the day. He’s going up to the Hill. He’ll have meetings both on the Senate and House side. He’s hosted by the Senate leadership on the Senate side, and then I think Speaker Boehner is hosting him on the House side. He then delivers a speech and that’s probably around noon at his hotel with a large audience. And then he’s off to Iowa.
Why Iowa? Well, when Vice President Xi was a government official back in the 1980s, he visited the United States — this is 1985 — for the first time as part of a group focused on agricultural issues, and he went to Iowa, where he spent a few days. And it’s our understanding that he’s very much looking forward to a return visit.
Secretary Vilsack will travel to Iowa for this part of the visit, as well as our ambassador to China, Ambassador Locke. They’ll be part of the U.S. delegation accompanying Vice President Xi.
He’s going to stop first in Muscatine to see some of the people he met with back on that trip in 1985. He’s also going to be hosted for dinner by Governor Branstad, and he actually met the governor also back on that first trip in 1985 — and that’s going to take place in Des Moines.
On the 16th — we’re now on Thursday — Vice President Xi is still in Iowa. Secretary Vilsack is going to host the American and Chinese officials, including Vice President Xi and private sector representatives for the U.S.-China Agriculture Symposium. That will be in Des Moines. This is part of our regular exchange on agricultural issues. And Iowa, of course, is a very fitting place to build on those discussions. We understand that Vice President Xi may also pay a brief visit to a farm before departing Iowa for Los Angeles.
In Los Angeles, on Friday, the 17th, Vice President Biden will meet up with Vice President Xi. When we were in China in August, we were in Beijing, but then we went out to Chengdu in China’s southwest, and Vice President Xi was gracious enough to meet us there and spend a considerable amount of time with us, so we’re reciprocating for that by meeting him out in Los Angeles.
We’ll have more details to share on this part of the trip early next week. Let me just give you very quickly a couple of highlights. Among other things, they will visit together a school and meet with students who are studying Chinese. The school visit will highlight what we think is a very important element of U.S.-China relations, that is people-to-people ties, especially through education. It’s part of our overall effort through what we call the 100,000 Strong Initiative to increase the number and diversify the composition of American students studying in China.
They’ll take part in a lunch hosted by the mayor of Los Angeles, Villaraigosa, also with Governor Brown of California, and leaders of the business community, many of whom are engaged in trade with China. And we expect Vice President Biden and Vice President Xi, for that matter, will have an opportunity to speak to economic and trade issues at that event.
And there will also be a small private dinner hosted by Vice President Biden that will allow them to continue their conversation in an informal setting. As I said, there may be a few more things. We’ll fill in the details early next week.
And with that, let me stop and let you start with any questions. Thank you.
MR. RHODES: We’re happy to take your questions now.
Q Thank you. I have two questions, actually. One is, should we look at this visit as one that’s likely to produce so-called deliverables of any significant sort? If so, what types would they be? Or is this more important as a relationship-building visit? And secondly, could you talk a little bit about some of the protocols that are particular to a visit from a Chinese leader and how you go about making sure that this visit is successful for him?
MR. RHODES: Thanks, Laura. It’s Ben. I’ll say a few words and then my colleagues will want to join in.
I think we see this visit as — on your first question — we see this visit as a part of an ongoing series of consultations that we have with the Chinese on a host of issues. And we very regularly raise with them in a candid way both issues where we cooperate effectively and, as you heard Mike say, we’ve made good progress in growing U.S. exports to China, delivering results that directly benefit American businesses and workers. But we’ve also raised very directly instances where we believe that China is not living up to the rules of the road that all nations need to with regard to business practices. And to that extent, most recently you heard the President speak in the State of the Union about a new trade enforcement unit that’s going to investigate unfair trade practices and stand up for U.S. businesses and workers.
We’re consistently raising the issue of currency, which has appreciated steadily, though not necessarily at the rate that we’ve proposed.
So I think the visit will address the broad waterfront of issues that we pursue with the Chinese. However, it’s worth keeping in mind that Vice President Xi is not the decision-maker in China. He’s not the head of state at this point; he’s the future leader. So, again, it’s mostly an investment in relationship-building, even as it’s also an opportunity to continue to press the items on our agenda with the Chinese.
To your second question, I think there may be better experts than me on the line. What I’d say is that one of the things that we’re very cognizant of is reciprocating the hospitality that was shown to Vice President Biden on his visit to China, so I think this visit in many ways mirrors the types of meetings that Vice President Biden had when he was in China, and the types of outreach that Vice President Biden was able to do to the Chinese people while he was in China.
But I don’t know if any of my colleagues want to chime in on either question.
MR. BLINKEN: Let me just say — this is Tony. I think Ben covered it very, very well, but this is first and foremost an opportunity to build a relationship with someone who is likely to succeed President Hu and, as we said earlier, is really an investment in the future of the U.S.-China relationship.
That was in many ways the catalyst for President Obama and President Hu recommending that this exchange of visits between the Vice Presidents take place — a very good way for Vice President Xi to learn more about the United States and our perspective on issues, and also an opportunity for us to get to know him. And as Ben also said in terms of the protocol aspects, that’s exactly right, Vice President Biden was received extremely graciously by the Chinese when we were there in August, and Vice President Xi went out of his way to spend true quality time with Vice President Biden, and we want to reciprocate that.
That said, of course, I think that we would say that we do our utmost on the protocol of these visits for any foreign leader visiting the United States and try to make sure that they are received in the appropriate manner.
MR. RUSSEL: This is Danny Russel. Let me just add to that if I can, that, as Tony said, we, of course, are culturally sensitive to all our leaders, and we’re attentive in this case, of course, to the protocol and to the dignity of a senior Chinese official. And while we are reciprocating the visit, this is America and we’re doing things American-style, and that means we’re striking a good balance between the formal and the informal, but also a good balance between the protocol and the substance.
So we are making available to Vice President Xi time to talk with, of course, the Vice President, as Tony described, with the President of the United States, with various Cabinet Secretaries — with the Secretary of State, with the Secretary of Defense at the Pentagon — with business leaders, with governors and so on. So I think we are — beyond protocol, we are doing Vice President Xi and China the courtesy of taking them seriously on substance.
Q Thanks for doing the call. I had a few, but I’ll be concise. Danny, can you talk about if you’re going to do any real asks from China through Xi on Iran, Syria or North Korea? Ben, how do you handle the optics of the domestic politics? Mike, any minor or quasi-trade announcements in Iowa and LA? And, Tony, what is Xi like from Biden’s meetings with him, his personality, his charisma?
MR. RHODES: Well, I’ll go first on the second question. I think the President spoke pretty clearly in his trip to the Asia Pacific about the fact that the U.S.-China relationship depends on broad support in the United States for the relationship, and that for many years under both parties, there’s been a belief that effective cooperation with China was necessary to advance U.S. economic growth, as well as to deal with global security issues.
However, there have also, of course, been differences. And what you heard the President say on his trip to the Asia Pacific is that China needs to recognize that it needs to continue to take steps to live up to the rules of the road that all nations abide by, particularly economically, in order to maintain support for the relationship in the United States — that you’ve had people raise concerns on both sides of the political spectrum and among both businesses and workers in the United States about, for instance, unfair trade practices on issues related to intellectual property, on issues related to state-owned enterprises and indigenous innovation and, of course, on currency.
And I think that’s the core point here is that there is a broad belief in the United States that China needs to live up to the rules of the road; that we don’t apply a different standard to China, we just apply one standard to all nations. And that’s why the President, in addition to effectively promoting U.S. businesses and workers and exporters — which have gone up — to China, has also made clear that he’ll pursue U.S. economic interests in a very direct way, whether it’s setting up a new trade enforcement unit, as he announced in the State of the Union, or whether it’s, again, continuing to engage directly with China on the issue of appreciating its currency.
So that’s I think the approach we take, which is that China hears directly from us at the highest levels what the agenda is that we want to advance between our two countries, what the interests are for U.S. workers and businesses, and we very much want to make progress on that agenda.
Related to that is the security ones. And Danny will want to weigh in on this, but I think we’ve had an ongoing dialogue with the Chinese on Iran, for instance. The Chinese joined us in U.N. Security Council Resolution 1929 that applied unprecedented multilateral sanctions on the Iranian regime. Since then we’ve built up from those sanctions to apply really unprecedented pressure on the Iranian government. We believe the Chinese share our view that Iran should not be permitted to develop a nuclear weapon, and that Iran needs to live up to its international obligations.
We’ve consistently addressed with the Chinese the importance of not backfilling the sanctions that are in place, and the Chinese have not done that. And that’s allowed us to maintain significant international pressure. Similarly, we’ve also pressed the Chinese on continuing to vigorously enforce sanctions. So that’s the type of dialogue we’ve had with China, and I think it’s enabled, frankly, the very robust, international pressure that’s on the Iranian government.
Whereas with Syria, we, of course, believe that the Chinese and the Russians made the wrong decision in vetoing the recent U.N. Security Council resolution, frankly, because Bashar Assad is brutalizing his own people, and it’s time for there to be peaceful transition in Syria in which he steps aside and allows the Syrian people to determine their own future.
We’ll continue to pursue that course of action. We’ll continue to work with all nations [that] will join us in that effort — European allies, Turkey, the Arab League, many other nations from different parts of the world who have joined us in calling for Assad to go. And we’ll continue to press that with the Chinese because, frankly, it’s not, we believe, the right bet to believe that Assad is going to brutalize his people into submission. We believe Assad’s days are numbered and that there needs to be a transition in Syria.
But I don’t know if any — there were a number of questions there, so anyone want to weigh in on any of those questions? Danny, you got the first one. Is there anything you want to add, Danny?
MR. RUSSEL: I would add that the visit of Vice President Xi gives us a chance to exchange views on the strategic issues and our respective strategic interests. And so, for a number of reasons, including, as we pointed out earlier, the fact that he is not the head of state but that he is intimately, closely involved in Chinese policy-making, I think it gives us a chance to get past the syndrome of doing talking points that diplomats frequently engage in, and work over the course of the visit to get a better understanding of each other; to identify the significant areas of convergence that both the U.S. and China have regarding most of these issues; and certainly, in the case of Iran and North Korea, to discuss the implications in terms of our concerns — our shared concerns about nonproliferation and about stability.
MR. BLINKEN: Margaret, you asked what is Xi like, and the answer is, you’ll have a tremendous opportunity to find out directly. Because when he’s here, he’ll be making a number of public appearances. He’ll be engaging with a very broad cross-section of Americans here, in Iowa and out in California. And so I’m sure that there will be a lot of feedback from those interactions.
I would only say that, as you know, we spent a lot of time with Vice President Xi in China in August. And he certainly comes across as someone who is extremely well prepared and thoughtful and very engaged. And as I said earlier, we had a real — the two Vice Presidents had a real conversation; it wasn’t — it got beyond the exchange of talking points and into a real exchange, and we expect more of the same.
I think the other interesting thing about — well, there are many interesting things about Vice President Xi, but one of the other interesting things is that he spent a good part of his career working at the local and provincial levels. He has, from that, obviously, a deep knowledge of many domestic issues and concerns in China, as well as international ones. So he seems extremely well rounded in the many issues he will have to deal with as President.
MR. FROMAN: Well — and I can’t believe you’re going to get four answers to four separate questions, so I’ll keep mine short, which is simply that this trip will give a good opportunity for Vice President Xi to meet with and get feedback from a broad range of American businesses in the cultural sector, industrial sector and the service sector, including about the issues of concern that they have about their relationship and leveling the playing field.
And it’s been said it’s an issue that President Obama and Vice President Biden have been pursuing with their counterparts for some time, and it’s an area where we’re taking action, including the setting up of this trade enforcement center, and encouraging Ex-Im to match Chinese export credit practices that create an unlevel playing field, to try and address those issues.
So it will be an opportunity for them to have that kind of interaction here and across those visits in Iowa and Los Angeles.
Q Thanks a lot for doing this call. Can you talk about what the transition to his leadership might represent in terms of any kind of opportunity or a chance to improve or reset this relationship? And the other part of this is, is there going to be any kind of explanation if he inquires about the pivot language of the U.S. military and, if not China, what that has to — what the implications of that are for Asia and the reasoning behind that?
MR. RUSSEL: I’ll start, Ben, unless you wanted to.
MR. RHODES: No, go ahead, Dan.
MR. RUSSEL: Just two points. One is, I think it’s premature to start speculating on the implications of a transition in China that is — has not actually begun yet, is only in its preliminary stages. And it is very much the case — although I’m not going to read out meetings that haven’t occurred yet — but it’s very much our expectation that the discussions will cover the Asia Pacific region, our respective interests and our respective strategies, because this is an issue that we regularly discuss. It’s something that President Obama took up with President Hu Jintao at APEC in their meetings in Honolulu in November, as well as with Premier Wen Jiabao during the meeting that they had on the margins of the East Asia Summit.
The U.S. and China have in fact numerous dialogues on various aspects of the Asia Pacific at the diplomatic level as well as in other parts of the government. And certainly the visit by Vice President Xi Jinping to the Pentagon, which is very significant, provides further opportunity to talk through U.S. strategy with respect to posture as well as to answer any questions that Xi may have.
Q Yes, thanks for doing this call. I just wanted to ask, on the issue of human rights, that’s something that’s obviously, as you know, been a thorn in relations before. In light of the developments in China since last year, and specifically the developments in the Tibetan areas now, how significant do you think that’s going to factor in the discussions? Obviously, you’ve said that you want to have a good atmosphere with Vice President Xi. Would that mean that perhaps this wouldn’t be emphasized as much as it would be a head of state, or will these issues still be raised quite clearly?
MR. RHODES: Danny or Tony, if you guys want to take that.
MR. RUSSEL: Well, let me start. We don’t sacrifice the important issues for the sake of having a comfortable visit, nor do we shy away from candid private conversations with the Chinese on human rights.
We routinely, regularly, invariably raise our concerns about the human rights situation in China, and about China’s adherence to global human rights norms. This is a central part of our agenda. And as we indicated earlier, part of our goal with respect to this visit is for Vice President Xi to understand the issues that are important to us, and that includes issues like the situation in Tibet, like freedom of speech and freedom of religion, and so on.
It is an area of grave concern for us to witness the increase of tensions in Tibet and — we are watching this, tracking this very closely with real concern. The U.S. has spoken out about it, and we use every opportunity to encourage the Chinese officials and leaders to exercise real restraint, and to safeguard the human rights and the fundamental freedoms of all of China’s citizens, including in Tibet. This is an important part of our agenda, and there’s no reason that the conversations with Vice President Xi would depart from our longstanding practices.
MR. BLINKEN: This is Tony. I would only add to what Danny said, that, indeed, in their first lengthy conversations in Beijing during the August trip, Vice President Biden engaged Vice President Xi in a very substantive and detailed discussion of human rights issues. And then, speaking at Sichuan University in Chengdu, he devoted nearly a third of his speech to human rights issues.
So it was both in private, in the meetings with the Vice President and other senior officials, and in public. And he made the case that we’ve made repeatedly, starting with President Obama and then every other senior official, that there is, of course, from our perspective, a universal moral imperative to this question. It’s not about American rights or Western rights; these are human rights and universal values.
But we’ve also made the case, including in conversations with the Chinese, that deepening China’s political reforms is profoundly in their own interest, especially given the close connection between openness, human rights and China’s own goal of creating a truly innovative society. It’s very hard to do that, it’s very hard to move from making things to actually creating things, absent the kind of openness and freedom to question, to criticize, to think, that are the foundations of our own system.
And so there’s a profound self-interest as well as a moral interest at play here. And I expect that those conversations will continue.
MR. RHODES: Okay, we’ll take a couple more questions, given that I think we got credit for all four of the ones earlier.
Q Hi, Dan and all. Thanks for doing this. I wanted to ask, apparently we understand that in Vice President Biden’s discussions with the human rights representatives the other day — at least we’re told by one of them that he gave a pledge to kind of give human rights a more essential — its essential public place in conversations. Is that the case? I understand there won’t be any specific cases raised here; he’s obviously not yet the President of China. So at what point will this kind of conversation take place do you think?
MR. BLINKEN: This is Tony, again. I think it would be hard to give it a more central place because, as Ben said, and as I alluded to a moment ago, it already has that very central place in our engagement. And I think I described a little of what took place when Vice President Biden was in China, both in his conversations with Vice President Xi and in his public remarks. So I don’t think there’s going to be any deviation from the norm, because it already is the norm. And I obviously can’t comment on private conversations between the Vice President and some of our guests.
MR. RHODES: The only thing I’d add — this is Ben — is, in addition to raising these issues, I think one of the most powerful message associated with universal rights I think is the way in which the United States reflects them. And this is obviously an important opportunity for Vice President Xi to get to know not just Washington, but to travel to Iowa and to the West Coast. And in each place I think he’ll see very vibrant communities; places that benefit from diversity, and places that demonstrate that America lives the values that we stand up for around the world, whether that’s, again, the universal values that all people have, all people deserve in terms of their rights, or whether it’s a unique situation such as the Tibetan people’s desire to have their cultural and linguistic and religious freedom.
We believe that these are something — these are things that we raise in discussions, and they’re also things that America demonstrates every day in communities around the country, like the ones that Vice President Xi will be visiting. So I think that’s another element of how we stand up for our values. It’s how we live by them as well.
Q Hi, thanks for doing the call. It’s been about 10 years since Hu Jintao came to the U.S. before he took the leadership, and apart from the obvious that the relationship has gotten more complex and more important globally, as you mentioned, I wonder if you could talk about what you see as major differences between then and now in terms of the context and the relations of the two countries, as well as how each of the countries stand.
And, Mike, if I could ask you a question about American businesses in China. Some people have said their unhappiness with the way things are going, particularly with — innovation, that their unhappiness is worse than two or three decades, and I wonder if you agree with that, and how you would address that? Thanks.
MR. FROMAN: I’m happy to take that one first and leave the other one to one of my colleagues.
I think historically the U.S. business community has been among the strongest proponents of a cooperative relationship between the U.S. and China, but I think your question is accurate that over the last few years there’s been increasing frustration by the business community about practices that China engages in that they view as being mercantilist and creating an unlevel playing field. And that includes subsidies for their own national champions, as well as policies designed to compel the transfer of technology and their violation of intellectual property rights.
So we certainly hear a much louder chorus of complaints from American companies about business with China, and that’s been one of the inputs into our dialogue with China about leveling the playing field, dealing with indigenous innovation, strengthening intellectual property rights protection and living by international rules and norms, as President Obama discussed with President Hu and Premier Wen last year in Asia.
So I think there is a recent development there, and I think it’s one reason by the American people — businesspeople, workers, farmers, ranchers — are so concerned that we ensure that this relationship works to our mutual benefit, and that we’re able to encourage China to abide by international rules and norms.
MR. RUSSEL: And, Mike, this is Danny Russel. If I could get at Don’s question, which is maybe a little more political science than I’m used to, about the differences with respect to the U.S.-China relationship over the last 10 years.
The first thing I would say is President Obama came to office convinced, as Ben said earlier, that the U.S. was insufficiently invested in Asia. And as a Pacific nation, it was very much in our interest to better harness ourselves to this areas of dynamic growth, tremendous importance to the future of the United States. And over the past three years, as we’ve laid out and as you’re familiar, we’ve invested heavily in achieving a better balance both with respect to our global strategic interest and within the Asia Pacific region as well.
On the China side, there have been very significant changes. China is very much a global actor, and as a result, the relationship between the United States and China is increasingly engaged in addressing global challenges. And that points directly to I think the central aspect of our efforts, which is to find ways to cooperate on issues of mutual concern, bilateral, regional and international, because our cooperation has a direct impact not only on the United States and on China, but on the rest of the world.
In addition to the fact that China’s economy itself has grown, and that U.S.-China trade has grown, and China, of course, has joined the World Trade Organization and so forth in the interim, China itself has engaged more actively in diplomatic, political, economic and trade relationships with its neighbors and with other parts of the world. So there is increased overlap in terms of areas of interest whether it is within the Asia Pacific region, or whether it’s in other continents, Africa, in the Middle East, in Latin America.
But by the same token, there’s also an increased impetus towards and value of cooperation, and that cooperation requires good communication, a breadth of interaction and high-level engagement. And as a direct result of that, President Obama has met with President Hu Jintao now more than 10 times, met with Premier Wen Jiabao more than four times. As Tony described, the Vice President has had very extensive engagement with Vice President Xi. And the upcoming meeting we think is an opportunity to continue to chart out and build a relationship that will benefit both countries and the world over the next 10 years.
MR. RHODES: Okay, well, thanks, everybody for joining the call. Like we said, we’ll keep you abreast of any scheduling updates, and we will look forward to a busy week of events as Vice President Xi gets here Monday.
Thank you, everybody.
END 5:16 P.M. EST