News Archives

Gross Violations of Human Rights Continue in Syria, Assad Regime Must Step Aside

Thank you, Madame President.

One month ago at the 17th Special Session of the Human Rights Council, the United States and other members of this body expressed our profound concern over the findings in the report of the Fact Finding Mission. We strongly condemned the serious, systematic and continuing human rights violations by the Syrian authorities, which unfortunately have intensified rather than abated since that time. The United States welcomes the prompt formation of the Commission of Inquiry mandated at the Special Session and strongly urges full cooperation by the Syrian government and all other member states.

The High Commissioner has noted that the Syrian government’s continued campaign of repression is now responsible for the deaths of over 2,600 of its own citizens. The body count rises on a daily basis. The Fact Finding Mission and international human rights observers, have found that the Syrian security and military forces are responsible for arbitrary executions and detentions, torture, and other abuse of detainees, including young children. The United States condems in the strongest possible terms the killing of Syrian human rights activist Ghiyath Mattar while in the custody of Syrian security forces. Ghiyath Mattar courageously confronted the regime’s despicable violence with peaceful protest, and he paid the ultimate price for his bravery.

Senior members of the Syrian regime who bear responsibility for safeguarding their people have betrayed that obligation. They must be accountable for the gross violations of human rights that continue. Again and again, Damascus has blamed armed insurgents for the harm causes to the thousands of citizens who have bled on the streets of Syria. Coming from a government that has denied access to independent observers, to international media, and to the experienced and objective investigators we have mandated here, these assertions have no credibility. It is time for the regime to stop trying to mask its atrocities with propaganda. The Assad regime must step aside and let Syria transition peacefully to a representative and inclusive democracy that supports and defends the universal rights of all Syrians.

President Assad’s public support for the campaign of brutal crackdowns shows that he is determined to hold on to power regardless of the price paid by his people. We call on the Syrian authorities to stop killing and torturing their people immediately, and to allow the Human Rights Council Commission of Inquiry, international humanitarian agencies, and international media unrestricted access to report on the true conditions inside Syria.

The United States strongly affirms our unwavering support for the Syrian people. A legitimate government does not fear dissent, does not sow seeds of sectarianism, and does not rely on violence and intimidation to force a false dialogue. The United States stands with the Syrian people as they strive to determine their own destiny in a peaceful transition to a representative and inclusive government, and urges those who would hinder it to step aside.

Thank you.


Spokesperson Nuland on the Detention of Sub-Saharan African Refugees and Migrants in Libya

The United States is deeply concerned about reports of arbitrary detention and abuse of sub-Saharan African migrants and refugees. We also understand that some Libyans are also being victimized based on the color of their skin. Nobody should be detained or harassed due to the color of their skin or their nationality, and measures must be taken to protect individuals from acts of violence.

We have welcomed the Transitional National Council’s (TNC) assurances of their commitment to safeguard the well-being of individuals throughout Libya and the TNC leadership’s cooperation with those international agencies engaged in identifying and assisting those at risk and/or detained, including the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, the International Committee of the Red Cross, and the International Organization for Migration. We look forward to prompt implementation of these measures.

The United States is working with its international partners to facilitate safe passage out of Libya for those foreign nationals, including sub-Saharan African migrants, who wish to depart for their own safety.


Return of Father Nguyen Van Ly to Prison

Father Thadeus Nguyen Van LyFather Thadeus Nguyen Van Ly. Photo courtesy FreedomNow.org.

Father Thadeus Nguyen Van LyFather Thadeus Nguyen Van Ly. Photo courtesy FreedomNow.org.

We are concerned by the Government of Vietnam’s decision to return long-time human rights defender Father Nguyen Van Ly to prison on July 25. We urge the Government of Vietnam to release him immediately. We welcomed the government’s decision last year to grant Father Ly humanitarian parole following a series of strokes while in solitary confinement. Father Ly suffers from a brain tumor and should continue to be allowed to seek medical treatment.

No individual should be imprisoned for expressing the right to free speech. In September 2010, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention held that Father Ly was denied a fair trial and ruled his detention was arbitrary, in violation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights, and called for his immediate release.

Father Ly is a co-founder of Bloc 8406 and the Vietnam Progression Party. He has spent over 16 years in prison.


Assistant Secretary Posner on the Human Rights Situation in Bahrain

Click here for the PDF of the Arabic translation of Assistant Secretary Posner’s remarks on the human rights situation in Bahrain.

Thank you all for coming. I have welcomed the opportunity to visit Bahrain. I have had a very productive set of meetings with a wide range of Bahraini officials and citizens.

Bahrain is an important partner of the United States. We have a long-standing alliance based on shared political, economic and security interests. Both countries benefit from stability and prosperity here, and from a society where all people are able to express their views peacefully and contribute to the political process. It is in this context that President Obama met with the Crown Prince last week in Washington, and welcomed his announcement of the government’s intention to begin a national dialogue on reform in Bahrain next month. The challenge now will be how to initiate a dialogue that involves representative leaders on all sides and to ensure that the dialogue addresses and begins to resolve divisive issues.

Assistant Secretary Michael Posner with Bahraini Minister of Justice His Excellency Shaikh Khalid bin Ali bin Abdullah Al Khalifa

Assistant Secretary Michael Posner with Bahraini Minister of Justice His Excellency Shaikh Khalid bin Ali bin Abdullah Al Khalifa. Photo courtesy Bahrain News Agency (http://www.bna.bh/portal/main)

I have come here as a friend of Bahrain and the Bahraini people and raised these concerns in the spirit of that friendship. We are mindful of the pressing need here for everyone in this society to begin an engagement that will start to rebuild tolerance, mutual respect and a process for navigating divisions. We understand the difficulty of this task, and we also know that no outsider can make it happen. It is for the Bahraini people to forge their own future. Yet it is important for us that Bahrain, our strategic and political partner, succeeds in this endeavor, and that we provide the Bahraini people and government whatever help we can to assist them in building a peaceful and prosperous future.

The United States and Bahrain — and every other sovereign government in this interconnected age — face constantly evolving security challenges. President Obama and Secretary Clinton have made clear time and again that respect for human rights and pursuit of national security interests are not in conflict; to the contrary, they are best advanced in tandem. This is the message I conveyed here this week — in all my meetings with government officials, NGOs and a wide range of private citizens.

In recent months we have seen a clear link in this region between national stability and security and the ability of governments to meet the legitimate aspirations of their people, including the desire of people everywhere for dignity, justice, economic opportunity, universal human rights and a voice in shaping their own future.

There are several positive developments that have occurred here in recent weeks. We welcome the release of some detainees who were not charged, the restoration of some scholarships, and the reinstatement of a number of employees who were wrongfully dismissed from their jobs. We also welcome the announcement by the government that it will investigate deaths of people in custody, including one case where five prison guards are under investigation. The Government of Bahrain also has promised to investigate allegations of mistreatment of detainees in custody.

On the other hand, we continue to receive reports about some students being expelled from universities and some workers being dismissed merely because they have exercised their political rights. We remain concerned about the continued detention of a number of Bahrainis who have neither been charged nor tried, about the treatment of those people in detention, and about reports that some have been subjected to physical abuse during interrogations. I urge Bahrain to abide by its commitments to transparent judicial proceedings conducted in full accordance with both local law and Bahrain’s international legal obligations. I also expressed my concerns for the government to take tangible steps to rebuild confidence and trust in the medical system.

Meaningful dialogue can only take place in a climate of respect for the freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly — principles articulated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and a number of treaties that Bahrain has ratified. In the coming weeks, all parties here will need to create an appropriate environment for national dialogue, and all parties must participate to forge a just future for this country.

Leadership is also required by the local media and social media. Throughout the world, we have seen how media freedom raises public awareness, identifies problems, opens discussion, and brings problems to light so that corrective action can be taken. We note with concern the arrest and in some cases continued detention of some journalists. In a number of countries around the world, the dissemination of messages of hatred have also had unfortunate consequences and have taken years for societies to heal themselves. Mindful of the peril of misinformation and misuse of media that can exacerbate divisions within society, I urge all responsible parties here to refrain from and denounce hateful speech, which can and often does lead to violence. I emphasize that in order to create positive conditions for national dialogue here, local media and social media must play a constructive role in reconciliation and cease from actions that are divisive or inciting.

I benefitted from my visit here and I look forward to sharing what I have learned with colleagues in Washington and continuing my involvement here in addressing these important issues. I welcome your questions.


Notice from the President on the Continuation of the National Emergency with Respect to Belarus


- – - – - – - – - -


On June 16, 2006, by Executive Order 13405, the President declared a national emergency and ordered related measures blocking the property of certain persons undermining democratic processes or institutions in Belarus, pursuant to the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (50 U.S.C. 1701-1706). The President took this action to deal with the unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States constituted by the actions and policies of certain members of the Government of Belarus and other persons to undermine Belarus democratic processes or institutions; to commit human rights abuses related to political repression, including detentions and disappearances; and to engage in public corruption, including by diverting or misusing Belarusian public assets or by misusing public authority.

The flawed December 2010 Presidential election in Belarus and its aftermath — the harsh violence against peaceful demonstrators; the continuing detention, prosecution, and imprisonment of opposition Presidential candidates and others; and the continuing repression of independent media and civil society activists — all show that the Government of Belarus has taken steps backward in the development of democratic governance and respect for human rights.

The actions and policies of the Government of Belarus and other persons continue to pose an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States. Accordingly, the national emergency declared on June 16, 2006, and the measures adopted on that date to deal with that emergency, must continue in effect beyond June 16, 2011. Therefore, in accordance with section 202(d) of the National Emergencies Act (50 U.S.C. 1622(d)), I am continuing for 1 year the national emergency declared in Executive Order 13405.

This notice shall be published in the Federal Register and transmitted to the Congress.



June 14, 2011.


Message from the President on the Continuation of the National Emergency with Respect to Belarus

Section 202(d) of the National Emergencies Act (50 U.S.C. 1622(d)) provides for the automatic termination of a national emergency unless, prior to the anniversary date of its declaration, the President publishes in the Federal Register and transmits to the Congress a notice stating that the emergency is to continue in effect beyond the anniversary date.  In accordance with this provision, I have sent to the Federal Register for publication the enclosed notice stating that the national emergency and related measures blocking the property of certain persons undermining democratic processes or institutions in Belarus are to continue in effect beyond June 16, 2011.

     The flawed December 2010 Presidential election in Belarus and its aftermath — the harsh violence against peaceful demonstrators; the continuing detention, prosecution, and imprisonment of opposition Presidential candidates and others; and the continuing repression of independent media and civil society activists — all show that the Government of Belarus has taken steps backward in the development of democratic governance and respect for human rights.  The actions and policies of the Government of Belarus and other persons to undermine Belarus democratic processes or institutions, to commit human rights abuses related to political repression, and to engage in public corruption pose a continuing unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States.  For this reason, I have determined that it is necessary to continue the national emergency declared to deal with this threat and the related measures blocking the property of certain persons.

                                                                                      BARACK OBAMA
            June 14, 2011.



We reject the Syrian government’s justification of its tactics as necessary to maintain “stability.” The Asad regime remains the source of instability as it foments violence by meeting peaceful protests with deadly force and mass arrests. Despite the Syrian government’s violent repression and blatant disregard for the human rights of its citizens, the Syrian people continue to call for their legitimate demands to be met. The Syrian people have made clear that the status quo is unacceptable and that the Syrian government must meet their legitimate aspirations and end the killing, torture, and arbitrary detentions of protestors and activists. 

Executive Orders and Sanctions

Syria has been designated a State Sponsor of Terror since December 1979. An additional layer of sanctions were added in December of 2003 with the passage of the Syria Accountability Act, implemented by Executive Order 13338 on May 11, 2004. Additional sanctions have recently been added to target the human rights abuses being committed by the Syrian Government against peaceful demonstrators and their own citizens.

President Obama signed a new Executive Order targeting the Syrian government’s continuing escalation of violence against the people of Syria on May 18. President Asad was designated pursuant to this authority, among other Syrian regime officials.  

President Obama also signed an Executive Order imposing sanctions on individuals and entities committing human rights violations in Syria on April 29, including President Asad’s brother and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps-Qods Force (IRGC-QF).  

We have closely coordinated with our allies in the European Union, who imposed an arms embargo and their own targeted sanctions on May 9.  

We are actively considering a range of additional bilateral options for increasing pressure on the Syrian regime as the situation may require.  

The United States will use the Executive Order to designate additional senior regime officials for targeted sanctions and will be imposing travel bans on all those who commit or contribute to human rights violations. We will hold to account those responsible for human rights abuses; no one is immune.

Actions at the United Nations

The United States led the call for a Special Session on Syria at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva on April 29, which passed a strong resolution condemning the Syrian government and calling for an investigation by the office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. As of May 18, Syria has not allowed access to the High Commissioner’s investigative team.  

We actively lobbied at the United Nations to prevent Syria from being elected to the UN Human Rights Council later this month. Our lobbying efforts against the wholly inappropriate Syrian candidacy successfully resulted in Syria withdrawing its candidacy on May 11. Kuwait will stand for the seat instead.  

The U.S. will call for further action in the Human Rights Council condemning the on-going violence, torture and arrests of prisoners of conscience, calling for accountability and lifts of the restrictions on the press.

Civil Society

“Civil Society,” as we know it in many countries in the region, is almost non-existent in Syria. The Syrian government has traditionally viewed intellectuals, political activists, NGOs and civic groups with suspicion – and through arrests and other forms of intimidation has deterred much of Syrian society from participating in “Civil Society.” Those who have chosen to participate in defiance of the security services have often paid a terrible price.

We support the universal human rights of citizens across the region, and have noted quite regularly our concerns when governments, including the Syrian government, fail to respect those rights. We stand up for the work of human rights defenders in all countries around the world.  

The President and the Secretary have both emphasized promoting partnerships with the Muslim World. Providing Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI) support directly to the people of the Middle East and North Africa is one way the United States can help provide tools to citizens who aspire to deliver positive change in their countries.  

Through MEPI, we support efforts to expand political participation, strengthen civil society and the rule of law, empower women and youth, create educational opportunities, and foster economic reform throughout the region.  

At her first strategic dialogue with civil society, Secretary Clinton emphasized that “the United States supports democratic change,” and that change is more likely to be peaceful and permanent when it involves both the government and a broad cross-section of the population. Civil society holds governments accountable, keeps them honest, and helps them be more effective. But it plays an even more fundamental role than that as it helps to strengthen the basic bonds of trust that are essential to democracy.


Statement by the Press Secretary on Violence in Syria

We strongly condemn and deplore the Syrian government’s use of violence and mass arrests in response to ongoing demonstrations.   We again salute the courage of Syrian protestors for insisting on their right to express themselves and we regret the loss of life on all sides.  Over the past two weeks, it has been made abundantly clear that the Syrian government’s security crackdown will not restore stability and will not stop the demands for change in Syria.  It is also clear that false reform announcements, such as ending the emergency law but then expanding the scope of arrests without even the pretense of judicial warrants, also do not satisfy the demand for change in Syria. The Syrian government continues to follow the lead of its Iranian ally in resorting to brute force and flagrant violations of human rights in suppressing peaceful protests.  
The United States and the international community will adjust their relations with Syria according to the concrete actions undertaken by the Syrian government.  On April 29, the President signed an Executive Order imposing sanctions against senior Syrian officials and other Syrian and Iranian government entities responsible for human rights abuses, including the use of violence against civilians and the commission of other abuses.  These sanctions are in addition to those the United States maintains pursuant to the International Emergency Economic Powers Act and Executive Orders 13338, 13399 and 13460, as a part of the national emergency with respect to Syria.
The United States believes that Syria’s deplorable actions toward its people warrant a strong international response. Absent significant change in the Syrian government’s current approach, including an end to the government’s killing of protestors and to the arrest and harassment campaigns of protestors and activists, coupled with a genuine political reform process responsive to the demands of the Syrian people, the United States and its international partners will take additional steps to make clear our strong opposition to the Syrian government’s treatment of its people.  In this context, the United States welcomes today’s decision by the European Union to impose sanctions on Syrian regime officials responsible for human rights abuses in Syria.


Vice President Biden’s Remarks to the Opening Session of the U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue

Vice President Joe Biden delivers remarks at the Opening Session of the U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue
Click the picture for WhiteHouse.gov video.

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  Good morning.  Thank you.  Thank you, all.  It’s an honor to welcome back to Washington for the third meeting of the Strategic and Economic Dialogue between the United States and China, two good friends.
     Let me acknowledge the co-chairs at the outset here.  Vice Premier Wang and State Counselor Dai, welcome back.  I got an opportunity to spend some time with you — not as much as my colleagues have — but your trip with President Hu was a great visit, and we got a chance to spend some time together.
     The United States co-chairs are our A-Team, our superstars:  Secretary Clinton and Secretary Geithner, two of the best America has to offer, so we expect great things to happen.  We expect great things to happen with the four of you.
     Ladies and gentlemen, we each have a number of important tasks in the days ahead and all designed to continue to guide our relationship to an even better place than it’s already moved.
     I also would like to recognize, by the way, Secretary Gary Locke, the President’s choice to be our next ambassador to China.  Gary has served with distinction in the Cabinet, as well as before that serving as the governor of the state of Washington.  And I know that once the Senate confirms Gary, and I expect that to be quickly, he’ll do an outstanding job in Beijing.  (Applause.)  There he is.
     And I’m not going to mention the Trade Representative sitting next to you because I told him if he was able to deliver a deal on — with Korea, I would nominate him for the Nobel Peace Prize.  (Laughter.)  He did and I have to.  (Laughter.)
Any rate, I’ve made my — I hate to acknowledge this, gentlemen, but I made my first trip to China as a young man, meeting with Deng Xiaoping in 1979, in April of ’79.  I was privileged to be with what I guess I’m now part of, a group of very senior senators at that time.  I think we were the first delegation to meet after normalization — with senators like Jacob Javits of New York, and Frank Church, and a number of other very prominent members.
     And on that trip when we met with then Vice Premier Deng and witnessed the changes that were being initiated, beginning to spark China’s remarkable — absolutely remarkable transformation, even back then it was clear that there was — that great things were happening.  And there was also a debate — there was a debate here in the United States and quite frankly throughout most of the West as whether a rising China was in the interest of the United States and the wider world.  As a young member of a Foreign Relations Committee, I wrote and I said and I believed then what I believe now:  That a rising China is a positive, positive development, not only for China but for America and the world writ large.
     When President Obama and I took office in January of 2009 we understood — we understood absolutely clearly that our relationship with China would be a key priority.  The President and I were determined — determined to set the relationship on a stable course that could be sustained for decades.  Our two countries, now the world’s two largest economies, were bound by ever-growing ties of commerce and investment.  We, the United States, we always talk about what we import; we, the United States, exported $110 billion in American goods and services to China last year.
     But we’re bound my much more than commerce.  Over the last three decades, our people have become increasingly linked through education, through work and through travel.  Last year, 130,000 Chinese were studying in the United States.  They’re really good.  We’re going to try to keep some of them.  I’m only joking.  I’m only joking.  (Laughter.)  But they are.  (Laughter.)
     We cannot claim the same number of Americans in China, but our 100,000 Strong Initiative will dramatically increase the number of young Americans living and studying in China.  As a matter of fact, my niece who — excuse me, as we say in the Senate, a point a personal privilege — who graduated from Harvard not too long ago, works for Secretary Geithner, she did exactly what we hope another 100,000 will do:  She studied Chinese and went and lived in China and is now devoted to making sure the relationship gets better and better and better.
     And we’re linked by our shared global responsibilities.  We both serve as permanent members of the United Nations Security Council.  We’re both Pacific powers.  And for many of the world’s pressing challenges, it’s a simple fact, that when the United States and China are not at the table, the solution to the problem is less possible than when we are at the table.  It’s no exaggeration to say that our relationship and how we manage it will help shape the 21st century.
     Our commitment starts at the top.  Our Presidents have met face-to-face nine times in two and a half years.  Nine times.  President Hu, as I mentioned, was just here in January for what all would acknowledge was a very successful state visit.  I’ll go back to China this summer at the invitation of Vice President Xi, and I’m looking forward to hosting the Vice President for a reciprocal visit later this year.   
     Even these frequent visits and summits, though, as you all know, are not enough on their own to sustain and build a relationship across our entire government, across all agencies.  That’s why we’re here.  It’s not merely, merely our mil-to-mil or economic issues.  We want to build a relationship across the entire spectrum of our governments.  That’s why we’ve asked all of you to come together for these dialogues.
     When President Obama launched the first strategic and economic dialogue in 2009, he issued a challenge to all of us to work together to address some of the defining problems of our time.  Some would say that’s somewhat presumptuous for China and the United States to decide we’re going to work on the defining problems, but as I said earlier, how we cooperate will define in significant part how we deal with the challenges that the world face in the beginning of the 21st century.
     This is at the heart of our effort to build a cooperative partnership.  We seek to cooperate to advance our mutual interests in not only promoting economic growth that is strong, sustainable and balanced, but trade that is free and is fair.  We seek cooperation to advance our mutual interests in the prosperous future that will come from an energy supply that’s clean and secure and addresses climate change.
     And we seek to cooperate to advance our mutual interests in a range of pressing global and regional security challenges.  This includes continuing our work to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and specifically to curb proliferation of those weapons and technology from both Iran and North Korea.
     Where do we stand two years after the President issued his challenge that we cooperate more?  Through this dialogue and the dedicated efforts of our governments and our people, I believe history will show we’ve made progress.
     But there’s much more to do, and that’s why we’re here.  Along with our partners in the G20, we’ve worked to sustain global economic recovery.  We’ve recognized that the United States-China relations generate global economic benefit, not just to both our countries, but global benefit.
     Last year our trade with China supported over 500,000 jobs here in the United States, and we made tangible progress during President Hu’s visit, especially in the areas of innovation, intellectual property, and exports, all of which we’re following up on.
     Over the next two days, we need to build on this momentum and to make sure our commitments are aggressively implemented so we can continue to move.
You may have noticed that there is a debate in this nation how best to secure America’s long-term fiscal future.  We know that overcoming our economic challenges begin at home.  We in the United States have to restore financial stability and we need to make the investments necessary, as well, to win the future.  We need to maintain our commitment to what we believe, the President believes, is the pillars of our economic future:  education, innovation, and infrastructure.
I know that you’re adjusting to your economy in the world situation as well.  I know that in China you’re working to rebalance your economy and make growth more sustainable, with greater reliance on domestic demand.  None of this is easy.  But success in re-orienting growth will be not only good for China, in our humble opinion, but it will be good for the United States and for the rest of the world.
The United States and China are the world’s largest producers and consumers of energy and we share the common challenges that flow from that.  And this creates not only a problem, but great opportunity — great opportunity for common efforts to find clean energy solutions.  Secretary Chu likes to say — and I love this expression — “Science is not a zero-sum game.”  Science is not a zero-sum game.  That amply is illustrated by the remarkable cooperation we’ve begun to forge in this area.  Let me just mention one example.
Our joint Clean Energy Research Center is funding new approaches to energy efficiency, clean coal — which we both need to deal with — and clean vehicles.  We need to build on and expand our efforts in this area, and I know you’ll be doing — having much discussion these next two days on that area, and it seems to me an area where there’s potential for great progress.
On global security challenges, we’ve also made progress.  President Hu joined us at the Nuclear Security Summit — in January, we signed the memorandum of understanding to build a center for excellence to promote nuclear security in China.  We have cooperated in stemming nuclear proliferation from both Iran and North Korea, including preventing sensitive technologies from being exported to both those countries.
The strategic dialogue is important to both our countries.  Just look at the agenda that you have for the next two days.  It’s a fulsome agenda.  To list just a few of the topics on the agenda for the next two days — and it illustrates the sheer breadth of our relationship:  Climate change; clean energy; mil-to-mil operations — our military relationships; regional issues such as Sudan and Afghanistan.
Our goal — our goal, in part, is to enhance the communication and understanding that we believe, and I believe you believe, will build trust and confidence.  We have to be honest with each other.  We are not going to agree on everything; we will clearly find areas where there will still be disagreement.  But as we work to advance our respective national interest, we have to move on what we seek in common, find the common ground, and I would argue much of our mutual national interest will find common ground.  But only by discussing a diverse range of topics, including sensitive ones, can we help mitigate the risk of misperception and miscalculation.
My father used to say the only disagreement worse than one that is intended is one that is unintended.  That’s why it’s so critically important we talk to one another honestly.  We should be realistic; we won’t always be able to work together.  In some areas we have vigorous disagreement.  In some we’ll have vigorous competition.  In still others we’ll have vigorous collaboration.
     But I believe on balance we have much more to agree on than to disagree on, and so does the President believe that.  A healthy competition, in our view, is good for both of us.  Competition is not bad.  Competition that’s healthy is good.
     This is the reason why I’ve held the view for so many years and continue to hold the view that a rising China is a positive development.  As you might expect, it’s my — I have overwhelming confidence in the capabilities of the American people.  And those capabilities are enhanced when there’s genuine competition from equally capable people.  I welcome this healthy and fair competition because I believe we’ll see it will spur us both to innovate and both will benefit from it.
As I’ve said earlier, it’s important to be straightforward with one another.  There is one area where we have vigorous disagreement.  And I know and I understand that disagreement, when we voice it, is upsetting or rankles — I don’t know how that translates into Chinese — but how it concerns some of our friends in China.  We have vigorous disagreement in the area of human rights.
We’ve noted our concerns about the recent crackdown in China, including attacks, arrests and the disappearance of journalists, lawyers, bloggers and artists.  And again, no relationship that’s real can be built on a false foundation.  Where we disagree, it’s important to state it.  We’ll continue to express our views in these issues, as we did in the Human Rights Dialogue in Beijing two weeks ago.
Now, look, as I said, I recognize that some in China see our advocacy as — human rights as an intrusion and Lord only knows what else.  But President Obama and I believe strongly, as does the Secretary, that protecting fundamental rights and freedoms such as those enshrined in China’s international commitments, as well as in China’s own constitution, is the best way to promote long-term stability and prosperity of any society.
The transformation of China’s economy and society since my first trip as a young man in 1979 has truly been breathtaking.  I doubt whether it’s occurred at any other period in world history — it’s been so significant and so rapid.  The immense talent of the Chinese people, the incredible hard work and perseverance of the Chinese people and their leaders have literally lifted tens of millions of people out of poverty and built an economy that now helps fuel the world’s prosperity.  It’s remarkable.
During this same period, the relationship between the United States and China has also seen a remarkable transformation — again, through the talent, hard work and respected political leaders who have governed our countries over the last three decades.
The bonds between our country — our countries come about through — have come about through intense engagement from the moment of normalization — events like this one.  We’ve already done much to make our relationship positive, cooperative, and comprehensive.  And I’m absolutely confident that we can do more for ourselves and for generations of Americans and Chinese as well.
And as I said, presumptuous of me to say this, if that occurs and continues to occur, it will benefit the whole world.  So now it’s time to get to work.
Again, welcome, gentlemen; welcome to your delegations.  And I thank you all for the honor of being able to address you.  Thank you very much.  (Applause.)


Remarks Delivered at the Opening Session of the U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue

Secretary Clinton delivers remarks at the Opening Session of the U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue (S&ED), in the Department of the Interior's Sidney R. Yates Auditorium.

Sidney R. Yates Auditorium

Department of the Interior

Washington, D.C.


SECRETARY CLINTON:  Good morning.  We are delighted to welcome you here to the Department of the Interior, a department that deals with the beautiful landscape and nature of our country along with the national parks that have been established.  It’s a very historic building, which is appropriate for the third round of the Strategic and Economic Dialogue.  And it is such an honor to host Vice Premier Wang, State Councilor Dai, and the entire Chinese delegation on behalf of Secretary Geithner and myself.  I am very pleased that we are joined by so many officials and experts from throughout both the United States Government and the Government of China, and we are delighted that we will shortly be joined by Vice President Biden, and I know President Obama is looking forward to meeting with the leadership of our two governmental teams later today. 

The Strategic and Economic Dialogue is the premier forum in a bilateral relationship that is as important and complex as any in the world.  Since we first gathered in Washington back in 2009, the depth and breadth of our discussions and the participation across our two governments have grown significantly. 

Through these meetings and the conversations that take place within them, both the informal conversations like the ones we had last night over dinner at the Blair House and the formal meetings, we seek to build a stronger foundation of mutual trust and respect.  This is an opportunity for each of us to form habits of cooperation that will help us work together more effectively to meet our shared regional and global challenges and also to weather disagreements when they arise.  It is a chance to expand the areas where we cooperate and to narrow the areas where we diverge, while both of us holding firm to our values and interests.

Now more than ever, with two years of Dialogues behind us, success depends on our ability to translate good words into concrete actions on the issues that matter most to our people.  So as we begin this third round, we will keep that goal in clear focus.

Our work really begins with our commitment to better understanding one another, to building trust between each other, and to working to avoid misunderstanding and miscalculation.  We all know that fears and misperceptions linger on both sides of the Pacific.  I will be very open about that.  Some in our country see China’s progress as a threat to the United States.  Some in China worry that America seeks to constrain China’s growth.  We reject both those views.  We both have much more to gain from cooperation than from conflict.  The fact is that a thriving America is good for China and a thriving China is good for America.  But to work together, we need to be able to understand each other’s intentions and interests.  And we must demystify long-term plans and aspirations. 

That is why, for example, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and I have spoken often about the importance of developing more sustained and substantive military-to-military engagement that increases transparency and familiarity.  So I am very pleased that for the first time, senior military officials from both sides will participate in this Dialogue.  They will join civilian counterparts to discuss how we can reduce the dangerous risks of misunderstanding and miscalculation.  In particular, I would like to thank Deputy Chief of the PLA General Ma for being with us for these important discussions. 

We are also working to build greater understanding and trust between our citizens and to foster stronger ties between our students, our businesses, and our communities, expanding on the consultations that were held here in Washington last month.  That includes the 100,000 Strong program.  This is a program to boost educational exchanges and to create new links between entrepreneurs and investors.  I’m looking forward to lunching with business leaders from both of our countries.  We’re also emphasizing programs to connect women leaders and a new initiative to bring together state and provincial officials.  And of course, we want to continue our strong people-to-people diplomacy.  Building mutual trust and respect will help us to solve shared problems.  We both have a great stake in curbing climate change and charting a clean and secure energy future.  We both care about promoting responsible and sustainable development around the world, and we both are committed to stopping the dangerous spread of nuclear weapons.

China and the United States face a wide range of common regional and global challenges.  How our two countries work together to meet those challenges will help define the trajectory, not only of our relationship going forward, but the future peace, prosperity, and progress of the world.  Whether it’s the global financial crisis, or the upheaval in the Middle East, recent history has underscored the link between our economies and global security and stability.  And that intersection is at the heart of our dialogue.  So we will be discussing the need to work together to rebalance the global economy and assure strong, sustained future growth. 

There are some very important international security issues we will be discussing.  As permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, the United States and China came together to enact tough sanctions on Iran, and now we are working to implement them.  Our two countries share a vital interest in maintaining peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula, and that includes the complete denuclearization of the peninsula.  So we continue to urge North Korea to take concrete actions to improve relations with South Korea and to refrain from further provocations, and we want to see North Korea take irreversible steps to fulfill its international obligations toward denuclearization.

Now, like any two great nations – in fact, I would argue like any two people – we have our differences.  And like friends, we discuss those differences honestly and forthrightly.  We will be continuing the discussion of the recent U.S.-China Human Rights Dialogue just held in Beijing.  We have made very clear, publicly and privately, our concern about human rights.  We worry about the impact on our domestic politics and on the politics and the stability in China and the region.  We see reports of people, including public interest lawyers, writers, artists, and others, who are detained or disappeared.  And we know over the long arch of history that societies that work toward respecting human rights are going to be more prosperous, stable, and successful.  That has certainly been proven time and time again, but most particularly in the last months.
So this dialogue offers us a forum to have these candid discussions while continuing to focus on where we are going to cooperate effectively.  As my friend State Councilor Dai knows, I am fond of finding Chinese sayings and proverbs, and I used one that has, for me, been the real inspiration for our participation back in 2009, that China and the United States are like people in the same boat, and we have to row in the same direction to get anywhere.  Well, there’s also wise Chinese expression that says, “When confronted by mountains, one finds a way through.  When blocked by a river, one finds a way to bridge to the other side.”  Well, we are here to keep building those bridges, and we are not doing this alone.  We are part of a web of institutions and relationships across the Asia Pacific and the world.

The United States is practicing what we call forward deployed diplomacy.  We’re expanding our presence in people, programs, and high-level engagement.  We’ve renewed our bonds with our allies.  We broaden our involvement with multilateral institutions.  And the first time ever this year, President Obama will participate in the East Asia Summit.  So we have a lot of work ahead of us, both bilaterally and regionally and globally, and we have a lot to cover in a short time. 

So again, I am delighted to welcome all of you here to express my confidence in this relationship and in the importance of this dialogue.  And it is now my great honor to invite Vice Premier Wang to address you. 

Vice Premier.  (Applause.)

VICE PREMIER WANG:  (Via interpreter)  Secretary Clinton, Secretary Geithner, dear colleagues, we are gathered here today for the third round of China-U.S. Strategic and Economic Dialogues.  On behalf of the Chinese delegation, I would like to express sincere thanks to the U.S. side for the (inaudible) arrangements.  President Hu Jintao attaches great importance to the S&EDs.  He asked me and State Councilor Dai Bingguo to convey his greetings to President Obama, Vice President Biden, Secretary Clinton, Secretary Geithner, and all those who work for the S&EDs on the U.S. side.

President Hu Jintao highly appreciates the important role of the S&EDs in deepening understanding; enhancing strategic, mutual trust; and strengthening communication and cooperation between our two countries at bilateral, regional, and global levels.  He hopes that both the Chinese and U.S. sides will make the most of this round of dialogues to have in-depth exchange of views on ways to further enhance strategic, mutual trust, and deepen practical cooperation.  He looks forward to the implementation of the agreement he reached with President Obama and the advancement of the U.S. – of the China-U.S. cooperative partnership based on mutual respect and mutual benefit.

Dear colleagues, last January, President Hu Jintao paid a state visit to the United States.  It was a historic visit which achieved great success.  With vision and foresight, the two presidents opened a new page in China-U.S. relations.  Over the past 32 years since the establishment of diplomatic ties between China and the United States, China-U.S. relations have kept moving forward despite twists and turns.  Our two countries differ in history, culture, development stage, resources, endowment, and national circumstances, but we are highly interdependent and mutually complementary economically. 

China and the United States are each other’s second largest trading partner.  The United States is China’s second largest export market.  And China is the fastest growing export market for the United States.  Together, China and the United States account for one third of the world’s GDP and one fifth of global trade.  China-U.S. relationship has far exceeded the bilateral scope and has acquired growing global significance.  We are witnessing profound and complex changes in the world economic landscape, changes that are driven by globalization.  At present, we still face many uncertainties while we are striving to tackle global economic recession and sustain economic recovery.  Against such a backdrop, economic and social development in China and the United States face both common challenges and opportunities of cooperation. 

Now, there are both complementarities and clashes in our respective policies geared to ensure economic recovery.  However, we have far more shared interests and cooperation than differences and competition.  Both sides must, therefore, make better use of the S&EDs as an overarching framework for the examination of long-term and strategic issues, and take forward steps to advance the sound development of China-U.S. economic relations. 

Dear colleagues, the past and the present have proven, and the future will prove, that nothing can hold back the trend of China-U.S. cooperation.  We have confidence in that.  Our confidence comes from the broad, common interests between our two countries, the shared aspirations of our two peoples, as well as from historical and philosophical reflections.  One action is better than 1,000 words.  Let us use that opportunity brought by the current round of the S&EDs to earnestly implement the important agreement reached between our two presidents, and deepen our cooperation in economic, trade, investment, financial infrastructure, and other fields in an all-around way.  By so doing, we will contribute to the strong, sustainable and balanced growth of not only our two economies, but also the world economy.  I wish the third round of the S&EDs great success. 

Thank you.  Now, I would like to invite Secretary Geithner to address you.  (Applause.)

SECRETARY GEITHNER:  I want to start by joining Secretary Clinton and my U.S. colleagues in welcoming the Chinese delegation.  Vice Premier Wang and Councilor Dai, it’s good to see you again in Washington. 

When the Strategic and Economic Dialogue first met in Washington two years ago, President Obama said the United States and China share mutual interests; if we advance those interests through cooperation, our people will benefit and the world will be better off because our ability to partner with each other is a prerequisite for progress on many of the most pressing global challenges.

Now we have worked carefully and deliberately since then to demonstrate that basic truth, and our economies are stronger today because of the commitment of President Obama and President Hu to deepen our economic relationship even as we each confront significant economic challenges at home.  I want to compliment Vice Premier Wang for his leadership in this joint effort.  He is a tough and forceful defender of China’s interests.  He focuses on the practical and the achievable.  And he recognizes that China’s economic success depends on a growing world economy and a strong relationship with the United States. 

When President Obama and President Hu launched the Strategic and Economic in London of April – in April of 2009, the world economy was in the grip of the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression.  Today, thanks in no small part to the actions of the United States and China, we have put out the worst of the financial fires and the world economy is growing again.  And because of the success of the cooperative strategy we launched together with the G-20, world trade is now expanding rapidly, companies around the world are investing in hiring, and fears of deflation have receded.

But of course, we still face very significant though very different economic challenges at home.  In the United States, even after a year and a half of positive economic growth and more than 2 million private sector jobs created, unemployment is still very high and we still have a lot of work to do here in repairing the damage caused by our crisis.  Our challenge in the United States is to strengthen the foundations for future economic growth, and this requires a sustained effort to improve education, to strengthen incentives for innovation and investment, even as we put in place the long-term fiscal reforms that will force us once again to live within our means as a nation.

In China, building on the remarkable reforms of the last 30 years, the challenge is to lay a foundation for a new growth model driven more by domestic demand with a flexible exchange rate that moves in response to market forces with a more open, market-based economy and a more developed and diversified financial system.

The reforms we must both pursue to meet these very different challenges are not in conflict, and the strengths of our economies are still largely complementary.  And we each recognize that our ability to work together is important to the overall health and stability of the global economy.

As President Obama said, no one nation can meet the challenges of the 21st century on its own nor effectively advance its interests in isolation.  There’s a Chinese saying that reflects this same vision.  In Chinese, it reads – (in Chinese).  In English, roughly, for share fortunes together, meet challenges together.  We are making progress and I am confident we will continue to do so.

Thank you.  Councilor Dai.  (Applause.)

STATE COUNCILOR DAI:  Thank you.  (Via interpreter)  Dear friends, just now I heard from my colleagues said all that I have to say, so I would be brief. 

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Secretary of the Treasury Timothy Geithner, Vice Premier Wang Qishan, ladies and gentlemen, dear friends, it is a great pleasure for me to join you at the third round of the China-U.S. Strategic and Economic Dialogues here in Washington.  We meet at a unique point in the history of China-U.S. relations, as this year marks the 40th anniversary of the Ping Pong Diplomacy and of Dr. Kissinger’s secret visit to China.  Forty years ago, the desire of the Chinese and American people for friendly interactions, together with the decisiveness and the courage of our political leaders, produced an unstoppable force of history.  It pushed open the door of engagement between our two countries that had remained shut for over 20 years.  Since then, no force in the world has ever had the power to close that door again.

Today, as we review the past and look ahead to a better future of China-U.S. relations, we cannot but pay high tribute to those icebreakers, pioneers, and the builders of China-U.S. relations.  More importantly, we shall learn from their foresight and the pioneering spirit because we have to bring China-U.S. relations forward.

The China-U.S. relationship, too, is at an extremely important point in history.  President Hu Jintao and President Obama met in Washington this past January, a time when we have just entered the second decade of the 21st century.  Together, the two presidents decided to build a cooperative partnership based on mutual respect and mutual benefit, charting a clear course for the future of China-U.S. relations.  History will show that the decision they made is a historic one that accords with the tide of history and serves the benefit of the people of China, the United States, and the world. 

Admittedly, it is no easy task to make this major decision a living reality and turn commitment into real actions, as we may face all sorts of difficulties, obstacles, and interference on the way ahead.  I’m confident, however, that so long as both sides grasp the right trend of the world and of China-U.S. relations in the 21st century, stick to the directions set by our presidents with resolution, and never waver in our determination to overcome whatever difficulty is coming our way, we will blaze a new path of major country relations featuring mutual to respect, harmonious coexistence, and a win-win cooperation so that our people and our future generations will live in the sunshine of lasting peace, friendship, and cooperation.

I’m standing here addressing you as a 70-year-old man.  I may not look that old.  Actually, I’ve turned 70, an age when I should have gone home and enjoyed the company of my children and my grandchildren.  Why then am I still flying across the Pacific and sitting in round after round of candid and heart-to-heart dialogues with my American partners?  I’m doing this to implement the consensus of our presidents for the achievement of one lofty goal – to make our two countries and the peoples forever good friends and good partners, and to enable our children and children’s children to live in peace and happiness.  Could we ever let them down?  The answer is no, a definite no.  If we do, we would be failing our duty and that would be unforgiveable. 

Dear friends, the people of China and the United States live in the same global village – you on the West side, we on the East.  I welcome more American friends to visit China, to see and feel for yourselves the friendship of the Chinese people and the importance of China-U.S. relations.  You may also learn firsthand the enormous progress China has made in various fronts, including in human rights, and get to know what is a real China.

To conclude, I wish this round of dialogues full success.  Thank you.  (Applause.)


Disclaimer: The Office of Policy Planning and Public Diplomacy, in the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, of the U.S. Department of State manages this site as a portal for international human rights related information from the United States Government. External links to other internet sites should not be construed as an endorsement of the views or privacy policies contained therein.