Friday will mark twenty-two years since the violent suppression of protests in and around Tiananmen Square on June 3-4, 1989. The United States joins others in the international community in urging China to release all those still serving sentences for participating in the peaceful protests. We ask the Chinese government to provide the fullest possible public accounting of those killed, detained or missing, and to cease the ongoing harassment of those who participated in the demonstrations and the families of the victims.
We encourage China to protect the universal human rights of all its citizens, including those who peacefully express political views. We also renew our call for the release of all those detained, forcibly disappeared, or placed under house arrest in recent months as China has taken actions that are inconsistent with universally recognized rights. As Secretary Clinton has said, “when China lives up to [its] obligations of respecting and protecting universal human rights, it will not only benefit more than one billion people, it will also benefit the long-term peace, stability, and prosperity of China.”
Vice President Biden’s Remarks to the Opening Session of the U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue
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.)
Sidney R. Yates Auditorium
Department of the Interior
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.)
Assistant Secretary Posner:
Good afternoon. I want to thank you all for coming here so late in the day. It’s good to be back in Beijing. This is my third visit here in the last year since the Strategic and Economic Dialogue last May.
There’s a lot of commentary these days about the relationship between the U.S. and China in the 21st Century. It’s a vitally important but also very complex relationship. There are a range of issues on which we now coordinate, interact on an ongoing basis.
I’m here this week to lead a U.S. delegation for the U.S.-China Human Rights Dialogue. We see this Dialogue very much within the broader context of the U.S.-China relationship.
As President Obama, Secretary Clinton and many others from our government have made clear, we welcome and want a strong partnership with a strong and stable and prosperous China.
We believe that societies that respect human rights and address the aspirations of their people are more prosperous, successful and stable.
We also recognize China’s extraordinary achievement in economic reform over the past three decades, and it’s lifting literally hundreds of millions of people out of poverty. At the same time we believe that political reforms in China have not matched these economic advances.
It’s important to be clear about what our Human Rights Dialogue is and what it isn’t. It is a chance for us to engage in depth and in detail on a number of issues and specific cases. It isn’t a negotiation. It is a forum in which we engage frankly and candidly.
In fact in recent months we’ve seen a serious back-sliding on human rights and a discussion of these negative trends dominated the Human Rights Dialogue these past two days. We have been and are very concerned over recent months by reports that dozens of people, including public interest lawyers, writers, artists like Ai Weiwei and others have been arrested, detained or in some cases disappeared with no regard to legal measures.
A particular concern is what seems to be a range of interferences with the work of lawyers who are often courageously working to defend others from charges or to help citizens register their concerns. Lawyers like Teng Biao who has been missing since February; Chen Guangcheng, a blind lawyer who with his wife Yuan Weijing is under house arrest since his release from prison last year.
Our discussions these last two days focused on these lawyers, but also bloggers, artists, NGO activists, journalists, representatives of minority religious communities and others who were asserting their rights and calling for reform.
Here and elsewhere we believe strongly that change occurs from within a society, so discussions about human rights are not about us, but about how Chinese citizens determine their own political future. Societies need to give their own people an opportunity to voice and pursue their aspirations.
I’m glad to take your questions.
Question: As you were saying, we’ve seen a wave of extra judicial detentions and disappearances recently. We’ve also seen that in spite of pleas from even Barack Obama himself, from President Obama himself, China has made no concessions on the case of Xue Feng. I was wondering first of all if you can tell us if that particular case came up. And secondly, what does it tell you about China’s leverage on these issues when China doesn’t seem to be willing to make any moves on any of these issues. Thank you.
Assistant Secretary Posner: First on the case, I did raise it with Ambassador Huntsman yesterday morning, and we will continue to raise that important case.
More broadly, I think our view is that we engage with the government of China on a range of levels in a range of different fora and we will continue to express our concerns privately, and as I’m doing here today, in public. We are mindful of the difficulty of this conversation. We had a tough set of discussions, raised a number of specific cases. We don’t see that as a beginning or an end of the process. This is obviously a difficult issue and one where our disagreements are profound. But I’ve worked in the human rights business for 30-some years and I know well that persistence is critical and I know how much those who are challenging governments by raising their voices, by bringing lawsuits, benefit from the engagement by governments like ours in pursuing their claims for justice.
Question: I have two short questions for you.
Number one, talking about the Libya and Syria situations, the human rights situations there. It’s very serious. Do you think the United States will take some humanitarian intervention to protect the human rights there?
Also talking about the Dialogue. Did you see any developments from China and the United States to promote women’s for human rights cooperation? Thanks.
Assistant Secretary Posner: I’m sorry, what was the second? Just say that again.
Question: The second question is, have you seen any developments for China to promote women’s human rights?
Assistant Secretary Posner: Thanks.
On the issue of Libya, we have, as you know and as Secretary Clinton and the President articulated, pursued two tracks of a policy. One was the decision by the Security Council in Resolution 1973 to impose a no-fly zone at a moment when Benghazi was under siege as a humanitarian measure and to protect lives. We know that’s not a solution, but it’s a piece of it.
The other piece which we continue to engage in quite actively with the Arab League, with our European allies and others, is to encourage a diplomatic, political resolution. We have said time and again and will continue to say that it’s well past time for Colonel Gadhafi to go. It’s a desperate situation now. We’re obviously very concerned about the humanitarian issues you raised, and we’re doing all that we can both as part of that multinational coalition, but also working with private organizations to try to mitigate the humanitarian damage that’s now occurring.
On the issue of treatment of women, we are very engaged in that issue in a range of ways. It’s an issue that Secretary Clinton has worked on as an activist, as the First Lady, as a Senator, and now as Secretary of State. She raises the issue and has raised the profile of those issues in a wonderful way with Melanne Verveer who is the Ambassador for Women’s Issues.
We look for partners, including the Chinese government, to help us advance that agenda. I can’t say that it was a central feature of our discussion, but it’s the sort of issue where I think there is the potential for us to work together.
Question: I have a question about the criticism that having separate U.S.-China human rights talks actually serves to marginalize the issue. I wondered if you had any comment on that.
Then I also wanted to ask, the Chinese keep saying they want to hold the Dialogue on the basis of equality and mutual respect. I just wondered what does that mean to the U.S. side? Do you feel that request was met this time? Thank you.
Assistant Secretary Posner: I don’t view the discussions we had in the last several days as marginalizing the discussion. Precisely because this is not the only place the issues are going to be raised, or have been raised. The discussion of human rights will be part of the Strategic and Economic Dialogue that comes up in Washington in a week’s time or two weeks’ time. It is an issue that’s raised by the President as it was in his meetings with President Hu Jintao in Washington in January. It is an issue that Secretary Clinton raises as she did also in January in a speech at the State Department.
This is an opportunity, more than those occasions, for us to have an in-depth discussion. A detailed discussion about journalists, about bloggers, about religious issues, about what’s happening in Tibet, what’s happening with the Uighurs. We went into great detail, both talking about patterns that we see of concern, but also raising cases as illustrative of the broader patterns.
You don’t have a chance to do that in a speech and you don’t have a chance to do it in a meeting where you have multiple issues on the table.
So I view this as a starting point or a feature. It’s an element of what we do. This does not constitute our human rights policy.
On the issue of mutual respect, my style is not to beat my shoe on the table and scream, but I know how to be direct. Again, outside of government for many years, and now a year and a half in the government, I am well able to raise tough issues in a straightforward manner. We did that and we’ll continue to do that.
Again, I think it’s perfectly in line with the notion of respect, exchange of views, but identifying our differences clearly and in a way that leaves no doubt about what our concerns are and will be in the future.
Question: Could you go into more specifics on, for example, just to pick a case, Ai Weiwei’s case? When you say why did this person disappear, what is the due process under Chinese law, what responses do you get specifically on these cases? Were there any answers provided? And can you say who you met with on the Chinese side?
Assistant Secretary Posner: Let me answer the second thing first. The Director General Chen Xu from the Foreign Ministry was the leader of the delegation, but I think there were seven or eight other ministries — Public Security, someone from the Supreme Court, Labor, Religious, et cetera. Justice. So one of the things that I think is useful about the Dialogue is that it is a place where we’re talking to a range of Chinese government institutions or offices.
I’m not going to characterize every one of the discussions. What I will say is, with regard to Ai Weiwei, we raised concerns both about the fact that he was arrested on April 3rd; the fact that his family still has not had contact with him; and great concern about the notion that someone who is a peaceful critic of the government seems to be endangered in terms of their ability to speak out. Ai Weiwei is a global figure, a prominent artist, and there has been, one of the things we expressed, which is just a simple fact, is that the arts community, the Guggenheim Museum, the Tate Museum and others, have all of a sudden focused on the deterioration of the human rights situation in China because of Ai Weiwei’s global prominence.
I think in terms of what the government said to us, I’d encourage you to go ask them.
Question: They don’t say much to us, so I’d really like to know what they said to you if you can tell us.
Assistant Secretary Posner: What I would say is, on that case, we certainly did not get an answer that satisfies. There was no sense of comfort from the response or the lack of response.
Question: A couple of questions.
Would you say anything concrete came out of this meeting in terms of any sort of an agreement or anything that moved the Dialogue forward? And also, do you feel that it’s worth continuing with this Dialogue instead of folding it into the Strategic Dialogue?
And finally, from your own understanding, from the perspective of your own understanding of what’s going on here and why, are you coming away with a clearer understanding of why there’s been this tightening up over the last couple of months?
Assistant Secretary Posner: On the question of concrete outcomes, I view this as, as I said earlier, part of a broader process. I think one concrete outcome is that we had extensive discussions about the range of issues that I outlined — religious freedom and Tibet and the Uighurs and issues relating to arrests of lawyers and journalists and so forth. We had more time to go into more detail and express our concerns.
When I talk to human rights activists in countries they always say two things. They say it’s helpful for governments to raise these issues and not do it superficially. Go into detail, press the case that these are universal human rights and that there are standards that have been violated. We did that.
The second thing they say is that it’s helpful if those conversations, those private conversations, are also reinforced by public comment. That’s what I’m doing here. This is not the beginning of the process and it’s not the end of the process.
I defer judgment on what’s next, other than to say we need to, and will continue to, raise these issues in a range of fora. It will not just be me raising these issues. The most senior government officials of the United States are deeply concerned about the deterioration of human rights in China over the last several months. They will continue to express that. It will be part of the Strategic and Economic Dialogue, and we’re going to then take it one step at a time.
There was an agreement in January between the Presidents — Hu Jintao and Barack Obama — to have a Legal Experts Dialogue which we’ve now agreed we will do sometime in June. That’s another piece of the puzzle here. I think some useful things may come out of that.
So from my perspective, we don’t put all of our eggs in one basket, but this is a piece of the larger picture in terms of registering our views and expressing our concerns and also gathering information about what’s really going on.
As to why things have changed here, there are multiple theories. I’m not really a political scientist. I only know what I see and the facts are that things have worsened and we’re going to continue to pursue our expressions of concern about that.
Question: And on the usefulness of the dialogue?
Assistant Secretary Posner: Again, I think we are at point now where we need to go one step at a time. We’ve just completed a two-day discussion. We’re going to have another set of discussions in the context of the Strategic and Economic Dialogue. We’re going to see what happens with the Legal Experts Dialogue. Then we’ll make judgments depending on how things develop.
Question: Can I ask, you said just now that you were not satisfied with the response in the case of Ai Weiwei. Were you satisfied with the response in any case? And if so, which one or ones?
A second question, on the issue of forced disappearances and extrajudicial detentions, what exactly are you saying to the Chinese broadly on that issue, and are they giving any reasons for that?
The final question is, with the situation in North Africa and the Middle East we’ve seen many countries, there have been many people out on the streets demanding political rights. Do you think there are implications for China from that?
Assistant Secretary Posner: On the question of satisfaction, that’s a relative term. There are a couple of lawyers who disappeared several weeks ago and who were released last week. I welcome the fact that they are now, they’ve been released. I don’t welcome the fact that they were detained in the first place.
On the issue of disappearance, what we’ve said is that universal human rights start with the integrity of the person. All governments, including our own, have an obligation not to torture people, to make them disappear, to detain them arbitrarily without due process. And so the starting point for us is that this is not an interference in their affairs, but something we do in every country in the world where we see these violations of what we regard as fundamental, universal human rights.
On the Middle East, every country has its own history, trajectory. We did not spend time and I’m not going to here theorize on how one thing relates to the other. I’m very focused on what I said in my opening statement which is that this is about people in this society who have a range of concerns about public issues, public policy, having the ability to debate and advocate on behalf of their differences with the government. And a healthy rights-respecting society finds the space for people to speak out, to write blogs. They find space for lawyers to litigate cases against the government on issues that are sensitive. It finds a place for international journalists to walk around without being threatened. All of those things matter. All of those things are the subject of our discussions the last several days.
Question: Just as a follow-up, was there any sort of explanation or even acknowledgement that the situation had sort of worsened on the Chinese side? Was there any sort of explanation to you that yes, things are getting tighter for one reason or another?
And finally, given some of the tensions in the relationship, how would you characterize the tone of the talks? The atmosphere?
Assistant Secretary Posner: I don’t think anybody stood up and said “oh yeah, things have gotten worse,” except me. But there were certainly a sense that – and I did this Dialogue last year in Washington with the Director General Chen Xu – there is no question that the atmosphere is different because the facts are different. So I think there was – on both sides, by all of us -a recognition that there is, as we speak there are people who in the last two or three months have been detained and disappeared and are having all kinds of human rights problems. Those are the things we talked about. There was a sense of the immediacy and a sense of seriousness.
Again, respectful in tone. It was not a discussion where there were voices raised. But it was a discussion that was very much based on the facts, and the facts are not good.
Question: You mentioned that the Ministry of Public Security was involved. I wonder whether they’ve been involved in these sorts of dialogues before, or is that something new?
And was the Ministry of State Security also involved in this set of talks?
Assistant Secretary Posner: It was the Ministry of State Security that was involved, and they were involved last year.
Question: You mentioned the case of lawyers and in particular of Teng Biao. In the case of Ai Weiwei, for example, the government has said that they understand he’s being investigated for economic crimes. In the case of Teng Biao and other lawyers there seems to have been simply silence. I wondered what response you had from the Chinese side when you raised those issues.
Assistant Secretary Posner: Teng Biao’s case is one that I’m particularly concerned about because he has been missing for the last several weeks. He’s a prominent professor and human rights lawyer. He’s exactly the sort of person who a society wants and needs to be available to represent clients who are on the margin.
I’m also very concerned about Gao Zhisheng’s case, a case that I raised last year; Secretary Clinton has raised; I’ve raised several times. His disappearance, or whereabouts unknown, since April of 2010, so we’re now a year. It isn’t to say that there aren’t concerns about people who are going through the legal process, but it’s most unsettling and disturbing obviously to the families, but to all of us, when people simply disappear. It’s a fundamental human right to have a legal personality, and if a government wants to take someone in custody they need to bring them before a court and subject them to a legal proceeding.
Let me just correct myself. It was the Ministry of Public Security that was there. They’ve been involved I think multiple times. They were certainly there last year.
Question: Sorry, could I clarify? Did the Chinese officials acknowledge that Teng Biao was detained in any way? Did they give you any substantive answer when you raised his case?
Assistant Secretary Posner: Again, I would simply say — I don’t want to get into the details of every one of the conversations, but I continue to have real concerns about that case in particular.
Question: Two questions. One, I have not heard you mention the case of Liu Xiaobo yet, and I presume that came up. I know you don’t want to get into details, but that seems to be a rather prominent case. Perhaps you could tell us a bit about that.
Secondly, some of the newspapers here running up to these talks have published broad sheets about supposed human rights violations in the United States. This being a dialogue, I presume they also raised these problems with you. Can you tell us a little bit about your response?
Assistant Secretary Posner: Sure. We did indeed talk about Liu Xiaobo and it’s also a case that Secretary Clinton and the President have raised multiple times. His 11 year sentence for publishing the Charter 08 Document is to us unacceptable and a violation of a basic right to free speech.
We actually spent probably more time talking about the status of Liu Xia his wife, who is, again, in an odd way, outside of any kind of clear legal process. We would be very eager to meet with her, to have communication, make sure she has communication with others, and there is some real concern on our part that she’s in a kind of legal limbo at this point. It’s not clear what her status is. We raised that quite often, in several different ways.
With respect to the role of the United States, they did raise several issues. I would say honestly it was not a very big feature of the Dialogue. We spoke about our participation in the Universal Periodic Review which is a UN procedure, relatively new, which calls on every government to prepare a report and then go to the UN Human Rights Council, which I did last November. My colleague, Dan Baer, who’s here, did in March with our Legal Advisor, Harold Koh. We felt very good about the way in which we undertook that review because we allowed lots of our own civil society activists to weigh in with their concerns.
But I’m very proud of what the United States does in this area. Not because we don’t ever have challenges or problems, but because we are an open society that has lots of public interest advocates, human rights advocates, raising every issue that anybody else would raise and then some. We have lawyers who represent every kind of cause imaginable across the political spectrum. And there are journalists and bloggers who are out there all the time analyzing what we do and voicing criticism. Those people are not at risk. There is a sense that because we are an open society we allow those things, and frankly, it makes us stronger.
Question: You’ve been really clear about your level of dissatisfaction with the human rights situation and the step backwards, as you described it, that China has taken. Do you use in any way, how will this affect the overall relations, the step back that China has taken, the overall bilateral relations between the U.S. and China? Thanks.
Assistant Secretary Posner: I think it’s, again, it goes back to something I said at the outset. These human rights issues, promotion of human rights and democracy, is a central element of U.S. policy in the world in the Obama administration. Principled engagement means that we deal with countries around the world in multiple ways. We have strategic interests, we have economic interests, we have other political interests. But human rights is an essential feature of what we do.
So to the extent that there are serious human rights problems, those problems become an impediment to the relationship and they make the other aspects of the relationship more difficult. It doesn’t mean we’re going to stop engaging. It doesn’t mean we don’t recognize the importance of the relationship. But inevitably when there’s a deterioration as there has been here, it makes the relationship that much harder.
Question: My question is about Liu Xia. I’m wondering, during your conversation with the Chinese side, have you asked information like how is her or his health? And are you going to visit her for some other relevant information? Thank you.
Assistant Secretary Posner: As I said earlier, we raised her case, raised concerns about her well-being and her situation and we have, and I think our embassy officials here on several occasions have made efforts to see her, to meet with her. So there is, I would say, an outstanding request on our part to be able to talk to her and to meet with her. We will continue to pursue that.
Question: Is there any arrangement to visit Liu Xia yet?
Assistant Secretary Posner: Not presently. The request is in.
Question: The Chinese government always criticizes that the States and other Western countries are using the human rights issue to interfere the internal policy of the Chinese government. So what is your comment about this saying? Thanks.
Assistant Secretary Posner: I disagree with that. This is not about us. It’s about the Chinese people and their relationship to their government. We do believe, and again having worked in this field for a long time, I know that change comes from within a society and it comes when people have the ability peacefully to express their views and to debate and advance their aspirations with their own governments.
The issues we’re describing are based on universal human rights standards which do not have boundaries. Every human being, on the basis of their humanity, is entitled to be treated with dignity, to have fairness, to have justice, and our raising these issues are not because of the United States or the West. It’s because people inside China are asking, demanding that there be an opening up of the process so that their basic human rights can be respected. We’re simply reinforcing what many Chinese people themselves are asking.
Question: Do you feel from your talks this time that in the longer term, do you feel China’s becoming increasingly less receptive to U.S. criticism or suggestions? If that’s the case, why do you think that might be?
Assistant Secretary Posner: With due respect, I don’t think that’s the right question. I think the real question is, is there in the long term the prospect for China to become a more open society, where there is the possibility for the kind of political discourse and engagement that I talked about. On that front, I am optimistic. I’ve been, again, working in this field a long time. I always feel the glass is half full. But this is a dynamic society; there are a lot of people here with extraordinary energy. They’ve demonstrated it in the way there’s been economic development and progress. It’s also a society where we were told 450 million people are netizens. So the combination of people’s ambition, aspiration, the increasing openness of global communication and travel, all of those things to me suggest that over the long term there is going to be positive change here.
Our role is not to be at the center of that, but simply to reinforce and encourage this government to allow more open space for those kinds of discussions to begin to take place in a more orderly way.
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