Remarks at the Opening Session of the U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue
Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Sidney R. Yates Auditorium
Department of the Interior, Washington, DC
May 9, 2011
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.)
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