The President's Trip to Asia
On November 12, President Obama began a 10-day journey to Asia, which includes visits to Japan, Singapore, China and South Korea. The purpose of this trip is to strengthen U.S. leadership and economic competitiveness in the region, renew old alliances, forge new partnerships, and make progress on issues that matter to the American people. The trip will include a number of bilateral and multilateral meetings, a Town Hall Event with Chinese youth and a visit to U.S. troops in South Korea.
For the first time, we will offer a travel diary of the trip from various members of the Administration. We’ll post updates, photos and videos to help showcase this historic trip.
One striking aspect of President Obama’s visit to China is the excitement it has generated at all social levels throughout the country. Rather than being seen as a dry, political event with little relationship to ordinary people’s lives – as such events often are perceived – President Obama’s trip here has energized Chinese and foreign residents alike.
Beijing is a city of intellectuals, artists, and scholars, with a lively and active arts scene. While the large establishment-supported (and state controlled) “arts industry” flourishes, so too do hundreds of small informal gatherings of artists creating things of beauty for art’s sake.
As the President arrived at Beijing’s airport, miles away, in Beijing’s old city center, in a tiny private theater in a small hutong (alleyway) not far from the Forbidden City, some of Beijing’s top artists celebrated his arrival in a unique way.
This is take two for our sign off from Korea video with Speechwriter Jon Favreau. The first attempt was at the final event of the President’s trip across Asia, a rally with our troops at Osan Air Base in the Republic of Korea.
Things start to speed up towards the end of a long journey like this as everyone anticipates going home. We were in the middle of setting up the computer to show you the President shaking hands on the rope line of hanger 635 when the call came to load Air Force One. Being left behind at an event and wandering the streets of Tokyo is one thing, being left behind on a tarmac 6945 miles from home is quite another.
But while booking it back to the plane at top speed, we couldn’t resist giving it another stab before scaling the steps to the safety of the “bubble” once more.
We hope to get in a couple more updates from the air before wheels down at Andrews Air Force Base tomorrow night.
Arun Chaudhary is the official White House videographer
There is a palpable sense of excitement among the staff as we mill around the lobby of the St. Regis Hotel, eagerly awaiting the return of the motorcade. Once we load in, it’s straight to that most Chinese of tourist attractions, the Great Wall of China. Folks look ready to go. Everyone is in warm clothes and sensible shoes, heeding the warnings of those already at the site in Badaling.
It’s been a long couple of days for everyone here in Beijing, but the fact that we've been in one place for more than a day, has meant that folks have been able to get out a little more to see this amazing city, eat some food, see some sights. Everyone is enjoying a little something in Beijing.
Most importantly, people have had time to purchase an answer to that age-old question: “What did you bring me from your trip?"
Today we concluded a weeklong trip to Asia. In our closing meeting with President Obama and Chinese Premier Wen, leaders of our two countries reiterated their commitments to renew old alliances and forge new partnerships.
Throughout the past week, we have made strides toward our goal of strengthening U.S. leadership and economic competitiveness in the region and making progress on issues that matter to the American people and leveraging that progress into job creation at home.
From a trade perspective, the steps we’ve taken in Asia will benefit businesses and workers across the American economy – ranchers, farmers, manufacturers, and creative industries all have a future in U.S. trade with Asia.
As companies across the spectrum look for a way forward out of these difficult economic times, we’re asking them to take a second look at trade. Because engaging new customers abroad can create jobs at home.
President Obama began his trip to Asia by making an announcement in Tokyo that the United States will engage with the Trans-Pacific Partnership. This will be done in close consultation with the United States Congress and with stakeholders at home. This is an exciting opportunity for the United States to engage with some of the fastest growing economies in the world as well as providing the opportunity to address gaps in our current agreements, and to set the standard for 21st-century trade agreements going forward.
I was honored to be a part of President Obama’s trip to China this week. We made important progress strengthening our partnership with China on clean energy – a partnership that will create jobs in the United States.
President Obama and Chinese President Hu Jintao announced a series of steps the two countries are taking in this area. Let me highlight three:
First, the two Presidents announced the establishment of the U.S.-China Clean Energy Research Center to facilitate joint work by teams of scientists and engineers from both countries. I signed the Protocol formally establishing the Center with my Chinese counterparts. China and the U.S. are committing $150 million in public and private funding to the center over five years, split evenly between the two countries.
When dealing with official state visits, things come in pairs. The leaders hold joint press conferences. The limousines in the motorcades fly the flags of both nations on the hood. The staff sit in equal numbers at the table, each opposite his or her equivalent in the other country's delegation. Even the official photographers are paired together. Where one is allowed to go, the other will expect to follow.
For Pete Souza, director of the White House Photo Office (and my boss), it is a matter of professional courtesy and collegial camaraderie.
In this update Pete tells us some of the other trials and tribulations of shooting on the road. And he has one more surprising pair: though this is President Obama's first trip to China, it is Pete's second state visit. He was here as one of President Reagan's official photographers in 1984 and shared with us some of the differences he has noticed over the decades in this vibrant city.
He also shared some of the lens lengths he uses but don't be fooled, it takes more than a certain type of lens to capture a great photo.
It's been over a week since we first arrived in Asia. First, we traveled to the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit in Singapore, and now we have joined President Obama in Beijing, China. We have come to this important region to engage our counterparts to strengthen our economic relationships, further open Asian markets to American exports and create well-paid jobs at home.
The 21 countries that make up APEC account for some 61 percent of American exports, and traveling today through the streets of Beijing, it's not hard to see why.
There's a frenetic pace in Asia's big cities, with construction cranes an ever present part of the cities' skylines.
This growth is good news for the people of Asia who have found exciting new opportunities in these cities. But it's also promising news for the workers, small businesspeople, ranchers and farmers of the United States, because selling our goods and services to these markets can put scores of Americans back to work and get our economy growing again.
And that is fundamentally why we are here this week. We're trying to open up markets for American products and ensure that our businesses are able to compete on a level playing field in the global economy.
During our time in Asia, we've been meeting with various ministers from Asian governments as well as representatives of the American business community like the U.S.-China Business Council and the American Chamber of Commerce in China.
We are also taking the opportunity on this trip to talk about recent trade disputes and how such disputes are ultimately a healthy part of a mature trading relationship.
The United States is the most open major economy in the world and the Administration is committed to ensuring our borders will remain open to the world’s products.
But that commitment will be met by a renewed focus on doing more to enable U.S. companies to compete in foreign markets.
Ultimately, that will be good for everyone. U.S. technology and know-how can be of great benefit to countries throughout Asia. For example, as countries like China strive to reach ambitious clean energy and efficiency targets, they will depend on expertise of U.S. firms with a proven record of success in these areas.
This year, we have already made great progress in creating a freer, fairer trade environment with Asia. When we were in China a few weeks ago, our Chinese ministerial counterparts pledged to open up their markets to U.S. wind turbine producers and lifted a needless non-science based ban on the import of U.S. pork.
They also promised significant strides towards protecting the intellectual property of American companies operating within their borders and steps to ensure a more level playing field in China’s government procurement market.
These are important steps that will be good both for the creation of America jobs and the continuance of Chinese growth. And we are seeking to build on the positive momentum this week.
As President Obama recently said "power in the 21st century is no longer a zero-sum game; one country's success need not come at the expense of another."
There is a lot to be gained from cooperation between Asia and the United States, and we are excited to be playing our part to move things forward.
Today’s updates were dispatched from Shanghai by two women named Katie, which seems like quite a coincidence until you learn that Katie is the most common name at the Obama White House, hands down.
The first, Katie Lillie, is an Obama veteran. She was an intrepid “press wrangler” during the campaign, a staffer who is embedded with the traveling press corps, helping make sure all their movements go smoothly. So it was a natural move for her to become the Director of Press Advance in the administration, coordinating press logistics on a grander scale. Since taking that position she has traveled 10’s of thousands miles and is working on her second passport, having filled the first to the brim with stamps and visas. What was so amazing to her about today’s town hall in Shanghai, was the similarities it had to hundreds of events held all over the United States during the campaign.
As President Obama spoke in Shanghai to four hundred-plus Chinese youth, many thousands more young (and not so young) people throughout China attended the event virtually in classrooms, coffee houses, living rooms, and at “watch parties” organized by the U.S. Embassy and Consulates. Some events were hosted by Fulbright professors or Chinese exchange program alumni who had taught or studied in the U.S. Others were organized by Embassy or Consulate contacts. The vast majority, however, were simply groups of interested Chinese citizens and netizens who tuned in on their own.
Ed. Note: The town hall begins in three and a half hours at 11:45pm EST. Be sure to tune in at www.whitehouse.gov/live.
The town hall meeting is at the core of grassroots American democracy. It is a tradition that brings together members of a community -- both leaders and ordinary citizens -- to discuss and shape the direction of their futures. On Monday, November 16, President Obama will bring that tradition to China -- a country with thousands of years of history, but a land where political and social values are different from ours. In Shanghai, he will hold an historic town hall meeting with China’s youth to talk directly with some of the young people who represent China’s future.
The planning stages leading up to the town hall have been filled with months of negotiation and cooperation. Our Chinese hosts are committed to working with us to ensure a successful visit and are genuinely curious as to how an American town hall works. Together we are creating a unique event mixing American and Chinese elements - a first by an American president visiting China. Even the language showed the differences in political concept as the word “town hall” doesn’t exist in Mandarin. In English, this is President Obama’s town hall with China’s youth, but in Chinese, it is mian dui mian or a face-to-face dialogue.
The cultural differences are vast. The challenges of creating an event hosted by the President of the United States for China’s youth are numerous. But the popularity of this American President is high in China and shows that even young people look to U.S.-Chinese cooperation to solve global issues. This town hall meeting in Shanghai will show the youth of China that President Obama has come not just to talk, but to listen.
Richard Buangan is the Deputy Press Spokesman at the U.S. Embassy in Beijing
As you've heard in some of our travel updates, there are a lot of things you can do on Air Force One. You can use computers, make phone calls, use the Internet. One thing you can't do is avoid surprise birthday celebrations.
Yesterday, Senior Advisor to the President Valerie Jarrett and Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications Ben Rhodes had a birthday party thrust upon them unwittingly at about 30,000 feet.
Lured into the conference room with the promise of a security briefing, they were instead treated to cake and good cheer by the President and some of his staff. No one was more surprised than myself, who arrived on the scene with my camera too late to film the event, but just in time for some cake. No one was less surprised than Ben Rhodes, who was unconvinced by POTUS personal aide Reggie Love's clumsy promise of "some sort of briefing."
When I accepted the President’s gracious offer to serve as his Ambassador in China earlier this year, I knew that the job would be challenging, exciting and rewarding. As Air Force One heads to Shanghai, I am preparing to greet a President who has won the respect and confidence of China’s leaders through his thoughtful remarks, his gracious demeanor and his efforts to seek a relationship that allows us to define ourselves by our common interests and not by our differences.
The President understands that critical problems require the U.S. and China to cooperate. He has a sobering list of strategic objectives for this visit: in addition to the vital task of communicating the desire of the American people to be friends and partners of the Chinese, he will discuss with China's leaders cooperation on such global priorities as the economic recovery, climate change and international security issues in Iran and North Korea as well as make clear our core values.
And since it's his first trip to China, he looks forward to seeing for himself the culture and traditions that have made China a great nation. This trip will advance America's interests in Asia and the rest of the world and I believe our Chinese friends will view it that way as well.
Jon M. Huntsman, Jr. is the United States' Ambassador to China
Tomorrow, November 16, President Obama will have a town hall meeting with Chinese youth in Shanghai, China. Holding the event in Shanghai is symbolic as the Shanghai Communique was announced here and helped pave the way for normalization and the first 30 years of formal diplomatic relations.
At the meeting, the President will interact with young Chinese and discuss the relationship between our two countries in the years ahead. Attendees of the event will come from several Universities in the Shanghai area. During this event, the President will take questions from the live audience, as well as from the online Chinese community. The online community in China has been submitting questions on a variety of websites including Xinhuanet, Sohu and the U.S. Embassy in Beijing’s website.
The Town Hall will be livestreamed on Whitehouse.gov/live. You can also join us on the official White House page on Facebook or the Embassy's website to view and participate in a live discussion during the event.
The event is planned to start Monday at 12:45pm local time in Shanghai which means late Sunday night in Washington, DC at 11:45pm EST.
This blog post has been translated into Chinese:
On Saturday in Singapore, I spoke to the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) CEO Summit on behalf of President Obama. In my remarks to this gathering of more than 800 business leaders from across the Asia-Pacific region, I spoke of the robust and beneficial trade relationships that the United States enjoys with our 20 fellow APEC members – 61 percent of total American manufacturing exports are destined for APEC economies, and roughly 3.7 million American jobs are supported by those exports – and about the potential to gain even more job-creating opportunities for American workers, families, and businesses by increasing engagement with and exports to our partners in this fast-growing region.
Though the local time was 3pm, as I walked down the main corridor aboard Air Force One, it may as well have been the middle of the night given row after row of sleeping people. This is officially day three of the President's trip to Asia, and if our colleagues who travel ahead of us to get things set up (called the advance team) are to be believed, this is when the jet lag catches up with you. It gets better from here.
Don't tell that to David Axelrod, Senior Advisor to the President. When I arrive to set-up this taping, I find David hard at work along with Robert Gibbs in the Air Force One conference room. "Maybe I should do the taping after dinner? Should I even be eating dinner? What time is it?"
What time is it actually? A glance at almost any wall on the plane gives you three time zones to choose from, the most unsatisfactory is 4:30am Eastern Standard Time.
David's eyes slide from the food tray to the beckoning computer, "We better do that taping now. Are you all set?"
is the official White House videographer
While getting ready to do this taping with Jon Favreau, the President’s Chief Speechwriter, my Blackberry was buzzing in my pocket, carrying new instructions for a motorcade movement, pushed up by over 2 hours. What was going to a leisurely stroll to find the perfect location for our Japan update, became a scramble to secure a suitable section of the lobby.
For some, our relationship with the nations of Asia may not always be at the forefront of their minds. The President's sweeping speech at Suntory Hall in Tokyo was a powerful argument for why that should not be so. Indeed the President noted that to the extent this attitude has been reflected in our government's neglect of the emerging multilateral organizations in the region, this mistake would not be made again: "I know that the United States has been disengaged from many of these organizations in recent years. So let me be clear: Those days have passed." The rapid pace of development on virtually every front in Asia creates an environment of almost endless opportunity for collaboration and innovation through our ties.
Ed. note: You can always keep up with Secretary Chu through his Facebook page.
Before joining President Obama in China on Monday, I am visiting India, another crucial partner for the United States as we meet the challenge of climate change and help speed the transition to a clean energy economy.
India has three times as many citizens as the United States but consumes just 15 percent as much electricity. But in the coming decades, India is likely to become the third largest energy consumer in the world, following China and the United States. In a "business as usual" future, India's demand of coal will be 60% higher than projected its domestic production. The demand for oil could be 10 times the domestic supply.
Earlier today, the President left for Asia, stopping over in Alaska before heading to Tokyo, Japan.
During this trip, we’re going to try something new. To offer an inside perspective to everyone back here in the U.S., Ben Rhodes, the Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications, will provide frequent updates on the trip.