This morning the President laid out a framework of his vision for yet another critical aspect of American foreign policy – our relationship with China, which he called "as important as any bilateral relationship in the world." The President addressed the opening session
of the first U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center, with Secretary Clinton and Secretary Geithner chairing the dialogue with the Chinese Vice Premier and State Counselor.
The President opened his remarks, as he often does, putting the relationship in a historical context:
One hundred years ago – in the early days of the 20th century – it was clear that there were momentous choices to be made – choices about the borders of nations and the rights of human beings. But in Woodrow Wilson's day, no one could have foreseen the arc of history that led to a wall coming down in Berlin, nor could they have imagined the conflict and upheaval that characterized the years in between. For people everywhere – from Boston to Beijing – the 20th century was a time of great progress, but that progress also came with a great price.
Today, we look out on the horizon of a new century. And as we launch this dialogue, it's important for us to reflect upon the questions that will shape the 21st century. Will growth be stalled by events like our current financial crisis, or will we cooperate to create balanced and sustainable growth, lifting more people out of poverty and creating a broader prosperity around the world? Will the need for energy breed competition and climate change, or will we build partnerships to produce clean power and to protect our planet? Will nuclear weapons spread unchecked, or will we forge a new consensus to use this power for only peaceful purposes? Will extremists be able to stir conflict and division, or will we unite on behalf of our shared security? Will nations and peoples define themselves solely by their differences, or can we find common ground necessary to meet our common challenges, and to respect the dignity of every human being?
We can't predict with certainty what the future will bring, but we can be certain about the issues that will define our times. And we also know this: The relationship between the United States and China will shape the 21st century, which makes it as important as any bilateral relationship in the world. That really must underpin our partnership. That is the responsibility that together we bear.
Identifying President Nixon’s visit as a pivotal moment, he described how the Cold War era had limited the relationship between the two countries to a narrow set of issues, but that it was now time to seek cooperation on mutual interests on a much broader scale.
(President Barack Obama addresses the opening session of the first U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center in Washington, Monday, July 27, 2009. Listening at left are Chinese Vice Premier Wang Qishan, center, and Chinese State Councilor Dai Bingguo, left. Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)
Again, as he often does, the President proceeded to move into specific examples of issues where progress can be made in the future:
Let me name some of those challenges. First, we can cooperate to advance our mutual interests in a lasting economic recovery. The current crisis has made it clear that the choices made within our borders reverberate across the global economy – and this is true not just in New York and Seattle, but in Shanghai and Shenzhen, as well. That is why we must remain committed to strong bilateral and multilateral coordination. And that is the example we have set by acting aggressively to restore growth, to prevent a deeper recession and to save jobs for our people.
Going forward, we can deepen this cooperation. We can promote financial stability through greater transparency and regulatory reform. We can pursue trade that is free and fair, and seek to conclude an ambitious and balanced Doha Round agreement. We can update international institutions so that growing economies like China play a greater role that matches their greater responsibility. And as Americans save more and Chinese are able to spend more, we can put growth on a more sustainable foundation – because just as China has benefited from substantial investment and profitable exports, China can also be an enormous market for American goods.
Second, we can cooperate to advance our mutual interest in a clean, secure, and prosperous energy future. The United States and China are the two largest consumers of energy in the world. We are also the two largest emitters of greenhouse gases in the world. Let's be frank: Neither of us profits from a growing dependence on foreign oil, nor can we spare our people from the ravages of climate change unless we cooperate. Common sense calls upon us to act in concert.
Both of our countries are taking steps to transform our energy economies. Together we can chart a low carbon recovery; we can expand joint efforts at research and development to promote the clean and efficient use of energy; and we can work together to forge a global response at the Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen and beyond. And the best way to foster the innovation that can increase our security and prosperity is to keep our markets open to new ideas, new exchanges, and new sources of energy.
Third, we can cooperate to advance our mutual interests in stopping the spread of nuclear weapons. Make no mistake: The more nations acquire these weapons, the more likely it is that they will be used. Neither America nor China has an interest in a terrorist acquiring a bomb, or a nuclear arms race breaking out in East Asia. That is why we must continue our collaboration to achieve the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, and make it clear to North Korea that the path to security and respect can be traveled if they meet their obligations. And that is why we must also be united in preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon, and urging the Islamic Republic to live up to its international obligations.
This is not about singling out any one nation – it is about the responsibility of all nations. Together, we must cooperate to secure all vulnerable nuclear materials around the world, which will be a focus of our Global Nuclear Summit next year. And together, we must strengthen the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty by renewing its basic bargain: countries with nuclear weapons will move towards disarmament; countries without nuclear weapons will not acquire them; and all countries can access peaceful nuclear energy. A balance of terror cannot hold. In the 21st century, a strong and global regime is the only basis for security from the world's deadliest weapons.
And fourth, we can cooperate to advance our mutual interests in confronting transnational threats. The most pressing dangers we face no longer come from competition among great powers – they come from extremists who would murder innocents; from traffickers and pirates who pursue their own profits at the expense of others; from diseases that know no borders; and from suffering and civil wars that breed instability and terror. These are the threats of the 21st century. And that is why the pursuit of power among nations must no longer be seen as a zero-sum game. Progress – including security – must be shared.
(Chinese officials listen as President Barack Obama speaks at the opening session of the U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue in Washington Monday, July 27, 2009. Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)