President Chen, faculty and students of Beijing Foreign Studies University:
Thank you for inviting me here today. It is truly an honor to be here, and I congratulate you on celebrating your 70th anniversary. The start of a school year marks a new beginning for students. And so it’s fitting that I’m here to talk about a new beginning of my own.
I want to say how grateful I am for the warm welcome that my family and I have received from the Chinese people. As you know, my ancestral home is in Taishan in Guangdong province. Since our arrival, the people of China have made my entire family feel, simply put: at home — And we are grateful.
I know that there are very high expectations for my tenure as ambassador. I understand why: I am the first Chinese-American to hold this post. And I do have a proven record:
• As a governor;
• As Commerce Secretary; and
• As a man who has mastered the art of buying his own coffee AND carrying his own luggage!
I will do the best I can as U.S. Ambassador. And although there is much work ahead to strengthen and expand U.S.-China cooperation — and to manage our differences when we don’t see eye-to-eye — I begin my ambassadorship with confidence that the overall state of our relationship is strong.
One thing I do know is that the people in this room will have a lot of influence in the future of the U.S.-China relationship. For 70 years, Beijing Foreign Studies University has been a training ground for hundreds of China’s top leaders, including my friend and YOUR ambassador to the U.S., Zhang Yesui. Whatever your careers, in the years ahead, you will be the international face of China, and your choices will determine the steps China takes in confronting its own — and the world’s — challenges.
But today, I’d like to discuss the steps I believe we must all take in strengthening the US- China relationship. To understand where the U.S.-China relationship is going, it’s helpful to remember just how far it has come already. When I first attended college in 1968, a gathering like this would not have been possible — because America did not even have an ambassador in Beijing. Contrast that with today, when it could be argued that the U.S.-China bond is one of the most important bilateral relationships in the world. For 40 years, our two countries have been increasing our cooperation and interconnectedness for a very simple reason: It is in our mutual interest.
Millions of jobs are sustained in China and the United States by the trade we do with one another. American consumers benefit from the goods made in China and daily the Chinese people rely on high quality U.S. products and services. And, as our companies make investments in each other’s countries, we are creating jobs for our peoples. Every year, the comprehensive Strategic and Economic Dialogue brings together policymakers from across both governments to discuss topics ranging from breaking down trade barriers to economic cooperation to collaborating on pressing regional and global issues. To meet the challenge of global climate change, the U.S. and China can build on a legacy of over 30 years of cooperation on Science and Technology issues.
Similarly, the United States and China share an interest in maintaining peace and prosperity around the world. Our defense ties extend back to World War II, when our soldiers fought and sacrificed together. Today, our defense interactions take place at the most senior levels, with the PLA Chief of the General Staff and the U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff working to improve lines of communication and strengthen the U.S.-China military to military relationship. Perhaps our greatest security challenge is the existential threat posed by the proliferation of nuclear weapons and materials, in particular from North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs. China has been a vital partner as chair of the Six-Party Talks, with a unique role because of its historic relationship with, and influence on, North Korea. The United States and China share the common goals of peace and prosperity on the Korean Peninsula and North Korea’s complete and verifiable denuclearization in a peaceful manner. Our countries must also continue to work together to address the Iranian nuclear program. We have coordinated an effective dual-track approach — leveraging international diplomacy and sanctions — with the other Permanent UN Security Council members as well as Germany to send a clear message from the international community to the Iranian regime that it must live up to its international obligations. And the examples of shared security interests go on: from Afghanistan to Sudan.
We may not always initially agree on exactly how best to achieve our shared objectives. But when we successfully work together we often find mutually beneficial outcomes that serve the interests of all parties. Think broadly about the contributions our nations have made to civilization. I recently visited the Diaoyutai guest house where four wood panels illustrate the Chinese contributions that defined the world for centuries: the compass, gunpowder, papermaking and the printing press. And in the United States, we take great pride in our contributions — such as the light bulb, the television, the personal computer, and the Internet, which has changed all of our lives so profoundly. From the flash of gunpowder to the light of electricity, from the printed page to a webpage, from navigating the waters of the globe to navigating the Internet, our two nations have contributed so much to the world of today.
Think about what we can do, in partnership, to improve the world of tomorrow. So many problems in the world today — from climate change, to poverty and disease — simply will not be solved without strong U.S.-China cooperation. That’s why I’d like to state unequivocally that the United States welcomes the rise of a prosperous and successful China that plays a greater role in world affairs. I reject the notion that China and the United States are engaged in a zero-sum competition, where one side must fall for the other to rise.We can and must achieve security and prosperity together.