Thank you, Kurt, for that introduction and for reminding everyone why you're such a tough act to follow. Along with Deputy Secretary Jim Steinberg, Kurt and his terrific team here at the State Department bring intellectual heft and strategic vision to our diplomacy in Asia. Wherever I go in the region, people always have a Kurt Campbell story to tell… and some of them are even flattering. So thank you, Kurt, for all your work and leadership.
It is an honor to welcome you to this inaugural Richard Holbrooke Lecture at the State Department.
For nearly half a century -- as a young Foreign Service officer in Vietnam, as the tireless negotiator of the Dayton Accords, as the Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan -- Richard Holbrooke grappled with the most difficult and important challenges of foreign policy. He left an indelible mark on this Department, our country, and the world. Because of his efforts, America is more secure and millions of people around the world have had the opportunity to live up to their full potential.
We are honoring Richard's legacy in many ways, and one of them is this new lecture series, which reflects his passion for serious policy questions -- and his conviction that they deserve serious discussion.
Richard had a hand in nearly every crucial foreign policy challenge of the last 50 years. Today I would like to focus on one that he knew well and that is on everyone's mind as we prepare for the arrival of Chinese President Hu Jintao: the future of U.S.-China relations.
As the State Department's youngest-ever Assistant Secretary of East Asian and Pacific Affairs, Richard was a key player in brokering the opening of formal diplomatic relations with China in 1979. Later he served as the president of the Asia Society. Throughout his career, Richard understood that a strong U.S.-China relationship would bolster stability and security in the Asia-Pacific region. He was also clear-eyed about the many obstacles to cooperation. Most of all, he saw that the success of the relationship depends on its ability to deliver positive results to the people of both nations, and to the world.
These insights remain just as relevant today. We heard them underscored this week by Secretary Gates in Beijing and by Secretaries Geithner and Locke here in Washington. Three decades after our nations first opened the door to engagement, our relationship is marked by great promise and real achievement, but also by significant challenges. And more than ever, it will be judged on the outcomes it produces for our peoples and the world.
America and China have arrived at a critical juncture, a time when the choices we make - big and small - will shape the trajectory of this relationship.
Over the past two years we have created the opportunity for deeper, broader, and more sustained cooperation. We have seen some early successes and also some frustrations. Moving forward, it is up to both of us to more consistently translate positive words into effective cooperation. It is up to both of us to deal with our differences - and there will be differences - wisely and responsibly. And it is up to both of us to meet our respective global responsibilities and obligations. These are the things that will determine whether this relationship delivers on its potential.
We have come a long way already since the first tentative steps of the diplomatic opening in 1979. After many years of virtually no contact, we have had three decades of intense engagement.
In the beginning, our relationship was almost exclusively focused on the common threat posed by the former Soviet Union. During the 1990s, we began to engage on broader regional issues. Today, our relationship has gone global, as we debate and discuss nearly every major international issue in both bilateral dialogues and multilateral meetings - including issues on which we have fundamental disagreements, such as human rights. The breadth of our engagement will be on full display next week when President Obama welcomes President Hu to the White House.
These three decades of relations with the United States have also been three decades of impressive growth for China. When Richard Holbrooke and his colleagues first visited China, its GDP barely topped $100 billion. Today it is almost $5 trillion. Trade between our two countries used to be measured in the hundreds of millions of dollars. Today it surpasses $400 billion annually.
China's transformation - made possible primarily by the hard work of its people, but also by an open and dynamic global economy and by the American power that has long secured stability in the region - has lifted hundreds of millions out of grinding poverty and now helps drive global prosperity. The United States has welcomed this growth, and we have benefited from it. Today our economies are entwined and so are our futures.
Despite its progress in the past 30 years, China faces great challenges. When I speak with my Chinese counterparts, they often talk about how far their country still has to go.
Even with all that growth, China's GDP is only a third the size of America's. And our trade with the European Union is still greater than our trade with China. As Secretary Geithner noted this week, China has a lot of work to do to move from a state-dominated economy, dependent on external demand and technology, to a more market-oriented economy, with growth powered by domestic demand and innovation. More of its people are seeking fair working conditions, respect for their cultural and religious traditions, and legal recourse for injustices.
Understanding these strengths and challenges is essential to understanding today's China, and it provides important context to the country's changing role on the world stage - and to the future of the U.S.-China relationship.
History teaches us that the rise of new powers often ushers in periods of conflict and uncertainty. Indeed, on both sides of the Pacific, we do see trepidation about the rise of China and the future of the U.S.-China relationship. Some in the region and here at home see China's growth as a threat that will lead either to Cold War-style conflict or American decline. And some in China worry that the United States is bent on containing their rise and constraining their growth - a view that is stoking a new streak of assertive Chinese nationalism.
We reject those views.
In the 21st century, it does not make sense to apply zero-sum 19th century theories of how major powers interact. We are moving through uncharted territory. We need new ways of understanding the shifting dynamics of the international landscape, a landscape marked by emerging centers of influence, non-traditional actors, and the unprecedented challenges and opportunities created by globalization.
This is especially true when it comes to the United States and China. Our engagement - indeed our entanglement - can only be understood in the context of this new and more complicated landscape.
This is not a relationship that fits neatly into black-and-white categories like "friend or rival." We are two complex nations with profoundly different political systems and outlooks. But we are both deeply invested in the current order, and we both have much more to gain from cooperation than from conflict. A peaceful and prosperous Asia-Pacific region is in the interests of both China and the United States. A thriving America is good for China and a thriving China is good for America - and both are good for the world.
Our friends and allies across the Asia-Pacific region would agree. They also want to move beyond outdated zero-sum formulas that might force them to choose between relations with Beijing and relations with Washington.
All of this calls for careful, steady, and dynamic stewardship of the U.S.-China relationship. An approach to China that is grounded in reality, focused on results, and true to our principles and interests. And that is how we will pursue a positive, cooperative, and comprehensive relationship with China.
I'm sure you will hear that phrase quite a bit over the next week - "positive, cooperative, and comprehensive relationship" - because it really does capture our hopes for the future. But you can't build a relationship on aspirations alone. That is what makes this a critical juncture. As I said at the outset, the choices both sides make in the months and years ahead, and the policies we pursue, will help determine whether this relationship lives up to its promise. It is up to both nations to translate the high-level pledges of summits and state visits into action. Real action, on real issues.
To keep our relationship on a positive trajectory, we also have to be honest about our differences. We will address them firmly and decisively as we pursue the urgent work we have to do together. We have to avoid unrealistic expectations that can be disappointed. This requires steady effort over time to expand the areas where we cooperate and to narrow the areas where we diverge, while holding firm on our values.
As we build on our record of the past two years and shape the future of our relationship, the Obama Administration is pursuing a strategy with three elements that all reinforce each other: practicing robust regional engagement in the Asia-Pacific; building trust; and expanding economic, political, and security cooperation where possible.
Let me start with regional engagement. We are working to firmly embed our relationship with China within a broader regional framework because it is inseparable from the Asia-Pacific's web of security alliances, economic networks, and social connections.
In doing so, we will maintain an appropriate perspective on this relationship. Today it is as important as any bilateral relationship in the world. But there is no such thing as a G-2. There are other key actors - allies, institutions, and other emerging powers - who will also work with us to shape regional and global affairs.
Over the past two years, the United States has reaffirmed our commitment to be an active leader in the Asia-Pacific. As I said in Hawaii this fall, we are practicing what we call "forward-deployed" diplomacy, expanding our presence in terms of people, programs, and high-level engagement in every corner and every capital across the region. America has renewed our bonds with our allies - Japan, South Korea, Thailand, Australia and the Philippines - and deepened partnerships with India, Indonesia, Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore, and New Zealand. We are taking steps to ensure that our defense posture reflects the complex and evolving strategic environment in the region. And we are working to ratify a free trade agreement with South Korea and pursuing a regional agreement through the Trans-Pacific Partnership, to help create new opportunities for American companies and support new jobs at home. Those goals will be front and center when we host the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in Hawaii later this year.
We have also worked to strengthen regional architecture in the Asia-Pacific, including signing the ASEAN Treaty of Amity and Cooperation, attending the East Asia Summit for the first time, and increasing engagement in the Pacific Island Forum. A more robust and coherent regional architecture in Asia benefits everyone, including China. It helps ensure that every nation and point of view is heard, and it reinforces the system of rules and responsibilities, from protecting intellectual property to ensuring freedom of navigation, that form the basis of a just international order. In these multilateral settings, responsible behavior is rewarded with legitimacy and respect, and counter-productive actions are exposed.
Our regional engagement places this relationship in its proper context. The second element of our strategy is to focus on building bilateral trust with China. We need to form habits of cooperation and respect that help us work together more effectively and weather disagreements when they do arise. The most notable example is the Strategic & Economic Dialogue, which brings together hundreds of experts from dozens of agencies across both governments not only to discuss an unprecedented range of subjects, but to inculcate an ethic of cooperation across our two governments. Secretary Geithner and I are looking forward to hosting our counterparts this spring for the third round of the S&ED.
This is a good start, but distrust lingers on both sides. The United States and the international community have watched China's efforts to modernize and expand its military, and we have sought clarity as to its intentions. As Secretary Gates stressed in Beijing this week, both sides would benefit from sustained and substantive military-to-military engagement that increases transparency. We need more high-level visits, more joint exercises, more exchanges from our professional military organizations, and other steps to build trust, understanding of intentions, and familiarity. This will require China to overcome its reluctance at times to join us in building a stable and transparent military-to-military relationship.
Building trust is not a project just for our governments. Our peoples must continue to forge new and deeper bonds as well. In classrooms and laboratories, on sports fields and trading floors, our people make the everyday connections that build lasting trust and understanding. That is why we launched a new bilateral dialogue on people-to-people exchanges and new initiatives such as the "100,000 Strong" program that is sending more American students to China. Those students are on the front lines of charting the future of this relationship.
The third element of our strategy is expanding our work together, along with the rest of the international community, to address shared challenges. Global recession, nuclear proliferation, terrorism, piracy on the high seas - these are threats that affect us all, including China. And China should join us in confronting them. So we continue to encourage China to step up to more of its obligations--to work more actively with us to solve problems.
We have a wide-ranging agenda - a number of areas where we will ultimately be able to judge whether our relationship is producing real benefits for our people.
On the economic front, the United States and China need to work together to orient our economies to assure strong, sustained, and more balanced future global growth. In the aftermath of the global financial crisis, we did effective work together through the G-20 to help spur recovery. We must build on that cooperation. In his speech this week, Secretary Geithner noted that Chinese firms want to be able to buy more high-tech products from the United States, make more investments here, and be accorded the same terms of access that market economies enjoy. At the same time, U.S. firms want to ensure that the $50 billion of American capital invested in China creates a foundation for new market and investment opportunities that will support our global competitiveness.
We can work together on these objectives - if China takes important steps toward reform. In particular, we look to China to end unfair discrimination against U.S. as well as other foreign companies or against their innovative technologies; to remove preferences for domestic firms and measures that disadvantage foreign intellectual property; to open up new opportunities for American manufactured goods, farm and ranch products, and services; as well as to allow its currency to appreciate more rapidly. These reforms would not only benefit both our countries, but contribute to global economic balance, predictability, and prosperity.
We also need to work together on global issues.
Take climate change, for example. China and the United States are the world's two largest emitters of greenhouse gases. Our cooperation at the UN climate conference in Mexico was critical to the conclusion of the Cancun Agreements. Now we must build on that progress by implementing the agreements on transparency, funding, and clean energy technology. There is no time to delay. And the United States and China, working with other partners including the EU, Japan, and India, will set the pace and direction for the world to move rapidly toward a clean energy future.
On international development, we could make a significant impact by aligning investments and coordinating projects, if China would embrace internationally recognized standards and policies that ensure transparency and sustainability. China's leaders often say that their country speaks for the developing world. But their development practices in Africa and elsewhere have raised serious concerns.
On security issues, there is also room to work more closely and constructively with China.
On Iran, we've made progress, but now we have to follow through. As a permanent member of the UN Security Council, China helped enact tough new sanctions, and now we are working together to implement them. We look to China to help the international community send a clear message to Iran's leaders to cease its illicit nuclear activity.
Let me go into more detail on the challenge posed by North Korea. The United States and China both understand the urgent need to maintain peace and stability on the Korean peninsula and to achieve the complete denuclearization of North Korea.
For our part, America will continue to stand by our allies, South Korea and Japan, as they contend with their belligerent neighbor. And, as Secretary Gates said this week, North Korea's nuclear and ballistic missile programs are becoming a direct threat to the United States itself.
From the early months of our Administration, the United States and China, along with South Korea, Japan, and Russia, joined together to condemn North Korea's provocative missile and nuclear tests. And with China's support, last year we adopted enhanced sanctions in the Security Council. These efforts showed that when China plays a constructive part, we can produce results together.
We have emphasized to my colleagues in Beijing that China, as a country with unique ties with North Korea and chair of the Six-Party Talks, has a special role to play in helping to shape North Korea's behavior. We warned China that failure to respond clearly to the sinking of a South Korean military vessel would embolden North Korea to continue on a dangerous course. The attack on Yeongpeong Island that took the lives of civilians soon followed. That shelling brought into even sharper relief the acute threat posed by the North's behavior.
As the result of intense engagement in recent weeks, including a conversation between President Obama and President Hu, we have begun to work together to restrain North Korea's provocative actions. We are building momentum in support of North-South dialogue that respects the legitimate concerns of our South Korean allies and that can set the stage for meaningful talks on implementing North Korea's 2005 commitment to irreversibly end its nuclear program. It is vital that China join with us in sending North Korea an unequivocal signal that its recent provocations -- including the announced uranium enrichment program -- are unacceptable and in violation of Security Council resolutions and North Korea's own commitments in the 2005 joint statement. Until North Korea demonstrates in concrete ways its intention to keep its commitments, China, along with the entire international community, must vigorously enforce the sanctions adopted by the Council last year.
On Taiwan, we are encouraged by greater dialogue and economic cooperation between the Mainland and Taiwan - as witnessed by the historic completion of the cross-Strait Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement. Our approach continues to be guided by our One China policy based on the three joint communiqués and the Taiwan Relations Act. In the period ahead, we seek to encourage more dialogue and exchanges between the two sides, as well as reduced military tensions and deployments.
Finally, and crucially, on the issue of human rights, a matter that remains at the heart of American diplomacy.
America will continue to speak out and press China when it censors bloggers and imprisons activists. When religious believers, particularly those in unregistered groups, are denied full freedom of worship. When lawyers and legal advocates are sent to prison simply for representing clients who challenge the government's positions - and when some, like Chen Guangcheng, are persecuted even after they are released.
Many in China resent or reject our advocacy of human rights as an intrusion on their sovereignty. But as a founding member of the United Nations, China has committed to respecting the rights of all its citizens. These are universal rights that are recognized by the international community.
So in our discussions with Chinese officials, we reiterate our call for the release of Liu Xiaobo and the many other political prisoners in China, including those under house arrest and those enduring enforced disappearances, such as Gao Zhisheng. We urge China to protect the rights of minorities in Tibet and Xinjiang; the rights of all people to express themselves and worship freely; and the rights of civil society and religious organizations to advocate their positions within a framework of the rule of law. And we believe strongly that those who advocate peacefully for reform within the constitution, such as Charter 08 signatories, should not be harassed or prosecuted.
If China lives up to its obligation to respect human rights, it will benefit more than one billion people. It will also benefit the long-term peace, stability, and prosperity of China. For example, an independent, impartial judicial system and respect for the rule of law would protect citizens' property and guarantee that inventors can profit from their ideas. Freedom of expression for everyone, from political activists to academics to journalists to bloggers, would help foster the open exchange of ideas that is essential to innovation and a creative economy. A vibrant civil society would help address some of China's most pressing issues, from food safety to pollution to education to health care. This promise is already apparent in the work of individuals and NGOs who volunteered after the Sichuan earthquake. The longer China represses freedoms, the longer it will miss out on these opportunities and the longer that Liu Xiaobo's empty chair in Oslo will remain a symbol of a great nation's unrealized potential and unfulfilled promise.
I know that China's leaders believe that political reforms could shake the stability of their country and get in the way of its growth. But we have seen in nation after nation, from Indonesia to South Korea, that denying people the right to express their discontent can easily create more unrest, while embracing reforms can strengthen societies and unleash new potential for development.
It is clear that we cannot paper over the differences between our countries - nor would we try to do so. But the future of our relationship can be strong if we each meet our responsibilities as great nations.
The world is looking to China to embrace the obligations that come with being a 21st century power. That means accepting a share of the burden of solving common problems, and abiding by and helping to shape a rules-based international order.
The United States first emerged as a true world power nearly a century ago. There were times when we resisted taking on new obligations. But whenever Americans turned inward, attempting to avoid responsibility, events intervened and we were summoned back to reality. Our leadership in the world and our commitment to tackle its greatest challenges have not drained our strength or sapped our resolve. Quite the opposite. They have made us who we are today: a force for peace, prosperity, and progress all over the globe.
This is a critical juncture, yes, but Americans need not fear for the future. And the world has never been in greater need of those qualities that distinguish us - our openness and innovation, our determination, and our devotion to universal values. The world looks to us for leadership, to manage the changing times, and to ensure that this juncture leads on to greater peace, progress and prosperity for all. That is what we have always done. And it is what we will always do. That's what America is all about.
Today, the United States welcomes emerging powers like China to join us in meeting the challenges of today and tomorrow. We look forward to a time when a future generation can look back and say of us: They didn't just talk about a positive, cooperative, and comprehensive relationship. They made the right choices. They worked together. They delivered results. They left us a better world.