Jul 28

First U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue of the Obama Administration Underway

Written by Allen on Tuesday, July 28th, 2009 at 7:15 am
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Today marked the beginning of the first U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue under Obama Administration. The meetings are considered to be important even though they may not yield immediate results.

Here is an excerpt of Obama’s speach to kick off the meeting today (click here for video):

Today, we meet in a building that speaks to the history of the last century.  It houses a national memorial to President Woodrow Wilson, a man who held office when the 20th century was still young, and America’s leadership in the world was emerging.  It is named for Ronald Reagan, a man who came of age during two World Wars, and whose presidency helped usher in a new era of history.  And it holds a piece of the Berlin Wall, a decades-long symbol of division that was finally torn down, unleashing a rising tide of globalization that continues to shape our world.

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.

As we look to the future, we can learn from our past — for history shows us that both our nations benefit from engagement that is grounded in mutual interest and mutual respect.  During my time in office, we will mark the 40th anniversary of President Nixon’s trip to China.  At that time, the world was much different than it is today.  America had fought three wars in East Asia in just 30 years, and the Cold War was in a stalemate. China’s economy was cut off from the world, and a huge percentage of the Chinese people lived in extreme poverty.

Back then, our dialogue was guided by a narrow focus on our shared rivalry with the Soviet Union.  Today, we have a comprehensive relationship that reflects the deepening ties among our people.  Our countries have now shared relations for longer than we were estranged.  Our people interact in so many ways.  And I believe that we are poised to make steady progress on some of the most important issues of our times.

My confidence is rooted in the fact that the United States and China share mutual interests.  If we advance those interests through cooperation, our people will benefit and the world will be better off — because our ability to partner with each other is a prerequisite for progress on many of the most pressing global challenges.

I have no illusion that the United States and China will agree on every issue, nor choose to see the world in the same way.  This was already noted by our previous speaker.  But that only makes dialogue more important — so that we can know each other better, and communicate our concerns with candor.

For instance, the United States respects the progress that China has made by lifting hundreds of millions of people out of poverty.  Just as we respect China’s ancient and remarkable culture, its remarkable achievements, we also strongly believe that the religion and culture of all peoples must be respected and protected, and that all people should be free to speak their minds.  And that includes ethnic and religious minorities in China, as surely as it includes minorities within the United States.

Support for human rights and human dignity is ingrained in America.  Our nation is made up of immigrants from every part of the world.  We have protected our unity and struggled to perfect our union by extending basic rights to all our people.  And those rights include the freedom to speak your mind, to worship your God, and to choose your leaders.  These are not things that we seek to impose — this is who we are.  It guides our openness to one another and to the world.

China has its own distinct story that shapes its own worldview.  And Americans know the richness of China’s history because it helped to shape the world and it helped to shape America.  We know the talent of the Chinese people because they have helped to create this great country.  My own Cabinet contains two Chinese Americans.  And we know that despite our differences, America is enriched through deeper ties with a country of 1.3 billion people that is at once ancient and dynamic — ties that can be forged through increased exchanges among our people, and constructive bilateral relations between our governments.  That is how we will narrow our divisions.

Let us be honest:  We know that some are wary of the future. Some in China think that America will try to contain China’s ambitions; some in America think that there is something to fear in a rising China.  I take a different view.  And I believe President Hu takes a different view, as well.  I believe in a future where China is a strong, prosperous and successful member of the community of nations; a future when our nations are partners out of necessity, but also out of opportunity.  This future is not fixed, but it is a destination that can be reached if we pursue a sustained dialogue like the one that you will commence today, and act on what we hear and what we learn.

Thousands of years ago, the great philosopher Mencius said: “A trail through the mountains, if used, becomes a path in a short time, but, if unused, becomes blocked by grass in an equally short time.”  Our task is to forge a path to the future that we seek for our children — to prevent mistrust or the inevitable differences of the moment from allowing that trail to be blocked by grass; to always be mindful of the journey that we are undertaking together.

This dialogue will help determine the ultimate destination of that journey.  It represents a commitment to shape our young century through sustained cooperation, and not confrontation.  I look forward to carrying this effort forward through my first visit to China, where I hope to come to know better your leaders, your people, and your majestic country.  Together, I’m confident that we can move steadily in the direction of progress, and meet our responsibility to our people and to the future that we will all share.

The two-day affair – in which nearly 150 senior Chinese officials, including nearly China’s whole Cabinet, is attending – is hosted by Clinton and Geithner. Fittingly, Clinton and Geithner penned an op-ed in the WSJ today, copied below:

When the United States and China established diplomatic relations 30 years ago, it was far from clear what the future would hold. In 1979, China was still emerging from the ruins of the Cultural Revolution and its gross domestic product stood at a mere $176 billion, a fraction of the U.S. total of $2.5 trillion. Even travel and communication between our two great nations presented a challenge: a few unreliable telephone lines and no direct flights connected us. Today China’s GDP tops four trillion dollars, thousands of emails and cellphone calls cross the Pacific Ocean daily, and by next year there will be 249 direct flights per week between the U.S. and China.

To keep up with these changes that affect our citizens and our planet, we need to update our official ties with Beijing. During their first meeting in April, President Barack Obama and President Hu Jintao announced a new dialogue as part of the administration’s efforts to build a positive, cooperative and comprehensive relationship with Beijing. So this week we will meet together in Washington with two of the highest-ranking officials in the Chinese government, Vice Premier Wang Qishan and State Councilor Dai Bingguo, to develop a new framework for U.S.-China relations. Many of our cabinet colleagues will join us in this “Strategic and Economic Dialogue,” along with an equally large number of the most senior leaders of the Chinese government. Why are we doing this with China, and what does it mean for Americans?

Simply put, few global problems can be solved by the U.S. or China alone. And few can be solved without the U.S. and China together. The strength of the global economy, the health of the global environment, the stability of fragile states and the solution to nonproliferation challenges turn in large measure on cooperation between the U.S. and China. While our two-day dialogue will break new ground in combining discussions of both economic and foreign policies, we will be building on the efforts of the past seven U.S. administrations and on the existing tapestry of government-to-government exchanges and cooperation in several dozen different areas.

At the top of the list will be assuring recovery from the most serious global economic crisis in generations and assuring balanced and sustained global growth once recovery has taken hold. When the current crisis struck, the U.S. and China acted quickly and aggressively to support economic activity and to create and save jobs. The success of the world’s major economies in blunting the force of the global recession and setting the stage for recovery is due in substantial measure to the bold steps our two nations have taken.

As we move toward recovery, we must take additional steps to lay the foundation for balanced and sustainable growth in the years to come. That will involve Americans rebuilding our savings, strengthening our financial system and investing in energy, education and health care to make our nation more productive and prosperous. For China it involves continuing financial sector reform and development. It also involves spurring domestic demand growth and making the Chinese economy less reliant on exports. Raising personal incomes and strengthening the social safety net to address the reasons why Chinese feel compelled to save so much would provide a powerful boost to Chinese domestic demand and global growth.

Both nations must avoid the temptation to close off our respective markets to trade and investment. Both must work hard to create new opportunities for our workers and our firms to compete equally, so that the people of each country see the benefit from the rapidly expanding U.S.-China economic relationship.

A second priority is to make progress on the interconnected issues of climate change, energy and the environment. Our two nations need to establish a true partnership to put both countries on a low-carbon pathway, simultaneously reducing greenhouse gas emissions while promoting economic recovery and sustainable development. The cross-cutting nature of our meetings offers a unique opportunity for key American officials to meet with their Chinese counterparts to work on the global issue of climate change. In the run-up to the international climate change conference in Copenhagen in December, it is clear that any agreement must include meaningful participation by large economies like China.

The third broad area for discussion is finding complementary approaches to security and development challenges in the region and across the globe. From the provocative actions of North Korea, to stability in Afghanistan and Pakistan, to the economic possibilities in Africa, the U.S. and China must work together to reach solutions to these urgent challenges confronting not only our two nations, but many others across the globe.

While this first round of the U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue offers a unique opportunity to work with Chinese officials, we will not always agree on solutions and we must be frank about our differences, including establishing the right venues to have those discussions. And while we are working to make China an important partner, we will continue to work closely with our long-standing allies and friends in Asia and around the world and rely on the appropriate international groups and organizations.

But having these strategic-level discussions with our Chinese counterparts will help build the trust and relationships to tackle the most vexing global challenges of today—and of the coming generation. The Chinese have a wise aphorism: “When you are in a common boat, you need to cross the river peacefully together.” Today, we will join our Chinese counterparts in grabbing an oar and starting to row.

Note: Mrs. Clinton is the U.S. Secretary of State. Mr. Geithner is Secretary of the Treasury.

I know these meetings are diplomatic in nature and public statements will probably be carefully scripted. Nevertheless, it is an important event, and I thought an entry here for people to make observations would be appropriate.


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19 Responses to “First U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue of the Obama Administration Underway”

  1. huaren Says:

    I am hoping in the future, we all will be looking back at this as a momentous day.

    Obama said, “It represents a commitment to shape our young century through sustained cooperation, and not confrontation.”

    I am happy with that take-away.

    I’d expect those interested in confrontation will try to make as much noise as they can, so expect kneejerk reactions.

    I hope China works hard to help out the U.S. and that both countries positively reinforce through actions on what was said.

  2. Bob Says:

    I believe the Sino-American relation will be much healthier and further strengthened if a few nuisances are not getting in the way, or at least not getting much attention. Rebiya Kadeer and Dalai Lama are among those nuisances.

    The U.S. needs to show the other side that it has genuinely forsaken the Cold War mentality and is not looking for a new archenemy. Economic strifes are inevitable, however, amicable solutions can always be reached in the absence of ideological antagonism.

  3. huaren Says:

    Hi Bob, #2,

    I generally agree with you, and I know you are not saying such are preconditions.

    One thing I am not sure if you agree is true – in the Chinese way of thinking, customarily a lower ranking official generally do not publicly disagree with the top leaders official position on international relations. In the U.S. it is more acceptable (even to the American public) for the “dirty laundry” to be aired out for the world to see – even top U.S. leaders know such irks and alienates other countries.

    That said, I think Cold War remnants exist on both sides – just the Chinese are so much more polite about it on the world stage (in my opinion).

    I really hate the domestic politics part of the U.S. – politicians often alienate other countries to gain votes.

    To me, a lot also depends on what you have to loose. As trade and other aspect of the U.S./China relations grow, those stand to gain overwhelms those stand to loose. On this front, I am very optimistic looking back at the last few decades.

  4. Hohhot Says:

    about the “nuisances” in sino-us relations, many seem to think a great deal of the Dalai lama and Rebiya. but those judgment seems to be quite subjective and selective, they tend to ignore the most obvious problem in the bilateral relations, that is Taiwan and US insistence on selling arms to Taiwan which regarded by China as part of china in the same way as Tibet and Xinjiang. Why do they make such a big fuss over a visas issued to the people seeking political refuge, while keep quiet about US’ supplying arms to ethnic chinese who want independence? isn’t that a bit disproportionate?

  5. huaren Says:

    Hi Hohhot, #4,

    I agree with your assessment on the “disproportionality” on weight of the issues.

    My take is when the U.S. government feels the weapons they are selling to Taiwan are going to fall into the hands of China, that activity will naturally go away. If the issue is going to quietly go away, then let it be. The stuff they sold in the past have never been top notch. Actually, to me, they were more about gesture – to support this mental status quo.

  6. kui Says:

    “Will extremists be able to stir conflict and division, or will we unite on behalf of our shared security? ”

    “we also strongly believe that the religion and culture of all peoples must be respected and protected, and that all people should be free to speak their minds. And that includes ethnic and religious minorities in China, as surely as it includes minorities within the United States.”

    The USA always supports extremists abroad when they stir conflicts and divisions as long as they hold the banners of religion, culture, rights to speak and do not damage American interest.

    Lets wait and see.

  7. huaren Says:

    Hi kui, #6,

    I think Obama cannot afford to cut off the likes of NED in the near term. If he did, those people are going to direct their energy at him.

    My take is behind the scenes the Chinese government is confronting the White House with whatever evidence they have of NED funded illegal activities. Obama wanting China to tolerate this, it means he has to give on something else.

    On the other hand, WUC, FLG, and some such crazy “NGO’s” actually serve as a uniting force for domestic support for the Chinese government.

  8. kui Says:

    But Chinese people paid too heavy price for the activity of WUC. The damage they have done to the ethnic relations will take decades to repair.

  9. huaren Says:

    I agree with you. Its sad and unfortunate.

    China continues to integrate with world organizations and will gain more influence as her economy gets bigger. Proportionately, she will be able to address these types of issues more effectively over time.

  10. Shane9219 Says:

    大国兴衰事 尽在对话中





  11. Steve Says:

    @ huaren & kui: I’ve enjoyed reading your ‘back and forth’ and think you both make good points. I was curious what each of you feel about the article admin posted in the Op-ed from Rebiya Kadeer thread and Wukailong’s subsequent link. It presents another potential side to the story and I’d like to hear both of your opinions.

  12. jonkoot Says:

    One thing missing in the US/ China is the reality that the global economy is a new phenomeneom much like the Wild West of american folklore. In the wild west there was simply a vast expanse of land populated by non-global, local tribes of stock brokers and economists. These two groups consisted of hunter gatheringtribes and agrarian communities.
    The first forays by the globalist met with curiosity followed by resistants and conflict as the globalists showed themselves to be completely unresponsive to the customs and traditions of the stock brokers and economists.
    What followed was a period of conflict culminating in the conquest of the stock brokers, and economists which eventually led to the creation of capitalist reservations where these primitive financiers were held in captivity , as the globalists attempted to civilized them with education and religion. This required the globalists to enforce strict control over the economists and stock brokers language and dress as they learned to adopt to the new frontier of globalization.
    Simultaneously outlaws went out into the new frontier as pioneers as the first wave of exploitation of this new found world was opened up for the global world which was eager to follow, yet still tepid as to how they would procede in suchh a lawless environ. Consequently the Global Army arrived to pacify the outlaws, and make them respectable by selecting Sherrifs from the midst of these vigilantees to police the community until global order could be designed.
    These were the pioneering days of the Global economy beginning about 2009… a.d. It wasn’t until ? that law and order finally arrived on the praries and mountain fifedoms that the Global economy began to see some semblance of community from which to base a civilized society.
    To this day, the economist and Stocl Brokers still remain on capitalists reservations where they rely on subsidies from the Global Empire to maintain them. NNo treaties were ever signed with the prisoners of the capital reserves, so they have no legal rights in global law. Therefore they remain at the benevolence of the Global Overseers.
    The parralele between the conquest of the American Indian and the Conquest of the Wall Street Stock Market has many interesting similarities. Thankfully the Native Americans were smart enough to get their treaties written on paper and signed by the conquerors before they submitted to the reservation treatment. Too bad the economist and free market practitioners of Wall Street weren’t smart enough to do the same thing. Perhaps it is not too late for them to learn from their elders?
    The Global Empire is coming like a freight train, and no amount of denying the Iron Horse dismisses its reality. It is very likely that after all the platitudes and niceties of this honeymoon period of fascination and discovery are over, that the Global Emporors and Empresses will already have positioned themselves to rule over the Capitalist relics of a predominantly national constituency. Let us hope the Global Monarchs are benevolent as the stock brokers and economists claimed to be before they were vanquished by this new world. In order to insure the national economist and stock brokers do not go extinct like the dinosaur it would behoove scientific inquirers of antiquity to place them on reserves of capitalism as soon as possible in order to studythem and foster a greater understanding of the historic place these capitalist played in creating the very Global Empire they now find themselevs imprisoned in.

  13. huaren Says:

    Hi Steve, #11

    I read the Niyaz interview when admin first posted it. I agree with you it was an excellent article because it came from a Uyghur Chinese who actually still live there.

    I just had few thoughts:

    1. VOA and RFA are still being used by Kadeer and other campaigners to speak to/coordinate with the protesters (or rioters).

    2. Islamist fundamentalism is a problem in China.

    So, I see a tug-of-war: U.S. would like China to join it to take on Islamic fundamentalism, while countries sympathetic to Bin Laden’s views would like China to counter the U.S..

    I have been wondering for a while now how China walks this line. Obviously at the grand scheme of things (to me at least), China is seeking stronger partnership with the U.S.. But the nuance it has to play so it doesn’t unnecessarily attract attention from that corner of the world – that’d be something to look into.

    I’ve come across some articles where the Middle East scholars basically say China is a wimp for not standing up to the U.S.. So their desire to find big nation states to support them is very strong.

  14. Wukailong Says:

    @huaren (#13): After what happened in Xinjiang, Huntington’s idea that China and muslim countries would form a “Confucian-Islam axis” seems even more outdated. I can’t imagine China having anything else than very tactical relationships with the Middle East.

    On the other hand, personally I believe Muslim fundamentalism (as a large-scale social phenomenon) is a blip in history, a very short-lived thing that is going to give way to something else. I agree with Zompist when he says:

    “You may well ask: OK, so why do so many Arabs support Islamic fundamentalism and the use of terror? It’s a long story; but some good answers are found in The Dream Palace of the Arabs, by Fouad Ajami. In a nutshell, Ajami argues that the Arabs tried everything else— monarchy, liberalism, communism, nationalism— usually according to the best advice from the First or Second World. And it all failed. Fundamentalism seemed like the one thing that hadn’t been tried. We may have to wait for it to fail too; the one country where fundamentalism has been in place for a generation, Iran, is also the most ready for change.”


  15. huaren Says:

    Hi Wukailong, #14,

    Btw, thx for this Zompist link and the prior one Steve reshared.

    Ha, on Huntington – I some times think that people will believe in anything – and the new trend now is to create belief so you have a captive following to make $$$. (Agree with you. I just had this werid thought – China has the separatist to “thank” on this one, but that’s giving too much credit to Huntington.)

    I’ve also come across stuff like some hardcore Christians fearing the spread of Budhism due to popularity of the Dalai Lama. (Ha, maybe the Chinese government needs to exploit this!)

    Interesting view from Zompist. I feel funadmentalism is just not sustainable – assuming if the desire to advance in economic and material wealth is there (some people will jump on me, but my view is democracy and the like follows) – which I think is true for all humans. When you have enough to loose, you think about doing crazy stuff really hard.

  16. Shane9219 Says:

    Into the Unknown

    By Michael Elliott on Time Magazine


    “Jacques is right that China’s continued development will be one of the forces that shapes the century. It is equally true, as he argues, that China will not be just any old superpower. It has its own distinctive combination of attributes: a huge population, a sense of its identity as a civilization as well as a nation state, a long-standing influence on the nations and cultures that border it, and a diaspora that impacts not just its region but the world. China’s habits of governance, Jacques argues, are not those of the Western world; its values (let us say harmony and stability, rather than liberty and justice) are not those of the West. The roles of both the state and the extended family as social mechanisms in China differ from those in modern Western societies. All of this, Jacques argues, means that the 21st century will be one of “contested modernities.” Until around 1970, he says, modernity was, with the exception of Japan, “an exclusively Western phenomenon.” But as China assumes a bigger role in global economics and politics, that is changing.”

    “I agree with much of this. We have learned in the last 20 years that there are many ways of being modern, and that Western liberal democracy is but one of them. But that little collection of essays on the great equations reminds us that a society’s characteristics today will not necessarily shape what it will look like tomorrow. History rarely runs in straight and predictable lines. At the end of the 19th century, Germany — or perhaps more accurately, Germanic central Europe — was a technological and scientific powerhouse, its universities nurturing geniuses like Einstein, Heisenberg and Schrödinger, whose discoveries changed the way we thought of, well, everything. Then came the carnage of World War I, the rise of fascism and communism, the mass murder of European Jews and the flight of those who could escape it, often to the U.S. All of this contributed to a shift of the center of scientific progress away from Europe. Some aspects of the great European disaster might have been foreseeable in 1909, but none with any certainty. There are too many futures for them all to be known.

    This is particularly apposite in the case of China, a country with not only many possible futures, but (as it were) many pasts. There is a crude but commonly held thumbnail sketch of modern Chinese history that goes something like this: Two centuries ago, European powers tried to open a hermetic society to trade; they failed until the Opium Wars forced the issue; China then entered an era of foreign domination and internal chaos, which ended with the imposition of political stability by the Communist Party in 1949; in 1978, after another round of internal unrest, China chose to modernize its economy and adopted market mechanisms to do so, with astonishing success. Cut (in the movie version of this story) to a shot of the crazy skyline of Pudong from the banks of the Huangpu in Shanghai”

  17. Steve Says:

    @ Shane9219 #16: Thanks for that article. One area where I would disagree with the author is in the relative uniqueness of China as compared to Japan. Personally, I feel much more at home in China than in Japan in terms of how people behave, react and perceive others.

    Japan always seemed to me to be an “indirect” society where things are implied and inferred rather than stated. One aspect of China I enjoy very much is the openness and directness in speech and action. I always feel like I know where I stand. Sure, there are cultural subtleties that need to be learned but on the whole, I think China can interact with the rest of the world and still be unique more easily than has been the experience in Japan.

    Having said that, I like to watch old Japanese movies (especially Kurosawa’s pre-1950 non-samurai films) to see how people lived and acted just after the war. If a society that was this insular can change so much over the next 50 years, then I would suspect China would also adapt itself to the rest of the world as the rest of the world adapted to China.

    Yes, political sensibilities might never be the same but other aspects can become more “universal”. If the rest of the world (excluding Italy, which is already very similar) could adapt many of the family characteristics of the Chinese culture, it’d benefit the rest of the world.

  18. Alessandro Says:

    “If the rest of the world (excluding Italy, which is already very similar)”

    Steve, excuse me, but if I was in ur shoes I’d stick to China here and let alone other countries about which ur ideas and knowledge clearly appear to be sketchy at best, if not plainly wrong and little more than cliches…
    I know this cliche about italian family (as there were no differencies here between different parts of the country) enjoys quite a popularity in US and english-speaking countries…but it remains a cliche nevertheless, and an utterly false one at that.

  19. Steve Says:

    @ Alessandro: Excuse me, I’ll phrase that as “Italian-American family”, ok? Since I’m Italian American and grew up with bunches of them, I think I can speak with some authority.

    I’ve also been all over Italy and am well aware of the differences between areas.

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