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President Obama’s Interview with Xinhua News Agency

President Obama’s Interview with Xinhua News Agency

November 10, 2014

Mr. President, thanks so much for accepting our request for doing this interview about your upcoming visit to China and the summit meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

1.      This year marks the 35th anniversary of the establishment of the China-U.S. diplomatic relationship, and both sides have held events in different forms to celebrate the historical achievements made in improving the bilateral ties and their contribution to promoting peace, stability and prosperity in the Asia Pacific and world as a whole. What is your assessment of the current state of the China-U.S. relations? As you are going to meet with President Xi in Beijing, what are your expectations for this summit?

Thanks to the hard work of both our peoples, Chinese and Americans, we see ties and cooperation between our countries that would have been unthinkable 35 years ago.  Our workers, entrepreneurs and businesses are the backbone of a massive trade relationship that supports jobs in both our nations and helps power the global economy.  Our world-renowned scientists and researchers collaborate together to unlock new discoveries and innovations.  More students from China study in the United States than from any other country, and more than 100,000 Americans have studied in China during my presidency.  My wife, Michelle, and our daughters Malia and Sasha experienced the connections between our peoples for themselves when they visited China earlier this year.

As I discussed during my last visit to China five years ago, the friendship and cooperation between our citizens is the foundation of the broader relationship between our nations.  When we trade and do business together, it means more jobs and opportunity for people in both our countries.  When we work together on security issues—from the Korean Peninsula to Iran—we promote a more peaceful and secure world.  When we partner to meet new challenges—from the Ebola epidemic in West Africa to climate change—we can help save lives and leave a better, safer planet for our children.  I look forward to my meeting with President Xi because it will be an opportunity to deepen our partnerships in these and other areas where the interests of our nations overlap.

At the same time, there are issues where the governments of the United States and China disagree, and I expect that President Xi and will discuss them directly and candidly, as we’ve done in the past.  I will reaffirm our conviction in the importance of upholding the universal human rights of every human being, which ultimately makes societies more harmonious and more successful.  I will stress the importance of trade that is free and fair, including protecting trade secrets from cyber-theft.  And I look forward to discussing our shared interest in an Asia-Pacific that is stable and peaceful, including the importance of maritime security and resolving any disputes peacefully.    

2.      Last year, you held a historical summit with President Xi at the Sunnylands in California, where an important consensus was reached on building a new model of major-country relationship. Progress has been made in deepening mutual cooperation and management of differences in the past year, despite occasional flaring up of disputes. What kind of new measures should the two sides take next to enhance mutual strategic trust and push forward the construction of the new model of China-U.S. relations?

I appreciated the chance to host President Xi in California last year because it gave us the opportunity to get to know one another better, to more clearly understand the perspectives and intentions of our governments, and to explore areas where we can deepen our cooperation.  My vision of a “new model” of relations between our countries is one where we expand cooperation in areas of mutual interest, regionally and globally, even as we constructively manage our differences and sources of unhealthy competition. 

As I’ve said many times, the United States welcomes the rise of a China that is stable, prosperous and peaceful and that plays a responsible role in regional and global affairs.  China’s success benefits the United States, just as American leadership, including our stabilizing presence and engagement in the Asia Pacific, benefits China. 

That is why I absolutely reject the suggestion that the United States is trying to somehow contain China.  In fact, over recent decades, the United States has actively worked to integrate China into the global economy and expand trade between us, which has been central to China’s growth and the dramatic improvement the lives of its people.  We want China and the Chinese people to succeed and contribute to global security and prosperity, because it’s good for all of us. 

Moreover, I firmly believe that we can avoid repeating history where we’ve seen destructive rivalries between existing powers and emerging powers.  In our interconnected world, we have to reject the kind of outdated zero-sum thinking that says one country’s growth or security has to come at the expense of another.  It doesn’t.  On the contrary, as major trade partners, both our countries have a huge stake in the success of each other.  So one of the things President Xi and I can do at this week is continue to explore ways to build the trust that is critical to progress on so many issues where we can work together.   

3.      Many international observers, including some American scholars, have noticed that China is increasing its contribution to the international community in accordance with its increased strength. Do you have any comments on this?  Recently, China and the U.S. have had good cooperation on fighting the Ebola epidemic, what are your expectations for future U.S. cooperation with China in tackling regional and global challenges?

This is precisely one of the reasons why we welcome China playing a greater and responsible role in world affairs—China and its people can make important contributions that benefit us all.  That’s why we’ve welcomed the opportunity to work with China on a whole range of issues of mutual interest.  As the world’s two largest economies and members of the G-20, we work together to promote global economic growth that creates more jobs for our people.  As the two largest energy consumers and emitters of greenhouses gases, we’ve deepened our partnerships in clean energy, which helps combat climate change.

In Afghanistan, both our countries share an interest in the development of a peaceful, secure, and unified state.  Off the Horn of Africa, we share an interest in countering piracy.  Today in West Africa, Chinese and Americans are working shoulder to shoulder to address the Ebola epidemic.  These are real, concrete examples of what we’re doing already, and I know we can do even more together. 

4.      Trade between China and the U.S., the two largest economies in the world, has been increasing steadily in the past decades, with the annual trade volume now exceeding 520 billion US dollars. This has benefited both countries and its peoples. However, the China-U.S. trade and economic ties are still affected by the disputes over issues such as currency, market access, intellectual property rights, investment protection, and trade protectionist measures. In your opinion, what are the outstanding issues in the China-U.S. trade and economic relations, and how should they be resolved? When do you expect the two sides to reach a mutual investment agreement?

Our extraordinary trade and economic relationship has delivered benefits for both our countries. A growing China is a top market for American exports, supporting jobs across the United States.  China’s trade with the world, including the United States, has helped China lift hundreds of millions of people out of poverty.  Chinese companies are successfully investing in the United States at unprecedented rates—the stock of Chinese direct investment in the United States rose six-fold over the past five years.

I would like to continue deepening our trade and investment ties because it would mean even more jobs and opportunity for both our peoples.  But to do so, we will need to address a number of critical issues.  There needs to be a level playing field on which foreign companies in China, including American companies, can compete fairly with Chinese companies.  We are looking to China to strengthen its protection of intellectual property rights, stop the cyber-enabled theft of trade secrets for commercial gain, and more quickly approve the biotechnology products that are critical to agricultural trade.  We continue to urge China to move to a more market-determined exchange rate.  I look forward to discussing these issues—as well as China’s concerns and ideas—with President Xi. 

In this context, our summit will also be an opportunity make progress toward an ambitious bilateral investment treaty.  I strongly support these negotiations, and I welcome China’s serious approach to these talks.  My team is ready to work as rapidly as China is willing to go, but we ought to be bold and negotiate a high-standard agreement with narrow, limited, and transparent exceptions.

5.      As we know, fighting the ISIL is currently one of the top priorities for your administration. China is also facing threat from terror movements such as the Eastern Turkestan Islamic Movement. Terrorism has become a global challenge that requires all nations' joint efforts to deal with. What should China and the U.S. do to have more effective cooperation in the sphere of fighting terrorism?

The United States opposes terrorism in all of its forms.  Nothing justifies the deliberate killing of innocent civilians.  ISIL poses a threat to the people of Iraq, Syria, the Middle East and, if unchecked, a threat to the international community.  I know that this is also a concern to China because of the thousands of Chinese who work in Iraq.  Today, the United States is leading a broad international coalition to degrade and ultimately destroy ISIL.

I was appalled by the recent acts of terror in Kunming and Urumqi and elsewhere in China, and I extend my deepest condolences, and the sympathies of the American people, to the victims and their families.  As a husband and a father, I cannot even begin to imagine the grief of these families who lost a loved one.  Terrorist groups like ETIM should not be allowed to establish a safe haven in ungoverned areas along China’s periphery.     

For all these reasons, I believe that counter-terrorism is an area where our two nations could strengthen our cooperation.  There are specific areas where we could work together, for example in stemming the flow of foreign terrorist fighters and cracking down on terrorist funding networks. 

But greater cooperation between our countries will also depend upon the actions that China takes at home.  As nations, we cannot confuse violent extremism with peaceful dissent.  Terrorists often try to exploit legitimate local grievances, which must be addressed constructively.  A failure to treat people equally or respect the rule of law or protect universal rights can sometimes push certain people into the ranks of terrorist groups.  Likewise, upholding these rights and the rule of law can often be one of the most effective long-term weapons against terrorism, just as they are vital ingredients to a nation’s long-term growth, prosperity, and stability. 

6.      During the upcoming APEC leaders' informal meetings, how can China and the U.S. cooperate to promote peace, stability and prosperity in the Asian-Pacific region? What kind of achievements do you hope this year's APEC meetings will achieve in deepening regional economic integration, spurring growth and promoting prosperity?

I thank President Xi and China for hosting this APEC summit and I know that my fellow leaders and I will be greeted with the hospitality for which the Chinese people are known.  I commend China for using this year as APEC host to focus on what our
 economies can do to continue bringing our economies closer together and reducing the barriers that stand in the way of trade, investment and creating jobs.

This year our work has included further efforts on trade facilitation, regulatory transparency, anti-corruption, energy efficiency and expanding the role of women in the economy.  Since 2006, our nations have worked toward the ultimate goal of a Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific, and APEC has identified a variety of pathways that could lead to a FTAAP.  One of those pathways is the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which includes 12 nations—including the United States—that together represent nearly 40 percent of the global economy.  Once complete, TPP will mean greater trade, investment and jobs for its member countries, a level playing field on which companies can compete, and high standards that protect workers, the environment and intellectual property.  I’m confident we can get TPP done, and it will remain open to countries that can meet its high standards.

Thanks again for accepting our interview, Mr. President. Wish you a very pleasant and fruitful trip to China!