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Ambassador Locke's Remarks at Beijing American Center

Gary F. Locke

United States Ambassador to China

Beijing American Center

February 26, 2014

Mona and I have always enjoyed speaking to young people, whether in America or China, because the young people have such great energy and creativity and really represent the future of our great society.  As China’s next generation of leaders in business, in government, science, academia and the arts, you are all going to play a very vital role in China’s future and in the direction of U.S.-China relations for generations to come.

I made my very first public speech as an Ambassador to several hundred enthusiastic and smart and energetic Chinese students when I first arrived in Beijing.  It’s only fitting that this final speech as Ambassador to China should be addressed to the young people, with the hope that you will embrace the challenges of becoming the leaders that China needs for a bright future, and that you will join with your American counterparts to jointly tackle so many of the world’s toughest problems. 

As most of you know, I’m returning to the United States to be with my family who left a few months ago so that our two older children could complete their last years of high school back in the United States.  Moving back to the United States was not an easy decision, but it was a family decision.  My wife and children were sad to leave, although Mona came back last night for a few days of farewell receptions and goodbyes.  But the Chinese people have just been so warm and friendly to our entire family and our family has had some great and exciting times exploring and learning about the land of their grandfather and great grandfather, their ancestors.

So I’m going to be very eager and happy to join the family back in Seattle, Washington, but also sad to be leaving China.  But I depart Beijing with a real sense of achievement and a great sense of optimism for what the future holds for our two great countries.

Today the U.S.-China relationship has emerged as one of the most important bilateral relationships in the world.  Our two countries are attempting to develop a new model of relations whereby we’re both committed to avoiding the historical trap of strategic rivalry between an emerging power and an existing power. 

Instead, we’re finding new ways to expand the quality and the quantity of our practical cooperation and build trust while constructively managing our differences.

This is not a zero sum game where a win for China means a loss for the United States, or a win for the United States means a loss for China.  In fact it’s the opposite.  The success of the United States is inextricably linked with the success of China, and vice versa.

President Obama has stated many times both publicly and privately that a strong, prosperous and peaceful China is fundamentally in the interest of the United States of America.  We want a strong prosperous and peaceful China.  The 90 established official dialogues between our two countries and with all the various high level meetings between our leaders, our cabinet members, our ministers, have a clear, single goal in mind -- to identify opportunities for cooperation where our interests match up, and to manage our differences where they do not.

The question, however, is whether this new model of relations can offer real results and bring real benefits to both of our peoples and indeed to the people around the world.  Merely declaring a new model of relations is not enough.  To say the words is an important first step, but the substance of the actions taken and the real results achieved will be the true measure of this new model.

It’s no exaggeration to say that the entire world is looking to China and the United States for leadership on tackling a wide range of regional and global issues, from preventing the proliferation of nuclear weapons on the Korean Peninsula as well as Iran; to tackling clean energy solutions to fight climate change; to curing some of the world’s most dreaded diseases.  The world is looking for leadership from both China and the United States to solve these problems because so many of these issues facing the world cannot be solved by the United States alone, or by China alone, but will depend on both countries acting together.

Despite all of this there’s often times been a lot of discussion in the region about the U.S. rebalance or pivot to Asia.  Many in China believe that the goal of this rebalance or this pivot is to contain China, to limit China’s rise politically and economically.  This simply is not the case.

The Asia Pacific is the home to more than four billion people; three of the world’s four largest economies; and some of the most vital environmental ecosystems.  Taken together the Asia Pacific region accounts for almost 60 percent of the world’s GDP, and this region is critical to addressing virtually every international challenge that we face today.

So it’s no wonder that President Obama from the very first day of his administration identified engagement with Asia as one of the hallmarks of his foreign policy.  And he set out to substantially increase our investments -- diplomatic, economic, and strategic in this part of the world including with China.

The United States has been a leader in the Asia Pacific for over a century and our presence in the Asia Pacific has provided the stability that has fostered economic growth and prosperity for all the countries of the region, and generated a higher standard of living for all the people of the region.  It is to support these goals that we are reenergizing and refocusing our attention and our relationships throughout the Asia Pacific including with China. 

Indeed, since taking office President Obama met with President Hu Jintao 12 times and has already met with President Xi Jinping twice since President Xi took office this past year.  During my time here, the last two years as Ambassador, Vice President Biden has been to China twice.  We’ve also welcomed the Secretaries of Agriculture, Commerce, Energy, State Department, Treasury to China multiple times to discuss key issues essential to our two countries’ security and prosperity.

We’re also improving our military to military relationships.  We’ve had our National Security Advisor, our Defense Secretary, our Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staffs and many other high-ranking U.S. military leaders come into China over the last two years focusing on security dialogues and cooperating on issues like counter-piracy and maritime security.  In fact we’re pleased that China has accepted our invitation to participate for the first time ever in the U.S. Pacific Command’s annual RIMPAC naval exercises this coming year.

And of course our trade and our business ties intertwine our two countries so much.  It would have been virtually unimaginable 40 years ago when President Nixon first came to China to imagine our current economic interdependence.  In 1972 when President Nixon first made his trip to China, our bilateral trade was less than $100 million a year.  Investment in each other’s markets was virtually zero.  Only a handful of American jobs depended on trade with China.  But today roughly $1.5 billion of goods and services flow between our two countries every single day.  America’s largest export market outside of North America is China, and China is our number one foreign destination for our U.S. foreign products.

As many as 800,000 American jobs depend on producing goods and services sold to China.  Between 2009 and 2012 under President Obama’s administration, U.S. exports of goods and services have grown by 65 percent to China. 

Of course millions and millions of Chinese jobs are anchored on trade with the United States which is now China’s largest export market.  In fact exports from China to the United States exceed exports to all of the EU combined.  So people in both of our countries are benefiting from this deep and interdependent economic integration.

At every level of our engagement with China, the United States is making the case that China’s own economic goals are best served by adopting international norms of rule of law, protection of intellectual property rights, free enterprise, open markets, and fair competition.  Regarding China’s domestic development, many experts inside and outside China agree, that a society built on a rule of law that applies to all is good for social stability and economic development, and it’s also essential for innovation.

I need to say a little bit more about this concept of rule of law which along with freedom of speech has been responsible for making America such a successful, innovative, dynamic and stable society.  One that has attracted and continues to attract talented people from around the world.

As many of you know, I’m a lawyer by training.  I was actually a prosecutor, prosecuting people for murder and very serious crimes.  So I have a passion for law that has continued throughout my career.  So I’m speaking from the heart when I say that much of the success of the United States can be traced to our respect for the rights and protections that each individual enjoys, whether you’re a criminal or you’re just an ordinary person.

Put another way, the rights of the little guy are the very foundation of the American legal system and our form of government.  Indeed, our constitution and our courts and our judicial practice, ensure that everyone -- big guys, little guys; rich or poor; famous or ordinary; or the unknown.  Each person has a fair shot and is treated equally by the courts and by the law.

This concept of equality before the law is also actually found in China’s own legal traditions and ancient history which go back much farther than ours and even though it differs in many ways from our American legal system. 

China has a great future ahead of it.  But reaching its full potential will depend on a neutral and respected judiciary, an active set of dedicated lawyers, wise leadership, but most of all reverence towards the rule of law.

It will also depend on respect for the constitutionally guaranteed freedom of speech for all, an open internet, a well-informed citizenry willing to engage in unrestricted dialogue on how best to build a stable and progressive future for China.

In the area of economic and business field, strong and well enforced intellectual property rights will spark innovation and serve as an engine for economic growth.

China’s leadership has recognized the need for a more innovation-based economy, so we look forward to more proper efforts to strengthen the rule of law, to develop a more independent and transparent judiciary system, and to increase intellectual property rights, protections and enforcement.  I’m very pleased by many of the policies announced at the recent third plenum on economics, on rule of law, and many of the other reforms that have been announced.  We want to help the Chinese government and the Chinese people achieve these very ambitious goals.

But you know, close partners don’t always agree on everything.  In fact it’s a sign of the maturity of the relationship where the United States and China can speak frankly to each other when we do disagree.

One of those areas, of course, is in the area of human rights.  United States support for fundamental human rights is an integral part of U.S. foreign policy, and in discussing the issue with China or any other country we start from the premise that all people are entitled to the protections contained in the universal declaration of human rights.  These are universal standards and they include the right to due process of law, to be able to speak freely, to associate openly, to pray in a manner that one chooses and to enjoy the benefits of a free and robust press.

The U.S. is deeply concerned over a recent pattern of harassment, arrests and prosecutions of good government advocates, of public interest lawyers, of activists, internet journalists, religious leaders, and others in China.  The United States calls on China to guarantee peaceful activists the protections and freedoms to which they’re entitled under China’s international human rights commitments.

We would also like to see better and more equitable treatment of foreign journalists in China, giving them the freedoms to report honestly and frankly good and bad about China, just as Chinese journalists enjoy these freedoms in America.

As a permanent member of the UN Security Council, that has hosted the Olympics and sent spacecraft to the moon, China should have the national self-confidence to withstand the media scrutiny that most of the world takes for granted.  Indeed we believe that societies that respect human rights and address the aspirations of their peoples, the hopes and dreams of their peoples, are more prosperous, successful, and stable

As it has around the world, the internet has provided a platform for millions of Chinese citizens to make their voices heard about the issues affecting their daily lives and has given them unprecedented access to their leaders.  From property rights to food safety to environmental protection, Chinese citizens are increasingly engaged in the national dialogue on these important issues and wanting to improve their lives and the lives of the society of China.

It would be unfortunate if China’s leaders sacrificed the long-term rewards of citizen engagement for a short-term definition of social stability.

The U.S.-China relationship is a very complex one.  When I arrived as Ambassador I knew that we would not be able to solve or tackle or address every area of difference that exists between our two countries, but I also wanted to set some measurable goals where I felt that we could contribute to bringing our two countries closer together.  One goal was to find ways to increase the people-to-people exchanges between the United States and China and to encourage more Chinese citizens to visit, to do business and to go to school in the United States.

Former Prime Minister Tony Blair of Great Britain a few months ago said there are three aspects to diplomacy.  There’s the political aspect, there’s the economic aspect, and there’s the people-to-people aspect.  The people-to-people aspect really is the foundation for all of our diplomacy.  That’s why we need to really focus on increasing the interaction among our two peoples.

Before I arrived as Ambassador, Chinese visa applicants oftentimes had to wait 70 to 100 days just to get a visa interview.  I thought that was absolutely unacceptable.  So streamlining our visa processes became one of my top priorities as Ambassador.  Thanks to the great work of our consulates and the staff at the U.S. embassy here in Beijing, within two months after my arrival, the average wait time for a visa interview dropped to only five days and in fact for the last two years the wait times for a visa interview have averaged between two to four days over the last several years, even though applications have gone up by 75 percent during that same period of time.

I think it’s really important to enable more Chinese people to visit the United States, whether for business or pleasure or for study because that enables our two people to understand each other, to form a relationship and a bond that will enable our two countries to join together to solve those tough issues I talked about earlier.

That’s why we also need more American students studying in China, so that they understand the language, the culture, the history and the challenges of China.  It’s only when people understand each other that we can form true partnerships.

Another thing that I wanted to do, another goal that I set out, was to visit as many cities and regions of China as I could, and to interact with the Chinese people from all walks of life.  As a representative of all Americans to the Chinese people I felt it was only fitting that I should represent America to as many Chinese people as possible.

In my time here I’ve made multiple visits to the cities hosting our consulates and I’ve also traveled the length and the breadth of China, from Harbin to Sanya, from Dalian to Lhasa, and from my tiny ancestral village in Taishan in Guangdong Province to the furthest reaches of Xinjiang and dozens of places in between.  In fact I’ve been to every province except four.  Three weeks ago we were on a mission to finish up those last four provinces, but because of scheduling difficulties we couldn’t do that. 

But I intend to be back to China often and I intend to finish those last four provinces so I can say I’ve been to every single province of China. 

Let me just say that the Chinese people are a remarkable people.  Everywhere I go I’ve been struck by the dynamism of the ordinary Chinese people.  Their work ethic, their creativity, their energy, their desire to do well for themselves, but most of all, for their families and for China.  There’s a pride among the Chinese people of China, and I share in that pride.  I’m proud of my Chinese ancestry. 

President Obama told President Xi at their historic California meeting last year, “The United States has an interest in a China that is peaceful, stable and prosperous.”  A prosperous China is good for the United States.  A strong U.S. economy is good for China.  A strong U.S.-China relationship is good for the entire world. 

I depart China with a spirit of optimism.  We’re making headway.  There’s so much more that needs to be done to realize the full potential of the U.S.-China relationship as global partners.  Indeed, as I said, the world is counting on leadership from both China and the United States, but from you, most of all, the young people in the audience today, as we join together to solve the tough problems facing the entire globe, from climate change to disease, to famine, to nuclear proliferation.  If we are to tackle and help solve these pressing issues we first have to have greater understanding among our peoples.  The greatest hope for that lies with you, the young generation, in both of our countries.  With you, the young people, in both of our countries.

So I hope that you’ll visit the United States as a tourist or for study, that you’ll come to understand our country better.  Similarly, as I said, we want more American young students to come here to China, to learn its history, its culture, and its challenges.  You truly are the key to the future of the U.S.-China relationship.  While you’re still in school you need to understand that your purpose in school is not to learn so that you have a more comfortable life, but your purpose in getting a high quality education is to enable you to be more responsible citizens of China and of the world, to help tackle these issues facing your country and indeed the globe. 

We want our relationship to succeed.  We want you to help China grow and prosper.  We want you to become the leaders who will take the next steps in enhancing the quality of life for all the people of China, but also for the people around the world.  We want you to be involved in bringing and taking that U.S.-China relationship to the next level, so that together we can make sure that the planet that you lead is better than the one we inherit today.

The world is counting on China and the United States.  The world is counting on the young people of China and the young people of America. 

Thank you very much.  I hope to see you again soon, whether here in China or in America.  Thank you.


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