Remarks by President Obama in Joint Press Conference with President Xi Jinping
Great Hall of the People
November 12, 2014
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, thank you, President Xi, for welcoming me and my delegation to Beijing and for the extraordinary hospitality that you and the Chinese people have shown to me on this state visit. I also want to take this opportunity to thank the people of China for the warmth and kindness they showed my wife Michelle and our daughters, as well as my mother-in-law when they came to visit China earlier this year -- another sign of the enduring friendship between our peoples.
This year marks the 35th anniversary of diplomatic relations between our two nations. I’m told that Deng Xiaoping said that we must “seek truth from facts.” On this anniversary, it is a fact that the past three and a half decades have seen an extraordinary growth in the ties between our two countries -- more trade, more collaborations between our businesses and scientists and researchers, more connections between the Chinese and the American people, from tourists to our students. And it is a fact that when we work together, it’s good for the United States, it's good for China, and it is good for the world.
As I’ve said many times, the United States welcomes the continuing rise of a China that is peaceful, prosperous and stable and that plays a responsible role in the world. And we don’t just welcome it, we support it. For decades, America’s engagement in the Asia Pacific, including our alliances and our stabilizing presence, have been a foundation for the region’s progress, including contributing to China’s remarkable economic growth. The United States has worked to expand trade and investment with China, and to help integrate China into the global economy. And we want that progress to continue because, as I said before, it benefits all of us.I believe that President Xi and I have a common understanding about how the relationship between our nations can move forward. We agree that we can expand our cooperation where our interests overlap or align. When we have disagreements, we will be candid and clear about our intentions, and we will work to narrow those differences where possible. Even as we compete and disagree in some areas, I believe we can continue to advance the security and prosperity of our people and people around the world. That’s my vision for how we can develop the relationship between our countries. That’s the vision that we’ve advanced during this visit, which has taken our bilateral, regional and global cooperation to a new level. And I want to thank President Xi for his leadership in fostering that kind of atmosphere of cooperation.First, President Xi and I agreed on the importance of continuing to exercise -- to increase the trade that helps grow our economies and creates jobs. More U.S. exports to a growing China means more opportunities for American businesses, workers and farmers. We agreed to work actively on a comprehensive bilateral investment treaty with high standards. And that provides the opportunity for Chinese businesses to invest in the United States, as well as opening up the opportunity for more U.S. businesses to invest here in China, creating jobs for both our countries.
We reached an understanding that will allow us to work with other nations to conclude the Information Technology Agreement, which will help us boost trade in the computer and IT products that power the 21st century economy. We agreed to work together to promote innovation in agricultural and food security to help feed a growing planet. And our agreement to extend visas for business people, tourists and students will help fuel growth and create jobs for Americans and Chinese.
I told President Xi that we welcome reforms being discussed here that would give the market a defining role in the Chinese economy. At the same time, I did emphasize the need for a level playing field, so foreign companies can compete fairly, including against Chinese state-owned enterprises. I stressed the importance of protecting intellectual property as well as trade secrets, especially against cyber-threats. And we welcome continued progress towards a market-driven exchange rate.
Second, as the world’s two largest economies, energy consumers and emitters of greenhouse gases, we have a special responsibility to lead the global effort against climate change. That's why today I am proud that we can announce a historic agreement. I commend President Xi, his team, and the Chinese government for the commitment they are making to slow, peak, and then reverse the course of China’s carbon emissions.
Today, I can also announce that the United States has set a new goal of reducing our net greenhouse gas emissions by 26 to 28 percent below 2005 levels by the year 2025. This is an ambitious goal, but it is an achievable goal. It will double the pace at which we’re reducing carbon pollution in the United States. It puts us on a path to achieving the deep emissions reductions by advanced economies that the scientific community says is necessary to prevent the most catastrophic effects of climate change. It will help improve public health. It will grow our economy. It will create jobs. It will strengthen our energy security, and it will put both of our nations on the path to a low-carbon economy.
This is a major milestone in the U.S.-China relationship, and it shows what’s possible when we work together on an urgent global challenge. In addition, by making this announcement today, together, we hope to encourage all major economies to be ambitious -- all countries, developing and developed -- to work across some of the old divides so we can conclude a strong global climate agreement next year.
Third, with respect to regional security, we agreed to a number of new measures to improve communications between our militaries in order to reduce the risk of accidents or miscalculations on the seas and in the air. President Xi and I reaffirmed our commitment to the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, and we agree that North Korea will not succeed in pursuing nuclear weapons and economic development, that it can’t have both.While the United States does not take a position on competing claims in the East and South China Seas, I made it clear that we do have a fundamental interest in freedom of navigation, and that territorial disputes in the region should be resolved peacefully, in accordance with international law. And I congratulated President Xi on the initial contacts with Prime Minister Abe of Japan to help lower tensions with respect to that issue.
I reaffirmed my strong commitment to our One-China policy based on the Three Joint Communiqués and the Taiwan Relations Act. And we encourage further progress by both sides of the Taiwan Strait towards building ties, reducing tensions and promoting stability on the basis of dignity and respect, which is in the interest of both sides, as well as the region and the United States.
Fourth, I welcomed China’s contributions to international security. This includes our mutual support for a stable, unified Afghanistan; our mutual interest in seeing the terrorist group ISIL is destroyed; the potential work we can do together in other counterterrorism activities, including those that were raised by President Xi; our mutual efforts as part of the P5-plus-1 to reach a comprehensive solution that ensures Iran’s nuclear program is exclusively peaceful.We agree that Iran should seize this historic opportunity by making the tough choices that are necessary to achieve a lasting diplomatic solution. And in addition, the United States is very appreciative of China’s important contributions in West Africa in the fight against Ebola. We agreed to expand our cooperation against infectious diseases more broadly and to promote access to electricity across Africa -- more examples of the difference we can make when we work together.
And finally, I reiterated to President Xi, as I have before, that America’s unwavering support for fundamental human rights of all people will continue to be an important element of our relationship with China, just as it is with all the countries that we interact with around the world. And we had a very healthy exchange around these issues. President Xi gave me his sense of how China is moving forward. I described to him by it is so important for us to speak out for the freedoms that we believe are universal, rights that we believe are the birthright of all men and women, wherever they live, whether it is in New York or Paris or Hong Kong.
We think history shows that nations that uphold these rights -- including for ethnic and religious minorities -- are ultimately more prosperous, more successful, and more able to achieve the dreams of their people. In that context, I did note that we recognize Tibet as part of the People’s Republic of China. We are not in favor of independence. But we did encourage Chinese authorities to take steps to preserve the unique cultural, religious and linguistic identity of the Tibetan people.
In closing, I want to say that I am pleased that we continue to expand the ties between our peoples. The new visa extension that begins today will bring more Chinese tourists to the United States and more American tourists to see the magnificent sights of China. That will encourage more exchanges among our students. We welcome more Chinese students to the United States than from any other country. And I’m proud that this summer my “100,000 Strong” program reached our goal of more than 100,000 Americans studying in China in recent years. With these visa extensions, we’ll give more students this opportunity -- both Chinese and Americans.
So every day, our people are coming to know each other better. Every day, our young people are forging friendships that will serve our countries for many decades to come. Every day some of the barriers of mistrust are broken down, mutual understanding is promoted. And that lays the seeds for cooperation, not just today, but for future generations.
So, President Xi, thank you again for your hospitality, for the candid and very productive conversations, for your hosting of an excellent APEC Summit, and for our work together.As Deng Xiaoping said, we must seek facts from -- “seek truth from facts.” The truth is that we have made important progress today for the benefit of both of our nations and for the benefit of the world. The truth is that even more progress is possible as we continue to develop this important relationship. I am confident that we will be able to do so. So thank you. Xie xie.We’ve each agreed I believe to take a question from the press.
PRESIDENT OBAMA: I’m not sure I remember the question. (Laughter.) I’m teasing.First of all, with respect to press attitudes towards America or me in particular, I am always working on the assumption that the press giving me a hard time is true wherever I go, whether in the United States or China. That’s part of being a public official. And I think that it is fair to say that there are differences between the United States and China on a range of issues. On the other end, I’m a big believer in actions and not words. And this summit I think is evidence of the values that China places in the relationship between the United States and China.
On a whole host of issues at this summit, we’ve shown that U.S.-China cooperation can end up not only being good for the two countries, but for the world as a whole. And I do think that one of the benefits of a summit like this is an opportunity for one-on-one conversations between the leaders of the two countries to break down some of the misperceptions and mistrust that can build up over time.
So, for example, on the issue of Hong Kong, which did come up in our conversations, I was unequivocal in saying to President Xi that the United States had no involvement in fostering the protests that took place there; that these are issues ultimately for the people of Hong Kong and the people of China to decide. But I did describe for him that the United States, as a matter of foreign policy but also a matter of our values, are going to consistently speak out on the right of people to express themselves, and encourage the elections that take place in Hong Kong are transparent and fair and reflective of the opinions of people there.
And more broadly, our conversations gave me an opportunity to debunk the notion that you suggested, Mark, just now that our pivot to Asia is about containing China. I have repeatedly reiterated and displayed through the actions of our administration that we want China to succeed. And we actively encourage our friends and allies in the region to foster a strong and cooperative relationship with China.
So, as I mentioned briefly, we applaud the lowering of tensions between China and Japan. We think that’s good for the region and good for both countries. And so what you left out of the list of actions that we’ve taken in this pivot to Asia is the multiple meetings I’ve had with President Xi and his predecessor, and the remarkable scope of agreements that we have reached to deepen economic, scientific, educational and security arrangements between the United States and China.
In other words, a strong, cooperative relationship with China is at the heart of our pivot to Asia. And if the United States is going to continue to lead the world in addressing global challenges, then we have to have the second-largest economy and the most populous nation on Earth as our partner. And the carbon reduction agreement that we just announced is a perfect example of why a strong U.S.-China relationship is so critical.
And just in closing, I want to say that although there are going to continue to be tensions and disagreements between our countries, as is true with all countries, particularly large countries that have a lot of interests around the globe, I’ve consistently found President Xi to be willing to engage on those differences in a frank and candid matter, and we have consistently strived to find ways to narrow those differences.
I think the military-to-military cooperation announcements that we’re making today are a perfect example of how rather than try to tamp down those differences, surfacing them and then addressing them is going to be a centerpiece, a lynchpin for the kinds of cooperative agreements that I hope will continue for generations to come.