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Biden: U.S., China Relationship Will Shape 21st Century

09 May 2011
Secretary Clinton told Chinese officials that the United States will address difficult issues, such as human rights, “honestly and forthrightly,” as friends do.

Secretary Clinton told Chinese officials that the United States will address difficult issues, such as human rights, “honestly and forthrightly,” as friends do.

As U.S. and Chinese leaders meet in Washington for the third U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue, Vice President Biden said that given the importance of the world’s two largest economies’ cooperation on trade issues, climate change, security and other challenges, their relationship will help shape the 21st century.

Speaking May 9 in Washington with Chinese Vice Premier Wang Qishan, Chinese State Counselor Dai Bingguo, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, Biden said the annual dialogues, begun in 2009, are held to “build a relationship across the entire spectrum of our governments” and address “some of the defining problems of our time.”

“How we cooperate will define in significant part how we deal with the challenges the world faces in the beginning of the 21st century,” Biden said.

The vice president noted that the United States and China are the world’s largest producers and consumers of energy, a fact that poses a common challenge as well as a “great opportunity for common efforts to find clean-energy solutions.”

Biden said both sides need to work together to find where their mutual interests converge, but will also need to discuss areas of “vigorous disagreement,” such as human rights.

The Obama administration strongly believes that the protection of fundamental rights and freedoms — as defined in China’s international commitments, such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and specified in China’s own constitution — is “the best way to promote long-term stability and prosperity of any society,” he said.

In her remarks, Clinton said the United States will continue to discuss its differences with China over human rights “honestly and forthrightly,” as friends do.

She expressed concern over reports that public interest lawyers, writers, artists and others have disappeared or been detained by Chinese authorities, and said U.S. officials worry about the impact of China’s human rights practices “on our domestic politics and on the politics and the stability in China and the region.”

“We know over the long arch of history that societies that work toward respecting human rights are going to be more prosperous, stable and successful,” she said.

The secretary said both countries must work to better understand each other and build trust in order to avoid fears and misperceptions that some of their citizens have of each other.

“Some in our country see China’s progress as a threat to the United States. Some in China worry that America seeks to constrain China’s growth. We reject both those views. We both have much more to gain from cooperation than from conflict,” Clinton said.

“A thriving America is good for China and a thriving China is good for America. But to work together, we need to be able to understand each other’s intentions and interests. And we must demystify long-term plans and aspirations,” she said.