I'm on my way to the airport after a week spent meeting with many different people and groups here in Beijing and having participated in the Strategic & Economic Dialogue (S&ED). The experience reinforced for me that we have a wide-ranging relationship with China that includes issues like the rule of law, the free flow of information, and labor rights. These issues are impossible to categorize in a singular way -- they are all part of our shared strategic and economic interests.
One of my goals in Beijing was to continue to establish working relationships built on mutual understanding. I was able to spend time with my Chinese colleagues in formal sessions and meetings, but also in informal conversations. I came to Beijing last Thursday in advance of the S&ED in order to have time for meetings with government officials, civil society organizations, business leaders, rights lawyers, and academics to deepen my knowledge of the current issues, and build the foundations for future cooperation. These meetings presented a range of views from people with different perspectives.
Some of my meetings focused on areas where we have sharp differences with the Chinese government. I continued to raise our concerns on a broad range of issues in a direct, forceful, but respectful manner. I raised concerns about freedom of expression, freedom of religion, labor rights, and the rule of law. These are issues that not only define who we are as Americans, but also represent the universal standard of human rights to which all nations must adhere.
One of my major goals in Beijing was to continue to identify areas for positive cooperation. We are looking to restart the Legal Experts Dialogue, and are seeking to build support for discussions on the role of religious organizations in society. I am also interested in exploring cooperation on labor issues in manufacturing. I would like to take a whole-of-government approach on both the Chinese and American sides to tackle these issues.
As I sat in the S&ED plenary sessions, I was surprised by how many of the issues on the agenda connect to the important work we do in our bureau. The dialogue helped underscore for me the wisdom of a whole-of-government approach to our relations with China -- on issues as far ranging as customs controls, Burma, economic development, multilateral diplomacy, and energy. This principle applies not only to our relationship with China, but to all of our partners.
Continuing on the theme of dialogue, I'm on my way to Russia with a group of U.S. government officials and representatives of U.S. civil society led by Senior Director Mike McFaul of the National Security Council (NSC). We are traveling for a civil society dialogue with the aim of expanding the space for civil society organizations to operate and provide valuable social services, accountability, and advocacy in Russia.