Setting the stage for the upcoming state visit of Chinese President Hu Jintao on January 19, 2011, Secretary Clinton spoke today on "A Broad Vision of U.S.-China Relations in the 21st Century."
Her remarks inaugurate the Richard C. Holbrooke Annual Lecture series, a tribute to the memory and accomplishments of one of our nation's finest diplomats and most dedicated public servants. The annual lecture will provide a forum to discuss challenging and important foreign policy issues like those Ambassador Holbrooke grappled with and left an indelible mark upon throughout his distinguished career, including as Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs from 1977-1981.
Prefacing a more detailed discussion of U.S. regional engagement, as well as U.S.-China cooperation on economic and security issues, the Secretary said: "For nearly half a century, as a young Foreign Service officer in Vietnam, as the tireless negotiator of the Dayton Accords, as the Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, Richard Holbrooke grappled with some of the most difficult and important challenges of American foreign policy. And he left an indelible mark on this Department, on our country, and on the world. Because of his efforts, America is more secure, millions of people around the world have had the opportunity to live up to their full God-given potential. And we are honoring Richard's legacy in many ways, and this afternoon, many of us will gather at the Kennedy Center to share stories and remembrances. And one of the ways we have chosen is this new lecture series, which reflects Richard's passion for serious policy questions and his conviction that they deserve serious discussion.
"Richard had a hand in nearly every crucial foreign policy challenge of the last 50 years. If he was not invited to have a hand, his hand was there anyway. And I look around this room not only at Americans, but at many of our friends from across the world, and many of you know what I'm talking about. He was tireless, he was relentless, he would not take no for an answer, because I would give him no over and over again, and it was not the answer he wanted. He worked with many of us on these important issues. And today, I would like to focus on one that he knew well and that is on everyone's mind as we prepare for the important arrival of President Hu Jintao: the future of U.S.-China relations.
"...America and China have arrived at a critical juncture, a time when the choices we make -- both big and small -- will shape the trajectory of this relationship. And over the past two years, in the Obama Administration, we have created the opportunity for deeper, broader, and more sustained cooperation. We have seen some early successes and also some frustrations. And moving forward, it is up to both of us to more consistently translate positive words into effective cooperation. It is up to both of us to deal with our differences, and there will be always differences between two great nations. We need to deal with them wisely and responsibly. And it is up to both of us to meet our respective global responsibilities and obligations. These are the things that will determine whether our relationship delivers on its potential in the years to come.
"...These three decades of relations between our countries have also been three decades of impressive growth for China. When Richard Holbrooke and his colleagues first visited China, its GDP barely topped $100 billion. Today, it is almost $5 trillion. Trade between our two countries used to be measured in the hundreds of millions of dollars. Today, it surpasses $400 billion annually.
"China's transformation, made possible primarily by the hard work of its people and the vision of its leaders, was also aided by an open and dynamic global economy and by the American power that has long secured stability in the region. It has lifted hundreds of millions out of grinding poverty and now helps drive global prosperity. The United States has welcomed this growth, and we have benefited from it. Today, our economies are entwined and so are our futures.
"...History teaches that the rise of new powers often ushers in periods of conflict and uncertainty. Indeed, on both sides of the Pacific, we do see some trepidation about the rise of China and about the future of the U.S.-China relationship. Some in the region and some here at home see China's growth as a threat that will lead either to Cold War-style conflict or American decline. And some in China worry that the United States is bent on containing China's rise and constraining China's growth, a view that is stoking a new streak of assertive Chinese nationalism. We reject those views.
"In the 21st century, it does not make sense to apply zero-sum 19th century theories of how major powers interact. We are moving through uncharted territory. We need new ways of understanding the shifting dynamics of the international landscape, a landscape marked by emerging centers of influence, but also by non-traditional, even non-state actors, and the unprecedented challenges and opportunities created by globalization. This is a fact that we believe is especially applicable to the U.S-China relationship. Our engagement -- indeed, I would say our entanglement -- can only be understood in the context of this new and more complicated landscape.
"I said when I first went to China as Secretary of State early in my tenure that there was an old Chinese saying that when you're in the same boat you have to row in the same direction. We are in the same boat, and we will either row in the same direction or we will, unfortunately, cause turmoil and whirlpools that will impact not just our two countries, but many people far beyond either of our borders.
"This is not a relationship that fits neatly into the black and white categories like friend or rival. We are two complex nations with very different histories, with profoundly different political systems and outlooks. But there is a lot about our people that reminds us of each other: an energy, an entrepreneurial dynamism, a commitment to a better future for one's children and grandchildren. We are both deeply invested in the current order and we both have much more to gain from cooperation than from conflict.
"Now, that doesn't mean that we will not be competitors. That's the nature of human endeavors. It is who we are as people, but there are ways of doing it that are more likely to benefit than not. A peaceful and prosperous Asia-Pacific region is in the interests of both China and the United States. A thriving America is good for China, and a thriving China is good for America. Our friends and allies across the Asia-Pacific region would agree. They also want to move beyond outdated, zero-sum formulas that might force them to choose between relations with Beijing and relations with Washington.
"So all of this calls for careful, steady, dynamic stewardship of this critical relationship, an approach to China on our part that is grounded in reality, focused on results, and true to our principles and interests. And that is how we intend to pursue a positive, cooperative, and comprehensive relationship with China. Now, I am sure you will hear that phrase quite a bit over the next week: positive, cooperative, and comprehensive relationship, because that really does capture our hopes for the future, and that is how our two presidents have described this relationship.
"But you cannot build a relationship on aspirations alone. That is what makes this a critical juncture. As I said at the outset, the choices both sides make in the months and years ahead and the policies we pursue will help determine whether our relationship lives up to its promise, and it is up to both of us to translate high-level pledges of summits and state visits into action, real action on real issues. To keep our relationship on a positive trajectory, we also have to be honest about our differences. We will address them firmly and decisively as we pursue the urgent work we have to do together. And we have to avoid unrealistic expectations that can be disappointed. This requires steady effort over time to expand the areas where we cooperate and to narrow the areas where we diverge, while holding firm to our respective values.
"As we build on our record of the past two years and shape the future of our relationship, the Obama Administration is pursuing a strategy with three elements that all reinforce one another. We are practicing robust regional engagement in the Asia-Pacific, we are working to build trust between China and the United States, and we are committed to expanding economic, political, and security cooperation wherever possible."
The complete transcript is available here.