Remarks by the Vice President at Sichuan University
Thank you, all, very much. (Applause.) Mr. President, thank you for your gracious introduction. We have an expression in the United States Senate where I served for many years when we want to say something personal, we say, permit me a point of personal privilege. I would like to introduce you to two of my family members who I’ve brought along with me, my daughter-in-law Kathleen Biden and my granddaughter Naomi Biden. Would you guys stand? (Applause.)
It would be more appropriate to say Naomi brought me along with her since she’s a budding Chinese speaker, been taking Chinese for five years, so I’ve been listening to her on the whole trip.
I want to again thank you very much. I had a wonderful few days in Beijing and a series of very positive and productive conversations with Chinese leaders. And I’m pleased to make my first visit to western China, which has played such an incredible, such an incredible role in this nation’s proud, proud history, and which today is the vanguard of Chinese -- China’s high-tech future.
Two years ago, Sichuan province suffered one of the greatest natural disasters in China’s recent history. And the American people were inspired -- were inspired by the way you all came together to help one another during that crisis. And I’m absolutely amazed as I drive around the city, and I’ll be moving out into the province later, after this speech -- I’m amazed at how quickly you have rebuilt and you have recovered.
The people of Chengdu, let me say simply that your hospitality has more than lived up to your reputation as the “land of abundance,” so again, thank you so very much for that hospitality.
It’s also great to be here on a university campus. I also want to thank our host, the university which counts amongst its alumni some of the most illustrious figures in recent Chinese history, including Zhu De and Ba Jin, both of whom are -- one a literary icon; the other, one of the most illustrious figures, and a founding father of the republic.
I’m also pleased to be joined today by -- he’s already been introduced -- but by our ambassador, our new ambassador Gary Locke whose grandfather came to the United States from Canton in the 1890s and toiled as a house servant in the United States in exchange for being able to get English language lessons. In less than two generations -- two generations later, Gary Locke, his grandson, has served as the governor of his home state of Washington, the U.S. Secretary of Commerce and the chief of mission in one our most important diplomatic posts in the world.
I share this story with you not because it’s unique, but because it is uniquely American. While not every child or grandchild of an immigrant will reach the pinnacle of society as Ambassador Locke has, America continues to put such possibilities within reach of all those who seek our shores.
On my first visit to China, which was more than 30 years ago when I was a young United States senator in 1979, I was with the first delegation of congressional leaders to visit China after normalization. We had several days of business with then Vice Premier Deng Xiaoping. It was a very different country then, but what was absolutely clear to me was that China was on the cusp of a remarkable transformation.
Changes were just getting underway. My first introduction here in Sichuan that would begin transforming a largely agrarian society into an engine of economic global and help lift hundreds of millions of people out of poverty was -- seemed to me clear at the time. That first visit came amid a debate in the United States of America similar to the one that exists today about how to view China’s emergence. Let me be clear -- let me be clear: I believed in 1979 and said so and I believe now that a rising China is a positive development, not only for the people of China but for the United States and the world as a whole.
A rising China will fuel economic growth and prosperity and it will bring to the fore a new partner with whom we can meet global challenges together. When President Obama and I took office in January of 2009, we made our relationship with China a top priority. We were determined to set it on a stable and sustainable course that would benefit the citizens of both our countries. Our Presidents have met nine times since then, including very successful state visits in Beijing and Washington, and have spoken numerous times by telephone.
Direct discussions between senior policymakers and the personal ties that result from such discussions in my view over the last 35 years of conducting foreign policy are the keys to building cooperation. They're built on understanding. They allow us to better understand each other and allow us to define our interests in ways that are clear so that each one of us know what the other country’s interests are, and to see the world through the eyes of the other with the intention of preventing miscommunications and misconceptions that tend to fuel mistrust.
With that goal in mind, we have worked very hard to develop our cooperative partnership through more than 60 separate dialogues on issues of matter to both China and to the United States; and I would suggest to the world as a whole.
The premier forum is what we refer to as the Strategic and Economic Dialogue which brings together policymakers from across both governments to discuss a range of issues from trade barriers to climate change. But we also recognize -- we also recognized immediately on starting that the importance more directly addressing security issues, as well. That's why in May we jointly launched the first Strategic Security Dialogue, a new channel for civilian and military leaders to discuss sensitive topics, including cyber and maritime security. That's why it’s also important that our military leaders work together, get to know one another -- not just our political leaders, but our military leaders -- as Admiral Mullen and General Chen have begun to do in their recent exchange of meetings.
The fact is China and the United States face many of the same threats and share many of the same objectives and responsibilities. But because we sometimes view threats from different perspectives -- that is China and the United States view them from different perspectives, our -- or favor a different way in dealing with what we perceive to be joint threats, our generals should be talking to each other alongside with our diplomats, as frequently as our diplomats do. Like China, the United States has a huge stake in the prosperity and stability of Asia and the Pacific.
I look forward to visiting two other Asian nations on this trip. When I leave China, I’ll go to Mongolia and then to Japan. The United States -- and I realize this occasionally causes some discomfiture -- but the United States is a Pacific power, and we will remain a specific power -- a Pacific power.
Over the last 60 years, no country has done more than we have to ensure the stability and security of the Asian-Pacific region. And I’d respectfully suggest that has been good for China, allowing China to focus on domestic development and to benefit from a growing market.
America’s focus on this critical region will only grow in the years to come as Asia plays an even greater role in the global economy and international affairs.
As President Obama said in Tokyo during his first visit to Asia as President, and I quote: “The United States of America may have started as a series of ports and cities along the Atlantic Ocean, but for generations, we have also been a nation of the Pacific. Asia and the United States are not separated by this great ocean, we are bound by it.”
That's why we’ve begun this dialogue, this Asia-Pacific Dialogue on issues -- to expand cooperation in the region where we both live and operate.
Let me give you another example of our security cooperation. The United States and China are also working as international -- with international partners to counter the threat posed by the spread of nuclear weapons, materials and technology, so called nonproliferation. Along with 46 other world leaders, President Hu honored us by joining President Obama and me at the Nuclear Security Summit in April of last year, and our nations are now collaborating on a center for excellence to provide nuclear security in China.
In my discussions with Vice President Xi this week, I said we have to deepen our conversations on the world’s two primary nuclear proliferating challenges: North Korea and Iran. I know that China shares our concerns, but some of you may wonder why our focus -- the focus of the United States is so intense. The reason is clear: If armed with nuclear weapons on long-range missiles, North Korea and Iran would pose a direct and serious threat to the security of the United States of America and our allies. It would present an existential threat. That is why -- that is why we’ve been working with China and our international partners to maintain peace and stability on the Korean peninsula and to achieve a complete denuclearization of North Korea. And it is why as the Iranian government continues its illicit nuclear program, we have worked with a range of partners and international institutions to enact the toughest sanctions that Iran has ever faced.
Without vigilant implementation of these sanctions, Iran will evade the consequences of the actions and diplomacy will not be effective in stopping their nuclear program. So we will continue to look to China to send a clear message to Iranian leaders through its words and its deeds that they, Iran, must live up to their international obligations.
There are many other security challenges that the United States and China share. From Afghanistan, to Pakistan, to the Sudan -- and we have been and will continue to discuss our mutual interests and concerns. Continuing to develop our security dialogue and cooperation is the surest way to meet these joint challenges.
Economic issues -- to state the obvious -- have been a particular focus of our nations’ growing cooperation. Together, we’re working to promote economic growth that is strong, sustainable and balanced, and trade that is free and fair.
Trade and investment between our countries are growing rapidly in both countries, in both directions, creating jobs and economic opportunities in both countries.
We often hear about Chinese exports to the United States, but last year American companies in America exported $110 billion worth of goods and services to China, supporting hundreds of thousands of jobs in America. The American people and the Chinese people are hopefully -- are becoming aware that it’s in our mutual interest in each of our countries to promote that exchange.
A more prosperous China will mean more demand for American-made goods and services and more jobs back home in the United States of America. So our desire for your prosperity is not borne out of some nobility. It is in our self-interest that China continue to prosper.
Every day it becomes clear that as the world’s two largest economies with ever growing ties of investment and commerce, what you do matters to us and matters to the American people. And what we do matters to you and to the people of China. To state it bluntly, we have a stake in one another’s success.
Just as putting America’s fiscal policy on a long-term sustainable path is important not only to the United States but to China, to China’s economy, shifting China economy, which the 12th five-year plan calls for, to rely more heavily on consumer demand in China is not only important to China, but it’s important to the United States of America.
As Chinese leaders have told me, this five-year plan will require them to take a number of steps including continuing their effort to move toward a more flexible exchange rate. It’s in China’s interest, but it’s also overwhelmingly in the interest of the United States.
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