Obama on the Record: China-U.S. Relations

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. Good morning. It is a great honor to welcome you to the first meeting of the Strategic Economic Dialogue between the United States and China. This is an essential step in advancing a positive, constructive, and comprehensive relationship between our countries. I’m pleased that President Hu shares my commitment to a sustained dialogue to enhance our shared interests.

President Hu and I both felt that it was important to get our relationship off to a good start. Of course, as a new President and also as a basketball fan, I have learned from the words of Yao Ming, who said, “No matter whether you are new or an old team member, you need time to adjust to one another.” Well, through the constructive meetings that we’ve already had, and through this dialogue, I’m confident that we will meet Yao’s standard.

I want to acknowledge the remarkable American and Chinese leaders who will co-chair this effort. Hillary Clinton and Tim Geithner are two of my closest advisors, and they have both obtained extraordinary experience working with China. And I know that they will have extremely capable and committed Chinese counterparts in State Councilor Dai and Vice Premier Wang. Thank you very much for being here.

I’m also looking forward to the confirmation of an outstanding U.S. Ambassador to China, Governor Jon Huntsman, who is here today. (Applause.) Jon has deep experience living and working in Asia, and — unlike me — he speaks fluent Mandarin Chinese. He also happens to be a Republican who co-chaired Senator McCain’s campaign. And I think that demonstrates Jon’s commitment to serving his country, and the broad, bipartisan support for positive and productive relations between the United States and China. So thank you, Jon, for your willingness to serve.

Today, we meet in a building that speaks to the history of the last century. It houses a national memorial to President Woodrow Wilson, a man who held office when the 20th century was still young, and America’s leadership in the world was emerging. It is named for Ronald Reagan, a man who came of age during two World Wars, and whose presidency helped usher in a new era of history. And it holds a piece of the Berlin Wall, a decades-long symbol of division that was finally torn down, unleashing a rising tide of globalization that continues to shape our world.

One hundred years ago — in the early days of the 20th century — it was clear that there were momentous choices to be made — choices about the borders of nations and the rights of human beings. But in Woodrow Wilson’s day, no one could have foreseen the arc of history that led to a wall coming down in Berlin, nor could they have imagined the conflict and upheaval that characterized the years in between. For people everywhere — from Boston to Beijing — the 20th century was a time of great progress, but that progress also came with a great price.

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