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

And fourth, we can cooperate to advance our mutual interests in confronting transnational threats. The most pressing dangers we face no longer come from competition among great powers — they come from extremists who would murder innocents; from traffickers and pirates who pursue their own profits at the expense of others; from diseases that know no borders; and from suffering and civil wars that breed instability and terror. These are the threats of the 21st century. And that is why the pursuit of power among nations must no longer be seen as a zero-sum game. Progress — including security — must be shared.

Through increased ties between our militaries, we can diminish causes for dispute while providing a framework for cooperation. Through continued intelligence-sharing, we can disrupt terrorist plots and dismantle terrorist networks. Through early warning and coordination, we can check the spread of disease. And through determined diplomacy, we must meet our responsibility to seek the peaceful resolution of conflict — and that can begin with a renewed push to end the suffering in Darfur, and to promote a comprehensive peace in Sudan.

All of these issues are rooted in the fact that no one nation can meet the challenges of the 21st century on its own, nor effectively advance its interests in isolation. It is this fundamental truth that compels us to cooperate. I have no illusion that the United States and China will agree on every issue, nor choose to see the world in the same way. This was already noted by our previous speaker. But that only makes dialogue more important — so that we can know each other better, and communicate our concerns with candor.

For instance, the United States respects the progress that China has made by lifting hundreds of millions of people out of poverty. Just as we respect China’s ancient and remarkable culture, its remarkable achievements, we also strongly believe that the religion and culture of all peoples must be respected and protected, and that all people should be free to speak their minds. And that includes ethnic and religious minorities in China, as surely as it includes minorities within the United States.

Support for human rights and human dignity is ingrained in America. Our nation is made up of immigrants from every part of the world. We have protected our unity and struggled to perfect our union by extending basic rights to all our people. And those rights include the freedom to speak your mind, to worship your God, and to choose your leaders. These are not things that we seek to impose — this is who we are. It guides our openness to one another and to the world.

China has its own distinct story that shapes its own worldview. And Americans know the richness of China’s history because it helped to shape the world and it helped to shape America. We know the talent of the Chinese people because they have helped to create this great country. My own Cabinet contains two Chinese Americans. And we know that despite our differences, America is enriched through deeper ties with a country of 1.3 billion people that is at once ancient and dynamic — ties that can be forged through increased exchanges among our people, and constructive bilateral relations between our governments. That is how we will narrow our divisions.

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