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U.S.-China Relations in the Era of Globalization

John D. Negroponte, Deputy Secretary of State
Opening Statement Before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee
Washington, DC
May 15, 2008

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Mr. Chairman, Senator Lugar, Members of the Committee, thank you for the opportunity to speak with you about U.S. policy toward China.

Today’s hearing comes at an opportune moment since I have just returned from a two-day visit to Beijing. While there, I met with senior Chinese government leaders to discuss issues of bilateral and international concern.

One of the Administration’s major foreign policy objectives is to engage with an increasingly influential China to affect choices that Chinese leaders make in ways that serve global stability and U.S. interests.

China is a permanent member of the UN Security Council. It possesses one of the world’s largest and most dynamic economies. It is a nuclear power, and it is the seat of a great civilization. U.S.-China cooperation is in our mutual interest.

Before addressing three important dimensions of U.S.-China cooperation, I want to express condolences on behalf of our government to the Chinese people for the tragic loss of life from Monday’s earthquake in Sichuan province. We have transferred $500,000 to the International Federation of the Red Cross and are exploring ways to make additional assistance available to China through public-private partnerships and other means. Our interest in the immediate welfare of the Chinese people at such a moment is emblematic of our broader commitment to strategic dialogue and cooperation with China as a nation.

Today, I would like to focus on three vital dimensions of our relations with China: maintaining peace and stability in Asia; motivating China’s positive contributions to global stability; and encouraging China’s greater respect for human rights and freedom of expression.

With respect to peace and stability in Asia, we welcome the fact that China has repeatedly reassured its neighbors that its rise is peaceful and will benefit the entire region. This facilitates our efforts to urge China to exercise leadership in addressing regional problems, particularly with regard to the Korean Peninsula and Burma, and in pursuing dialogue with Taiwan.

We work closely with China on our shared Six-Party goal of the complete and verifiable denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. China’s leadership as chair and host of the Six-Party Talks has been essential to the progress we have made so far. We also think the eventual establishment of a framework for peace and security in Northeast Asia would be advantageous for the region as whole. Such a framework would complement our enduring alliances in Asia. China must, of course, play an important role in any such undertaking.

Burma is a separate regional challenge. The situation in Burma is unstable and unsustainable. We welcome the fact that China has pressed the Burmese regime to cooperate with the international community in providing humanitarian assistance in the wake of Cyclone Nargis. China has also urged meaningful dialogue between the Burmese regime and the democratic opposition and ethnic minority groups. We want to work with China more to persuade the Burmese regime to move away from its political repression and disastrous economic mismanagement.

Regarding Taiwan, we are encouraged by news of the initial meeting between President Hu Jintao and Taiwan’s Vice President-elect Vincent Siew. We remain concerned, however, about the PRC’s continued military buildup and have urged the Mainland’s leaders to show more flexibility in their approach to cross-Strait relations. We do not support Taiwan independence. We want cross-Strait differences to be resolved peacefully and according to the wishes of the people on both sides of the Strait. Nobody should question our resolve in insisting on such a peaceful process.

As China becomes more integrated in international economic and political institutions, its ability to contribute to global stability—the second theme I’d like to address—is growing. Beijing’s traditional principle of non-interference is giving way to diplomatic interventions that highlight China’s stated ambition to be seen as a responsible major power. We have welcomed China’s support for a number of U.S. initiatives in the United Nations Security Council. These have included sanctions resolutions against North Korea and Iran, and a hybrid peacekeeping mission for Darfur. China’s support for these positions would have been hard to imagine several years ago. At the same time, we continue to encourage China to take into consideration the full impact of its diplomatic and trade policies, particularly in areas of instability and civil unrest like Sudan.

I would like to conclude by speaking about the Chinese government’s respect for human rights and freedom of expression. Our position is clear, grounded in our national values and national experience: We believe the expansion of individual freedoms and greater political liberalization is not only the right and just path—it also is the best way for China to achieve long-term stability. This is especially true as China pursues national modernization that will inevitably be accompanied by unpredictable social changes.

We, therefore, welcome the recent meeting between Chinese officials and representatives of the Dalai Lama. Such dialogue is the best hope to address long-standing grievances and promote prosperity in Tibetan areas. And we have urged China to use the Olympics as an opportunity to show greater openness and tolerance, and to increase access to information and expand press freedoms. China will earn the international respect it seeks by guaranteeing all of its citizens internationally recognized rights.

Mr. Chairman, our approach to building cooperation with China and influencing the choices its leaders make about its role in the world is a long-term proposition. China is an emerging great power with enormous potential to enhance prospects for peace, stability, prosperity and human freedom in Asia and around the world. In recent years, we have made some progress in our relations with China, and I would say that the trend lines are positive. But respect, perseverance, and patience will be permanent requirements for both sides as we seek to endow our bilateral relationship with greater solidity, depth, and capacity for constructive cooperation.

Thank you, again, for inviting me to testify on this important topic. I welcome your comments and questions.

Released on May 15, 2008

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