Ambassador Baucus’s Remarks at Kunming Museum

Max Baucus

United States Ambassador to China

Kunming Museum

January 28, 2015

AMBASSADOR BAUCUS:  Thank you so very much Mr. Tian Jian.  I deeply appreciate that introduction. I want to also thank the tour director who gave us a wonderful tour through the museum.  Bai Hong and Yang Fuquan, Vice President of the local Academy of Social Science who I just met, as well as Lu Tianyun, Director General of the Foreign Affairs Office up here at Kunming.

Before I go any farther I’d like to introduce my wife, Melodee Hanes.  I have a very good time when I’m in groups introducing Mel and telling everybody this is my “Tai tai, wo de tai, tai.”  Sometimes she says maybe the word should be a little bit more formal.  That “tai tai” is a little informal, but I don’t care.  She’s my “tai tai.”

I wanted to tell you how pleased we are, Mel and I, to be here at Kunming, for many many reasons.  One is your wonderful perfect weather.  It is truly heaven.  When I next see President Xi I’m going to suggest he move the nation’s capital from Beijing to Kunming.

Now all of you here in Kunming may not like that.  With all the subway construction here, which is delaying traffic, you probably don’t want all these presidential motorcades in Kunming blocking traffic even further.  So I suspect that you would not be too happy with the nation’s capital moving to Kunming.

But, thank you so much.  It’s so good to be here.

This is our first visit, Mel and I.  I’m so impressed, as I mentioned.  And we like Kunming so much that during lunch today we were comparing notes and asking each other, when can we return?  We’re thinking of probably returning sometime this summer.

You might ask, why are we here today at the Kunming Museum?  The answer is very simple.  Let me start with a story about an American pilot named Lieutenant Robert H. Mooney.  Lieutenant Mooney, as you all know, it’s a story well known here in Kunming, Lieutenant Mooney made the ultimate sacrifice. He and other Flying Tiger pilots from the United States 14th Air Force were assigned to protect an airfield in Dali from enemy bombers.  The airfield was jointly built by U.S. and Chinese workers.  In the battle to protect the airfield, Lieutenant Mooney shot down at least two enemy planes before his plane was damaged in a dogfight near the village of Xiangyun.  And rather than eject, his plane was very damaged, it was clear the plane was going down.  But rather than eject and save himself which would mean that his plane would crash into the village, Lieutenant Mooney did something else.  He steered the plane away from Xiangyun as villagers watched below.  But by the time he finally ejected, you know the story, it was too late.  But by sparing the village, Lieutenant Mooney died of injuries he suffered when he jumped out of his plane but the parachute didn’t open.  He therefore as a consequence died.  He gave his life for the people of Xiangyun village.

After his death the people of Xiangyun, many of you here, dedicated a monument to him at the crash site.  To this day many villagers here at Xiangyun tidy up Lieutenant Mooney’s monument each year on Tomb Sweeping Day.  Why?  To express their gratitude for his sacrifice.

Lieutenant Mooney was just one of 2,590 American service men and women who died in China during the Second World War.  Throughout the war, U.S. combatants in China were touched by the kindness and bravery of their Chinese partners.  Brave men and women provided assistance and shelter to thousands of American airmen whose planes were shot down for a cause they shared.  In fact over at the museum just an hour or so ago we saw many photographs of Chinese helping give care and assistance to airmen and soldiers who were injured in the war.

People from both countries sacrificed greatly. I might say too at lunch today I sat next to Mr. Sun Guansheng who I think is head of the Flying Tigers Association here in Kunming and we shared many stories together.  He’s a very perceptive man.  I’m deeply impressed with him.  And we talked about history, beginning with Sun Yat-Sen and Whampoa the development of the academy that trained soldiers, and Claire Chennault and Stillwell and others who were here. I just want to complement him.  He’s quite a wonderful man.

The Second World War has a personal meaning for me and for my wife Mel.  We are both children of World War II veterans.  My father served in the U.S. Air Force not here, but in Europe.  Mel’s father was here in China.  He was a United States pilot.  He loved to tell stories of the missions that he flew just north of Shanghai.  I’ve heard many stories about how proud he was to fight alongside the Chinese during the war.  In fact Mel has a piece of silk that he carried with him when he was flying in battle over China.  The silk includes a picture of the American flag as well as language in Chinese basically saying, “I’m an American.  I’m here flying to help China against the Japanese.  And if you find me please help and assist me and give me care.”  It was a silk message he carried with him in case he was shot down.

So it’s clear that Chinese and Americans performed heroic acts of bravery.  Both sides sacrificed and demonstrated just how committed our two countries were to helping each other in a moment of need.  Bonds like these are lasting.  We can’t forget the bravery and sacrifices of men and women on both sides that came together for a common cause.

Our history here and our partnership in the war fighting fascism is really a foundation for us to build on.  It reminds me very much of the importance of this relationship.  That is the relationship between China and the United States.  I think it’s the most important relationship between any two countries in the world today and it’s up to us to work hard to make sure we get that, make that right.  The only way to do that is to work together as we did in critical moments in the past.

The cooperation between our two countries is only one part of the efforts we have to undertake.  We have to also work with others to make sure this world is a better place than the one we found.  Since our victory over fascism 70 years ago Asia has enjoyed unprecedented peace and prosperity.  If you pause and think about it just a few minutes, it’s incredible how much Asia has grown and prospered since the end of World War II.

The Japan of 1945 is gone.  Today’s Japan is a democracy, a close U.S. ally and a critical economic partner to both our countries.  In fact, steady ties between China and Japan help ensure a stable regional security environment that enables East Asia to flourish.  Healthy relations between China and Japan are good for all.

That’s why, frankly, we Americans welcomed the Four Point Agreement that President Xi and Prime Minister Abe reached just this last November, and it’s why we encourage further involvement and the cooperative effort between China and Japan.  It’s helpful for both countries and also for the rest of the world.

Across the world, countries that once fought against each other now work together on many of the world’s most pressing issues.  So much more can be accomplished when they work together.

The world is growing smaller and many of the threats we face today are becoming more urgent.  The clock is ticking.  We live at a critical moment in history.  Today China and the United States face great challenges together on many fronts.  North Korea and Iranian nuclear programs, violent extremism, pandemic diseases like Ebola, food security, environmental protection and climate change.  These are just a few of the many issues where our futures are intertwined, interrelated–the U.S. and China and the rest of the world.

I’ve had this job now representing the United States in China about ten months.  I love it.  It’s the best job in the world.  But in my one year here, I must tell you just how deeply heartened I am that our two countries are working so closely together and I sense becoming even closer together.

First of all, our economic relations are very deep and contribute to prosperity in both countries.  Nearly 11 billion RMB worth of goods and services flow between our countries every day.  Our total annual bilateral trade reached about 3.7 trillion Renminbi in 2013.  That’s about 700 million iPhones or to say it another way, about five times what it was when China joined the WTO back 13 years ago.  And there’s more.  Members of our militaries are working side by side in Africa to bring Ebola under control and to counter piracy in the Gulf of Aden.

It’s really quite encouraging.  In many respects it brings opportunities but it also brings responsibilities.  Last November I was with President Obama in Beijing, with him and with President Xi when they made that very historic agreement on carbon emissions.  That was an historic agreement.  Stop and think about it.  Our two countries agreed to limit, actually limit, carbon emissions by a certain date, setting a precedent for all countries around the world to also follow suit and set their own carbon emission limitation dates so that together all countries of the world can affect climate change.

As you know, the next major step is in Paris later this year and if we work very hard together we can lead the world in making sure that the Paris Conference is successful.

President Obama and President Xi also made a landmark announcement on visas that can help nearly everyone in this room.  They’ve extended the validity of business and tourist visas to ten years, and extended student and exchange visas to five years.  We’ve already issued tens of thousands of new visas since that announcement just two months ago.  That was last year.

So I ask you–join me this year at the 70th Anniversary of the end of World War II to honor Lieutenant Mooney and all that we have achieved together.  Let’s look ahead together to address the challenges facing our two countries and the world.  The sacrifices here, here in Kunming, showed that when the United States and China work together we can accomplish great things.

That work continues.  That’s why I’m here with you.  We have a responsibility to get this relationship between our two countries right.  It’s rewarding and it’s also, I might add, a lot of fun.  So onward, we move together.  And I thank you very much for letting me be here with you.  Thank you.