United States Ambassador to China
November 26, 2014
Thank you very much, Dean Yan. That was very generous, your introduction.
It’s wonderful to be here at Tsinghua University. This is a wonderful room here. I wish I had such a wonderful lecture hall when I went to college. This is very nice. I’m very envious of all of you.
It was a pleasure to meet just a half hour ago with President Chen and recently Vice Provost Zhang — thank you very much. And I recently met Vice President Xie, when I arrived. Thank you, Mr. Vice President, very much for your very warm introduction. You’ve been so warm and hospitable here.
Before I go any further, though, I’d like to introduce my family. My taitai, my wife is here. Mel, would you please stand? This is my taitai. I’m very proud of Mel because she is a student here at Tsinghua. Two times a week she gets in her car, she drives from the residence, the Ambassador’s residence, up to Tsinghua to take Chinese lessons. And her two instructors are sitting here in the front row. So you can talk to them and see how well she’s doing. She works very hard. She comes back, and says, “Oh my gosh, that was so hard, but I think I’m learning a little bit. I’m working so hard at it.” I must tell you, Ms. Tian and Ms. Xu, that she practices. She does her homework. She gets up early in the morning to make sure she has all her workbook study programs complete. She’s very conscientious. She really cares.
I’d like to also introduce my son. Zeno, would you please stand? This is Zeno Baucus. Zeno is visiting from America. He’s over here to visit the family for Thanksgiving. Next to Zeno, his wife Stephanie. Stephanie, do you want to stand and say hi? And my wife’s sister Wendy is also with us over here.
I’m also very impressed that many of China’s leaders, including President Xi, studied at Tsinghua classrooms just like the one we’re in here now. I don’t know if President Xi studied in this actual room or not, but he’s certainly a very proud Tsinghua alumnus.
Leadership is just what I’m here to talk to you about. We live at a critical juncture in history. It’s astounding when you think about it. As the world grows smaller and the threats we face more urgent, the future of the United States and China grows ever more intertwined. China as the world’s rising power, not too many years from now will have a total GDP that exceeds that of any other country in the world. The United States currently the largest economic country, but will not be the largest economy, will not have the largest GDP, in ten years or so from now. It’s stunning how we are coming together — the United States and China — at this time in world history. It’s amazing. In many respects, it brings many opportunities but also brings many responsibilities. And that’s what I wanted to talk to you all about.
As our two countries grow closer, our responsibility — our joint responsibility, because we’re in this together — grows ever more consequential. Today China and the United States face urgent challenges on many fronts — from international security on issues like non-proliferation in North Korea and Iran, we’re working together, the U.S. and China; to violent extremism, which is growing unfortunately in many parts of the world; pandemic diseases like Ebola, we’re cooperating much more, fighting that pandemic disease, than one would have thought possible; to food security and climate change. Just to name a few. There are so many issues where we as the two major countries in the world are so intertwined.
So I call on each of you in this room to step up and be leaders.
It is time to act.
You’re lucky to be Tsinghua students. It also carries a huge responsibility given your education and given the opportunity that you have.
As many of you know, this university’s ties to the United States go way back to 1909. Tsinghua sent some of China’s finest students to the U.S. back then, about 100 years ago. That decision to initiate academic exchange programs was based on the belief that Western and Chinese cultures have more that unites us than divides us. That’s why former United States President Teddy Roosevelt supported this institution. And that belief is as true today, or probably even more so, than it was when this university was founded a century ago.
At that time, our two countries faced the dawn of a new century, just as we are today, at the dawn of another new century. We were emboldened back then with the resolve to lead and to create a better world, as we are now. And the only way to create that better world is to better understand ourselves and the world in which we all live.
In that spirit, I urge everyone in this room to travel — in China, and more importantly outside of China, as often as you possibly can. Learn about others. Learn from them. Ask questions. And learn about yourself. It’s what I did.
When I was your age, I was a student at Stanford University. I went to an overseas campus. I was just an ordinary garden variety student. Got accepted into this program. Why they accepted me, I don’t know. I was there. I didn’t learn very much after six months, so I put a knapsack on my back and I hitchhiked around the world for one full year. Through Europe, Africa, and Asia. I hitchhiked, with my thumb out there sometimes. Deck class a couple of times on boats. Third class on trains. Whatever I could do to get from one place to another.
And I didn’t have a lot of language skills, but it all worked quite well. You’d meet people, you’d kind of point at things. I knew a couple of words in German and a couple of words in French and so forth. So it was very, very educational for me. Frankly, that trip, that one year plus six months is largely responsible for why I’m standing here at this moment right now. I learned so much in that travel. It planted the seeds for a later interest in public service. I did not realize it at the time, but I know that it did. And it was probably the best year of my life. The best educational year of my life. I learned so much on this trip.
And I learned to read. I learned to like to read. When I came back to Stanford University my senior year, suddenly everything was alive. I loved my courses. I got all A’s. It was just so exciting. And that trip sparked that interest. And I know the same will happen to you, to each one of you, when you do something similar. You don’t all have to go a year, you can go to school, you can travel, you can go with friends, maybe alone. It doesn’t make any difference. Just get out and see what in the world’s going on. So much then falls into place just after that.
And for that reason, I decided to run for the House of Representatives in Montana, and the United States Senate where I served for 35 years. And in many respects, because of all that travel, it’s why I worked so hard to help pave the way for China’s entrance into the World Trade Organization. Because I knew back then that we had to work together. Countries had to work together. The world’s getting smaller. Our natural resources are diminishing. We have to work harder together, better together, if our lives, and especially the lives of our kids and our grandkids, are going to be even better. I learned so much on that trip and I urge you, therefore, to do something similar.
So I urge you to hit the road, and when you do, you’ll learn a lot.
Now, perhaps you and many of your classmates have already begun a journey like this. We’re trying to make it easy for students to travel. Did you know, for example, that nearly 275,000 Chinese students studied in the United States last year? That’s an increase of almost 39,000 students from the year before. It’s probably the greatest movement of students from one country to another in the history of mankind. So many more students traveling, and we in America are trying to help make it easier.
Chinese students make up nearly one-third of all foreign students in the United States. China’s also one of the top five destinations for Americans studying abroad.
In 2010, just a few years ago, President Obama launched something called the 100,000 Strong Initiative to increase the number of American students in China. Almost 14,500 American students studied in China last year. And this past summer, I’m proud to say, we surpassed our goal of 100,000. So more than 100,000 American students have gone to school in China.
Whether as students, as entrepreneurs, as scientists or tourists, the facts are clear. Americans and Chinese alike are taking advantage of the opportunity to travel, to work, invest and study in ways that were not earlier imaginable.
And when President Obama visited China two weeks ago, he praised the strides our countries were making together. He affirmed the United States welcomes the rise of a prosperous, peaceful and stable China. We all do. A rising China helps China, it helps the United States, it helps all countries. We strongly embrace a rising China. It’s really very exciting.
And this isn’t just rhetoric. A prosperous and stable China is good for America. It’s good for America. It’s good for the region. And it’s good for the world. That’s why we worked so hard to deliver so many historic accomplishments during President Obama’s visit. These agreements, which I’ll shortly discuss, I think will help us raise our relationship to the next level. And, in turn, the whole world will benefit.
Now, I like to say that we, in fact each of us, have a moral obligation when we leave this place. That is, we’re just here in a speck of time. Given the history of China, you know that better than we Americans do. But when we leave this place, we have a moral obligation to leave it in as good a shape or better shape than when we found it. That’s for our kids, and that’s for our grandkids. And I think one of the areas where we can have the most impact is the environment.
Climate change is an urgent threat. It’s real. Solving the problem requires ambitious joint action right now. Today.
I was there when President Obama and President Xi made the historic announcement on targets to get our carbon emissions under control, both countries, and I worked to help secure that agreement. For the first time ever China has agreed to a deadline for halting the growth of its carbon emissions. That’s historic. It’s amazing. No one would have anticipated that several months ago. And the United States set a goal to reduce our own greenhouse gas emissions from 26 to 28 percent below 2005 levels by the year 2025. That’s going to be tough for us, but we’re going to do it.
Our countries have a responsibility to lead together towards a comprehensive agreement in Paris next year on climate. This bold move on emissions targets by both our countries — as the world’s largest developing country and as the world’s largest developed country — will spur other countries to do the same.
Some argue that protecting our environment comes at the expense of development. I disagree. In fact, some types of development help fight climate change. For example, President Obama and President Xi agree on the importance of pursuing innovative agricultural technology. Do you know, for example, that biotech seeds, the new ones, drastically reduce the use of chemical pesticides. They prevent the release of millions of tons of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. They greatly reduce erosion. And biotechnology helps us produce more food for a growing population.
Clean energy — another area where our two countries can and must lead. The United States and China are working together to pioneer a clean energy revolution. Through initiatives like the Clean Energy Research Center here in Beijing, the Texas Clean Energy Project in Texas, we’re advancing technologies that will result in net-zero energy buildings and electric vehicles. These new technologies lead to a greener future. They also spur commerce and they create jobs.
A clean energy revolution means a healthier and more stable life for all of us and for our future. It’s that simple.
President Obama and President Xi also made a landmark announcement on visas that can help nearly everyone here. We’ve extended business and tourist visas from one to ten years. And we’ve extended student exchange visas from one to five years. We’ve already issued thousands of the new visas since that announcement just two weeks ago. This benefits everyone. Anyone interested in traveling to the United States, or from the United States to China. It benefits you, your family, your friends, and it saves you money and time.
Already more than four million people travel between our countries each year. In fact, the United States handles more visas here in China than we do in any other country in the world. With this new arrangement on visa validities, these numbers will continue to grow.
That’s obviously good for our economies. That’s good for the people to people exchanges that have brought us closer over the past 35 years since our two countries normalized diplomatic relations.
Clearly we have reached many milestones in our relationship. But the path to our friendship was not always easy. It took a lot of work. A lot of work from people in both countries. It took the courage and resolve of leaders like Jimmy Carter and Deng Xiaoping to forge a new direction for both our countries. They took great risks in their own countries to normalize relationships between the United States and China.
I first met President Carter when he was elected as our 39th President in 1976, shortly after I was elected to Congress. And I shook Deng Xiaoping’s hand when he visited the United States in 1979. They were really very inspirational people. Both Jimmy Carter and Deng Xiaoping took incredible risks and opened the door that brought our countries closer together.
Deng Xiaoping said we must seek truth from facts. When it comes to the great strides our countries have made together over the last 35 years, the facts are clear. Perhaps this is nowhere more evident than in our economic relationship where we are “joined at the hip,” as we Americans like to say.
Nearly 11 billion RMB worth of goods and services flow between our countries every day. Our total annual bilateral trade reached 3.7 trillion RMB in 2013. That’s about five times what it was when China joined the WTO 13 years ago. That’s enough money to buy around 700 million new iPhones.
And speaking of iPhones, during President Obama’s visit our leaders also signed to expand the WTO information technology agreement. That may sound like, what’s that, information technology agreement. But it’s real. It’s going to make a big difference. It means lower tariffs across the globe for innovative and more affordable technology. Chinese people will be able to import a lot more and export a lot more high tech products as a consequence of this agreement. And it has direct impact on everybody, obviously, in this room.
It means more affordable computer software. It means smarter GPS devices to help us get where we need to go. It means faster smart phones to keep us better connected.
One of the next big steps we need to take together is finalizing a world class bilateral investment treaty, otherwise known as the BIT. When our leaders met in Beijing, President Obama and President Xi made BIT negotiations a top priority for both our countries, and well they should. It’s very important.
China is at a critical juncture in its development. Concluding the BIT right now could do for China’s growth and investments what joining the WTO did for China’s trade. BIT is for investments. WTO helped trade.
The BIT can open up China’s markets. It will help China rebalance its economy in a more sustainable direction. It will create better jobs for its growing number of college graduates. And that impacts people like you.
Yes, our countries’ relations have truly come a long way over the past 35 years. Moving forward, we must remember the examples of Jimmy Carter and Deng Xiaoping.
The relationship they rekindled is now one of the most consequential bilateral relationships in the world. We must get it right. China’s watching, the United States is watching, the world is watching. Yet despite our remarkable progress, we still have disagreements, as all countries do. When we have disagreements we need to keep in mind that we’re all in this together. As the Chinese like to say, “We’re in the same boat, helping each other.”
American companies want a level playing field when doing business in China, just as Chinese companies expect in the United States. Science-based regulations should drive our innovations in agriculture, food security and many other areas. We both want strong protection of intellectual property rights. It fuels our ingenuity and is vital to any nation’s security and competitiveness.
That’s why we’re concerned with Chinese government-sponsored theft of our companies’ trade secrets. We can’t let this get any worse. We need to work on this now or risk greater problems for U.S. companies and further friction in our bilateral relationship. This is a pretty big deal.
We also recognize the importance of honoring the rights of our citizens. History shows that a nation rises in proportion to the freedom and dignity it grants its people. And nations prosper in proportion to the talent they unleash.
This is not merely an American belief. One of this university’s former professors, Liang Qichao, once said, and I’ll quote him, “The state is like a tree. The consciousness of rights is like its roots. If the roots are destroyed, the tree will wither and die, no matter how strong its trunk or vigorous its leaves.”
Every country, including the United States, struggles when trying to ensure the rights of its people. It takes work. It’s not automatic. It takes a lot of work to ensure the rights of people in all our countries. We’re working on this. We’re also urging the Chinese government to respect rule of law, as we’re trying to urge ourselves to do, and uphold universal rights and freedoms, just as we encourage all countries in the world to do the same.
Promoting the rule of law, universal rights and freedoms reflects who we all want to be as human beings. Whether that person is a man or a woman, Muslim, Christian, or Buddhist, gay or straight, whether he or she lives in Missoula, Montana, Urumqi or Hong Kong — we want everyone to enjoy the rights that we as human beings are all entitled to.
Teddy Roosevelt once urged Americans to dare mighty things. He said, “The greatest doer must be a great dreamer.”
I call upon you, all of you, to be great dreamers and dare mighty things.
Teddy Roosevelt’s words are just as relevant today as they were more than 100 years ago when this great university was established. Dream boldly as we walk together into this new century.
I too have a dream for both of our countries. I want to see a strong, confident and prosperous China that treasures its natural environment, honors the rights of its citizens, and welcomes foreign businesses. I want to see the United States and China working together on any problem, no matter how large or small. We must build a world better for Americans and for Chinese — for everybody.
As you look to the future and decide what path to take, I encourage you all to follow your heart. As the great Chinese philosopher Mengzi once said, “The very purpose of learning is to seek one’s heart.”
I ask you all to listen to Mengzi. Follow your dreams, seek your hearts, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise — not your parents, not your teachers, not anyone.
Now our Presidents just had an historic meeting. I urge each of you, no matter what your background or interest may be, to help lead this great relationship forward. It’s in our hands, it’s in your hands. It’s in all our hands together.
There are no closed doors, but if you maintain courage and resolve you’re going to get there. We’re going to get there.
Thank you very much.