Washington — Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton praised the progress the United States and China have made in building strong and durable country-to-country relations since former President Nixon’s critical meetings with Chinese leaders 40 years ago in Beijing.
“We’ve gone from being two nations with hardly any ties to speak of, little bearing on each other, to being thoroughly, inescapably interdependent,” Clinton said during a March 7 Washington conference marking the historic event.
The relationship in 1972 was embedded deeply in the context of the Cold War and focused on establishing official ties and laying the groundwork for peaceful engagement and building a basic understanding of each other, she added. But the U.S.-China relationship of 2012 is something altogether different, she said.
The United States is attempting to work with China as a rising power to foster its contributions to global security, stability and economic prosperity while also sustaining and securing U.S. leadership in a rapidly changing world, Clinton said. And the United States is trying to do this without getting into what she termed an “unhealthy competition, rivalry or conflict.”
“We are together building a model in which we strike a stable and mutually acceptable balance between cooperation and competition,” Clinton said. “This is uncharted territory, and we have to get it right, because so much depends on it.”
Clinton also acknowledged that after three years during the Obama administration of intensive engagement and many successes and frustrations that have come with that engagement, both U.S. and Chinese leaders have become quite clear about the obstacles that still remain.
“There are — understandably so — difficult questions we must answer and misconceptions we must address,” she added.
There are some who express concern that a rising and prosperous China may wield greater international power and the U.S.-China relationship could turn adversarial, or the United States will experience decline as a result, she said. Some in China, she said, fear that the United States is determined to contain China’s rise and limit its progress.
“There still remains suspicion and mistrust of the other’s intentions, particularly in the military realm,” Clinton said. “We must address this head-on and constructively by creating a framework for building trust over time.”
Clinton said there is no contradiction between supporting a rising China and advancing America’s interests. The United States has supported China’s entry into the World Trade Organization, supported its elevation within the Group of 20 advanced and emerging global economies and made cooperation with China at the Copenhagen and subsequent climate summits a priority, she added.
“On issue after issue, we have not only welcomed, we have advocated for, China’s participation, and we have called for its leadership,” Clinton said. "And China, a rising geopolitical power, has a seat at virtually every table and a role in virtually every institution of importance in the world."
Clinton said China’s power, wealth and influence have pushed it rapidly to a new level in the international order, and also brought the inevitable demand that comes with it — greater responsibility.
“China has already shown increased leadership on some regional and global issues like countering piracy and sustaining the global economic recovery. It has also contributed substantially to U.N. peacekeeping missions worldwide, and we applaud these steps,” Clinton said.
“But we do believe China will have to go further to fully embrace its new role in the world, to give the world confidence that it is going to, not just today or on one set of issues, but for the long run, play a positive role that will enhance security, stability and prosperity,” she added.