The United States’ security and prosperity are closely and increasingly linked to the Asia-Pacific region, Secretary of State John Kerry told an audience in Washington on November 4, and a key component of the Obama administration’s rebalance to Asia is strengthening U.S.-China relations.
Speaking at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, Kerry said that “a stronger relationship between our two nations will benefit not just the United States and China, not just the Asia-Pacific, but the world.”
He called the U.S.-China relationship “the most consequential in the world today” and said that it will do much to shape the 21st century.
U.S. policy toward China is built on constructively managing differences, Kerry said, and on constructively coordinating efforts on the wide range of issues where the interests of both nations are aligned.
Kerry recapped U.S. positions on current differences:
• Maritime security: The United States does not take a position on specifc claims in the China Sea disputes, but it has an interest in how these claims are pursued and if they align with international law.
• Cybersecurity: The United States objects to cyber-enabled theft of trade secrets and other sensitive information and is committed to using an open and frank dialogue to help build trust and develop common rules of the road on this pressing economic and security challenge.
• Human rights: The United States will always advocate for all countries to permit their citizens to express their grievances freely, publicly, peacefully and without fear of retribution.
“The United States will never shy away from articulating our deeply held values or defending our interests, our allies, and our partners throughout the region,” Kerry said. “Our differences will undoubtedly continue to test our relationship. ... But they should not, and in fact, must not prevent us from acting cooperatively in other areas.”
Those areas include two-way trade, now valued at nearly $600 billion in goods and services annually; global security concerns; climate change, especially the development of the clean-energy sector; nuclear nonproliferation, particularly on the Korean Peninsula; Afghanistan; and global health.
“We’re very grateful that China has committed more than $130 million to date in aid and supplies to help address the Ebola crisis,” Kerry said.
“The bottom line is this,” the secretary summarized. “The United States and China comprise one-quarter of the global population. We make up one-third of the global economy. We generate one-fifth of global trade. And when we are pulling in the same direction on any issue, we can bend the curve in a way that few other nations on Earth can accomplish.”
Expanding people-to-people connections, especially through student exchanges, can be particularly effective in forging bonds of common understanding between Americans and Chinese, he said.
“Our two nations face a genuine test of leadership. We have to make the right choices in both Washington and Beijing,” Kerry said. “We actually do have the opportunity as two leading powers to find solutions to major challenges facing the world today. ... We have an opportunity to demonstrate how a major power and an emerging power can cooperate to serve the interests of both, and in doing so, improve the prospects for stability, prosperity, and peace around the equator, from pole to pole, throughout this world we live in.”