Changes in China Critical Issue for U.S., State's Zoellick Says

By Susan Krause
Washington File Staff Writer

Washington - The changes taking place in China and throughout Asia are critical to the United States as it prepares for the future, according to Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick.

Speaking to reporters in Beijing January 24 on the first day of a two-day stop in China, the deputy secretary followed up on a theme he introduced in a September 2005 speech emphasizing China's increasing obligations as a "major beneficiary" of international institutions and agreements.  (See related article.)

"I wanted to come to China to discuss how I would suggest that China could play a very positive role in the international system, from issues dealing with nonproliferation to energy security to counterterrorism, avian influenza, the Asia-Pacific partnership and climate change initiative," Zoellick said.

Zoellick said he was glad that his concept of China as an international "stakeholder" had generated debate within China.  He said China's impressive economic success over the last 25 years owes much to the international system that the United States and other countries have worked to build.

"China's success and its accomplishments make it an influential ‘player’ in the global system," he said, "and so it's important that China see the possibilities of sustaining and building that system from which it benefits a great deal."


Zoellick said he had covered a wide range of bilateral, regional and global topics in meetings with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao and other officials in Beijing.

Asked if he had addressed economic relations between the United States and China in his discussions, Zoellick said he had stressed the importance of making progress in the Joint Commission on Commerce and Trade, a high-level bilateral dialogue on trade issues.

"I tried to explain the domestic context in the United States, where you have a very large bilateral deficit with China … the importance for those of us who want to stress open markets, including open markets in the United States, to make sure that there's fair and open opportunities in China as well," he said.

On energy security, Zoellick said he thought it was important for the United States and China to adopt a global context on matters such as increasing sources of supply, promoting efficiency and conservation to control demand, dealing with strategic reserves and assuring maritime security.

"I think a good energy relationship … is an important part of our relationship with China - of China's relationship with the world," he said.

Zoellick said the United States considers the issue of nuclear activities in Iran "a very important dimension of our work with China and other countries right now."  The deputy secretary said the United States and China have "common interests and concerns" on the issue of Iran and are focused on how to address the situation most effectively.

"[I]t’s a question of diplomatic tactics," he said.  "I think the Chinese government itself has stated its own view about not wanting to have Iran develop these nuclear capabilities."


Zoellick said he recognized the internal challenges that China faces as a still-developing economy and understood why the Chinese government might want to turn inward to focus on domestic concerns.  But because of China's size and international influence, he said, "that really isn't possible."

The deputy secretary said that in his meetings with Chinese officials he had tried to set out an agenda that would address how China could move forward and become a "responsible stakeholder" in the international system.

"I frankly think … there are many points of mutual agreement," he said.  "But where we don't agree we can partially manage those disagreements just as the United States does with other countries that are good partners and friends."

Zoellick will complete his visit to China with a stop in Chengdu, capital of Sichuan province, January 25.  China is the deputy secretary's second stop on a three-nation trip, which began in Japan January 22.  From China, Zoellick will travel to Switzerland, where he will attend the World Economic Forum in Davos on January 25-28. 

See also "Security Alliance, Beef Trade Top Issues in U.S.-Japan Relations."

For more information on U.S. policy, see The United States and China.

A transcript of Zoellick's press conference in Beijing is available on the State Department Web site.