U.S.- China Relations: Madame Secretary Articulates Broad Outlook on Significance Now, and Forward

Post Webcast Discussion Analyzes China’s Burgeoning Investments in Latin America

HOUSTON, October 28, 2013 — A maturing U.S.-China relationship would see China assuming a greater role on the world stage, working constructively with the United States on such issues as terrorism, nuclear proliferation, and global pandemics, former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright says.

“Washington does not want to carry all the world’s burdens,” she told a national audience for China Town Hall: Local Connections, National Reflections, a live webcast hosted by the National Committee on United States-China Relations and 66 local organizations, including Asia Society Texas Center.

“We want Beijing to assume a role in global leadership. This is something we as Americans should welcome, for the benefit of our own citizens and those around the world.”

Emphasizing she still considers the United States “the indispensable” nation, she said, “There is nothing in the word indispensable that says alone. And I believe the kinds of issues out there that have to be dealt with require partnerships.”

Albright’s webcast appearance was followed in Houston by an onstage talk by Enrique Dussel Peters, a professor at Graduate School of Economics at Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México. He spoke on China’s direct foreign investment in Latin America.

In her talk Albright offered an optimistic view of the evolving U.S.-China relationship, while recognizing that “there have been and will continue to be stresses and challenges.”

“As we look to the future the key question is, can the United States and China work together to solve the world’s important challenges despite different economic systems and divergent view on such matters as democracy, religious freedom, civil liberties, and the rule of law,” she said.

“In my view this is possible so long as we recognize our disagreements and core differences with maturity, confront our challenges directly and have leaders on both sides who are committed to this relationship.”

Albright’s observations included:

  • A hopeful view of the new Chinese leadership. “The openness that President Xi and President Obama have displayed with one another in their one-on-one interactions at the Sunnylands summit in June showed that our bilateral relationship is becoming not only more regularized but also more personalized,” she said.
  • On the most significant debate about China among U.S. policy experts: “The debate is basically as to how much of our debt and our economy is dependent on Chinese activity. So to a great extent it’s an economic discussion. We obviously want to have a balanced trading relationship with the Chinese.”
  • On the U.S.-China joint naval exercises and the fraught Sino-Japanese relationship: “We have a treaty of alliance with the Japanese and we will obviously continue to make that very clear, but it does not preclude us from having [military] exercises with other countries. But there is a concern about what is going on between China and Japan – potentially nervous-making.”
  • On China’s aging population: As many problems as the United States has, they are not anywhere near the kind of issues the Chinese have to deal with. And I think we are more honest in admitting where our problems are.”
  • On Chinese economic presence in Latin America: “We can’t have it both ways. If we want them to play a global role of responsibility, they’re going to be global. The best thing about the United States is that we are innovative, we have a democracy, and we know how to respect other countries. So I am not afraid of the competition.”

Dussel Peters said in the last two to three years “China has become the second largest trading partner of Latin America [after the United States], and with very few exceptions the second or third largest trading partner of each of the major countries of Latin America.”

What’s troubling, he said, is that Latin America’s exports to China consist overwhelmingly of commodities such copper, oil and gas, soy beans, and the like. China’s exports to the region include more sophisticated goods such as electronics and auto parts.

For Latin Americans, he said, “The question is, is this gap, from a development perspective, sustainable.”

China’s foreign direct investment practices differ from those of other countries because of the government’s heavy hand in the decision-making process.

That said, in five years, he predicted, Chinese foreign direct investment in other countries will exceed foreign direct investment coming into China.

Reported by Fritz Lanham


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