Friday, February 20, 2009

Last Leg: China

During Secretary Clinton's first day in Beijing, she and Chinese officials agreed to establish a dialogue on strategic and economic issues and pledged to work together to tackle the global financial crisis and climate change. Watch a great report from the BBC here. The Secretary had a flurry of meetings with Chinese leaders. Her first meeting was a 90 minute talk with Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi where they also held a joint press conference. They address the global financial crisis, North Korea's nuclear ambitions as well as global climate change. Clinton said the U.S. and China could help the world recover from economic crisis by working together, adding Washington appreciated Beijing's confidence in U.S. government debt. Next on the agenda were chats with Mark Norbom, President and Chief Executive Officer of General Electric (GE) Greater China, U.S. Special Envoy for Climate Change Todd Stern and GE President and Regional Executive Jack Wen during a visit to the low-emission Taiyanggong Geothermal Power Plant in Beijing. The plant is also China's first gas-fired tri-generation facility in the city centre, providing both electricity and steam for heating in winter and cooling of air-conditioning in summer. Its efficiency is 13 percent higher than the most advanced coal-fired power plant in the world, as media report. Commenting on the plant, US Special Envoy on Climate Change Todd Stern, who is accompanying Clinton's China visit, said: "This is exactly the kind of thing the US and China should do more together." She also signed a couple copies of her book for some Chinese students while at the plant. Read what Dipnote had to say about the students here. This is an extremely important and symbolic stop on her trip. China last year surpassed the United States as the world's leading producer of greenhouse gases. Clinton said she and Chinese officials had agreed to develop clean energy technology that would use renewable sources and safely store the dirty emissions from burning coal. She urged China not to repeat the "same mistakes" that Western countries had made when they developed. Watch a report on her visit here.

"When we were industrializing and growing we didn't know any better," she said. "Neither did Europe. Now we are smart enough to figure out how to have the right kind of growth, sustainable growth, clean-energy driven growth. This plant could be a model... I heard a Chinese proverb recently that says 'dig the well before you are thirsty'. The 21st century is testing us to determine whether we are smart enough to follow that advice. I think we are."

Along with cooperating on the financial crisis and climate change, the U.S. wants China to step up efforts to address threats from nuclear programs in Iran and North Korea, and the tenuous security situations in Afghanistan and Pakistan. She spoke more about this in her meetings with other Chinese officials throughout the day including Chinese State Councillor Dai Bingguo in Beijing's Diaoyutai State Guesthouse, along with with Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao and finally with Chinese President Hu Jintao in the Great Hall of the People. At lunch with Dai Bingguo, a member of the powerful State Council he gushed a little over Hillary saying: “You look younger and more beautiful than you look on TV!” Reports say she was momentarily nonplused, before replying, “Well, we will get along very well.” How cute! Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi said a regular dialogue between their countries on economic issues would now include troubling security issues. Details will be finalized by U.S. President Barack Obama and Chinese President Hu Jintao at an economic summit in London in April. "Now it is more important than anytime in the past to deepen and develop China-US relations amid the spreading financial crisis and increasing global challenges," Chinese President Hu Jintao told Clinton.
"I appreciate greatly the Chinese government's continuing confidence in United States treasuries. I think that's a well-grounded confidence. We have every reason to believe that the United States and China will recover and together we will help lead the world recovery," she said at a news conference with Yang.
Yang said China wants its foreign exchange reserves - the world's largest at $1.95 trillion - invested safely, with good value and liquidity. He said future decisions on using them would be based on those principles, but added that China wanted to continue work with the U.S. "I want to emphasize here that the facts speak louder than words. The fact is that China and the United States have conducted good cooperation, and we are ready to continue to talk with the U.S. side," Yang said.

Beijing is the last and perhaps most important stop on Clinton's entire Asian trip. It's been reported that she was to conclude Sunday by attending church services and meeting with women who are leaders in civil society.

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