Good afternoon. It is a great honor for me to be here in Shanghai, and to have this opportunity to speak with all of you. I’d like to thank Fudan University’s President Yang for his hospitality and his gracious welcome. I’d also like to thank our outstanding Ambassador, Jon Huntsman, who exemplifies the deep ties and respect between our nations. I don’t know what he said, but I hope it was good. (Laughter.)
What I’d like to do is to make some opening comments, and then what I’m really looking forward to doing is taking questions, not only from students who are in the audience, but also we’ve received questions online, which will be asked by some of the students who are here in the audience, as well as by Ambassador Huntsman. And I am very sorry that my Chinese is not as good as your English, but I am looking forward to this chance to have a dialogue.
This is my first time traveling to China, and I’m excited to see this majestic country. Here, in Shanghai, we see the growth that has caught the attention of the world -- the soaring skyscrapers, the bustling streets and entrepreneurial activity. And just as I’m impressed by these signs of China’s journey to the 21st century, I’m eager to see those ancient places that speak to us from China’s distant past. Tomorrow and the next day I hope to have a chance when I’m in Beijing to see the majesty of the Forbidden City and the wonder of the Great Wall. Truly, this is a nation that encompasses both a rich history and a belief in the promise of the future.
The same can be said of the relationship between our two countries. Shanghai, of course, is a city that has great meaning in the history of the relationship between the United States and China. It was here, 37 years ago, that the Shanghai Communique opened the door to a new chapter of engagement between our governments and among our people. However, America’s ties to this city -- and to this country -- stretch back further, to the earliest days of America’s independence.
In 1784, our founding father, George Washington, commissioned the Empress of China, a ship that set sail for these shores so that it could pursue trade with the Qing Dynasty. Washington wanted to see the ship carry the flag around the globe, and to forge new ties with nations like China. This is a common American impulse -- the desire to reach for new horizons, and to forge new partnerships that are mutually beneficial.
Over the two centuries that have followed, the currents of history have steered the relationship between our countries in many directions. And even in the midst of tumultuous winds, our people had opportunities to forge deep and even dramatic ties. For instance, Americans will never forget the hospitality shown to our pilots who were shot down over your soil during World War II, and cared for by Chinese civilians who risked all that they had by doing so. And Chinese veterans of that war still warmly greet those American veterans who return to the sites where they fought to help liberate China from occupation.
A different kind of connection was made nearly 40 years ago when the frost between our countries began to thaw through the simple game of table tennis. The very unlikely nature of this engagement contributed to its success -- because for all our differences, both our common humanity and our shared curiosity were revealed. As one American player described his visit to China -- "[The]people are just like us…The country is very similar to America, but still very different."
Of course this small opening was followed by the achievement of the Shanghai Communique, and the eventual establishment of formal relations between the United States and China in 1979. And in three decades, just look at how far we have come.
In 1979, trade between the United States and China stood at roughly $5 billion