The Ambassadors REVIEW
The United States and China:
Building a Cooperative and Comprehensive Relationship
Jon M. Huntsman, Jr.
United States Ambassador to the People’s Republic of China
hirty years ago, the United States made its first, tentative move toward
reestablishing official relations with China. It can be easy to forget just how
far we have come since then. When President Nixon visited China in
February 1972, Beijing was still a city of twisting alleys, ‘Flying Pigeon’ bicycles and Mao
suits. Three decades later, it is a city transformed; capital of the world’s most populous
nation, the world’s second largest economy and nerve center of an emerging global
China’s growth is an obvious and well-deserved point of pride here. Walk a mile in
any direction from our Embassy and you will see scores of towering office buildings, not
one over ten years old. In the past 30 years, China’s GDP increased 82-fold, lifting tens of
millions out of poverty. But this growth has come at a tremendous cost, and presents the
nation’s leaders with huge challenges, among them rising income inequality, an aging
population, environmental degradation, and an ever-growing need for resources to fuel its
future development. China has a deep reservoir of energy and talent to address these and
other challenges, but doing so will require Beijing to address some tough questions and
make some hard choices in the coming years.
The first question is what China’s role will be on the global stage and how it will
work with the United States. An emerging China increasingly perceives its interests as
global; it must also shoulder the mantle of leadership.
Both the United States and China
acknowledge that, in this context, broad and sustained bilateral engagement is the only way
forward. Precisely because we share many common challenges, we must work together to
develop real shared solutions. This doesn’t mean we will always agree, but it should mean
that we will seek common ground where possible, and carefully manage those issues on
which we do not see eye to eye.
In Africa and Latin America, for example, we see China raising its profile. China is