Clinton urges China to embrace reform


WASHINGTON (AP) — Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on Friday urged China to embrace political reforms and assume the responsibilities of being a world power in the 21st century.

In a speech at the State Department ahead of a state visit next week by Chinese President Hu Jintao, Clinton said that US-China relations were at a “critical juncture.” And she urged both nations to build a “positive, cooperative, and comprehensive relationship” and deepen trust in each other.

“History teaches us that the rise of new powers often ushers in periods of conflict and uncertainty. Indeed, on both sides of the Pacific, we do see trepidation about the rise of China and the future of the U.S.-China relationship,” Clinton said. “We both have much more to gain from cooperation than from conflict.”

Hu’s three-day visit starts Tuesday and will include a full state dinner at the White House. It is seen as important in setting the tone for a relationship that has been strained over U.S. claims that China’s currency has been undervalued and the secrecy in its military buildup. China has been angered by U.S. arm sales to Taiwan and its support of the Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama.

Clinton said the U.S. and China should cooperate on shared economic and security challenges. She urged China to use its “unique ties” with North Korea to persuade it to end its nuclear program.

“The world is looking to China to embrace the obligations that come with being a 21st century power. That means accepting a share of the burden of solving common problems, and abiding by and helping to shape a rules-based international order,” she said.

While stressing the importance of bilateral ties with China, Clinton said that the U.S. viewed the relationship within a “broader regional framework,” underscoring the importance of America’s strong ties with other nations in the Asia-Pacific — Japan, South Korea, Thailand, Australia and the Philippines among them, who have eyed China’s rise with concern.

While Clinton set a positive tone in her speech, she also addressed the sensitive issue of human rights and democratic reform at length.

She called for the release of jailed Chinese dissidents, including Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo — who helped author a call of political reform of China’s one party system. Clinton said those who advocate peacefully for reform within the constitution, including signatories of the so-called Charter 08 signatories, should not be harassed or prosecuted.

Liu is serving an 11-year jail term for sedition and so was unable to attend the Dec. 10 prize ceremony in the Norwegian capital. China had also pressured foreign diplomats skip the event.

Clinton said the longer China represses freedoms, “the longer that Liu Xiaobo’s empty chair in Oslo will remain a symbol of a great nation’s unrealized potential and unfulfilled promise.”

Respecting human rights would benefit China’s “long-term peace, stability, and prosperity,” she said.