Friday, January 23, 2009

Longest-serving US Ambassador to China steps down

On January 14th, Ambassador Clark T. Randt, Jr., was honored by the American Chamber of Commerce (AmCham) as he was leaving his post in Beijing as the longest-serving US Ambassador to the People's Republic of China. Ambassador Randt presented his credentials in July 2001, serving over seven and a half years. Ambassador Randt's remarks provide a brief summation of the past thirty years of the US-China relationship, as well as his view of their future. The remarks are presented here in an abridged format.

Remarks to American Chamber of Commerce
by Clark T. Randt, Jr.
U.S. Ambassador to the People’s Republic of China
Westin Hotel Chaoyang
January 14, 2009

Good evening. Distinguished guests, friends, and fellow Americans, I am personally touched by the honor you do Sarah and me by organizing and hosting this lovely dinner this evening.
As I prepare to depart Beijing next week, I must confess to being sad to be leaving the best job in the United States Government and the smart, dedicated and professional team at the Embassy that I have been blessed with.

The seven and a half years have run too quickly. I was just getting settled in our magnificent new Embassy. I am, however, pleased and proud to be leaving behind a United States-China relationship that has never been better.

These past few days, I have had the honor of participating in events commemorating the 30th anniversary of U.S.-China relations with President Carter, National Security Advisors Kissinger, Scowcroft and Brzezinski, as well as most of my living predecessors as Ambassadors to China. This has been a fitting bookend to my tour.

In this vein, I would like to reflect on the unimaginable changes over the past 30 years and particularly the last nearly eight years that I have had the great privilege of representing the United States of America in China at this critical time in history.

I also want to thank the American Chamber of Commerce in China for its support and the members for their advice and friendship. The Chamber has played a critical role in advocating for and demonstrating the mutual benefits of a good relationship with China. As I look, I can’t help but be impressed by how far we’ve all come together.

I remember being the Embassy’s Commercial Attaché from 1982-1984, when the entire section was three people led by my mentor, the late Mel Searls, with offices in Ambassador Hummel’s garage. In 1979, Mel introduced me to AmCham in Hong Kong, and I followed him as the Chairman of the AmCham Hong Kong China Commercial Relations Committee. The Searls Building still stands on the San Ban Embassy Compound.

In the early 80’s, as many of you remember, Beijing boasted no skyscrapers. Transport was by bicycle or car, and the Beijing International Airport was a sleepy building surrounded by farms. The Third Ring Road, precisely where this spectacular new Westin Hotel now stands, was considered the “edge of civilization.”

In 1979, total U.S.-China trade amounted to only $2.5 billion. Compare that to 2008, when U.S.-China trade surpassed $400 billion.

In 1973, just after President Nixon’s groundbreaking visit, the top exports from the United States to China were wheat, corn, passenger aircraft and soybeans. In 2008, the top exports from the United States to China were electrical machinery, plastics and aircraft.

In 1973, the top imports from China to the United States were tin, cotton, silk, antiques, art and animal products. In 2008, the top imports from China to the United States were machinery, toys, sports equipment, furniture, bedding, and footwear. As one pundit has noted, we’ve gone from T-shirts to T-bills.

Last year, the United States and China combined to make up more than 30% of the globe’s gross domestic product. The United States has become China’s largest single national trading partner, and China is now the United States’ third largest and fastest growing export market. U.S. exports have tripled since my arrival in 2001.

As a further indicator of the importance of the U.S.-China commercial relationship, today there are 147 U.S. Commercial Service employees throughout China, the largest overseas U.S. Commercial presence in the world. In Beijing, the Commercial Section has a staff of 53, making it the largest individual Commercial post in the world.

U.S. investment in China continues to grow, from $9.6 billion in 2000 to over $60 billion today. China itself is a growing investor in the United States and the rest of the world. In fact, China is the United States’ largest creditor, a fact that is drawing our economies and our common interests ever more tightly together.

Any sustainable bilateral relationship must be built on a foundation of people-to-people exchanges and popular support. In fiscal year 1979, the embassy issued just 4,700 non-immigrant visas for Chinese citizens to visit the United States, of which 770 were for students. In 2008, our Embassy and Consulates around China issued nearly half a million non-immigrant visas for Chinese citizens to visit the United States, of which 77,000 were for Chinese traveling to study there – a 46% increase from the number of student visas issued the year before, and a 100-fold increase from 1979.

Today, there are roughly five times the number of Americans studying Chinese in China – 11,000 – as there were when I arrive in 2001. Yale President [Richard] Levin tells me that 10% of students at Yale are studying Chinese language.

In 1979, the Embassy had a total staff of 67. When I arrived as Ambassador in 2001, we had a total Embassy staff of approximately 500 from 12 different U.S. Government agencies. I am leaving a staff of over 1,100 from 29 U.S. Government agencies located in a magnificent new Embassy facility that you can see, shining like a beacon, from the executive floor of this hotel.
By every imaginable metric, our relationship has expanded and deepened in importance.

Over the course of the past 30 years, we have learned that keeping the relationship between our two countries on track requires not only constant high-level attention by the senior leaders of both countries, but also a strong institutional framework of bilateral dialogue mechanisms. Today we boast more than 60. These dialogues offer regular and effective channels of high-level communication and provide opportunities for constant re-examination of where our national priorities intersect.

At the same time, policy-makers have to identify and understand the root causes for areas of disagreement and to thoughtfully manage those differences.
Significantly improved U.S.-China relations will be one of the lasting legacies of President Bush. He has made an unprecedented four official visits to China, more than any other previous sitting U.S. president. The increase in the frequency of Presidential visits, face-to-face meetings, direct correspondence and phone calls is one of the changes in U.S.-China relations that I have witnessed in my nearly eight years as Ambassador. President Bush has met with President Hu Jintao 19 times, in addition to making numerous phone calls and conducting extensive written correspondence. Our Presidents have a personal relationship that corresponds to the importance of the bilateral relationship.

During the past eight years, President Bush and President Hu have used Presidential summits to develop our diplomatic infrastructure. At APEC in 2004, President Bush and President Hu agreed to establish a Senior Dialogue led by Deputy Secretary of State Negroponte and State Councilor Dai Bingguo to exchange views on strategic policy issues. In 2006, President Bush and President Hu agreed to establish the Strategic Economic Dialogue, which serves as our overarching framework for discussing bilateral economic issues. These mechanisms, such as the Joint Commission on Commerce and Trade (JCCT), allow us to constructively manage issues on which we continue to have differences.

As China has changed, so too has AmCham. I have seen AmCham grow from an organization of 600 corporate members when I arrived to one of over 1,200 today. AmCham has accomplished much in the last eight years and has much to be proud of. We at the Embassy have appreciated your support and our close cooperative working relationship.

You have been our partners in pushing for transparency, rule of law, stronger IPR protection and further opening of China’s market. From AmCham Doorknocks to the IPR roundtables, corporate social responsibility programs, the Aviation Cooperation Program, the support of the JCCT Working Groups, the businesses visa program, an anti-monopoly and government procurement training program, as well as numerous other activities, your work has had a tremendous impact.

It has been a great honor and privilege to represent the United States in China. No bilateral relationship is more important to the future security and prosperity of Asia and the world than this one. Our planet faces enormous challenges ranging from resource scarcity, growing energy needs and environmental degradation to the proliferation of nuclear weapons and emerging infectious diseases. If we are to overcome these challenges, we must work together as partners.
The current economic seas are stormy, and the United States and China are in the same boat.
At the fifth SED last month here in Beijing, Treasury Secretary Paulson and Vice Premier Wang were determined to show global investors that the United States and China are working together to sustain growth and financial stability – that we are steering that boat together.

The United States welcomes the emergence of China as a responsible global power and as a partner in dealing with global crises. Going forward, the United States and China will be increasingly interdependent, and the areas where our interests intersect will continue to expand. The changes over the next 30 years will be even more dramatic than those we have already experienced.

AmCham friends, thank you for your continuing efforts to make the U.S.-China relationship the most important, constructive and effective relationship on earth. As a former Commercial Officer in Beijing, I know that in the past, when the relationship was stormy, it has been the business community that has held the relationship together. Thank you for being such good partners.

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