Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Remarks at the Asia Society
New York, New York
February 13, 2009
A half century ago when the Asia Society was founded, Asia was frozen in a cold war, wracked by poverty, and seemingly destined for desolation. Few in or outside of Asia’s borders foresaw anything but a future of conflict, occupation, and despair. Today, the countries I will visit are at peace. Asia is on the cutting edge of so many of the world’s innovations and trends. It is a contributor to global culture, a global economic power, and a region of vital importance to the United States today and into our future.
Let me start with the global financial crisis that hit us first and hit us deeply. Across the United States today, families are losing jobs, homes, savings, and dreams. But this is not our crisis alone. Its repercussions are also being felt in parts of Asia and elsewhere around the world. We have recently heard forecasts from South Korea’s new finance minister that their economy will shrink by 2 percent this year, with 200,000 jobs potentially lost. A Chinese Government survey of villages last week reported that 20 million of the nation’s 130 million migrant workers are unemployed. In Japan, a new analysis predicts a larger economic contraction than previously forecast. Indonesia’s exports fell by more than 20 percent in December as growth estimates have also fallen. And Taiwan’s economy reported a record 44 percent drop in exports. Throughout Asia, the demand for durable goods is way down.
Now, you may have heard me describe the portfolio of the State Department as including two of national security’s three Ds: defense, diplomacy, and development. Each is essential to advancing our interests and our security. Yet too often, development is regarded as peripheral to our larger foreign policy objectives. This will not be the case in the Obama Administration. We will energetically promote development around the world to expand opportunities that enable citizens, particularly on the margins, and particularly women and children, to fulfill their God-given potential, which we happen to believe will advance our shared security interests. That much of Asia enjoys peace and prosperity today is due in no small part to American efforts over the last half century to support political, economic, security, and educational alliances with Asian nations.
Let me now give you a brief rundown of some of the key issues that I will be addressing next week, country by country, starting with my first stop in Japan.
Our security alliance with Japan, 50 years old next year, has been, and must remain, unshakable. In Tokyo, I will sign the Guam International Agreement, which will position our security alliance to meet the challenges of this time by moving 8,000 American troops from Okinawa to Guam. Japan is also to be commended for taking on a bigger leadership role in addressing the economic crisis in Pakistan and for working on collaborative efforts to explore space, cure disease, and offer relief to victims of disasters around the world. We anticipate an even stronger partnership with Japan that helps preserve the peace and stability of Asia and increasingly focuses on global challenges, from disaster relief to advancing education for girls in Afghanistan and Pakistan to alleviating poverty in Africa.
Indonesia and ASEAN
We also will focus on the very fertile ground for cooperation that we believe exists with Indonesia. I don’t need to remind you that our new President is well known and much admired there. We now have an opportunity for stronger partnerships on education, energy, and food security. The Indonesian Government has also suggested the creation of a deeper partnership with the United States. This idea represents a positive approach to areas of common concern, and we are committed to working with Indonesia to pursue such a partnership with a concrete agenda.
We will support Indonesia and other countries in the region that are actively promoting shared values. And we look forward to working with our other partners and friends in the regions, allies like Thailand and the Philippines, along with Singapore, Malaysia, and Vietnam, to ensure that ASEAN can live up to its charter, to demonstrate the region’s capacity for leadership on economic, political, human rights, and social issues.
In South Korea, we will be visiting with one of our staunchest historic allies. And certainly, everyone who has followed the history of South Korea joins me in admiration for the transition that we have observed from static conditions of the past century to the dynamic state that South Korea finds itself in today. The United States and South Korea are both committed to expanding trade in a manner that benefits both of our countries, and we will work together to that end.
As members of the Asia Society, you know very well how important China is and how essential it is that we have a positive, cooperative relationship. It is vital to peace and prosperity, not only in the Asia-Pacific region, but worldwide. Our mutual economic engagement with China was evident during the economic growth of the past two decades. It is even clearer now in economic hard times and in the array – excuse me – in the array of global challenges we face, from nuclear security to climate change to pandemic disease and so much else.
Now, some believe that China on the rise is, by definition, an adversary. To the contrary, we believe that the United States and China can benefit from and contribute to each other’s successes. It is in our interest to work harder to build on areas of common concern and shared opportunities. China has already asserted itself in positive ways as chair of the Six-Party Talks and in its participation in international peacekeeping efforts. And our two countries, I’m happy to say, will resume mid-level military-to-military discussions later this month. And we look forward to further improved relations across the Taiwan Strait.
Even with our differences, the United States will remain committed to pursuing a positive relationship with China, one that we believe is essential to America’s future peace, progress, and prosperity.
An ancient Chinese story tells of warring feudal states, whose soldiers find themselves on a boat together crossing a wide river in a storm. Instead of fighting one another, they work together and survive. Now, from this story comes a Chinese aphorism that says, “When you are in a common boat, you need to cross the river peacefully together.” The wisdom of that aphorism must continue to guide us today.
So I will leave for Asia Sunday with a firm commitment to work very hard with our partners across the Pacific, to strengthen our engagement so that the positive transformations of the past half-century are replicated, mirrored, made stronger and more obvious in this century. We have such an opportunity that I hope we will seize, but it is not just up to our government to do so. It is also up to Americans across our country, those of you here in the Asia Society, in the private sector, in academia, in labor and the professions, in nongovernmental organizations all. Let us commit ourselves to providing the kind of outreach and responsiveness, understanding, and commitment that will lead not just to a better understanding, but positive actions to improve the lives of our own people here and those who live in Asia today.