Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, in advance of Chinese President Hu Jintao's state visit, publicly prodded China to improve human rights, vowing that the United States will continue to "speak out" against censorship and political imprisonment in the rising economic powerhouse even as it seeks broader cooperation.
Clinton addressed a range of U.S.-China challenges and opportunities Friday during a wide-ranging speech at the State Department. She urged China to do more to counter the security threat from North Korea, allow its currency to appreciate and take down barriers to free trade.
The tenor of the address, though, was one of cooperation. She chided China over long-standing U.S. concerns while at the same time arguing that the two nations need not fear each other.
"A thriving America is good for China and a thriving China is good for America," Clinton said.
She reserved her measured criticism for the end of the speech when she addressed a sore point, the imprisonment of Nobel Prize winner and human rights activist Liu Xiaobo. Clinton reiterated a call for Xiaobo and other political prisoners to be released. She said China's repression of human rights remain a symbol of its "unrealized potential and unfulfilled promise" on the world stage.
"America will continue to speak out and to press China when it censors bloggers and imprisons activists," Clinton said. "When religious believers, particularly those in unregistered groups, are denied full freedom of worship. When lawyers and legal advocates are sent to prison simply for representing clients who challenge the government's positions."
At the same time, Clinton welcomed China's rise and its emergence as a global heavyweight. She called for more high-level visits to the country and joint military exercises. She acknowledged that "distrust lingers" but rejected the view that the nations should see each other as a threat, or that the only options are "cold war-style conflict or American decline."
"History teaches that the rise of new powers often ushers in periods of conflict and uncertainty. ... We reject those views," Clinton said. "In the 21st century, it does not make sense to apply zero-sum 19th century theories of how major powers interact. We are moving through uncharted territory. .. This is not a relationship that fits neatly into the black-and-white categories, like friend or rival."
The Chinese president is scheduled to make a state visit to the White House on Jan. 19.