Clinton: Gates’ China Trip Continues Holbrooke’s Vision

WASHINGTON, Jan. 14, 2011 — Defense Sec­re­tary Robert M. Gates’ trip to Chi­na this week advanced U.S. rela­tions there, con­tin­u­ing the ground­work laid by Ambas­sador Richard C. Hol­brooke, who’d years ago worked to open diplo­mat­ic rela­tions with Chi­na, Sec­re­tary of State Hillary Rod­ham Clin­ton said today.

Hol­brooke, who was serv­ing as spe­cial U.S. envoy to Afghanistan and Pak­istan when he died Dec. 13, will be hon­ored in a memo­r­i­al ser­vice here today, with Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chair­man of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, among the dig­ni­taries sched­uled to speak.

Clin­ton made the remarks as the first speak­er of the State Department’s Richard C. Hol­brooke Lec­ture Series here. “This is a bit­ter­sweet moment for me, per­son­al­ly, to give this inau­gur­al lec­ture,” she said, prais­ing Hol­brooke as a “tire­less nego­tia­tor” who left “an indeli­ble mark on this depart­ment, this coun­try and the world.”

Among his many mis­sions, Hol­brooke was a key play­er in open­ing for­mal diplo­mat­ic rela­tions with Chi­na in the 1970s and served as pres­i­dent of the U.S.-Asia Rela­tions Soci­ety, Clin­ton not­ed.

More than three decades lat­er, Gates car­ried on that vision with his trip to Bei­jing, where he met with Chi­nese Pres­i­dent Hu Jin­tao, as well as the country’s defense and for­eign min­is­ters. Gates’ trip was focused on re-estab­lish­ing mil­i­tary-to-mil­i­tary rela­tions with Chi­na, which pulled away last year in response to U.S. arms sales to Tai­wan.

At the end of his vis­it Jan. 12, Gates called his meet­ings in Bei­jing “pro­duc­tive” and said they set the stage to take U.S.-China mil­i­tary-to-mil­i­tary rela­tions “to the next lev­el.”

Hu is sched­uled to meet with Pres­i­dent Barack Oba­ma at the White House next week, when, Clin­ton said, “the breadth of our engage­ment will be on full dis­play.”

The Unit­ed States and Chi­na have much to gain by work­ing togeth­er on region­al secu­ri­ty threats like North Korea and Iran, on the glob­al econ­o­my, and human­i­tar­i­an mis­sions, Clin­ton said. And, still, she added, the Unit­ed States will con­tin­ue to press Chi­nese offi­cials to release polit­i­cal pris­on­ers and expand free­dom of speech and reli­gion for its cit­i­zens.

“This is not a rela­tion­ship that fits neat­ly into black-and-white cat­e­gories of friend or rival. We have two com­plex coun­tries,” she said. “To keep this rela­tion­ship on a pos­i­tive tra­jec­to­ry, we have to be hon­est about our dif­fer­ences … and avoid unre­al­is­tic expec­ta­tions. It requires steady effort over time.”

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)

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