BEIJING (AP) — U.S. Ambassador to China Gary Locke said Friday a stronger U.S. economy is in China's interest and he will promote trade and human rights as the new envoy in Beijing, a focal point for U.S. diplomacy.
"The highest priority of the United States today is to create jobs for Americans and revitalize our economy. Given our economic interdependence, a stronger American economy is in the economic self-interest of the Chinese people," he said to university students.
A former commerce secretary, Locke is the first Chinese-American to hold the post. It's become increasingly important as China's economy, now the world's second-largest, grows steadily, and the United States fitfully copes with high unemployment.
His speech at Beijing Foreign Studies University was his first public address since taking office Aug. 13. He replaced Jon Huntsman, who resigned to seek the Republican presidential nomination next year.
China and the United States are not engaged in a zero-sum competition, where the failure of one means the rise of the other, Locke told about 400 students at the university that is a training ground for students aiming at international careers in government and business.
"So many problems in the world today — from climate change, to poverty and disease — simply will not be solved without strong U.S.-China cooperation. That's why I'd like to state unequivocally that the United States welcomes the rise of a prosperous and successful China that plays a greater role in world affairs," he said.
Locke repeated past U.S. comments that in the long run, countries that respect human rights are the most successful and stable.
He said the basic premise were the rights contained in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
"These are universal standards, and they include the right to due process of law, to be able to speak freely, to associate openly, to pray in the manner one chooses and to enjoy the benefits of a free press," he said.
The U.S. has often criticized China's human rights record, saying there is a lack of free speech, no independent courts and restrictions on religious freedom.
In a question-answer session later, a journalism professor broached the sensitive topic of China's strict controls on Internet content, drawing gasps and applause from the audience. He asked what Locked would do to boost bilateral cooperation online.
Locke demurred on the issue of censorship but said privacy and information integrity were key to the Internet's future growth.
"What will hamper the use of the Internet is the lack of trust," he said.