thank you. thank you, president chen, chairmen ren, vice president chi, vice minister wei. we are delighted to be here today with a very large american delegation, including the first lady and our daughter, who is a student at stanford, one of the schools with which beijing university has a relationship. we have six members of the united states congress; the secretary of state; secretary of commerce; the secretary of agriculture; the chairman of our council of economic advisors; senator sasser, our ambassador; the national security advisor and my chief of staff, among others. i say that to illustrate the importance that the united states places on our relationship with china.
i would like to begin by congratulating all of you, the students, the faculty, the administrators, on celebrating the centennial year of your university. gongxi, beida. (applause.)
as i'm sure all of you know, this campus was once home to yenching university which was founded by american missionaries. many of its wonderful buildings were designed by an american architect. thousands of americans students and professors have come here to study and teach. we feel a special kinship with you.
i am, however, grateful that this day is different in one important respect from another important occasion 79 years ago. in june of 1919, the first president of yenching university, john leighton stuart, was set to deliver the very first commencement address on these very grounds. at the appointed hour, he appeared, but no students appeared. they were all out leading the may 4th movement for china's political and cultural renewal. when i read this, i hoped that when i walked into the auditorium today, someone would be sitting here. and i thank you for being here, very much. (applause.)
over the last 100 years, this university has grown to more than 20,000 students. your graduates are spread throughout china and around the world. you have built the largest university library in all of asia. last year, 20 percent of your graduates went abroad to study, including half of your math and science majors. and in this anniversary year, more than a million people in china, asia, and beyond have logged on to your web site. at the dawn of a new century, this university is leading china into the future.
i come here today to talk to you, the next generation of china's leaders, about the critical importance to your future of building a strong partnership between china and the united states.
the american people deeply admire china for its thousands of years of contributions to culture and religion, to philosophy and the arts, to science and technology. we remember well our strong partnership in world war ii. now we see china at a moment in history when your glorious past is matched by your present sweeping transformation and the even greater promise of your future.
just three decades ago, china was virtually shut off from the world. now, china is a member of more than 1,000 international organizations -- enterprises that affect everything from air travel to agricultural development. you have opened your nation to trade and investment on a large scale. today, 40,000 young chinese study in the united states, with hundreds of thousands more learning in asia, africa, europe, and latin america.
your social and economic transformation has been even more remarkable, moving from a closed command economic system to a driving, increasingly market-based and driven economy, generating two decades of unprecedented growth, giving people greater freedom to travel within and outside china, to vote in village elections, to own a home, choose a job, attend a better school. as a result you have lifted literally hundreds of millions of people from poverty. per capita income has more than doubled in the last decade. most chinese people are leading lives they could not have imagined just 20 years ago.
of course, these changes have also brought disruptions in settled patterns of life and work, and have imposed enormous strains on your environment. once every urban chinese was guaranteed employment in a state enterprise. now you must compete in a job market. once a chinese worker had only to meet the demands of a central planner in beijing. now the global economy means all must match the quality and creativity of the rest of the world. for those who lack the right training and skills and support, this new world can be daunting.
in the short-term, good, hardworking people -- some, at least will find themselves unemployed. and, as all of you can see, there have been enormous environmental and economic and health care costs to the development pattern and the energy use pattern of the last 20 years -- from air pollution to deforestation to acid rain and water shortage.
in the face of these challenges new systems of training and social security will have to be devised, and new environmental policies and technologies will have to be introduced with the goal of growing your economy while improving the environment. everything i know about the intelligence, the ingenuity, the enterprise of the chinese people and everything i have heard these last few days in my discussions with president jiang, prime minister zhu and others give me confidence that you will succeed.
as you build a new china, america wants to build a new relationship with you. we want china to be successful, secure and open, working with us for a more peaceful and prosperous world. i know there are those in china and the united states who question whether closer relations between our countries is a good thing. but everything all of us know about the way the world is changing and the challenges your generation will face tell us that our two nations will be far better off working together than apart.
the late deng xiaoping counseled us to seek truth from facts. at the dawn of the new century, the facts are clear. the distance between our two nations, indeed, between any nations, is shrinking. where once an american clipper ship took months to cross from china to the united states. today, technology has made us all virtual neighbors. from laptops to lasers, from microchips to megabytes, an information revolution is lighting the landscape of human knowledge, bringing us all closer together. ideas, information, and money cross the planet at the stroke of a computer key, bringing with them extraordinary opportunities to create wealth, to prevent and conquer disease, to foster greater understanding among peoples of different histories and different cultures.
but we also know that this greater openness and faster change mean that problems which start beyond one nations borders can quickly move inside them -- the spread of weapons of mass destruction, the threats of organized crime and drug trafficking, of environmental degradation, and severe economic dislocation. no nation can isolate itself from these problems, and no nation can solve them alone. we, especially the younger generations of china and the united states, must make common cause of our common challenges, so that we can, together, shape a new century of brilliant possibilities.
in the 21st century -- your century -- china and the united states will face the challenge of security in asia. on the korean peninsula, where once we were adversaries, today we are working together for a permanent peace and a future freer of nuclear weapons.
on the indian subcontinent, just as most of the rest of the world is moving away from nuclear danger, india and pakistan risk sparking a new arms race. we are now pursuing a common strategy to move india and pakistan away from further testing and toward a dialogue to resolve their differences.
in the 21st century, your generation must face the challenge of stopping the spread of deadlier nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons. in the wrong hands or the wrong places, these weapons can threaten the peace of nations large and small. increasingly, china and the united states agree on the importance of stopping proliferation. that is why we are beginning to act in concert to control the worlds most dangerous weapons.
in the 21st century, your generation will have to reverse the international tide of crime and drugs. around the world, organized crime robs people of billions of dollars every year and undermines trust in government. america knows all about the devastation and despair that drugs can bring to schools and neighborhoods. with borders on more than a dozen countries, china has become a crossroad for smugglers of all kinds.
last year, president jiang and i asked senior chinese and american law enforcement officials to step up our cooperation against these predators, to stop money from being laundered, to stop aliens from being cruelly smuggled, to stop currencies from being undermined by counterfeiting. just this month, our drug enforcement agency opened an office in beijing, and soon chinese counternarcotics experts will be working out of washington.
in the 21st century, your generation must make it your mission to ensure that today's progress does not come at tomorrow's expense. china's remarkable growth in the last two decades has come with a toxic cost, pollutants that foul the water you drink and the air you breathe -- the cost is not only environmental, it is also serious in terms of the health consequences of your people and in terms of the drag on economic growth.
environmental problems are also increasingly global as well as national. for example, in the near future, if present energy use patterns persist, china will overtake the united states as the world's largest emitter of greenhouse gases, the gases which are the principal cause of global warming. if the nations of the world do not reduce the gases which are causing global warming, sometime in the next century there is a serious risk of dramatic changes in climate which will change the way we live and the way we work, which could literally bury some island nations under mountains of water and undermine the economic and social fabric of nations.
we must work together. we americans know from our own experience that it is possible to grow an economy while improving the environment. we must do that together for ourselves and for the world.
building on the work that our vice president, al gore, has done previously with the chinese government, president jiang and i are working together on ways to bring american clean energy technology to help improve air quality and grow the chinese economy at the same time.
but i will say this again -- this is not on my remarks -- your generation must do more about this. this is a huge challenge for you, for the american people and for the future of the world. and it must be addressed at the university level, because political leaders will never be willing to adopt environmental measures if they believe it will lead to large-scale unemployment or more poverty. the evidence is clear that does not have to happen. you will actually have more rapid economic growth and better paying jobs, leading to higher levels of education and technology if we do this in the proper way. but you and the university, communities in china, the united states and throughout the world will have to lead the way. (applause.)
in the 21st century your generation must also lead the challenge of an international financial system that has no respect for national borders. when stock markets fall in hong kong or jakarta, the effects are no longer local; they are global. the vibrant growth of your own economy is tied closely, therefore, to the restoration of stability and growth in the asia pacific region.
china has steadfastly shouldered its responsibilities to the region and the world in this latest financial crisis -- helping to prevent another cycle of dangerous devaluations. we must continue to work together to counter this threat to the global financial system and to the growth and prosperity which should be embracing all of this region.
in the 21st century, your generation will have a remarkable opportunity to bring together the talents of our scientists, doctors, engineers into a shared quest for progress. already the breakthroughs we have achieved in our areas of joint cooperation -- in challenges from dealing with spina bifida to dealing with extreme weather conditions and earthquakes -- have proved what we can do together to change the lives of millions of people in china and the united states and around the world. expanding our cooperation in science and technology can be one of our greatest gifts to the future.
in each of these vital areas that i have mentioned, we can clearly accomplish so much more by walking together rather than standing apart. that is why we should work to see that the productive relationship we now enjoy blossoms into a fuller partnership in the new century.
if that is to happen, it is very important that we understand each other better, that we understand both our common interest and our shared aspirations and our honest differences. i believe the kind of open, direct exchange that president jiang and i had on saturday at our press conference -- which i know many of you watched on television -- can both clarify and narrow our differences, and, more important, by allowing people to understand and debate and discuss these things can give a greater sense of confidence to our people that we can make a better future.
from the windows of the white house, where i live in washington, d.c., the monument to our first president, george washington, dominates the skyline. it is a very tall obelisk. but very near this large monument there is a small stone which contains these words: the united states neither established titles of nobility and royalty, nor created a hereditary system. state affairs are put to the vote of public opinion.
this created a new political situation, unprecedented from ancient times to the present. how wonderful it is. those words were not written by an american. they were written by xu jiyu, governor of fujian province, inscribed as a gift from the government of china to our nation in 1853.
i am very grateful for that gift from china. it goes to the heart of who we are as a people -- the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, the freedom to debate, to dissent, to associate, to worship without interference from the state. these are the ideals that were at the core of our founding over 220 years ago. these are the ideas that led us across our continent and onto the world stage. these are the ideals that americans cherish today.
as i said in my press conference with president jiang, we have an ongoing quest ourselves to live up to those ideals. the people who framed our constitution understood that we would never achieve perfection. they said that the mission of america would always be "to form a more perfect union" -- in other words, that we would never be perfect, but we had to keep trying to do better.
the darkest moments in our history have come when we abandoned the effort to do better, when we denied freedom to our people because of their race or their religion, because there were new immigrants or because they held unpopular opinions. the best moments in our history have come when we protected the freedom of people who held unpopular opinion, or extended rights enjoyed by the many to the few who had previously been denied them, making, therefore, the promises of our declaration of independence and constitution more than faded words on old parchment.
today we do not seek to impose our vision on others, but we are convinced that certain rights are universal -- not american rights or european rights or rights for developed nations, but the birthrights of people everywhere, now enshrined in the united nations declaration on human rights -- the right to be treated with dignity; the right to express one's opinions, to choose one's own leaders, to associate freely with others, and to worship, or not, freely, however one chooses.
in the last letter of his life, the author of our declaration of independence and our third president, thomas jefferson, said then that "all eyes are opening to the rights of man." i believe that in this time, at long last, 172 years after jefferson wrote those words, all eyes are opening to the rights of men and women everywhere.
over the past two decades, a rising tide of freedom has lifted the lives of millions around the world, sweeping away failed dictatorial systems in the former soviet union, throughout central europe; ending a vicious cycle of military coups and civil wars in latin america; giving more people in africa the chance to make the most of their hard-won independence. and from the philippines to south korea, from thailand to mongolia, freedom has reached asia's shores, powering a surge of growth and productivity.
economic security also can be an essential element of freedom. it is recognized in the united nations covenant on economic, social, and cultural rights. in china, you have made extraordinary strides in nurturing that liberty, and spreading freedom from want, to be a source of strength to your people. incomes are up, poverty is down; people do have more choices of jobs, and the ability to travel -- the ability to make a better life. but true freedom includes more than economic freedom. in america, we believe it is a concept which is indivisible.
over the past four days, i have seen freedom in many manifestations in china. i have seen the fresh shoots of democracy growing in the villages of your heartland. i have visited a village that chose its own leaders in free elections. i have also seen the cell phones, the video players, the fax machines carrying ideas, information and images from all over the world. i've heard people speak their minds and i have joined people in prayer in the faith of my own choosing. in all these ways i felt a steady breeze of freedom.
the question is, where do we go from here? how do we work together to be on the right side of history together? more than 50 years ago, hu shi, one of your great political thinkers and a teacher at this university, said these words: "now some people say to me you must sacrifice your individual freedom so that the nation may be free. but i reply, the struggle for individual freedom is the struggle for the nation's freedom. the struggle for your own character is the struggle for the nation's character."
we americans believe hu shi was right. we believe and our experience demonstrates that freedom strengthens stability and helps nations to change.
one of our founding fathers, benjamin franklin, once said, "our critics are our friends, for they show us our faults." now, if that is true, there are many days in the united states when the president has more friends than anyone else in america. (laughter.) but it is so.
in the world we live in, this global information age, constant improvement and change is necessary to economic opportunity and to national strength. therefore, the freest possible flow of information, ideas, and opinions, and a greater respect for divergent political and religious convictions will actually breed strength and stability going forward.
it is, therefore, profoundly in your interest, and the world's, that young chinese minds be free to reach the fullness of their potential. that is the message of our time and the mandate of the new century and the new millennium.
i hope china will more fully embrace this mandate. for all the grandeur of your history, i believe your greatest days are still ahead. against great odds in the 20th century china has not only survived, it is moving forward dramatically.
other ancient cultures failed because they failed to change. china has constantly proven the capacity to change and grow. now, you must re-imagine china again for a new century, and your generation must be at the heart of china's regeneration.
the new century is upon us. all our sights are turned toward the future. now your country has known more millennia than the united states has known centuries. today, however, china is as young as any nation on earth. this new century can be the dawn of a new china, proud of your ancient greatness, proud of what you are doing, prouder still of the tomorrows to come. it can be a time when the world again looks to china for the vigor of its culture, the freshness of its thinking, the elevation of human dignity that is apparent in its works. it can be a time when the oldest of nations helps to make a new world.
the united states wants to work with you to make that time a reality.
thank you very much. (applause.)