On the heels of the China State Visit to Washington, DC, Obama Administration officials created a high-tech bridge across the Pacific to discuss the recent trip and other important issues with Chinese bloggers. Connecting live via video from the Situation Room in the White House to the U.S. Embassy in Beijing, China, Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communication Ben Rhodes and National Security Council Senior Director for Asian Affairs Jeff Bader engaged in an interactive, spirited web chat with a group of Chinese bloggers based in Beijing.
Ben and Jeff conducted the chat, an unprecedented event from the Situation Room in the basement of the West Wing of the White House. The Situation Room is set up to monitor and deal with crises at home and abroad 24/7 and is typically reserved to conduct secure communications with military personnel. For the first time ever, the Situation Room connected to Beijing and this time the audience at the end was a group of energetic Chinese bloggers for a discussion that was broadcast live on the Internet. As those in Beijing and Washington spoke with one another, we also hosted a virtual chat room that allowed bloggers and interested people around the world to join in and submit questions in Chinese.
Ben and Jeff provided perspectives on President Hu's visit to the United States, and the bloggers posed questions about everything -- asking about American perceptions of China, Internet Freedom, human rights, the Korean Peninsula, and even their thoughts about the Chinese ads running in Times Square.
Ben and Jeff spoke of the importance of strengthening the U.S.-China relationship, and Ben pointed out that this week's State Visit is the eighth time that President Obama and President Hu have met in the last two years. They talked about how successful this particular visit was and discussed some of the issues our leaders addressed during their meetings, including continued coordination on global economic issues; U.S. exports to China; intellectual property rights; ongoing dialogues about currency and balanced growth; and the fact that our bilateral relationship has serious economic benefits to the American and Chinese people.
The Chinese bloggers -- whose collective audiences reaches over 65 million Chinese -- live tweeted the web chat and even joked with Ben and Jeff, at one point asking if they could make their answers less diplomatic. At the end of the evening's conversation, Jeff Bader tasked everyone present to work on building continued cooperation. He said, "We need to understand and accept and persuade others that our interests are overwhelmingly common and aligned and we need to do everything we can to promote that." Open conversations between the United States and China, such as this conference call, are just one of the ways that we are identifying issues of common interest and aim to build cooperative approaches to address them.
As Secretary Clinton said last week, "...Building trust is not just a project just for our governments. Our peoples must continue to forge new and deeper bonds as well. In classrooms and laboratories, on sports fields and trading floors, our people make the everyday connections that build lasting trust and understanding. That is why we have launched a new bilateral dialogue on people-to-people exchanges and new initiatives such as the '100,000 Strong' program that is sending more Chinese -- more American students to China. Those students are on the front lines of charting the future of our relationship. And I saw this for myself firsthand at the Shanghai Expo, where we were delighted to have 7 million Chinese visitors come to our expo, and they were all greeted by American students speaking Chinese. And it came as quite a surprise to some of our Chinese visitors that we had so many American students who had studied Chinese and were excited about being part of such a tremendous international effort as the expo."
This talk was engaging, educational and a new avenue, we hope, for continued dialogue. The bloggers who were able to join us for this amazing session included:
You can read a Chinese-language version of this blog entry here (pdf).
Katie Dowd is New Media Director at the U.S. Department of State.