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Briefing on Secretary Hillary Clinton's Upcoming Visit to the Expo

2010. 14 May

Jon Huntsman
   Ambassador to China

Elizabeth Frawley Bagley
    Global Partnership Initiative
U.S. Commissioner General Jose Villarreal
Washington, DC

( MR. TONER: Good morning and welcome to the State Department. It’s my great pleasure to be here this morning with Ambassador to China Jon Huntsman and Ambassador-at-Large for Global
Partnership Initiatives Elizabeth Bagley, who are going to brief us on Secretary Clinton’s upcoming visit to the Shanghai Expo. We’re also going to be joined by U.S. Commissioner General Jose Villarreal via DVC.

Without further ado, I’ll hand it off to Ambassador Huntsman to make some opening remarks, and then we’ll open it up for your questions after Ambassador Bagley.

AMBASSADOR HUNTSMAN: Thank you very much. Honored and delighted to be here. We just wrapped up a session with Secretary Clinton, going through many of the details of her upcoming trip to Shanghai. It’s an exciting time in Shanghai, as you could probably imagine. It allowed me to reflect back just recently where I had an opportunity in the front of the American Pavilion to formally open our presence there, which was very, very exciting. And I’m pleased to report that the Pavilion passed 400,000 visitors on May 13th. We’re projected to pass the half million mark by Sunday. This puts us on track for 1 million visitors per month, as predicted. So based on the numbers, it’s safe to say that we’re among the most popular pavilions at the Expo.

Now, you had to be there to really appreciate what became a four-hour wait almost immediately after opening the Pavilion. It’s a theme within the Pavilion that speaks to the best of America. It speaks to innovation, sustainability, diversity, creativity. It projects great enthusiasm. And I know the Secretary is going to enjoy it enormously.

I want to thank the Chinese Government and the city of Shanghai for their very, very hard work in organizing the 192 countries and countless organizations that are part of the Expo. It has allowed us to participate in a meaningful and significant way, in public and commercial diplomacy, in ways that would otherwise be absolutely impossible.

So to put this in perspective, as it plays out over six months, I guess the only way to properly describe it is it will likely be the biggest event that ever was with 70 million people funneling through the various national pavilions during that time.

So is it an opportunity for the United States to hit a homerun on the public diplomacy side and on the commercial diplomacy side where the creation of jobs is so critically important for us right now? Absolutely.

I also want to point out that we have about 70 student ambassadors who were there to greet me the day that I opened it, all fluent in Chinese – I tested them – and greeting wave after wave of visitor groups, and they, too, also represent the best that America has to put on display. But most important to me, and what I think the Secretary is going to see when she is there, is that we have a very unique opportunity to leave a lasting impression with the people of China, which is what we try to do through public diplomacy.

It’s hard to quantify, in any meaningful way, the effect that this will have on the younger generation in China who have never been to the United States, who have had very little exposure to the United States, as they funnel through the Pavilion and are left with lasting impressions about who we are and what uniquely makes us American. That’s the one aspect of the U.S. Pavilion that I think is so powerful today and is going to resonate for many, many years to come.

So as U.S. Ambassador in China, I’m absolutely delighted that our public diplomacy efforts have been ratcheted up substantially by the ability to put on display the best that America has to offer through this American – through this U.S. Pavilion. And none of it would have been possible without the good work of Ambassador Bagley and Jose Villarreal, who you’ll be hearing from in just a moment.

Ambassador Bagley has so much of the critical information that allowed this to happen, and nobody better than Ambassador Bagley to tell you all about it. So without further ado, I’m going to hand it over to Elizabeth.

Thank you very much.

AMBASSADOR BAGLEY: Thank you, Ambassador Huntsman and thank you for all your good work and important advocacy. We could not have done it without his advocacy from Beijing and also his trips to Shanghai.

We started this project, I guess – we started our office, opened our office last June. So we began – my Deputy Kris Balderston is here as well, and we have a small office, but we were all dedicated to really realizing the Secretary’s dream, and that was to build this Pavilion. We were – she talked to the Chinese when her first – when she made her first trip to – one of her first trips – I think her very first trip, foreign trip, met with the Chinese and realized the importance of this for our bilateral relationship.

So we engaged and embarked on a long journey, but one which was ultimately quite fruitful. We have 61 sponsors. We raised $61 million. We have a fabulous Pavilion. I think it’s been well received by certainly all the Chinese who have come through because they keep coming. As Ambassador Huntsman mentioned, it reflects the American themes of innovation, diversity, opportunity, community service. Of course, it’s all – it’s green, sustainable development. It’s very important. It’s one of the keys to, of course, American technology. We have – the Expo theme – the entire Expo is “Better City, Better Life.” Our Expo – our U.S.A. Pavilion theme is “Rising to the Challenge” and it is the story of the American spirit.

You will see in Act Two, which is multidimensional, about a young girl who sees an empty lot across the street from her apartment building, looks at the lot and realizes that she can plant a flower and people in the neighborhood come with – from various parts of their – of the city come and help her. Then the place is destroyed by rain and storm and they – and then they rebuild it. So it’s all the spirit of community, innovation, diversity, which, of course, is the essence of America.

So we’re really excited to – as Ambassador Huntsman talked about the public diplomacy, we also have commercial diplomacy. We will have a couple events with our sponsors, many of our sponsors. We will – our sponsors are invited to participate in a walkthrough with Secretary Clinton next Saturday and also a gala dinner that we will have for them that evening, so we’re really in a very celebratory mood.

And beyond that, beyond this next weekend, it really is – well, it’s six months, so we have till October 31st, and we will be doing a series of what we call partnership events, because this is, in essence, really the first public-private partnership that our office has done and one that is sustaining, sustainable; one which will, I think, help not only develop better relationships with our private partners – and we will be doing more things with them on corporate social responsibility and many other themes like food security and water and a lot of other of the initiatives and the priorities of this Administration. But with Shanghai, we will have the opportunity to bring them in, to have them participate in – with other Chinese interlocutors, not only Chinese but 192 countries are here, so they will have the opportunity to work with other countries, with other officials from other countries coming in.

We have the 1776 lounge, which is our VIP lounge. It’s booked to – every single day until October 31st. We will have a fabulous national day July 2nd through 4th – actually, national weekend, national day weekend where the U.S. will be celebrated, and we’ll have Harry Connick Jr. and other celebrities coming to celebrate our – of course, our national day and also to provide more insights into the American culture and way of life.

So it’s a really unique opportunity. We’re very excited about it not only just for public diplomacy, but for commercial diplomacy and to work as we talked about it and as the Secretary cares so much about, to work on American exports, American jobs, and to improve and enhance our relationship with our Chinese counterparts and with other counterparts around the world.

So again, we’re really excited and I think Jose Villarreal is here, our Commissioner General, also has the rank of Ambassador, so I can call you Ambassador too, and I’ll turn this over to him as well. Okay?

AMBASSADOR VILLARREAL: Thank you, Ambassador Bagley. Thank you, Ambassador Huntsman. You all summarized the status of our project quite well. I arrived here a couple of weeks ago to assume my role as Commissioner General when I was honored the day prior to the opening of the Expo to host President Hu Jintao who honored us with a visit. I invited the student ambassadors to help me welcome him. And it was quite a special beginning to the U.S. Pavilion presence. He was accompanied by Vice Premier Wang Quishan a day later. Foreign Minister Yang visited us. And there has been a stream of dignitaries from China and from throughout the world who have visited us over the last couple of weeks. It is amazing that we have already had about 400,000 visitors.

We knew, based upon the surveys that had been conducted prior to the opening of the Expo, that we would be among the most popular pavilions. And certainly, our experience over the last couple of weeks have bore that out. In fact, our lines are still quite consistently long. There’s a wait of two to three hours. There have been some comical incidents. In fact, you had one of the volunteers from an adjoining pavilion with a bullhorn encouraging our people in our queue lines to come over to their pavilion saying that their wait was only 12 minutes whereas ours was 30 hours – of course, an exaggeration, but it’s clear that the interest in our Pavilion is quite intense.

I think that the visitors have really enjoyed the presentation in the Pavilion. As the Ambassador – as Ambassador Huntsman pointed out, we have a secret weapon in the student ambassadors. They have become quite a hit. They are celebrities. People take their pictures with them. All of these students are fluent in Mandarin and are able to speak with our visitors. And for many of our visitors, these are, frankly, the first Americans that they’ve ever met. And so it’s been quite a positive experience having the student ambassadors here. They are quite creative and entrepreneurial. You’ve had a number of them who have been practicing dance routines and so they’ve begun to dance, for instance, to the “Thriller” Michael Jackson tune and have gotten the visitors very excited about that.

You should all know that Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood was with us today with a delegation. He is the first of many senior U.S. officials who will be visiting us both at the federal level and at the state and local level. We’ve had a number of delegations visit already and that will continue throughout the six months. So it’s been a very, very successful first two weeks. We look forward to continued success. It’s a very, very exciting project. It is a source of great pride for all of us representing the United States to have been received with such enthusiasm by the Chinese and by people from throughout the world who are visiting our Pavilion.

But if there any questions, be happy to answer them, as I’m sure Ambassador Bagley and Ambassador Huntsman would.

MR. TONER: Thank you very much, Commissioner General. You want to just open it up to questions?


MR. TONER: Just give your name and media.

QUESTION: Matt Lee with the AP. Just very briefly, do you have any idea how many non-Chinese are visited and --

AMBASSADOR VILLARREAL: The – over – I’m going – should I answer that?

MR. TONER: Okay.

AMBASSADOR VILLARREAL: The overwhelming majority are Chinese. I mean, there are not – I mean, it’s a fairly modest number who are non-Chinese. I mean, I think that it’s clear to everyone that this event, while global in nature, is as much an event for the Chinese as it is for anybody. I mean, someone made the point in comparing the World Expo to the Olympics, saying that the Olympics, a global event, gives the host country an opportunity – or gives visiting countries an opportunity to participate in a major event in the host country. This, in many ways, is an opportunity for other countries, for visiting countries, for participating countries, to talk about themselves with respect to the Chinese visitors. And I think this very much is the case here. Most of the visitors are Chinese and it gives us and other countries an opportunity to speak directly to them. And so I would say that the overwhelming number of visitors are Chinese.

QUESTION: The second thing is, what is it – to be – honestly, what is it that’s making this so popular? Are you guys giving away free food or something? (Laughter.) I mean, why are people waiting in line for three hours to get into this, other than it’s fine, there’s this great spirit of innovation and creativity and it’s green and all that, but there’s got to be something that makes people – there’s got to be something else that’s making people wait that long to get in, no?

AMBASSADOR VILLARREAL: Well, I think part of it is curiosity. I think it’s an opportunity – look, I mean, it is a source of great pride for the Chinese people. I mean, they are basking in the glory of this monumental, historic event. As Ambassador Huntsman pointed out, this may be the most widely attended event in human history. So it is an event of epic proportions. And so I think that for the Chinese, certainly, it’s an event that is a once-in-a-lifetime event that they just won’t want to miss. And so I think that generates a certain level of energy.

And again, I mean, the curiosity factor, the fact that it gives Chinese ordinary visitors an opportunity to learn a little bit about countries that they’ve never visited, as I say, I mean, our student ambassadors are some of the first Americans that many of our visitors have ever met. And so I think the curiosity factor is quite compelling.

QUESTION: Foster Klug, also from the Associated Press. I was hoping to ask the ambassador a question about the Human Rights Dialogue that’s going on. I realize it’s still happening, but can you talk at all about what specific cases the U.S. is raising of worry, what the Chinese response is, and what you hope or expect the Chinese to do in the future? And if you can’t, which has been sort of the way that the State Department has reacted while the talks are ongoing, can you talk generally about whether these talks are worthwhile if China’s response going into the talks is that these are internal matters of Chinese judiciary rule of law and none of the U.S.’s business?

AMBASSADOR HUNTSMAN: I’ll let Michael Posner answer at the right time. My participation yesterday at the end would lead me to believe and conclude that this is a very important dialogue. We’ve only had two in the last many years. And when the President describes this as a positive, collaborative, and comprehensive relationship, what we’re seeing play out in this dialogue is indeed reflective of the comprehensiveness of the U.S.-China relationship.

We’re talking about issues that are uncomfortable, quite frankly, but it is a sign of maturity that we can talk about specific cases, that we can talk about issues relating to rule of law, religion, labor in ways that reflect who we are and carry on a dialogue – and you’ll hear more from Michael at the right time – that will likely see through some work projects through the next 12 months that will see the dialogue result in more than just a dialogue, but rather activities going forward.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.) Ambassador, can you give some sense of your top priorities going into this S&ED, what you hope to accomplish?

AMBASSADOR HUNTSMAN: There will be a briefing on the S&ED very soon about all of the specifics. But you’d have to conclude that jobs and economic vitality will be a centerpiece of the S&ED. China is going through an historic economic transformation as they endeavor to create social safety nets that would allow them to move from an export-based system to more of a consumer-based system. We’re going through our own de-leveraging process and we’re exporting more and more to China. I can say that as a former governor, where China was nowhere on the list of top export destinations for a western state I represented, it quickly broke into the top ten and then five and then three. I think every state is kind of going through that. So the idea that jobs and the facilitation of trade and economics certainly will be a very, very important part of this.

But I’m just giving you a very general theme. You will have the strategic component and you’ll have the economic component, and both will have their individual priorities that you’ll be briefed on, I think, in just a few days.

MR. TONER: Please.

QUESTION: I have a follow-up question. My name is (inaudible) with the China press. And I know you had a meeting with Secretary Geithner yesterday, and do you have any readout of that meeting? And what message did you get from Chinese Government regarding the currency issue? Thank you.

AMBASSADOR HUNTSMAN: (Inaudible) Secretary Geithner will address that at the appropriate time. But the meeting yesterday was very much about the planning, the last-minute details with respect to the S&ED. There’s a lot of work that goes into this very important annual gathering, and you have to remember that the S&ED last year was just as the Administration was moving forward, many people not even confirmed in their position. So it was a chance to develop relationships, and this year, we’re deeply into the substance. It’s a very important opportunity to frame the relationship and to articulate and re-articulate our vision going forward. We’ll disagree on some issues but we have shared interests in others, and this is the opportunity to define that with some precision and specificity.

MR. TONER: Just time for a couple more questions. Right there.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) Hong Kong Phoenix TV. Hong Kong Phoenix TV of (inaudible).


QUESTION: I was wondering if you can – you have a recent statement on (inaudible) Google and you say Obama Administration (inaudible) a couple of China’s core interests, which surprised some of the Chinese experts. I was wondering if you can clarify that.

AMBASSADOR HUNTSMAN: Clarify what part now? I don’t (inaudible).

QUESTION: You have a statement – a newspaper says Obama Administration (inaudible) a couple of China’s core interests. Can you clarify that?

AMBASSADOR HUNTSMAN: No, that was simply a reference to months past. We went through some months of difficulty and challenge, as we sometimes do in the U.S.-China relationship, based on certain decisions made by the United States. That’s history and I was simply describing that period of time, January-February-March. We’re now moving into what I think is a much different phase of the relationship.

MR. TONER: Last question. Anyone?

QUESTION: Samir Nader with Radio Sawa. Can you give us an idea, Mr. Ambassador, about the meetings that the Secretary will have during her visit to China?

AMBASSADOR HUNTSMAN: Anything you’d like to say there?

AMBASSADOR BAGLEY: The meetings on Shanghai?

AMBASSADOR HUNTSMAN: The meetings in --

QUESTION: Government officials, I mean.

AMBASSDOR HUNTSMAN: Yeah, that – it’s quite a lengthy list and --

QUESTION: The first meetings.

AMBASSADOR HUNTSMAN: It’s still evolving, but you can imagine levels – meetings at the highest levels of party and government. And I think we’ll wait until the formal S&ED briefing to lay out exactly all of the meetings that will take place, because it’s packed with a great deal of substance and a great deal of interaction.

AMBASSADOR BAGLEY: She will have meetings with Shanghai officials, of course, and she’ll be visiting the China Pavilion as well, so there’ll be an opportunity for her to meet with local Shanghai officials and then maybe some officials from Beijing as well.

QUESTION: Is she going to any other pavilions?

AMBASSADOR BAGLEY: We’re looking at that right now. We’re hoping she’d like to do a little tour. We don’t know yet. We’re working – certainly, the China Pavilion. Beyond that, the U.S. --

QUESTION: And who’s next-door to the U.S. Pavilion?

AMBASSADOR BAGLEY: We have the – actually, Latin American Pavilions.

QUESTION: So which pavilion was it that was trying to lure your waiters in line?

AMBASSADOR BAGLEY: I don’t know. (Inaudible.) (Laughter.)

AMBASSADOR VILLARREAL: I think I’m going to protect the innocent – (laughter) – but I’ll tell you who our three neighbors are. They are Brazil, Colombia, and Peru. But I’m not going to point the finger at any particular country so --

QUESTION: Is she planning to meet with any dissidents or anyone from the human rights community while she’s there?

MR. TONER: We’re going to brief on --

AMBASSADOR HUNTSMAN: We’ll wait until we have the S&ED briefing. You’ll hear more about the complete schedule at that point.

MR. TONER: Thanks, everyone.