WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama said Monday that the relationship between the United States and China will shape the history of the 21st century.
Obama, speaking at the start of two days of high-level talks between the two nations, said that Washington and Beijing needed to forge closer ties to address a host of challenges from lifting the global economy out of a deep recession to nuclear proliferation.
"I believe that we are poised to make steady progress on some of the most important issues of our times," the president told diplomats from both countries.
Obama said he was under "no illusions that the United States and China will agree on every issue" but he said closer cooperation in important areas was critical for the world.
The discussions in Washington represent the continuation of a dialogue begun by the Bush administration, which focused on economic tensions between the two nations. Obama chose to expand the talks to include foreign policy issues as well as economic disputes.
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, welcoming the Chinese, said the two nations were "laying brick by brick the foundation for a stronger relationship."
Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and Vice Premier Wang Qishan, China's top economic policymaker, both spoke of hopeful signs that the global economy was beginning to emerge from its worst financial crisis since the Great Depression.
Geithner said that the so far successful efforts of the two economic superpowers to move quickly to deal with the downturns with massive stimulus programs marked a historic turning point in the relationship of the two nations.
Speaking through a translator, Wang said that "at present the world economy is at a critical moment of moving out of crisis and toward recovery."
State Councilor Dai Bingguo said that the two countries were trying to build better relations despite their very different social systems, cultures, ideologies and histories.
"We are actually all in the same big boat that has been hit by fierce wind and huge waves," Dai said of the global economic and other crises.