A bipartisan delegation of 10 United States Senators returned home Monday night following a week's worth of meetings with high-level Chinese government officials, business leaders, U.S. Foreign Service officers and Peace Corps volunteers.
The historic delegation, led by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada, represented more than a third of the U.S. population and included some of the most senior members of the Senate. The delegation included Assistant Majority Leader Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.), Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.), Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) and Michael Bennet (D-Colo.).
Some of the Chinese officials the Senators met with include:
* Xi Jinping, China's Vice President, who is widely expected to succeed Hu Jintao next year as China's next President
* Wang Qishan, Vice Premier
* Yang Jiechi, Foreign Minister
* Wu Bangguo, Chairman of the National People's Congress, China's legislature.
* Lu Yongxiang, Vice Chairman of the National People's Congress
* Zhou Xiaochuan, President of the People's Bank of China
* Donald Tsang, Chief Executive of Hong Kong
* Florinda Chan, Acting Chief Executive and Secretary for Administration and Justice of Macau
* Ge Honglin, Mayor of Chengdu, a city with a population of 14 million that is a leader in China's renewable energy industry
Additionally, members of the delegation met with officials from the Chinese Rail Ministry to discuss the country's investments in high-speed rail.
Senators also received classified briefings by American officials and met with Jon Huntsman, America's Ambassador to China; Stephen Young, Consul General in Hong Kong; and Roy Perrin, Acting Consul General in Chengdu.
In addition to meeting with government officials, the Senators met with American business leaders operating in China during luncheons with the American Chamber of Commerce and the U.S. China Business Council.
Trade, Jobs, and Currency. The primary focus of this trip centered on strengthening America's manufacturing sector and urging a level playing field for U.S. businesses. Chinese officials confirmed that China would continue the managed appreciation of its currency and were urged by the delegation to be more aggressive. This was an important step because China's currency policy has resulted in an unbalanced exchange rate that keeps the cost of Chinese products artificially low and the cost of U.S. exports to China unfairly high, making it difficult for U.S. businesses to compete with China in the global marketplace.
The Senators also raised strong concerns about other trade barriers that make it difficult for American companies to export and invest in China, including China's so-called "indigenous innovation" policies.
Clean Energy. The delegation spent a great deal of time learning more about China's aggressive investments in clean energy. "China isn't investing so heavily in clean energy just because it's good for the environment -- it's doing so because it's good for the economy," Reid said. "China knows clean energy creates jobs and, in reducing its reliance on oil, makes it more secure. With our vast renewable energy resources and American ingenuity, we can't afford not to be a globally competitive leader in this important area. We should also look for new opportunities to collaborate on and advance clean-energy deployment here and abroad."
International Security. As the world's two leading economies, both nations agree there is a shared responsibility to work together to foster global security. The Senators and Chinese officials discussed the importance of stability in the Korean Peninsula and the dangers of a nuclear Iran, as well the importance of maintaining an open line of communication to address potential threats.
Human Rights. The delegation's trip to China took place during one of the toughest human rights crackdowns in recent Chinese history, a concern that was brought up by the delegation during multiple meetings with Chinese officials. While differences of opinion remain, both sides agreed to continue discussing this issue, an encouraging step that the delegation hopes will eventually lead China to protect the internationally recognized rights to freedom of expression, religion, and association. This week China and the U.S. will have a bilateral dialogue on human rights issues.
"The world needs its two largest economies to work together. We have to communicate and build mutual trust," Reid said. "Our meetings in China helped improve that relationship, and our experience there was an unmistakable reminder of just how hard we have to work to make American more competitive with the rest of the world. I thank the Chinese for meeting with us and for their gracious hospitality."