AMBASSADOR LOCKE: Well, welcome everyone. And we're so honored to have Secretary Hillary Clinton with us today. And she brought the beautiful weather, so let's thank her for the -- (cheers) -- beautiful weather and the very clean air. But she's with us in the midst of another extremely busy globetrotting itinerary from the Cook Islands down near New Zealand then to Indonesia, up here to China. She came in last evening. Then she's going to go back down tonight to Timor-Leste and then off to Brunei and then back up to Vladivostok for the APEC Economic Leaders' Meeting.
It means to all of us, Secretary Clinton, that you're here to take time to meet and greet our Embassy and their families. We know that this is very much in character, however, with her remarkable tenure as Secretary of State. She's traveled more than -- get a load of this -- 865,000 miles and visited more than 100 countries. And China was her very first trip abroad as Secretary of State, and since then she has spent more than 365 days on the road in -- a full year in less than four years as Secretary of State.
I have to let you know that the Secretary's dedication and stamina and -- are absolutely amazing. As I indicated, she came in last night. Our very first meetings with the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs and top Chinese Government officials started at nine o'clock and did not end until almost one o'clock in the morning. Everyone else in the room, including the Chinese and the American staff, were falling asleep, having a hard time. (Laughter.) I was fidgeting in my chair, trying to stay alert. And I look over to Secretary Clinton. She's sitting perfectly straight up, at full attention and alert. And your mom would be very, very proud. (Laughter.) Very energized.
But you cannot capture her remarkable career in public service in numbers. She was, of course, an amazing First Lady of the United States of America. She's been a champion of human rights all around the world, standing up for women's rights in particular. And we all remember her very, very first trip to China, in where she famously said that women's rights are human rights. (Cheers and applause.) But her commitment to public service runs deep, and after serving as our nation's First Lady, she was a very effective U.S. senator who gained bipartisan respect, something that we need a lot more of in the United States Congress these days.
For our own part, Mona and I have valued her as a friend and as a colleague. And we have a picture -- we can show her the picture -- in our home of Mona and myself with Secretary Clinton, then First Lady Clinton, and President Clinton during the Clintons' 1996 reelection campaign. And Mona and I -- we were running for governor in Washington and we are on bus trip through the back route of Washington State, and President Clinton and First Lady Clinton were giving us advice on how to be public servants.
And I don't think you'll ever forget also that later when our several-month-old Emily was on your shoulder, and you were carrying her on your shoulder. And she was, of course, the First Lady of America visiting the State of Washington, and our few-month-old baby girl, of course, when you're on someone's shoulder, had a little bit of a burp. (Laughter.)
But we're so proud and honored to have you here. And I've served with you when you were First Lady and we were governor. I served with you as fellow cabinet members under President Obama's Administration, and now I'm just so proud and honored to be part of your State Department team here in Beijing. (Applause.)
Madam Secretary, as you can see today, we have a large number of employees and families here to see you, and the hours and the miles you've spent on the road speak to your dedication, and the enthusiastic audience here today reflects our appreciation for all of your hard work, but also our admiration for your leadership, courage, tenacity, and stamina. I know that the people of China actually have a very special fondness for you, and I learned just recently that in Mandarin many Chinese refer you to as Secretary Xi-la-li, or Secretary Hillary. They refer to you like a friend.
On behalf of the men and women and the families from the State Department and all foreign affairs agencies here at Embassy Beijing, we thank you again for being here today. You've been to China as our nation's First Lady, a U.S. senator, and now as Secretary of State. And this probably your -- perhaps your last visit in that capacity as Secretary of State, but we expect to see you back again in another capacity in government after 2016. (Cheers and applause.) We're looking for an even higher title then.
Ladies and gentlemen, our great honor to have with us, our great boss, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. (Cheers and applause.)
SECRETARY CLINTON: Yes, I'll be back as ambassador -- (laughter) -- a great opportunity to serve and to be a colleague of such extraordinary public servants as all of you.
As the Ambassador said, I've known Gary and Mona for many years now, and I am so pleased to see the impact they are both having on China and in furthering our relationship, which is so vital to both of our countries. I really am so grateful. It's hard to believe that it was only last August that you were sworn in as our ambassador. It's gone by very quickly. It's been somewhat of an eventful year here at Embassy Beijing. And there's no surprise on my part at a lot of the accomplishments that have taken place under Gary's leadership. And I'm so pleased that Mona can be a great ambassador as well to the Chinese people. She is one of our great assets here on behalf of American diplomacy. So to both Gary and Mona and to your three children, thank you for serving your country in such a wonderful way. (Applause.)
And I want to thank DCM Bob Wang. Thank you, Bob, for your service as well. And all of you, I'm sure, know how important we feel about what we're doing here in the Asia Pacific, and in particular in the U.S.-China relationship. It's a complicated relationship. There's no doubt about that. But we believe strongly it's a vital relationship and one of the most important in determining the kind of future that we'll have for the beautiful children and young people that I just took a picture with outside.
We have -- and have said it many times -- a commitment to a successful China, a China that continues to serve the needs economically of their own people, but also a China that is a positive force for global security, stability, and prosperity. Now, we are blazing new territory here, trying to find the right balance between cooperation and competition. We literally are figuring it out each day, and we are counting on all of you and your colleagues, not only here in Beijing but across China, to help us do just that. It means a lot of long hours and a lot of extra work, but we are grateful to you.
Our mission to China has almost 2,000 employees, representatives from 19 different federal agencies. That alone shows what a premium we place on the relationship. And when I worked to try to combine all of the dialogues that were happening when the Obama Administration came into office, I said I wanted to create an umbrella, because we have so many different agencies and concerns that are being acted on every day. We need to be sure that we coordinate more effectively. So the Strategic and Economic Dialogue was meant to be the mechanism for that level of coordination and to develop habits of cooperation between and among our governments.
It is not just the size that matters. Obviously, this is a very large country and will require a large American presence. But it is the way you have translated this mission into results for Chinese and Americans alike. I told Gary that one of the unbelievable accomplishments of his tenure in really less than a year is the way you have set records for processing visas. You really made a difference in accelerating the ability of Chinese to come to the United States. Because I believe firmly in these people-to-people transactions, our business-to-business transactions, our student exchanges, recreation, and travel. We need to keep that flow going. And I am very grateful for the way that you have set the standard.
We have tried to support you in that, but the work has been done by this mission here in Beijing and across the country. We brag everywhere we go, I and others in the State Department, about everything you've done to improve the speed and volume of visa processing. But I think it bears repeating, dropping wait times from more than 50 days in 2011 to six days is hugely impressive. And when you translate those visas into tourist spending and new business investment, it has a direct impact on our own economic recovery back home. So more Chinese students, more business people, more tourists. And I understand you are on pace to process as many as 1.4 million visa applications this year. So I want you all to give yourselves a round of applause for such an amazing achievement. (Applause.)
And there's so much else that you do every single day. Those of you not working directly in consular affairs, you're working to advance human rights and democracy in a very challenging and fast-paced environment. And I want to take just a moment to remember that when I was here in May I was proud to present our Department-wide Human Rights Award to four winners from mission China. I want to, again, reiterate how important your work is in promoting the universal values that we believe in and that we think are the birthright of every human being. Human rights are as fundamental with our agenda with China as economic statecraft, so I thank you for your dedication and commitment. And again, let's give a round of applause to all the working on behalf of human rights and democracy. (Applause.)
Now, I will take credit for the clear day and the pollution-free environment -- (laughter) -- but I know that it's something that affects you, and particularly if you have children here, something that you are concerned about, especially during the hot summer months. So I want to thank the Embassy and the environment, science, and technology and health staff for your commitment to monitoring and improving the air quality for everyone who works in our facilities. You're not only helping people stay healthy, but you're leading by example and keeping the focus on a major problem that affects many millions of Chinese citizens as well. I know that there was a little bit of grief for publicizing the air pollution quality measurements, but I think that was all to the good, because it really is important to get information that can help people, whether they're here on our Embassy team or out in the communities here and around China.
I also want to thank our local Chinese staff. I know how challenging it is from time to time to be part of this incredible effort we're undertaking to improve relations between our two countries and to put us on a very firm foundation for the future. But could all our local Chinese staff just raise your hands? Because I want to give you a round of applause as well. (Applause.) It's true all over the world that ambassadors and Secretaries of State come and go, but our locally employed staff remain the link between the United States and the people of China. You're the memory bank and the nerve center, and we are grateful to you for your expertise and experience.
To all of our team here, Chinese and American staff and families alike, thank you. Thank you for your commitment, and in many cases your sacrifice. Particularly for Americans, I know living so far from home, from family, from friends can be a challenge. But this is what you signed up for. You signed up for going out into the world and exercising American influence on behalf of American values and American interests and American security. And we could not -- we absolutely could not -- expect to make progress in this vital relationship without you being willing to do so.
So for me, I am personally honored to serve with colleagues like all of you. I think it's an especially tumultuous but exciting time in history to be working on behalf of the United States, and especially here in China. It's exciting for me to come back and see the progress that has taken place here in China and to be determined that we're going to keep forging this positive, cooperative, comprehensive relationship that President Obama and President Hu Jintao have committed to.
I just finished a very long press conference with Foreign Minister Yang, and he was asked, look -- by the Chinese press -- don't you think America's just out to contain you and don't you think that conflict is inevitable? And he said what I had said earlier in the press conference: We are trying to do something which has never been done before, where you have a rising power and a dominant power. And as that rising power assumes greater and greater influence and reach far beyond its borders, we want to see China be a responsible global leader, on the side of helping to solve problems and prevent conflict.
Yes. Do we have disagreements? Of course. What two nations don't? What two people don't? That seems to be obvious to me. And we will continue to be forthright about our disagreements, whether it's on human rights or the South China Sea or anything else. But overall we are committed to ensuring that we find as many areas of cooperation as possible and that we produce practical results for our people and the Chinese people, as well as the region and the world.
So when we talk about our people-to-people exchanges -- some of you helped when I did that last May; it was genuinely moving to see the young American student and the young Chinese student talking about what it had meant to their lives to have studied in the other country -- when we talk about the 100,000 Strong, when we are trying to convey more clearly what Americans stand for, when we had the Shanghai Expo and the USA pavilion was staffed by young Americans of every ethnic and racial background, speaking Chinese, hosting all of the visitors who were coming, we are building connections, government-to-government, people-to-people. And we could not do that without all of you and the many hundreds of others who work with you every single day.
Now, I am going to try to shake as many hands as I can before I leave. I only have three more meetings and a dinner left. (Laughter.) But I hope that you know how grateful we are in Washington. We are well aware that we could not do what we are attempting without all of you.
So Gary and Mona, thank you for being such a dynamic duo, leading our Embassy. I love reading about the tweets and the blogs about Gary's backpack -- (laughter) -- and buying coffee. And I want to see more about you, Mona. I want to see you out there meeting and working with and interacting with more Chinese people as well. Because we want to have a full court press so everybody knows that we are committed to this relationship, committed to the ongoing depth and breadth of it, and that we are going to persevere through the difficult and challenging times, some of which you might remember from last May here at the Embassy, because we know it is ultimately in the interest of the United States and China and the world for us to do so.
Thank you very much. (Applause.)