Wednesday May 27, 2020

December 5, 2014

President Obama speaks with the Business Roundtable (White House Photo by Pete Souza)

On Wednesday, President Obama spoke at the Business Roundtable Headquarters. Obama primarily answered questions regarding the state of the U.S. economy and economic policy. China and Obama’s recent meetings with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing were also discussed.

In response to a question about China, President Obama said:

On the geopolitics, my meeting with President Xi I thought was very productive and obviously we had some significant deliverables. He has consolidated power faster and more comprehensively than probably anybody since I think Deng Xiaoping. And everybody has been impressed by his clout inside of China after only a year and a half or two years. There are dangers in that — on issues of human rights, on issues of clamping down on dissent. He taps into a nationalism that worries his neighbors and that we’ve seen manifest in these maritime disputes in the South China Sea as well as the Senkaku Islands.

On the other hand, I think they have a very strong interest in maintaining good relations with the United States. And my visit was a demonstration of their interest in managing this relationship effectively.

Our goal with China has been to say to them, we, too, want a constructive relationship. We’ve got an integrated world economy and the two largest economies in the world have to have an effective relationship together. It can be a win-win for both sides, but there are some things we need them to fix. And we are pressing them very hard on issues of cybersecurity and cyber theft, mostly in the commercial area. It is indisputable that they engage in it, and it is a problem. And we push them hard on it….

So I think we have to be cautious and clear-eyed about our relationship with China, but there’s no reason why we should not be able to manage that relationship in a way that is productive for us and productive for the world.

During the question and answer session, President Obama displayed an understanding of China’s economic system and the different challenges and difficulties it faces as a growing emerging market. Obama acknowledged China’s need to move away from an export driven growth model and increase domestic demand and the challenges the Chinese government will face making these changes. He also addressed the concerns regarding growing competition from China, particularly their ability to rapidly construct buildings, roads, and other infrastructure.

Overall, President Obama’s views on China appear cautiously optimistic after the APEC summit and meetings with his Chinese counterpart in Beijing. Read Obama’s full remarks here: