US Vice President Joe Biden opened a two-day visit to China yesterday by urging young Chinese students to challenge their government, teachers and religious leaders.
Arriving midday in Beijing, Biden paid a visit to the US embassy, where he surprised Chinese citizens waiting to get visitor visas processed in the embassy.
Thanking a group of mostly young people for wanting to visit the US, Biden said he hoped they would learn during their visit that “innovation can only occur where you can breathe free.”
“Children in America are rewarded — not punished — for challenging the status quo,” Biden said. “The only way you make something totally new is to break the mold of what was old.”
The vice president seemed to be alluding to the authoritarian rule of China’s government as he described a liberal and permissive intellectual culture in the US.
“I hope you observe it when you’re there,” said Biden, flanked by US Ambassador Gary Locke. “From the beginning of our country, it’s a constant stream of new immigrants, new cultures, new ideas, new religions, brand new people continuing to reinvigorate the spirit of America.”
Biden also offered measured praise for China’s educational system, a day after results from a global exam showed US students once again lagging behind many of their Asian and European peers. Students in Shanghai, China’s largest city, had the top scores in all subjects on that exam.
“Even though some countries’ educational systems are better than America’s — particularly in grade school — there is one thing that’s stamped in the DNA of every American, whether they are naturalized citizens or natural-born,” Biden said. “It’s an inherent rejection of orthodoxy.”
Similar comments from Biden in the past have created a stir.
When Biden in May told students at the University of Pennsylvania that you cannot think differently in a nation where you cannot breathe free, Chinese students said they were offended and requested an apology.
Biden’s visit comes at a tense moment for the US and China, who are at odds over Beijing’s recent insistence that pilots flying through airspace over a set of disputed islands file flight plans with China’s government.
Stepping onto Chinese soil earlier yesterday after his flight from Tokyo, Biden was met by a Chinese military honor guard before being whisked to the US embassy to highlight efforts to reduce visa processing times for Chinese visitors to the US.
During a meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) yesterday, Biden said he believed Xi was a candid and constructive person.
“In developing this new relationship, both qualities are sorely needed,” Biden said during a meeting in Beijing’s Great Hall of the People.
Xi said the international situation and regional landscape were “undergoing profound and complex changes.”
“The world is not tranquil,” he added.
Neither made any mention of the air defense zone in remarks before reporters. Biden is to fly to Seoul today.
As Biden arrived, the English-language China Daily, said in a strongly worded editorial that he “should not expect any substantial headway if he comes simply to repeat his government’s previous erroneous and one-sided remarks.”
“If the US is truly committed to lowering tensions in the region, it must first stop acquiescing to Tokyo’s dangerous brinkmanship. It must stop emboldening belligerent Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to constantly push the envelope of Japan’s encroachments and provocations,” it said.