Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick has urged China to work with the United States on a broad range of issues, from Darfur to Iran and North Korea. The U.S. official testified at a congressional hearing about human rights in China, as lawmakers called on the Bush administration to continue pressing Beijing on its human rights policies.
Deputy Secretary Zoellick says how the U.S. deals with China's growing global influence is the central question of 21st century diplomacy.
He says balancing the economic and security interests of both nations, while managing inevitable tensions, will be a continuing challenge.
"We're both global powers and we have an agenda globally," he said. "We have some shared security and economic interests, but also there [are] tensions because China has a growing global footprint. There are areas where we both have transnational threats to deal with - disease, terrorism, environmental degradation. One question, and the challenge is, if you imagine any problem in the world, is it easier or harder to imagine dealing with that if you have China working with you as opposed to working against you?"
The House International Relations Committee hearing provided an opportunity for lawmakers to voice concerns about the role of China on a range of issues.
One of those is Iran. Democratic Congressman Tom Lantos describes Beijing's eventual final position on a tough U.N. Security Council Resolution regarding Iran's nuclear ambitions as a crucial test.
"If it supports such a resolution, this will send a clear signal that Beijing recognizes that with global power and prestige comes global responsibility," said Mr. Lantos.
Congressman Henry Hyde, chairman of the committee, lists Sudan and North Korea as two other areas where China can play a decisive role:
"Will Beijing put aside its quest for energy in Sudan for join the international campaign to stop the genocide in Darfur?" he asked. "Will China move beyond playing host at the ongoing meeting of the six-party talks to put economic pressure on Pyongyang, its long-time ally?"
Deputy Secretary Zoellick expressed some optimism China will not, in his words, be an obstacle in the process of U.N. action regarding Iran.
Ongoing unhappiness in Congress with Beijing's human rights practices could be heard in these remarks by Congressman Dana Rohrabacher.
"We do not now have a benevolent, liberalizing regime in China. Instead, we still have the horrendous stories of repression of religion, or torture, and of political repression," he said.
Deputy Secretary Zoellick says the U.S. will continue to emphasize the importance of human rights in its dealings with Beijing.
"We need to press China to help turn human rights from a negative to a net positive in our relationship," he said. "Right now China uses what I'll call rule by law, not rule of law. They use law as part of the overall control system, but there is a very important need for China to bring rule of law into the system, [and] have a more rights-based society and institutionalized protections."
In discussing China's growing global role, Deputy Secretary Zoellick says China and the United States do share one major concern, both are trying to move away from dependence on imported oil.