Secretary Elaine Chao


Reception Honoring the 30th Anniversary of Reform in China

Thank you, Ambassador Zhou [Wenzhong] and DCM Xie [Fang].

As you’ve heard, several of my cabinet colleagues and I have just returned from attending the Fifth U.S. — China Strategic Economic Dialogue in Beijing.

Beijing today is a modern metropolis full of action, excitement, and energy.

What a difference from 30 years ago!

In 1979, when my parents and I visited China shortly after Premier Deng Xiaoping announced the Four Modernizations Program, China was a vastly different place.

It was still primarily an agrarian society — where over 85% of its population gained their livelihood from subsistence farming.

Visiting Beijing, I remember our plane approaching the City on an evening descent. Below us was the great capital of the Middle Kingdom — cloaked in darkness. There were few lights below, because the country could not afford to light many streets.

On the road from Beijing airport to the center of the City, the only light provided was from the headlights of our car.

There were few cars on the roads. Instead, the streets were filled with people riding bicycles as their primary mode of transportation.

People on the streets could be seen wearing one of two colors- blue or green. Blue was the color of the attire worn by civilians. And green was the color of the clothing worn by members of the People’s Liberation Army.

Women all had the same hair style. There were no beauty salons or commercial stores or shops of any kind. The only retail outlets were the State-owned Friendship Stores.

English was rarely heard. For outsiders, communication was really difficult.

Today, the transformation that has taken place in China is nothing short of amazing. People now experience a much higher standard of living. The nutrition is better; Chinese young people are taller. And, there are so many more choices and options over their lives, careers and accommodations. So many young people now speak English. And while some may say that China has not changed enough, others can fairly and accurately say that China has changed more in 30 years than in our three generations.

With its debut on the international stage this summer by hosting the 29th Olympic summer games, China is a presence on the world stage. While there is disagreement over how far China has yet to go — we can all take note of the long road China has already come in a relatively short period of time.

In the future, the U.S.-China relationship will only continue to grow. Thus, it is to our mutual advantage and benefit to continue to communicate and understand each other so that the relationship between our two countries will develop positively and endure.

Thank you.