"Over the course of the day, progress has been made to help him have the future that he wants, and we will be staying in touch with him as this process moves forward," the U.S. secretary of state said at a news conference with U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner at the end of two days of high level talks in Beijing on several issues.
A diplomatic entanglement arose over Chen, who fled house arrest from his rural home in late April, sought refuge at the U.S. Embassy in Beijing until Wednesday, then left of his own accord to go to a hospital for medical treatment and reunite with his family. Chen originally said he wanted to remain in China as a free citizen but changed his mind after meeting with his family to say he wants to go to the United States and take his relatives with him.
China announced earlier Friday Chen, a self-taught lawyer, could apply to study abroad and the U.S. State Department said an American university offered him a fellowship.
Clinton said U.S. diplomatic and medical officials met with Chen and the blind activist reiterated he and his family wanted to go to the United States so he can pursue his studies.
But, Clinton said, the case goes beyond responding to the needs of a well-known activist.
"It's about the human rights and aspirations of more than a billion people here in China and billions more around the world," she said. "And it's about the future of this great nation and all nations. We will continue engaging with the Chinese government at the highest levels in putting these concerns at the heart of our diplomacy."
Asked for her thoughts about what China and the United States will do to build a new relationship, Clinton said the United States "welcomes a strong, prosperous, and successful China."
"We want to see China not only deliver economic prosperity for its large population, but also play a key role in world affairs," she said. "And our countries and our peoples gain far more from cooperation then from competition, so we are committed to pursuing a positive, cooperative, comprehensive relationship."
She said events such as the Fourth Annual Strategic and Economic Dialogue can be used to "maximize mutual understanding and areas of cooperation while also speaking frankly to one another about those areas about which we have disagreements."
Clinton said the two countries "need this kind of open, regular mechanism for strengthening our partnership and managing those areas where there are tensions and differences."
The dialogue presented a chance for the United States and China to do something "unprecedented," she said, which would be "to write a new answer to the age-old question of what happens when an established power and a rising power meet."
The United States considers the situation an opportunity, not a threat, she said.
"We look at the future with great optimism," Clinton said. "And we believe that neither of us can afford to keep looking at the world through old lenses, whether it's the legacy of imperialism, the Cold War, or balance-of-power politics. Zero sum thinking will lead to negative sum results."
Geithner said the United States has been supportive of trying to ensure China "not only has a seat at the table in the most important for a globally for discussing international, economic and financial issues," but also of expanding China's role.
"It underscores our recognition that our interests are completely consistent with a rising, growing, stronger kind of China economically and financially," he said.
Asked about how the two superpowers could avoid derailing their bilateral relationship, Geithner said each side must understand the interests and intentions of each other, and both have done so.
"You have to be open and direct where we disagree. We have to be as clear as possible as we can where our interests are in conflict," he said. "And we try to bring that basic spirit and approach to these discussions from the beginning, and I think that's the only way to do it."
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