SHANGHAI, China, November 16, 2009 (ENS) – “There are very few global challenges that can be solved unless the United States and China agree,” President Barack Obama told an audience of about 500 Chinese students today at a Town Hall meeting at the Museum of Science and Technology in Shanghai.

It was the first Town Hall meeting ever held by a U.S. President in China and took place on the 30th anniversary of the establishment of formal relations between the United States and China in 1979.

On this, the first day of his first visit to China, President Obama said he has a positive outlook on the future of U.S.-Chinese cooperation, both during his speech and while answering questions from the students and Chinese Internet users.

In response to a student who asked what he hopes to get out of this visit to China, President Obama said he hopes to come to agreement with Chinese President Hu Jintao on the issue of climate change when the two leaders meet tomorrow in Beijing.

President Barack Obama holds a Town Hall meeting with Chinese students in Shanghai. (Photo by Zhang Chunhai)

“The United States and China are the world’s two largest emitters of greenhouse gases, of carbon that is causing the planet to warm,” Obama said. “Now, the United States, as a highly developed country, as I said before, per capita, consumes much more energy and emits much more greenhouse gases for each individual than does China.”

“On the other hand,” he said, “China is growing at a much faster pace and it has a much larger population. So unless both of our countries are willing to take critical steps in dealing with this issue, we will not be able to resolve it.”

“There’s going to be a Copenhagen conference in December in which world leaders are trying to find a recipe so that we can all make commitments that are differentiated so each country would not have the same obligations – obviously China, which has much more poverty, should not have to do exactly the same thing as the United States – but all of us should have these certain obligations in terms of what our plan will be to reduce these greenhouse gases,” Obama said.

Obama said he hopes to achieve “a meeting of the minds” between himself and President Hu about “how together the United States and China can show leadership.”

“Because,” said Obama, “other countries around the world will be waiting for us. They will watch to see what we do. And if they say, ‘Ah, you know, the United States and China, they’re not serious about this,’ then they won’t be serious either. That is the burden of leadership that both of our countries now carry. And my hope is, is that the more discussion and dialogue that we have, the more we are able to show this leadership to the world on these many critical issues.”

A student from Fudan University asks a question about the relationship between Shanghai and Chicago. (Photo courtesy The White House)

Obama announced that the United States will expand its youth exchanges with China by increasing the number of American students in China to 100,000.

Before meeting with the students, President Obama had lunch with Shanghai Mayor Han Zheng. Shanghai and Obama’s home town of Chicago have had a sister city relationship since 1985.

“One of the things that I discussed with the mayor,” said Obama in answer to a student’s question, “is how both cities can learn from each other on strategies around clean energy, because one of the issues that ties China and America together is how, with an expanding population and a concern for climate change, that we’re able to reduce our carbon footprint.”

“We talked about mass transit and the excellent rail lines that are being developed in Shanghai. I think we can learn in Chicago and the United States some of the fine work that’s being done on high-speed rail,” the President said.

“In the United States, I think we are learning how to develop buildings that use much less energy, that are much more energy-efficient,” he said. “And I know that with Shanghai, as I traveled and I saw all the cranes and all the new buildings that are going up, it’s very important for us to start incorporating these new technologies so that each building is energy-efficient when it comes to lighting, when it comes to heating. And so it’s a terrific opportunity I think for us to learn from each other.”

The issue of clean energy is going to be a major focus of the Shanghai World Expo, scheduled for May 1 through October 31, 2010.

President Obama said today he would “love to attend” if his schedule permits. “I’m very pleased that we’re going to have an excellent U.S. pavilion at the Expo, and I understand that we expect as many as 70 million visitors here. So it’s going to be very crowded and it’s going to be very exciting,” he said.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton paid a visit to 2010 Shanghai Expo site today and appealed for sponsorship for the U.S. pavilion.

“I know there are some audience still contemplating sponsorship and maybe in negotiation with the USA pavilion team,” she said. “Now it’s the time to join this effort. We want to assemble the strongest team of partners possible.”

Clinton addressed the sponsors in front of the USA pavilion, which finished its roof last month.

She expressed her appreciation to the sponsors that have signed on, including Procter & Gamble, Honeywell, Intel and especially Boeing which has doubled its contribution to US$2 million.

“We were grateful for your generosity and steadfast belief in the importance of the expo, in American role here and what this USA pavilion can do to strengthen the cooperation and partnership between the American people and people of China,” Clinton said.

Jose Villarreal, U.S. Commissioner General of Section of the U.S. Exhibition to World Expo Shanghai 2010, said in September that the United States had raised about two thirds of its participation cost of $61 million.

Clinton said she was looking forward to returning to Shanghai next summer to see the U.S. pavilion for herself and to tour the Expo.

Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2009. All rights reserved.