John Edwards in Beijing with National Committee President Stephen Orlins and an aide
John Edwards, former Democratic Senator from North Carolina, 2004 vice-presidential nominee, and 2008 presidential hopeful accepted the National Committee’s offer – extended to more than a dozen potential 2008 presidential candidates in both parties in the spring/summer of 2006 – to travel to China in October 2006 as part of the Committee’s Presidential Candidates Initiative. The four-day trip was Senator Edwards’ first visit to the People’s Republic.
While in Beijing, Senator Edwards met with American and Chinese business executives and specialists in international relations, economic development and other fields, and engaged in direct dialogue with a number of Chinese leaders, including Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing, Defense Minister Cao Gangchuan, Education Minister Zhou Ji, Vice Minister of the State Environmental Protection Agency Pan Yue, Commerce Minister Bo Xilai, Former Shanghai Mayor Xu Kuangdi, and CPAFFC President Chen Haosu.
The Presidential Candidates Initiative was a direct outgrowth of the debate surrounding CNOOC’s failed acquisition of UNOCAL, and a reaffirmation of the National Committee’s belief that education of our political leaders is critical to U.S.-China relations. While the relationship is one of the most challenging and complex, American politicians and policy makers often have limited opportunities to engage in high-level, direct conversations with the Chinese policy elite. The Presidential Candidates Initiative began to bridge this gap.