The U.S. and China must proceeded with cooperation, not confrontation, to address the challenges of the 21st century, President Obama said this morning.

Speaking to the U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue here in Washington, the President said the relationship between China and the United States "will shape the 21st century, which makes it as important as any bilateral relationship in the world."

"My confidence is rooted in the fact that the United States and China share mutual interests," the President continued.

Obama stressed economic recovery, clean energy and nuclear non-proliferation as the topics most demanding cooperation.

Speaking to an audience that included the Chinese Vice Premier and State Counselor, the President quoted NBA star Yao Ming to emphasize patience.

"[A]s a new President and as a basketball fan, I have learned from the words of Yao Ming, who said--"No matter whether you are new or an old team member, you need time to adjust to one another," said the President.

But the President was entirely conciliatory to the Chinese diplomats in attendance. While praising China's economic recovery, Obama urged China to fully respect human rights.

"Just as we respect China's ancient culture and remarkable achievements, we also strongly believe that the religion and culture of all peoples must be respected and protected, and that all people should be free to speak their minds," Obama said. "That includes ethnic and religious minorities in China, as surely as it includes minorities within the United States."

Read the full remarks after the jump.

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