Jokes about life after the White House last night interspersed the serious issues of the global economic meltdown, terrorism and human rights in former US president George W. Bush's first speech overseas since leaving office in January. 'This is my first overseas trip since being president and I couldn't think of a better place to come than China,' Mr Bush told a gala dinner at the Boao Forum. Predictably, the dire state of the world economy and how to tackle it dominated the address. He admitted these were 'tough times; really tough times', but added that there were 'positive things that can be done'. 'When the final chapter is written on this period of economic history, it will be said that we intervened early, we intervened aggressively and we intervened in close co-ordination with each other,' he said, warning that the world 'must not fall prey to isolationism and protectionism'. As the centre of the world economy was 'shifting from the Atlantic to the Pacific', Mr Bush stressed the importance of maintaining and strengthening US links with China and the rest of Asia. He also spoke about the fight against terrorism. 'It is important to realise that we are in an ideological struggle with those people who falsely use their religion to forward a totalitarian view of the world.' He said the way to fight terrorism was to promote 'universal freedoms', and he made an extended plea for greater freedoms, with particular reference to the mainland and Myanmar. 'It is essential that we continue to work through Burma and let their people realise the great benefits of a free society.' Myanmar's prime minister, General Thein Sein, is at the three-day conference, but forum organisers said he was not at the speech. Mr Bush also said he had regularly brought up his own religious faith in informal meetings with President Hu Jintao and other mainland leaders. 'People who are allowed to worship freely in a society are people that are going to be peaceful citizens, people who will contribute to the civil society of a country. I'm confident that as nations continue to free their economies, people themselves ought to be able to have more freedoms.' Mr Bush opened his speech on a less serious note, joking that his wife, Laura, was setting his 'new domestic agenda' - washing the dishes. And his comment about 'picking up that which I had been dodging for eight years' while taking his dog for its first walk near his Dallas home produced a warm chuckle.