[Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: William J. Clinton (1997, Book II)]
[October 29, 1997]
[Pages 1456-1457]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office www.gpo.gov]

Remarks at the State Dinner Honoring President Jiang Zemin of China
October 29, 1997

    Good evening. President Jiang, Mrs. Wang, members of the Chinese 
delegation, Ambassador and Mrs. Sasser, distinguished guests, friends 
all, Hillary and I welcome you to America's house.
    Mr. President, in your lifetime you have witnessed the sweep of a 
remarkable century, both in China and abroad. And in your different 
occupations, you have lived a rich sampling of the human enterprise. 
While you lead China toward the future, we know you also are a student 
of the past, with an interest in our history, from Thomas Jefferson to 
Mark Twain. Not many heads of state can recite the Gettysbury Address, 
Mr. Lincoln's powerful hymn to the sanctity of our Union and our 
guarantee of freedom.
    China has played an important role in our history. In 1784, shortly 
after America's independence, the first American merchant ship landed in 
China. The Chinese officials knew we were not European, so they simply 
called us the ``new people.'' And though we were unfamiliar, the Chinese 
allowed us to trade freely with them. So one of the oldest societies on 
Earth, China, extended the hand of friendship to the world's youngest 
    The two centuries since then are a tiny fraction of recorded Chinese 
history. Long before the United States was even born, China was a 
stronghold of creativity, knowledge, and wealth. From the printing China 
invented to the poetry it produced, from medicine and mathematics to the 
magnetic compass and humanistic philosophies, many of China's earliest 
gifts still enrich our lives today.
    Now, the Chinese people are dramatically building on this legacy. 
Economic reform over the past 20 years has transformed China's landscape 
and its people's daily lives, lifting millions from poverty, giving more 
people education, shelter, choice of work, and a chance to provide for 
their children, bringing the Chinese people closer to the rest of the 
world and into a greater leadership role in the community of nations.
    Now, on the verge of the new century, both our nations seek to 
continue this progress, to contribute to China's growing prosperity, to 
encourage its democratic development, to support its emergence as a 
responsible global power and partner.
    Surely a new world is dawning on the other side of the millennium. 
From Shanghai to San Francisco, a community is emerging that can become 
``Pacific'' in every sense of the word. Communication and commerce cross 
even the world's widest ocean in only a matter of seconds, making all of 
us neighbors.
    Let us make the most of these new realities. Our commercial and 
cultural relationship is strong and growing stronger. Our people travel 
back and fourth, teaching and learning from each other. Mr. President, 
we Americans are proud that your son received a part of his education at 
one of our universities, and we want more of our young people to study 
in China. We want to work even more closely to promote peace, to fight 
drugs and organized crime, to build prosperity, to protect our 
environment for future generations.
    We must press ahead on these fronts and more. I hope some day, Mr. 
President, the children of both our nations will say of us that

[[Page 1457]]

our decision gave new meaning in our time to President Lincoln's call 
for a new birth of freedom. The United States has benefited already 
beyond measure from the contributions of Chinese-Americans, whose unique 
culture and values of family, education, and hard work have strengthened 
the fabric of our society. Already, China has enriched America's 
history. Now, Mr. President, let us work together with confidence to 
enhance our common destiny.
    The ancient text, the ``I Ching,'' in English is called ``The Book 
of Changes.'' It tells us leaders plan in the beginning when they do 
things; leaders consider problems and prevent them. With this summit we 
have considered problems, taken steps to prevent some of them, and we 
have begun to plan together for a future not of problems but of progress 
for America, for China, for the world.
    It is in that spirit that I ask you to join me in a toast to the 
people and the President of the People's Republic of China.

Note: The President spoke at 9 p.m. in the East Room at the White House. 
In his remarks, he referred to President Jiang's wife, Madame Wang 
Yeping; and James M. Sasser, U.S. Ambassador to China, and his wife, 
Mary. The transcript made available by the Office of the Press Secretary 
also included the remarks of President Jiang.