[Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: William J. Clinton (1998, Book I)]
[June 29, 1998]
[Pages 1080-1089]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office www.gpo.gov]

Remarks and a Question-and-Answer Session With Students at Beijing 
University in Beijing, China
June 29, 1998

    The President. Thank you. Thank you, President Chen, Chairman Ren, Vice President 
Chi, Vice Minister Wei. We 
are delighted to be here today with a very large American delegation, 
including the First Lady and our 
daughter, who is a student at Stanford, one 
of the schools with which Beijing University has a relationship. We have 
six Members of the United States Congress; the Secretary of 
State; Secretary of Commerce; the Secretary of Agriculture; the Chairman of our Council of Economic Advisers; Senator Sasser, our 
Ambassador; the National Security Adviser; 
and my Chief of Staff, among others. I say 
that to illustrate the importance

[[Page 1081]]

that the United States places on our relationship with China.
    I would like to begin by congratulating all of you, the students, 
the faculty, the administrators, on celebrating the centennial year of 
your university. Gongxi, ``Beida.''
    As I'm sure all of you know, this campus was once home to Yenching 
University, which was founded by American missionaries. Many of its 
wonderful buildings were designed by an American architect. Thousands of 
American students and professors have come here to study and teach. We 
feel a special kinship with you.
    I am, however, grateful that this day is different in one important 
respect from another important occasion 79 years ago. In June of 1919, 
the first president of Yenching University, John Leighton Stuart, was 
set to deliver the very first commencement address on these very 
grounds. At the appointed hour, he appeared, but no students appeared. 
They were all out leading the May 4th Movement for China's political and 
cultural renewal. When I read this, I hoped that when I walked into the 
auditorium today, someone would be sitting here. And I thank you for 
being here, very much.
    Over the last 100 years, this university has grown to more than 
20,000 students. Your graduates are spread throughout China and around 
the world. You have built the largest university library in all of Asia. 
Last year 20 percent of your graduates went abroad to study, including 
half of your math and science majors. And in this anniversary year, more 
than a million people in China, Asia, and beyond have logged on to your 
website. At the dawn of a new century, this university is leading China 
into the future.
    I come here today to talk to you, the next generation of China's 
leaders, about the critical importance to your future of building a 
strong partnership between China and the United States.
    The American people deeply admire China for its thousands of years 
of contributions to culture and religion, to philosophy and the arts, to 
science and technology. We remember well our strong partnership in World 
War II. Now we see China at a moment in history when your glorious past 
is matched by your present sweeping transformation and the even greater 
promise of your future.
    Just three decades ago, China was virtually shut off from the world. 
Now, China is a member of more than 1,000 international organizations, 
enterprises that affect everything from air travel to agricultural 
development. You have opened your nation to trade and investment on a 
large scale. Today, 40,000 young Chinese study in the United States, 
with hundreds of thousands more learning in Asia, Africa, Europe, and 
Latin America.
    Your social and economic transformation has been even more 
remarkable, moving from a closed command economic system to a thriving, 
increasingly market based and driven economy, generating two decades of 
unprecedented growth, giving people greater freedom to travel within and 
outside China, to vote in village elections, to own a home, choose a 
job, attend a better school. As a result, you have lifted literally 
hundreds of millions of people from poverty. Per capita income has more 
than doubled in the last decade. Most Chinese people are leading lives 
they could not have imagined just 20 years ago.
    Of course, these changes have also brought disruptions in settled 
patterns of life and work and have imposed enormous strains on your 
environment. Once every urban Chinese was guaranteed employment in a 
state enterprise. Now you must compete in a job market. Once a Chinese 
worker had only to meet the demands of a central planner in Beijing. Now 
the global economy means all must match the quality and creativity of 
the rest of the world. For those who lack the right training and skills 
and support, this new world can be daunting.
    In the short term, good, hardworking people--some, at least--will 
find themselves unemployed. And as all of you can see, there have been 
enormous environmental and economic and health care costs to the 
development pattern and the energy use pattern of the last 20 years, 
from air pollution to deforestation to acid rain and water shortage.
    In the face of these challenges, new systems of training and social 
security will have to be devised, and new environmental policies and 
technologies will have to be introduced with the goal of growing your 
economy while improving the environment. Everything I know about the 
intelligence, the ingenuity, the enterprise of the Chinese people and 
everything I have heard these last few days in my discussions with 
President Jiang, Prime Minister Zhu, and others give me confidence that you will succeed.
    As you build a new China, America wants to build a new relationship 
with you. We want

[[Page 1082]]

China to be successful, secure, and open, working with us for a more 
peaceful and prosperous world. I know there are those in China and the 
United States who question whether closer relations between our 
countries is a good thing. But everything all of us know about the way 
the world is changing and the challenges your generation will face tell 
us that our two nations will be far better off working together than 
    The late Deng Xiaoping counseled us to seek truth from facts. At the 
dawn of the new century, the facts are clear. The distance between our 
two nations, indeed between any nations, is shrinking. Where once an 
American clipper ship took months to cross from China to the United 
States, today, technology has made us all virtual neighbors. From 
laptops to lasers, from microchips to megabytes, an information 
revolution is lighting the landscape of human knowledge, bringing us all 
closer together. Ideas, information, and money cross the planet at the 
stroke of a computer key, bringing with them extraordinary opportunities 
to create wealth, to prevent and conquer disease, to foster greater 
understanding among peoples of different histories and different 
    But we also know that this greater openness and faster change mean 
that problems which start beyond one nation's borders can quickly move 
inside them: the spread of weapons of mass destruction, the threats of 
organized crime and drug trafficking, of environmental degradation and 
severe economic dislocation. No nation can isolate itself from these 
problems, and no nation can solve them alone. We, especially the younger 
generations of China and the United States, must make common cause of 
our common challenges, so that we can together shape a new century of 
brilliant possibilities.
    In the 21st century--your century--China and the United States will 
face the challenge of security in Asia. On the Korean Peninsula, where 
once we were adversaries, today, we are working together for a permanent 
peace and a future freer of nuclear weapons.
    On the Indian subcontinent, just as most of the rest of the world is 
moving away from nuclear danger, India and Pakistan risk sparking a new 
arms race. We are now pursuing a common strategy to move India and 
Pakistan away from further testing and toward a dialog to resolve their 
    In the 21st century, your generation must face the challenge of 
stopping the spread of deadlier nuclear, chemical, and biological 
weapons. In the wrong hands or the wrong places, these weapons can 
threaten the peace of nations large and small. Increasingly, China and 
the United States agree on the importance of stopping proliferation. 
That is why we are beginning to act in concert to control the world's 
most dangerous weapons.
    In the 21st century, your generation will have to reverse the 
international tide of crime and drugs. Around the world, organized crime 
robs people of billions of dollars every year and undermines trust in 
government. America knows all about the devastation and despair that 
drugs can bring to schools and neighborhoods. With borders on more than 
a dozen countries, China has become a crossroad for smugglers of all 
    Last year, President Jiang and I asked senior 
Chinese and American law enforcement officials to step up our 
cooperation against these predators, to stop money from being laundered, 
to stop aliens from being cruelly smuggled, to stop currencies from 
being undermined by counterfeiting. Just this month, our Drug 
Enforcement Agency opened an office in Beijing, and soon Chinese 
counternarcotics experts will be working out of Washington.
    In the 21st century, your generation must make it your mission to 
ensure that today's progress does not come at tomorrow's expense. 
China's remarkable growth in the last two decades has come with a toxic 
cost, pollutants that foul the water you drink and the air you breathe. 
The cost is not only environmental; it is also serious in terms of the 
health consequences of your people and in terms of the drag on economic 
    Environmental problems are also increasingly global as well as 
national. For example, in the near future, if present energy use 
patterns persist, China will overtake the United States as the world's 
largest emitter of greenhouse gases, the gases which are the principal 
cause of global warming. If the nations of the world do not reduce the 
gases which are causing global warming, sometime in the next century 
there is a serious risk of dramatic changes in climate which will change 
the way we live and the way we work, which could literally bury some 
island nations under mountains of water and undermine the economic and 
social fabric of nations.

[[Page 1083]]

    We must work together. We Americans know from our own experience 
that it is possible to grow an economy while improving the environment. 
We must do that together for ourselves and for the world. Building on 
the work that our Vice President, Al Gore, 
has done previously with the Chinese Government, President Jiang and I are working together on ways to bring American 
clean energy technology to help improve air quality and grow the Chinese 
economy at the same time.
    But I will say this again--this is not on my remarks--your 
generation must do more about this. This is a huge challenge for you, 
for the American people, and for the future of the world. And it must be 
addressed at the university level, because political leaders will never 
be willing to adopt environmental measures if they believe it will lead 
to large-scale unemployment or more poverty. The evidence is clear; that 
does not have to happen. You will actually have more rapid economic 
growth and better paying jobs, leading to higher levels of education and 
technology if we do this in the proper way. But you and the university, 
communities in China, the United States, and throughout the world will 
have to lead the way.
    In the 21st century, your generation must also meet the challenge of 
an international financial system that has no respect for national 
borders. When stock markets fall in Hong Kong or Jakarta, the effects 
are no longer local; they are global. The vibrant growth of your own 
economy is tied closely, therefore, to the restoration of stability and 
growth in the Asia-Pacific region.
    China has steadfastly shouldered its responsibilities to the region 
and the world in this latest financial crisis, helping to prevent 
another cycle of dangerous devaluations. We must continue to work 
together to counter this threat to the global financial system and to 
the growth and prosperity which should be embracing all of this region.
    In the 21st century, your generation will have a remarkable 
opportunity to bring together the talents of our scientists, doctors, 
engineers into a shared quest for progress. Already the breakthroughs we 
have achieved in our areas of joint cooperation--in challenges from 
dealing with spina bifida to dealing with extreme weather conditions and 
earthquakes--have proved what we can do together to change the lives of 
millions of people in China and the United States and around the world. 
Expanding our cooperation in science and technology can be one of our 
greatest gifts to the future.
    In each of these vital areas that I have mentioned, we can clearly 
accomplish so much more by walking together rather than standing apart. 
That is why we should work to see that the productive relationship we 
now enjoy blossoms into a fuller partnership in the new century.
    If that is to happen, it is very important that we understand each 
other better, that we understand both our common interest and our shared 
aspirations and our honest differences. I believe the kind of open, 
direct exchange that President Jiang and I had on 
Saturday at our press conference, which I know many of you watched on 
television, can both clarify and narrow our differences, and more 
important, by allowing people to understand and debate and discuss these 
things, can give a greater sense of confidence to our people that we can 
make a better future.
    From the windows of the White House, where I live in Washington, DC, 
the monument to our first President, George Washington, dominates the 
skyline. It is a very tall obelisk. But very near this large monument 
there is a small stone which contains these words: ``The United States 
neither established titles of nobility and royalty, nor created a 
hereditary system. State affairs are put to the vote of public opinion. 
This created a new political situation, unprecedented from ancient times 
to the present. How wonderful it is.'' Those words were not written by 
an American. They were written by Xu Jiyu, Governor of Fujian Province, 
inscribed as a gift from the Government of China to our Nation in 1853.
    I am very grateful for that gift from China. It goes to the heart of 
who we are as a people, the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of 
happiness, the freedom to debate, to dissent, to associate, to worship 
without interference from the state. These are the ideals that were at 
the core of our founding over 220 years ago. These are the ideas that 
led us across our continent and onto the world stage. These are the 
ideals that Americans cherish today.
    As I said in my press conference with President Jiang, we have an 
ongoing quest ourselves to live up to those ideals. The people who 
framed our Constitution understood that we would never achieve 
perfection. They said that the mission of America would always be ``to 
form a more perfect Union,'' in other words,

[[Page 1084]]

that we would never be perfect, but we had to keep trying to do better.
    The darkest moments in our history have come when we abandoned the 
effort to do better, when we denied freedom to our people because of 
their race or their religion, because they were new immigrants, or 
because they held unpopular opinions. The best moments in our history 
have come when we protected the freedom of people who held unpopular 
opinions or extended rights enjoyed by the many to the few who had 
previously been denied them, making, therefore, the promises of our 
Declaration of Independence and Constitution more than faded words on 
old parchment.
    Today, we do not seek to impose our vision on others. But we are 
convinced that certain rights are universal, not American rights or 
European rights or rights for developed nations but the birthrights of 
people everywhere, now enshrined in the United Nations Declaration on 
Human Rights: the right to be treated with dignity, the right to express 
one's opinions, to choose one's own leaders, to associate freely with 
others, and to worship or not, freely, however one chooses.
    In the last letter of his life, the author of our Declaration of 
Independence and our third President, Thomas Jefferson, said then that 
``all eyes are opening to the rights of man.'' I believe that in this 
time, at long last, 172 years after Jefferson wrote those words, all 
eyes are opening to the rights of men and women everywhere.
    Over the past two decades, a rising tide of freedom has lifted the 
lives of millions around the world, sweeping away failed dictatorial 
systems in the former Soviet Union, throughout Central Europe, ending a 
vicious cycle of military coups and civil wars in Latin America, giving 
more people in Africa the chance to make the most of their hard-won 
independence. And from the Philippines to South Korea, from Thailand to 
Mongolia, freedom has reached Asia's shores, powering a surge of growth 
and productivity.
    Economic security also can be an essential element of freedom. It is 
recognized in the United Nations Covenant on Economic, Social, and 
Cultural Rights. In China, you have made extraordinary strides in 
nurturing that liberty and spreading freedom from want, to be a source 
of strength to your people. Incomes are up; poverty is down. People do 
have more choices of jobs and the ability to travel, the ability to make 
a better life. But true freedom includes more than economic freedom. In 
America, we believe it is a concept which is indivisible.
    Over the past 4 days, I have seen freedom in many manifestations in 
China. I have seen the fresh shoots of democracy growing in the villages 
of your heartland. I have visited a village that chose its own leaders 
in free elections. I have also seen the cell phones, the video players, 
the fax machines carrying ideas, information, and images from all over 
the world. I've heard people speak their minds, and I have joined people 
in prayer in the faith of my own choosing. In all these ways, I felt a 
steady breeze of freedom.
    The question is, where do we go from here? How do we work together 
to be on the right side of history together? More than 50 years ago, Hu 
Shih, one of your great political thinkers and a teacher at this 
university, said these words: ``Now some people say to me you must 
sacrifice your individual freedom so that the nation may be free. But I 
reply, the struggle for individual freedom is the struggle for the 
nation's freedom. The struggle for your own character is the struggle 
for the nation's character.'' We Americans believe Hu Shih was right. We 
believe and our experience demonstrates that freedom strengthens 
stability and helps nations to change.
    One of our Founding Fathers, Benjamin Franklin, once said, ``Our 
critics are our friends, for they show us our faults.'' Now, if that is 
true, there are many days in the United States when the President has 
more friends than anyone else in America. [Laughter] But it is so.
    In the world we live in, this global information age, constant 
improvement and change is necessary to economic opportunity and to 
national strength. Therefore, the freest possible flow of information, 
ideas, and opinions and a greater respect for divergent political and 
religious convictions will actually breed strength and stability going 
    It is, therefore, profoundly in your interest, and the world's, that 
young Chinese minds be free to reach the fullness of their potential. 
That is the message of our time and the mandate of the new century and 
the new millennium.
    I hope China will more fully embrace this mandate. For all the 
grandeur of your history, I believe your greatest days are still ahead. 
Against great odds in the 20th century, China

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has not only survived, it is moving forward dramatically.
    Other ancient cultures failed because they failed to change. China 
has constantly proven the capacity to change and grow. Now, you must 
reimagine China again for a new century, and your generation must be at 
the heart of China's regeneration.
    The new century is upon us. All our sights are turned toward the 
future. Now, your country has known more millennia than the United 
States has known centuries. Today, however, China is as young as any 
nation on Earth. This new century can be the dawn of a new China, proud 
of your ancient greatness, proud of what you are doing, prouder still of 
the tomorrows to come. It can be a time when the world again looks to 
China for the vigor of its culture, the freshness of its thinking, the 
elevation of human dignity that is apparent in its works. It can be a 
time when the oldest of nations helps to make a new world.
    The United States wants to work with you to make that time a 
    Thank you very much.

Expanding U.S. Understanding of China

    Q. Mr. President, I'm very honored to be the first one to raise 
question. Just as you mentioned in your address, Chinese and American 
people should join hands and move forward together. And what is most 
important in this process is for us to have more exchanges.
    In our view, since China is opening up in reform, we have had better 
understanding of the culture, history, and literature of America, and we 
have also learned a lot about you from the biography. And we have also 
learned about a lot of American Presidents. And we have also seen the 
movie Titanic. But it seems that the American people's understanding of 
the Chinese people is not as much as the other way around. Maybe they 
are only seeing China through several movies, describing the Cultural 
Revolution or the rural life.
    So my question is, as the first President of the United States 
visiting China in 10 years, what do you plan to do to enhance the real 
understanding and the respect between our two peoples?
    Thank you.
    The President. First of all, I think that's a very good point. And 
one of the reasons that I came here was to try to--because, as you can 
see, a few people come with me from the news media--I hope that my trip 
would help to show a full and balanced picture of modern China to the 
United States, and that by coming here, it would encourage others to 
come here and others to participate in the life of China.
    I see a young man out in the audience who introduced himself to me 
yesterday as the first American ever to be a law student in China. So I 
hope we will have many more Americans coming here to study, many more 
Americans coming here to be tourists, many more Americans coming here to 
do business. The First Lady this 
morning and the Secretary of State had 
a meeting on a legal project. We are doing a lot of projects together 
with the Chinese to help promote the rule of law. That should bring a 
lot more people here.
    I think there is no easy answer to your question. It's something we 
have to work at. We just need more people involved and more kinds of 
contacts. And I think the more we can do that, the better.
    Is there another question?

Taiwan, Japan, and Asian Security

    Q. Mr. President, as a Chinese, I'm very interested in the 
reunification of my motherland. Since 1972, progress has been made on 
the question of Taiwan question, but we have seen that the Americans 
have repeatedly are selling advanced weapons to Taiwan. And to our great 
indignation, we have seen that the United States and Japan have renewed 
the U.S.-Japan security treaty, and according to some Japanese 
officials, this treaty even includes Taiwan Province of China. So I have 
to ask, if China were to send its naval facility to Hawaii, and if China 
were to sign a security treaty with other countries against one part of 
the United States, will the United States agree to such an act? Will the 
American people agree to such an act?
    The President. First of all, the United States policy is not an 
obstacle to the peaceful reunification of China and Taiwan. Our policy 
is embodied in the three communiques and in the Taiwan Relations Act. 
Our country recognized China and embraced a ``one China'' policy almost 
20 years ago. And I reaffirmed our ``one China'' policy to President 
Jiang in our meetings.
    Now, when the United States and China reached agreement that we 
would have a ``one China'' policy, we also reached agreement that

[[Page 1086]]

the reunification would occur by peaceful means, and we have encouraged 
the cross-strait dialog to achieve that. Our policy is that any weapon 
sales, therefore, to Taiwan must be for defensive purposes only, and 
that the country must not believe--China must not believe that we are in 
any way trying to undermine our own ``one China'' policy. It is our 
policy. But we do believe it should occur--any reunification should 
occur peacefully.
    Now, on Japan, if you read the security agreement we signed with 
Japan, I think it will be clear from its terms that the agreement is not 
directed against any country but rather in support of stability in Asia. 
We have forces in South Korea that are designed to deter a resumption of 
the Korean war across the dividing line between the two Koreas. Our 
forces in Japan are largely designed to help us promote stability 
anywhere in the Asia-Pacific region on short notice. But I believe that 
it is not fair to say that either Japan or the United States have a 
security relationship that is designed to contain China. Indeed, what 
both countries want is a security partnership with China for the 21st 
    For example, you mentioned NATO, we have expanded NATO in Europe, 
but we also have made a treaty, an agreement between NATO and Russia, to 
prove that we are not against Russia anymore. And the most important 
thing NATO has done in the last 5 years is to work side by side with 
Russia to end the war in Bosnia. And I predict to you that what you see 
us doing with China now, working together to try to limit the tension 
from the Indian and the Pakistani nuclear tests, you will see more and 
more and more of that in the future. And I think you will see a lot of 
security cooperation in that area. And we can't see the agreements of 
today through the mirror of yesterday's conflicts.

China-U.S. Relations

    Q. Mr. President, I'm from class '97. I've very glad to have this 
opportunity to ask you a question. With a friendly smile you have set 
foot on the soil of China, and you have come to the campus of ``Beida,'' 
so we are very excited and honored by your presence, for the Chinese 
people really aspire for the friendship between China and the United 
States on the basis of equality. As I know that--before your departure 
from the States, you said that the reason for you to visit China is 
because China is too important, and engagement is better than 
containment. I'd like to ask you whether this sentence is kind of a 
commitment you made for your visit, or do you have any other hidden 
sayings behind this smile? Do you have any other design to contain 
China? [Laughter]
    The President. If I did, I wouldn't mask it behind a smile. 
[Laughter] But I don't. That is, my words mean exactly what they say. We 
have to make a decision, all of us do, but especially the people who 
live in large nations with great influence must decide how to define 
their greatness.
    When the Soviet Union went away, Russia had to decide how to define 
its greatness. Would they attempt to develop the human capacity of the 
Russian people and work in partnership with their neighbors for a 
greater future, or would they remember the bad things that happened to 
them in the past 200 years and think the only way they could be great 
would be to dominate their neighbors militarily? They chose a forward 
course. The world is a better place.
    The same thing is true with China. You will decide, both in terms of 
your policies within your country and beyond, what does it mean that 
China will be a great power in the 21st century? Does it mean that you 
will have enormous economic success? Does it mean you will have enormous 
cultural influence? Does it mean that you will be able to play a large 
role in solving the problems of the world? Or does it mean you will be 
able to dominate your neighbors in some form or fashion, whether they 
like it or not? This is the decision that every great country has to 
    You ask me, do I really want to contain China? The answer is no. The 
American people have always had a very warm feeling toward China that 
has been interrupted from time to time when we have had problems. But if 
you go back through the history of our country, there's always been a 
feeling on the part of our people that we ought to be close to the 
Chinese people. And I believe that it would be far better for the people 
of the United States to have a partnership on equal, respectful terms 
with China in the 21st century than to have to spend enormous amounts of 
time and money trying to contain China because we disagree with what's 
going on beyond our borders. So I do not want that. I want a 
partnership. I'm not hiding another design behind a smile; it's

[[Page 1087]]

what I really believe. I believe it, not because--[applause]--because I 
think it's good for the American people, and it's my job to do what's 
good for them. What's good for them is to have a good relationship with 

Education/Aspirations for Young People

    Q. Mr. President, well, I'm from the medical science and from class 
'98. I'm going to graduate this year, and I'm going to work in Bank of 
China. Just now, Mr. President, you mentioned the responsibilities of 
the young generation of the two countries for international security, 
environment, and the financial stability. I think they are really 
important. And I think the most important thing is for the young people 
to be well educated. And I know, Mr. President, you love your daughter 
very much, and she is now studying at Stanford. So, my question is--
several years ago you proposed the concept of knowledge economy, so, my 
first question is, what do you think the education of higher learning, 
what kind of role can this play in the future knowledge economy?
    And the second question is, what expectations do you have, Mr. 
President, for the younger generation of our two countries?
    The President. Let me answer the knowledge economy question first. 
And let me answer by telling you what I have tried to do in the United 
States. I have tried to create a situation in America in which the doors 
of universities and colleges are open to every young person who has 
sufficient academic achievement to get in, that there are no financial 
burdens of any kind. And we have not completely achieved it, but we have 
made a great deal of progress.
    Now, why would I do that? Because I believe that the more advanced 
an economy becomes, the more important it is to have a higher and higher 
and higher percentage of people with a university education. Let me just 
tell you how important it is in the United States. We count our people--
every 10 years we do a census and we count the numbers of the American 
people, and we get all kinds of information on them. In the 1990 census, 
younger Americans who had a college degree were overwhelmingly likely to 
get good jobs and have their incomes grow. Younger Americans who had 2 
years or more of university were likely to get good jobs and have their 
incomes grow. Younger Americans who didn't go to university at all were 
likely to get jobs where their incomes declined and were much more 
likely to be unemployed.
    And the more advanced China's economy becomes, the more that will be 
true of China, the more you will need very large numbers of people 
getting university education and technical education. So I think it is 
very, very important.
    Now, let me say one expectation I have for the younger generation of 
Americans and Chinese that has nothing to do with economics. One of the 
biggest threats to your future is a world which is dominated not by 
modern problems but by ancient hatreds. Look around the world and see 
how much trouble is being caused by people who dislike each other 
because of their racial or their religious or their ethnic differences, 
whether it's in Bosnia or the conflict between the Indians and the 
Pakistanis or in the Middle East or the tribal conflicts in Africa. You 
look all over the world, you see these kind of problems.
    Young people, I think, are naturally more open to others who are 
different, more interested in people who are different. And I hope young 
people in China and young people in America who have a good education 
will be a strong voice in the world against giving in to this sort of 
hating people or looking down on them simply because they're different.
    Thank you.

U.S. Domestic Human Rights Issues

    Q. Mr. President, with regard to the question of democracy, human 
rights, and freedom, actually this is an issue of great interest to both 
the Chinese and American peoples. But to be honest, our two countries 
have some differences over these issues. In your address just now you 
made a very proud review and retrospection of the history of the 
America's democracy in human rights. And you have also made some 
suggestions for China. Of course, for the sincere suggestions, we 
welcome. But I think I recall one saying, that is we should have both 
criticism and self-criticism.
    So now I'd like to ask you a question. Do you think that in the 
United States today, there are also some problems in the area of 
democracy, freedom, and human rights, and what your Government has done 
in improving the situation?
    The President. I do, and first of all, let me say, I never raise 
this question overseas in any country, not just China, without 

[[Page 1088]]

first that our country has had terrible problems in this area--keep in 
mind, slavery was legal in America for many years--and that we are still 
not perfect. I always say that because I don't think it's right for any 
person to claim that he or she lives in a perfect country. We're all 
struggling toward ideals to live a better life. So I agree with the 
general point you made.
    Now, I will give you two examples. We still have some instances of 
discrimination in America, in housing or employment or other areas, 
based on race. And we have a system set up to deal with it, but we have 
not totally eliminated it. And in the last year, I have been engaging 
the American people in a conversation on this subject, and we have tried 
to identify the things that Government should do, the things that the 
American people should do either through the local government or through 
other organizations, and the attitudes that should change the minds and 
hearts of the American people. So that's one example.
    Now, let me give you another example. We have--when I ran for 
President in 1992, I was in a hotel in New York City, and an American 
immigrant from Greece came up to me, and he said, ``My son is 10 years 
old, and he studies the election in school, and he says I should vote 
for you.'' But he said, ``If I vote for you, I want you to make my son 
free, because my son is not really free.'' So I asked this man, ``What 
do you mean?'' And he said, ``Well, the crime is so high in my 
neighborhood, there are so many guns and gangs, that my son does not 
feel that he--I can't let him walk to school by himself or go across the 
street to play in the park. So if I vote for you, I want you to make my 
son free.''
    I think that's important, because, you see, in America, we tend to 
view freedom as the freedom from Government abuse or from Government 
control. That is our heritage. Our Founders came here to escape the 
monarchy in England. But sometimes freedom requires affirmative steps by 
Government to give everyone an equal opportunity to have an education 
and make a decent living and to preserve a lawful environment. So I work 
very hard to try to bring the crime rate down in America, and it's now 
lower than it has been at any time in 25 years, which means that more of 
our children are free. But the crime rate is still too high; there is 
still too much violence.
    So we Americans need to be sensitive not only to preserve the 
freedoms that we hold dear but also to create an environment in which 
people can build a truly good and free life.
    That's a good question.


    Q. Mr. President, you are warmly welcome to ``Beida.'' You mentioned 
a sentence by Mr. Xu Jiyu, but our former President once said that when 
the great moral is in practice, the morals, they will not contradict 
each other. And I don't think the individual freedom and the collective 
freedom will contradict each other. But in China the prosperous 
development of the nation is actually the free choice of our people, and 
it's also the result of their efforts. So I think that freedom, real 
freedom, should mean for the people to freely choose the way of life 
they like and also to develop. And I also think that only those who can 
really respect the freedom of others can really say that they understand 
what freedom means.
    I don't know whether you agree with me or not.
    The President. First of all, if you believe in freedom, you have to 
respect the freedom of others to make another choice. And even societies 
that have rather radical views of individual freedom recognize limits on 
that freedom when it interferes with preserving other people's rights.
    For example, there's one of our famous court cases which says we 
have freedom of speech, but no one should be free to shout the word 
``fire'' in a crowded movie theater where there is no fire and cause 
people to stampede over each other. There's another famous court 
decision that says my freedom ends where the other person's nose begins, 
meaning that you don't have the freedom to hit someone else.
    So I agree with that. People have the freedom to choose, and you 
have to respect other people's freedom, and they have the right to make 
decisions that are different from yours. And there will never be a time 
when our systems and our cultures and our choices will be completely 
identical. That's one of the things that makes life interesting.

U.S. Economic Expansion/Protest Demonstrations

    Q. Mr. President, I have two questions. The first question is, the 
U.S. economy has been

[[Page 1089]]

growing for more than 18 months, so I'd like to ask, apart from your 
personal contribution to the United States, what other factors do you 
think important for the success of the U.S. economy? Maybe they can 
serve as good reference for China.
    The second question is, when President Jiang Zemin visited the 
Harvard University last year, there were a lot of students outside the 
hall staging demonstrations. So I'd like you, President--if you are in 
Beijing University and if there were a lot of students outside 
protesting and demonstrating, what feeling would you have?
    The President. Well, first of all, on the United States economy, I 
believe that the principal role of Government policy since I've been 
President was to, first of all, get our big Government deficit--we had a 
huge annual deficit in spending--we got that under control. We're about 
to have the first balanced budget in 30 years. That drove interest rates 
down and freed up a lot of money to be invested in creating jobs in the 
private sector. Then the second thing we did was to expand trade a lot, 
so we began to sell a lot more around the world than we had before. And 
the third thing we did was to attempt to invest more in our people, in 
research, development, technology, and education.
    Now, in addition to that, however, a lot of the credit here goes to 
the American people themselves. We have a very sophisticated business 
community; they were investing money in new technologies and in new 
markets and in training people. We have an environment where it's quite 
easy for people to start a business, and perhaps this is the area that 
might be most helpful to China.
    I know that my wife has done a 
lot of work around the world in villages, trying to get credit to 
villagers so they could borrow money to start their own businesses, to 
try to take advantage of some skill they have. And we have seen this 
system work even in the poorest places in Africa and Latin America, 
where opportunity takes off.
    So we have tried to make it easy in America for people to start a 
business, to expand a business, and to do business. And then we have 
also tried very, very hard to get new opportunities into areas where 
there were none before. And all these things together--but especially, I 
give most of the credit to the people of my country. After all, a person 
in my position, we're supposed to have correct policies so that we 
create a framework within which the American people then create the 
future. And I think that is basically what has happened.
    Now, you asked me an interesting question. Actually, I have been 
demonstrated against quite a lot in the United States. I told President 
Jiang when he was there, I was glad they demonstrated against him, so I 
didn't feel so lonely. [Laughter]
    I'll give you a serious answer. If there were a lot of people 
demonstrating against me outside, suppose they were demonstrating over 
the question that the first gentleman asked me. Suppose they said, ``Oh, 
President Clinton is trying to interfere with the peaceful reunification 
of China and Taiwan, and he shouldn't be selling them any weapons 
whatever.'' Well, I would try to find out what they were demonstrating 
against, and then I would ask my host if they minded if I would go over 
and talk to them, or if they would mind if one or two people from the 
group of demonstrators could be brought to see me, and they could say 
what is on their minds, and I could answer.
    Remember what I said before about what Benjamin Franklin said, ``Our 
critics are our friends, for they show us our faults.'' You have asked 
me some very good questions today that have an element of criticism in 
them. They have been very helpful to me. They have helped me to 
understand how what I say is perceived by others, not just in China but 
around the world. They have helped me to focus on what I can do to be a 
more effective President for my people and for the things we believe in.
    And so I feel very good that we have had this interchange. And from 
my point of view, the questions were far more important than my speech. 
I never learn anything when I'm talking; I only learn things when I'm 
    Thank you very much. Thank you.

Note: The President spoke at 10:25 a.m. in the Bangong Lou auditorium. 
In his remarks, he referred to Chen Jia-er, president, Ren Yan-shen, 
university council chairman, and Chi Hui-sheng, vice president, Beijing 
University; and President Jiang Zemin, Premier Zhu Rongji, and Vice 
Minister of Education Wei Yu of China. A portion of these remarks could 
not be verified because the tape was incomplete.