[Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: William J. Clinton (1998, Book II)]
[July 1, 1998]
[Pages 1152-1157]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office www.gpo.gov]

Interview With Central China Television in Shanghai
July 1, 1998

President's Visit to China

    Q. Mr. President, we are very honored to have this opportunity to 
talk to you, now that your trip in China is almost halfway. And I guess 
you have gained a clearer picture of today's China and what it is all 
about. So we noticed that when you visit China, you chose Xi'an as the 
first stop. Can you tell us why you decided to visit Xi'an first, in 
your first trip ever to China?

[[Page 1153]]

    The President. I wanted to start with a place that embodied the 
history of China, the culture of China, the permanent character, if you 
will, for the Chinese people. And I did it for personal reasons, because 
I think it's always helpful for me to understand where people are and 
where they're going--if you understand where they come from.
    But I also did it because I knew the American people would see this. 
And one big goal of this trip for me was to have the American people 
learn more about China and the Chinese people learn more about America. 
So that's why I went to Xi'an first.

Eastern and Western Philosophies

    Q. Now, Mr. President, speaking of Xi'an, I remember at your speech 
at the Xi'an airport you quoted ``Li Shi,'' which is an ancient Chinese 
philosophy book. Now, in your opinion, based on the several days of 
observation you've had in China, do you think there's still a difference 
between Eastern and Western philosophy? And if so, how can these two 
philosophies cohabitate with each other in the world today?
    The President. Oh, I think there are some differences. Western 
philosophy is probably somewhat more explicitly individualistic. And 
much Western philosophy is rooted either in the religious tradition of 
Judaism and Christianity, or in kind of the materialist tradition. But 
still, I think, at bottom the best of Western and Eastern philosophy 
attempt to get at the truth of human life and human nature and attempt 
to find a way for people to live more fully up to that human truth. And 
so I think if you strip it away, we have a lot to learn from Eastern 
philosophy and perhaps China can learn some things from Western 
philosophy, because they help us to look at the world in a different way 
and acquire a fuller view of what the truth is.

President's Introduction to China

    Q. And you do mention that it's a very good way to learn the history 
and culture of a nation in order to understand more about the nation. 
So, Mr. President, in your memory can you recall the first time you ever 
learned or heard about China? I mean, for instance, is it by a book or a 
movie or some other means?
    The President. Oh, no, no. I remember--it's when I was a young boy, 
and I was reading--my mother and father, they got me a set of 
encyclopedias when I was a boy, where you go--it's world topics, A 
through Z--no computers, you know?
    Q. And China is C. [Laughter]
    The President. And I remember looking at the maps of the world and 
reading about China. I was probably, I don't know, 8 or 9 years old. And 
I was fascinated by what I read. I always wanted to come here from that 
time on.
    Q. Now, Mr. President, now that you're in China--this is your 7th 
day in China, and during the last 7 days you've talked to people from 
all walks of life; you've discussed issues on a wide range with many 
various people. Is the China in your impression now different from when 
your mother first gave you that map when you were 8 or 9 years old?
    The President. Oh, yes.
    Q. And what's the most impressive difference?
    The President. Well, for one thing, at that time I had very little 
understanding. It's still the most populous country in the world, but I 
think one is immediately struck by the dramatic economic growth and by 
the opening of China to the rest of the world, in terms of learning, the 
quest for information. You know, I went to that Internet cafe this 
morning. And watching the Chinese young people get on the Internet and 
go all over the world looking for information, this is, I think, a very 
important development.
    I also believe there is a genuine increase in people's control over 
their own lives. Incomes are going up; people have more choices in 
education, more choice in jobs, the freedom to travel. The state-run 
industries are going down in relative importance, and cooperatives and 
private businesses are coming up. And there's more say at the grassroots 
level now over who the local leaders are and what their policies are. So 
I think there's a genuine movement toward openness and freedom in China, 
which obviously, as an American and as an American President, I hope 
will continue and increase and which I believe is right--morally right, 
but I also think it's good for China.
    Q. Do you have any surprises, except for this?
    The President. Well, I don't know about surprises. I think I was--I 
was a little surprised--yes, I have two. First, I did not expect when I 
came here that my entire press conference with President Jiang would be 
played live on television, and then my speech at Beijing University. And 
then, of course, yesterday I had

[[Page 1154]]

the call-in radio show here in Shanghai. So I did not anticipate being 
able to have that sort of open, sweeping communication with the Chinese 
people. And I'm very pleased, and I appreciate President Jiang's 
decision to let the press conference be aired and all the other 
decisions that were made. That, I think, was very good. I think it was 
also good for the Chinese leaders. I mean, the mayor of Shanghai and I 
had a wonderful time on the radio yesterday.
    So I think bringing the people into the process of making these 
decisions and having these discussions I think is very, very important, 
because if you think about a lot of the problems that we face--we could 
take American issues; we could take Chinese issues--how are you going to 
guarantee that all these people who work for state-owned industries get 
good jobs? How are you going to deal with the housing problems if people 
no longer have a housing guarantee connected to their job, but there are 
vacant apartments in Shanghai, but you can't seem to put the two 
together? How do you solve these problems?
    Very often there's not any simple answer. And people feel better 
just to know that their views are heard, their concerns are heard, and 
that there can be a discussion where people work together toward the 
answers. So I think this whole democratic process, in my view, is very, 
very important to make society work when things are changing as quickly 
as they are now.

Comparison to President Jiang

    Q. Now, Mr. President, you've obviously made very indepth 
observations of China today. You mentioned a lot of the problems that 
this society is dealing with today, for instance, state-owned enterprise 
reforms and so on and so forth. So whose job do you think is tougher, if 
you have to make a comparison, yours or President Jiang Zemin's?
    The President. Oh, I don't know. I think that he faces enormous 
challenges here at home, of a scope that Americans have a hard time 
imagining. Probably the only element of my job which is more difficult 
right now is that since the cold war is over and America has this role 
which is temporary--it won't last forever--as the only superpower in the 
world, I have a lot of work to do to deal with America's challenges and 
problems at home and then to try to get the American people to support 
our Nation doing what we should do as a force for peace and prosperity 
and stability around the world.
    So our people have normally been rather like the Chinese people, you 
know--we want to attend to our own affairs and not be so involved in the 
rest of the world unless we just had to be, throughout the last 200 
years. But in the last 50 years, we've learned that we can only succeed 
at home if we have positive relationships around the world, which is the 
main reason I wanted to come to China.

U.S. Leadership in the World

    Q. Now, allow me to follow up on that, Mr. President. You mentioned 
America is the only superpower left for now in the world. And America's 
leadership role in the world has often been talked about in domestic 
politics, if not sometimes in international occasions, too. Now, in your 
opinion, does the world today need a leader, and, if so, how should the 
United States assume the responsibility and why?
    The President. Well, I think the short answer to your question is, 
yes, the world needs a leader, but not in the sense of one country 
telling everyone else what to do. That is--let's take something that 
didn't happen in Asia. If you look at the problem, the civil war in 
Bosnia, the terrible problem in Bosnia, we had the military resources to 
work with NATO our military allies in Europe, to move in and stop the 
war. Because we were the largest party to NATO, if we hadn't been 
willing to take the initiative, it wouldn't have happened. On the other 
hand, we couldn't have done it alone. We had to have people work with 
    I'll give you another example. We want to do everything we can to 
end the stalemate between North and South Korea. But if China had not 
been willing to work with us, I don't think we could have started these 
four-party talks again or we would be very effective in urging North 
Korea and South Korea to talk directly. But because we can work with 
China, we can have more influence.
    Here, I come to China, and I say, we want to be your friends; we 
share the security interest, and we're working together with India and 
Pakistan on the nuclear tests; we're working to stop the transfer of 
dangerous weapons; we're working to cooperate in environmental projects; 
and we know we have differences, and I want to tell you why I believe in 
religious freedom or political freedom. If you think about it, that's

[[Page 1155]]

a leadership issue for the United States. But the success of the 
leadership depends upon having a partnership with China.
    So it's a different sort of world leadership than in the past where 
it's just a question of who has the biggest army gets to send a list of 
instructions to another country, and you think it will be done. That's 
not the way the world works now. You have to have--sometimes you have to 
stand strong for what you believe in, in terms of sending the soldiers 
into Bosnia or imposing economic sanctions on South Africa, as both 
China and the U.S. did in the time of apartheid. But most days you get 
more done by finding a way to engage countries and work with them and 
persuade them that you're doing the right thing. It's important to have 
allies in the world we live in, to be more cooperative; even from a 
leader's point of view, you have to have allies and people that will 
work with you.
    Q. According to my understanding, Mr. President, the role of America 
in the world, I mean, the United States in the world, in international 
affairs is not, as some people believe or argue, the role of world cop 
according to your understanding?
    The President. No. We're not the world's policeman. But sometimes we 
have to be prepared to do things that other countries can't or won't do. 
For example, I think we did absolutely the right thing these last 
several years to insist that we keep economic sanction on Iraq until 
they give up their weapons of mass destruction program. I think we did 
the right thing to go into Bosnia. I think we did the right thing to 
restore democracy in Haiti.
    But most times the problems cannot be solved by military means. And 
most times, even if we take initiative, we should be trying to create a 
world in the 21st century where there is a structure where peace and 
prosperity and the ability to solve new problems--like the environmental 
problems--where that kind of structure works and where you minimize 
weapons of mass destruction, drug trafficking, ethnic wars like we had 
from Rwanda to the Middle East to Northern Ireland.
    And so the United States role, I think, is to try to create a 
structure where, more likely than not, the right things will be done 
when problems arise--not to just do it all ourselves or tell other 
people what to do.

Achievements of the China Visit

    Q. Okay, Mr. President, let's come back to your trip in China. Now 
you have already finished, let's say, already you have been in China for 
almost one week. What do you think are the major achievements through 
your trip here?
    The President. I think there are several. First of all, in the whole 
area of nonproliferation, the fact that we have agreed not to target 
nuclear weapons at each other is very important. It's important for, I 
think, three reasons. One is, it eliminates the prospect that there will 
ever be a mistaken launch of a nuclear weapon. Second, it's a great 
confidence-building measure. It's a symbol, if you will, of the growing 
friendship of the two countries, and it should make other countries in 
the Asia-Pacific region relax a little. And third, since India and 
Pakistan did these nuclear tests, it reaffirms that we believe that's 
not the right way to go. We should be moving away from nuclear weapons, 
not toward them. So that's the first thing.
    The second thing is, China has agreed to work with us to stop the 
transfer of technologies to countries that might misuse it, to not 
assist unsafeguarded nuclear facilities like Pakistan's, and to consider 
joining the worldwide system that prevents the exportation of dangerous 
technologies. So that's important.
    We announced more efforts on our energy and environmental 
initiative. This is very important, you know. You have long-related 
problems with the number one health problem in China because of air 
pollution. Your major waterways have pollution; the water table is down. 
We have to find a way to grow the economy and replenish the environment. 
So this--I predict to you, 10 years from now people will look back and 
say, ``That's one of the biggest things they did; they agreed to work 
more there.'' We agreed to deepen our cooperation in science and 
technology, where we've already achieved a lot together. So I think in 
all these areas this is important.
    There is a huge potential benefit to the Chinese people and, 
therefore, to the American people in the rule of law project we're 
doing, where we're working with Chinese people to set up the right kind 
of legal procedures to deal with all the questions that are going to 
come up as you privatize the economy. For example, my wife met the other 
day, I think in Beijing----

[[Page 1156]]

    Q. Beijing University.
    The President. ----yes, and she was telling me about a case that was 
raised where a woman was divorced from her husband because there had 
been problems in the home. And they had one child, but they couldn't 
move out of the home, even though they had a divorce, because the house 
came to the husband through his job.
    So as you change the society, there will have to be all kinds of 
legal changes made. And I think if we work together on that, I think we 
can find a way to enhance freedom and stability. So all these things are 
    But finally, I think that in the end it may be that the biggest 
achievement was the increased understanding and the sense of a shared 
future. I mean, I think the press conference that President Jiang and I 
did will be viewed as historic for a long time to come. And the fact 
that he wanted to do it, he enjoyed it, and it was on national 
television, I think, was very important.
    Q. And I think Chinese people and American people enjoyed that.
    The President. I think so. So I think it's a very productive trip.

China-U.S. Relations

    Q. Now, Mr. President, you mentioned the achievements in the last 
several areas, for instance, detargeting of nuclear missiles at each 
other and cooperation in scientific and environmental areas, and 
increased understanding. In your joint statements with President Jiang 
Zemin, you both also acknowledged that China and the United States have 
areas of disagreement. In one word, you have agreed to agree and you 
have agreed to disagree.
    Now, in your opinion, in the world today, China is now the largest 
developing nation and the United States is the largest developed nation. 
For these two nations to have areas of agreements and disagreements, how 
should they develop their relationship? Is the world too small for two 
large nations?
    The President. No. No. For one thing, in every relationship, in 
every business partnership, in every family, in every enterprise, you 
have agreements and disagreements. I'll bet you at your station you have 
agreements and disagreements. So what you have to do is, you identify 
your agreements, and then you identify your disagreements. And then you 
say, here's how we're going to deal with these, and you keep working to 
try to bridge the gap.
    Our major differences are in trade, over some terms of trade issues, 
and in the human rights area, how we define it, how China defines it, 
where we should go from here. But if you back up 3 years ago, we've made 
significant progress in both those areas. And if you back up 5 years 
ago, we had a lot of difference in the proliferation area, most of which 
have been eliminated.
    So there's been a lot of progress in this relationship in the last 
5\1/2\ years. And I would say to the people of China and the people of 
the United States, the world is not too small for two big countries. It 
is a small world, and we should all act that way. That should make us 
both more responsible, with a greater sense of responsibility for our 
own people, for our partnership with each other, and for the rest of the 
world, as well.
    Q. Now, Mr. President, you mentioned the areas of differences 
between China and the United States. However, do you think that this 
trip to China has helped you understand why China is the way China is?
    The President. Oh, absolutely. There's no question about that. And I 
hope that this trip to China has helped the Chinese people understand 
why Americans are the way we are.

Chelsea Clinton and China's Youth

    Q. Mr. President, we have noticed that your daughter, Chelsea, 
accompanied you to Beijing and to all of the China trip, and also 
particularly to the Beijing University when you made the speech.
    The President. Yes.
    Q. And in your speech, high hope was placed on the young generation 
of both China and the United States. And we wondered whether Chelsea--
did Chelsea ever mention to you her impression of the Chinese youth in 
her interaction with the Chinese college students?
    The President. Oh, yes, she very much wanted to come here. She 
wanted to make this trip, and her university work was concluded in time 
for her to be able to come. But she has very much enjoyed getting out, 
meeting young Chinese people, and seeing what's going on. She said to me 
just yesterday how incredibly exciting she thought Shanghai was and how 
she wished she could stay here a while when we leave and go back, just 
to see more of it.

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    And I think any young person in the world coming here would be 
excited by it and would be excited to see how eager the young Chinese 
people are to build good lives for themselves, to learn more about the 
rest of the world. The hunger for knowledge and for the improvement of 
one's capacity to do things among these young people is truly amazing. 
The energy they generate is astonishing, and it makes me feel very 
hopeful about the future.

Relationship With President Jiang

    Q. One last question, Mr. President. Do you think that your 
conversation with President Jiang face to face in such a summit is 
easier than the hotline, which has to go over the Pacific?
    The President. Oh, yes, always better. I think face-to-face is 
always better. But I also believe that once you get to know someone and 
you feel comfortable with them--you know, President Jiang and I have a 
very friendly relationship, and it permits us to deal with all these 
issues so that the hotline then becomes very useful.
    If we were strangers, for example, the hotline would not be so 
helpful because it would be awkward. But when there's a problem, as 
there was with the nuclear tests--and I didn't want to wait until I got 
to China to talk to President Jiang about how we should respond to the 
India and Pakistani nuclear tests, so I called him on the hotline. And 
because we had already met several times and we felt--and he had had 
this very successful state visit to the United States, the hotline was 
very, very important, very helpful. So I think the telephone is 
important. The Internet is important. All communications can be good, 
but none of it can take the place of face-to-face communications.
    Q. Thank you very much for giving us this opportunity to sit 
together with you, face to face. Thank you very much.
    The President. Thank you.

Note: The interview began at approximately 3:30 p.m. at the Shanghai 
Stock Exchange, but the transcript was embargoed for release until 7:30 
p.m. In his remarks, the President referred to Mayor Xu Kuangdi of 
Shanghai. A tape was not available for verification of the content of 
this interview.