[Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: William J. Clinton (1998, Book II)]
[July 3, 1998]
[Pages 1174-1182]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office www.gpo.gov]

The President's News Conference in Hong Kong Special Administrative 
July 3, 1998

    The President. Good afternoon. I know most of the American 
journalists here are looking forward, as I am, to returning home for the 
Fourth of July. But I didn't want to leave China without first 
reflecting on the trip and giving you a chance to ask some questions.
    Let me begin, however, by thanking the people who came with me, who 
worked so hard on this trip: Secretary Albright, Secretary Rubin, 
Charlene Barshefsky, Secretary Daley, Secretary Glickman, Janet Yellen, 
Mark Gearan. I'd like to say a special word of thanks to all the members 
of the White House staff who worked so hard to prepare me for this trip, 
along with the Cabinet Secretaries. I want to thank the congressional 
delegation: Senator Akaka, Senator Rockefeller, Senator Baucus, 
Congressman Hamilton, Congressman Dingell, and Congressman Markey, and 
also the staff of the Embassy and the consulates.
    Over the past week, we have seen the glory of China's past in Xi'an, 
the vibrancy of its present in Beijing, the promise of its future in 
Shanghai and Hong Kong. I don't think anyone who was on this trip could 
fail to appreciate the remarkable transformation that is underway in 
China as well as the distance still to be traveled.
    I visited a village that chooses its own leaders in free elections. 
I saw cell phones and computers carrying ideas, information, and images 
around the world. I had the opportunity to talk directly to the Chinese 
people through national television about why we value human rights and 
individual freedom so highly. I joined more than 2,000 people in worship 
in a Beijing church. I spoke to the next generation of China's leaders 
at Beijing University; to people working for change in law, academia, 
business, and the arts; to average Chinese during a radio call-in show. 
I saw the explosion of skyscrapers and one of the world's most modern 
stock exchanges in Shanghai. I met with environmentalists in Guilin to 
talk about the challenge China faces in developing its economy while 
improving its environment. And here in Hong Kong, we end the trip where 
I hope China's future begins, a place where free expression and free 
markets flourish under the rule of law.
    Clearly, China is changing, but there remain powerful forces 
resisting change, as evidenced by continuing governmental restrictions 
on free speech, assembly, and freedom of worship. One of the questions I 
have tried to frame, on this trip, for the future is how do we deal with 
these issues in a way most likely to promote progress? The answer I 
think is clear: dealing directly, forcefully, but respectfully with the 
Chinese about our values.
    Over the past week, I have engaged not only the leadership but the 
Chinese people about

[[Page 1175]]

our experience and about the fact that democracy is a universal 
aspiration, about my conviction that in the 21st century democracy also 
will be the right course practically as well as morally, yielding more 
stability and more progress.
    At the same time, expanding our areas of cooperation with China 
advances our interests: stability in Asia, nonproliferation, the rule of 
law, science and technology, fighting international crime and drugs, and 
protecting the environment. The relationship between our two countries 
is terribly important. The hard work we've accomplished has put that 
relationship on a much more positive and productive footing. That is 
good for America, good for China, good for Asia, good for the world.
    Now I look forward to returning home and pressing for progress on a 
number of fronts: passing a balanced budget that makes the investments 
in education and research we need for the 21st century; expanding health 
care and providing a Patients' Bill of Rights; pursuing campaign finance 
reform; protecting our children from the dangers of tobacco.
    Now I'd be happy to take your questions, and I'd like to begin with 
Mr. Bazinet [Kenneth Bazinet, United Press International].

President's Trip to China

    Q. Mr. President, from your staff to President Jiang Zemin, this 
trip has been hailed as a success. But we are leaving here with one 
symbolic agreement. I wonder if you could explain to us what exactly or 
how exactly you will show your critics back in Congress that you did 
meet your expectations on this trip. Thank you.
    The President. Well, on the substance, I think we have reinforced 
our common commitment to regional security, which is terribly important 
given the progress I believe can be made in the next several months, in 
the next couple of years in Korea, and the job we have to do in South 
Asia with India and Pakistan. We made substantial progress in 
nonproliferation, not only in detargeting but in other areas as well. We 
got a significant commitment from the Chinese to take another step 
toward full participation in the Missile Technology Control Regime. We 
had an agreement on the rule of law which I believe practically--these 
rule of law issues I think will practically do an enormous amount to 
change the lives of ordinary Chinese citizens, not only in regularizing 
commercial dealings but in helping them with other daily problems that 
impinge on freedom if they're not fairly and fully resolved.
    I'm pleased by the science and technology initiative that we signed, 
which has already produced significant benefits for both our people. I'm 
very pleased that we now have a Peace Corps agreement with China. And I 
think we have really broken some ground in cooperation on the 
environment. And again I say that I think China and the United States 
will both have heavy responsibilities to our own people and to the rest 
of the world in this area.
    I believe that the fact that we debated openly these matters, at the 
press conference, of our disagreements is quite important, as well. And 
I might say that a lot of the democracy activists from Hong Kong said 
that they felt that in some ways the fact that we had this public 
discussion, the President of China and I, in the press conference might 
have a bigger impact over the long run on the human rights picture than 
anything else that happened here.
    I have acknowledged in candor that we have not made as much progress 
on some of the trade issues as I had hoped, but I also now have a much 
clearer understanding of the Chinese perspective. I think they want to 
be in the WTO; I think they want to assume the responsibilities of 
opening their markets and taking down barriers and allowing more 
investment. But I think, understandably, since they are also committed 
to privatizing state-owned industries, they have big chunks of 
unemployment for which they have to create big chunks of employment. And 
they want to have a timing for WTO membership that will permit them to 
continue to absorb into the work force people that are displaced from 
the state industries.
    So I have an idea now about how we may be able to go back home, put 
our heads together, and come up with another proposal or two that will 
enable us to push forward our trade agenda with the Chinese. So in all 
those areas, I think that we made substantial, substantive progress.
    Mr. Hunt [Terence Hunt, Associated Press].

Strategic Partnership With China

    Q. Mr. President, have you and President Jiang Zemin achieved the 
constructive strategic partnership that you've talked about? What do you 
mean by that term, and how can you have

[[Page 1176]]

that kind of a relationship with a country that you say unfairly 
restricts American businesses?
    The President. For one thing, I don't think it's the only country in 
the world where we don't have complete fair access to the markets. We 
still have trade differences with Japan, which is a very close ally of 
ours, and a number of other countries. So we don't have--we can have a 
strategic partnership with a country with whom we do not have a perfect 
    I think that--first of all, let me remind you about what our 
interests are. We have a profound interest in a stable Asia that is 
progressing. We have a profound interest in a partnership with the 
world's largest country in areas where we can't solve problems without 
than kind of partnership, and I cite Korea, the Indian subcontinent, the 
Asian financial crisis, and the environmental challenges we face as 
examples of that. So I think that our interests are clear, and I think 
we're well on the way toward expanding areas of cooperation and defining 
and honestly and openly dealing with areas of differences that are the 
essential elements of that kind of partnership.
    Mr. McQuillan [Larry McQuillan, Reuters].

Alleged Chinese Involvement in 1996 Campaign Fundraising

    Q. Mr. President, during your news conference with President Jiang, 
he mentioned that you raised campaign fundraising with him. And I wonder 
if you could share with us just what ideas you expressed to him. And 
also, since he said that the Chinese conducted an investigation and that 
they found the charges were totally absurd, did you suggest that he 
might want to cooperate with Justice Department and also congressional 
    The President. Let me say, he is interested in a very--in what I 
might call a narrow question here, but a very important one, and in my 
mind, the most important one of all. The question here--the question 
that was raised that was most troubling was whether people at high 
levels in the Government of China had either sanctioned or participated 
in the channeling of funds in violation of American law not only into 
the Presidential campaign but into a number of congressional campaigns. 
That charge has been made. He said they looked into that, and he was, 
obviously, certain, and I do believe him, that he had not ordered or 
authorized or approved such a thing, and that he could find no evidence 
that anybody in governmental authority had done that.
    He said that he could not speak to whether any people pursuing their 
own business interests had done that. He didn't say that it happened or 
he knew that it happened. I want to make it clear. He just said that his 
concern was on the governmental side.
    And I told him that that was the thing that we had to have an answer 
to, and that I appreciated that, and that if he were--if the Government 
of China were contacted by any people doing their appropriate work, I 
would appreciate their telling them whatever they could tell them to 
help them to resolve that to their satisfaction, because I do think that 
is the really important issue.
    Mr. Pelley [Scott Pelley, CBS News].

Human Rights and Democracy in China

    Q. Thank you, Mr. President. Many democracy advocates were 
encouraged by your trip to China and, in fact, Bao Tong granted an 
interview to test the limits of Chinese tolerance. But sir, why did you 
find it impossible to meet with the democracy advocates in Beijing, 
where it would have had the most impact? And would you feel compelled to 
intervene personally if Bao Tong is arrested after you leave?
    The President. Well, I have continued--first, let me answer the 
second question first. I have continued to raise individual cases and 
will continue to do so with the Chinese Government and with the 
President. I would very much like to see China reassess its position on 
categories of arrestees as well. And let me just mention, for example, 
they're probably 150 people who are still incarcerated as a result of 
the events in Tiananmen Square who were convicted of nonviolent 
offenses. There are also several people still incarcerated for a crime 
that is no longer a crime, that the Chinese themselves have said, ``We 
no longer want to, in effect, pursue people who have committed certain 
offenses against the state under--which were basically a rubric for 
political dissidents.'' I suggested that they look at that. So in all 
that, I will continue to be active.
    On your first question, I did my best to meet with people who 
represented all elements of Chinese society and to do whatever I could 
to encourage democratic change. The decisions I made on this trip--as I 
remind you, the first trip by an American President in a decade--

[[Page 1177]]

about with whom to meet and how to handle it were basically designed--
were based on my best judgment about what would be most effective in 
expanding human rights. And we'll have to--I think, at this moment, it 
looks like the decisions I made were correct, and we'll have to see over 
the course of time whether that is accurate or not.
    Mr. Blitzer [Wolf Blitzer, Cable News Network].

Forced Abortions in China

    Q. Mr. President, in the days leading up to your visit there was 
very dramatic testimony in the U.S. Congress about forced abortions--
allegations, reports that there were forced abortions still continuing 
in China. Did you specifically raise the issue of forced abortions with 
President Jiang Zemin? And if you did, what did he say to you about this 
    The President. Well, they all say the same thing. They say that is 
not Chinese policy, that it violates Chinese policy. My view is that if 
these reports are accurate, there may be insufficient monitoring of 
what's being done beyond the Capital and beyond the place where the 
orders are being handed out to the place where the policy is being 
    And so I hope by our presence here and our concern about this, which 
I might add was--this issue was first raised most forcefully a couple of 
years ago by the First Lady when she came to Beijing to speak at the 
Women's Conference--I'm very hopeful that we will see some progress on 
this and that those who are making such reports will be able to tell us 
over the coming weeks and months that there has been some real progress.
    Q. But did you raise it with President Jiang?
    The President. We talked about it briefly. But they all say the same 
thing, Mr. Blitzer. They all say that this is not policy, that they've 
tried to make it clear. And I have tried to make it clear that it's 
something that we feel very, very strongly about. But as I said, I 
believe that, if in fact the policy is being implemented in a way that 
is different from what is the stated policy in Beijing, we may get some 
reports of improvements in the weeks and months ahead, and I hope we 
    Mr. Donaldson [Sam Donaldson, ABC News].


    Q. Mr. President, while you've been in China, the ethnic cleansing 
in Kosovo appears to be continuing. You and the Secretary of State have 
both talked very firmly to President Milosevic about stopping, and it is 
not stopping. Is there a point at which you're going to move, or is, in 
fact, this a bluff which he's successfully calling?
    The President. No, I don't think that's accurate. But the 
situation--let me say, first of all, I still believe the situation is 
serious. I still believe, as a practical matter, the only way it will 
ultimately be resolved is if the parties get together and resolve it 
through some negotiation and dialog. I think that the Serb--excuse me, 
the--I think that Belgrade is primarily responsible here. But I think 
that others, when they're having a good day or a good week on the 
military front, may also be reluctant to actually engage in dialog. So I 
think this is something that all parties are going to have to deal with.
    Now, I have, since I have been on this trip, checked in almost daily 
on the Kosovo situation and continue to support strongly, with our 
allies, continuing NATO planning and a clear and unambiguous statement 
that we have not, nor should we, rule out any options. And I hope that 
is still the position of our European allies.
    Q. While NATO is planning, people are dying every day.
    The President. They are, Mr. Donaldson, but there is--the conflict 
is going on; both sides are involved in it. There is some uncertainty 
about who is willing and who is not willing to even negotiate about it. 
And we're working on it as best we can.
    Mr. Bloom [David Bloom, NBC News].

Human Rights and Democracy in China

    Q. Mr. President, if this trip is followed in the days or weeks to 
come by the piecemeal release of a few Chinese dissidents, would you 
consider that a success? And why not set a deadline for China to release 
all of its political prisoners? And, if I may, sir, you spoke a minute 
ago about the powerful forces resisting change in China. Do you believe 
there could ever be democracy here?
    The President. Oh, yes. The answer to the second question is yes. I 
believe there can be, and I believe there will be. And what I would like 
to see is the present Government, headed

[[Page 1178]]

by this President and this Premier, who are clearly committed to reform, 
ride the wave of change and take China fully into the 21st century and 
basically dismantle the resistance to it. I believe there--not only do I 
believe there can be, I believe there will be.
    Now, I believe that, again--on your first question, I think I have 
to do what I think is most effective. And obviously, I hope there will 
be further releases. As I said, I would like to see not only targeted, 
selected high-profile individual releases, which are very important, but 
I think that the next big step would be for China to look at whether 
there could be some expedited process to review the sentences of whole 
categories of people, because that would tend to show a change in policy 
rather than just the product of negotiation with the Americans.
    In all fairness, while I very much value the role that I and our 
country have been able to play here, the best thing for China will be 
when no outside country is needed to advance the cause of human rights 
and democracy.
    Go ahead.

Taiwan and President's Previous Views on China

    Q. Mr. President, the U.S. policy pushed for a negotiated 
reconciliation between the People's Republic and Taiwan. But some in 
Taiwan believe that, by endorsing the ``three no's,'' your 
administration has taken away some of the bargaining power that they 
would need in a negotiation. Did that concern you? And can you tell us 
why you thought it was important to publicly articulate the ``three 
no's'' policy, when people in Taiwan were saying this would make it more 
    And also, if you'll forgive me just a quick two-parter, as you look 
back at the ups and downs of your China policy over the past 6 years, 
have you ever had occasion to regret the very tough and sometimes 
personal words you had on the subject for George Bush in 1992?
    The President. Let me answer the Taiwan question first. First, I 
think there may be difference of opinion in Taiwan. Yesterday the 
Taiwanese leader, Mr. Li, said that the United States had kept its 
commitments not to damage Taiwan or its interests in any way here. I 
publicly stated that, because I was asked questions in public about 
Taiwan, and I thought it was an appropriate thing to do under the 
circumstances. But I did not announce any change in policy. In fact, the 
question of independence for Taiwan, for example, has been American 
policy for a very long time and has been a policy that has been embraced 
by the Government in Taiwan, itself.
    So I believe that I did the right thing there to simply clarify to 
both sides that there had been no change in our policy. The substance of 
the policy is obviously something that the Chinese Government agrees 
with. I think what the Taiwan Government wants to hear is that we favor 
the cross-strait dialog, and we think it has to be done peacefully and 
in orderly fashion. That is, I believe, still the intention and the 
commitment of the Chinese Government.
    So I didn't intend, and I don't believe I did, change the substance 
of our position in any way by anything that I said. I certainly didn't 
try to do that.
    Mr. Maer [Peter Maer, NBC Mutual Radio].
    Q. And about what you said----
    The President. Oh, I'm sorry, I forgot. Well, let me go back and try 
to retrace the steps there. I think that at the time--you may have a 
better record of exactly what was said and what wasn't--I felt very 
strongly that the United States should be clear and unambiguous in our 
condemnation about what happened 9 years ago, at the time. And that then 
we needed to have a clear road going forward which would attempt to--not 
to isolate the Chinese but would attempt to be very strong about how we 
felt about what happened and would, in essence, broaden the nature of 
our policy.
    What I felt was that in a genuine concern to maintain a constructive 
relationship with China, for security reasons and for economic reasons, 
that we didn't have high enough visibility for the human rights issue. I 
believed that then; I still believe that. I think any President would 
say that, once you've served in this job, you understand a little bit 
more the nuances of all policies than you did before you get it. But I 
believe, on balance, that we have a stronger human rights component to 
our engagement strategy than was the case before, and I think that is 
quite important.
    Mr. Maer.

Human Rights in China

    Q. Mr. President, during your trip, at least in the first cities you 
visited, we saw a sort of ``catch and release'' program of human rights 
dissidents. And of course, thousands of others

[[Page 1179]]

are still in prison, in labor camps. Since you did not meet with them, 
sir, what would your message be to those who wanted to meet with you? 
And to follow up on your response to an earlier question, why is it that 
you feel that it would not help their cause to have sat down and met 
with some of them?
    The President. Because I believe over the long run what you want is 
a change in the policy and the attitude of the Chinese Government on 
whole, not just on this, that, or the other specific imprisoned 
dissident or threatened dissident, although those things are very 
important. I don't want to minimize that. I'm glad Wei Jingsheng is out 
of jail. I'm glad the bishop is out of jail. I'm glad Wang Dan is out of 
jail. I think these things are important.
    But what I am trying to do is to argue to the Chinese Government 
that, not because we're pressuring them publicly but because it is the 
right thing to do--the right thing to do--that the whole policy should 
be changed. And after all, our relationships have been characterized, I 
think, by significant misunderstanding, including the misunderstanding 
of the Chinese of our motive in raising these issues.
    And so I felt that by going directly to engage the Chinese, starting 
with the President, and especially taking advantage of the opportunity 
to have this free and open debate before all the Chinese people, I could 
do more in the short and in the long run to advance the cause of human 
    Q. The other part of the question is, is there some message to these 
individuals that you'd like to send them?
    The President. My message is that the United States is on your side, 
and we did our best. We're on the side of free speech. We're on the side 
of not putting people who dissent in prison. We're on the side of 
letting people who only dissented and exercised their free speech out of 
prison, and that we believe that this new, heretofore unprecedented open 
debate about this matter will lead to advances. We think that it's going 
to take a lot of discipline and a lot of effort, but we believe that 
this strategy is the one most likely to advance the cause of free speech 
and free association and free expression of religious conviction, as 

Northern Ireland Peace Process

    Q. A question from the Irish Times. I understand, Mr. President, 
that you have been following events in Northern Ireland very closely 
during your trip and that you telephoned party leaders from Air Force 
One yesterday, and you spoke to them about the prospect of serious 
violence this weekend--[inaudible]. Could I ask you, what would you say 
to those on the opposite side of the dispute at this time, and also 
about the burning of 10 Catholic churches in Northern Ireland? And could 
I ask you, too, is there any prospect of you visiting Ireland this year, 
now that the Northern Ireland elections are behind us?
    The President. Well, yes, I did call Mr. Trimble and Mr. Hume to 
congratulate them on the respective performances of their parties, and 
the leadership position that--this was right before the elections--I 
mean, the election for leadership--but that we had assumed Mr. Trimble 
would be elected and that either Mr. Hume or the nominee of his party, 
which turned out to be Mr. Mallon, would be selected as the First 
Deputy. And I wanted to talk to them about what the United States could 
do to continue to support this process and, in particular, whether there 
was anything that could be done to diffuse the tension surrounding the 
marching season and, especially, the Drumcree march.
    And we had very good, long talks. They said they needed to get the 
leadership elections out of the way. They wanted to consult with Prime 
Minister Blair, who's been up there, and with Prime Minister Ahern, and 
that we would agree to be in, more or less, daily contact in the days 
running up to the marching date in the hope that that could be done.
    I think it's very important that the people of Ireland give this new 
Assembly a chance to work--people of Northern Ireland. And I think it 
would be tragic indeed if either side felt so aggrieved by the ultimate 
resolution of the marching issue that they lost the bigger picture in 
the moment. I think that is something that must not happen.
    Obviously, I feel personally horrible about what has happened to the 
churches. In our country, we had this round of church burnings in the 
last few years. And during the civil rights days, we had a number of 
bombings of black churches, which really reflected the darkest impulses 
of some of our people at their worst moments. And I would just plead to 
whoever was responsible for this for whatever reason, you need to take 
the churches off the list, and you need to take violence off the list.

[[Page 1180]]

Japanese Economy

    Q. Mr. President, this morning you mentioned the new package of 
Japanese banking reforms and said you welcomed them. Do you believe that 
those reforms and other domestic financial measures will be sufficient 
to stem the slide of the yen and prevent the Japanese economy from going 
deeper into recession, perhaps spreading fear in China and elsewhere in 
the region and to the United States?
    The President. Well, the Japanese economy has been at a period of 
slow to no growth for a period of years now. And if you look at the 
dislocation here in Hong Kong, for example, you see what regional 
ramifications that has as Japan slows down; then you have the problems 
in Indonesia and Korea and Thailand and elsewhere.
    I will reiterate: I think that the Chinese have done a good thing by 
maintaining the stability of their currency and not engaging in 
competitive devaluations. I hope they will continue to do that. But I 
don't think anyone seriously believes that the financial situation in 
Asia can get better and that, therefore, we can resume global growth in 
a way that won't have a destructive impact on the United States and 
other countries unless Japan can grow again. We all have a vested 
interest in that, as well as our best wishes for the people of Japan.
    Now, I'm encouraged by the fact that the Prime Minister announced 
this program and announced it several days before he had originally 
intended to. And I think what the markets are waiting for now is some 
action and a sense that, if it turns out that the implementation of this 
program is not enough, that more will be done.
    It is not rational, in my view, to believe that the Japanese economy 
is meant to contract further. This is an enormously powerful, free 
country, full of brilliant people and successful businesses and 
staggering potential. And this is almost like a historical anomaly. Now, 
we know generally what the elements of the program are. But what I hope 
very much is that as soon as these elections are over, there will be a 
strong sense of determination and confidence not only on the part of the 
Japanese Government but the Japanese people, and that the rest of us 
will do whatever it is we have to do to support their doing whatever 
they have to do to get this turned around. But we have a huge stake in 
getting Japanese growth going, and I think that it can be done because 
of the fundamental strengths of the Japanese people and their economy. 
But I think that it's going to take some real concerted action. And if 
the first steps don't work, then you just have to keep doing more. You 
just have to keep working through this until it's turned around.
    It's not a situation like the Depression in the United States in the 
thirties, which took, literally, years and years and years to work out 
of, because we had fallen so much below anything that they're facing 
now. And we didn't have anything like the sophisticated understanding or 
the sophisticated economy or capacity in the thirties that they have 
    So I think we can get through this in a reasonable amount of time, 
but the rest of us, including the United States and China, need to have 
both good wishes and determination for Japan and just understand that, 
however, there's a limit to what we can do until they do the things that 
they have to do. But I think after this election, you may see a little 
more moment there.
    Mr. Walsh [Ken Walsh, U.S. News & World Report].

President Jiang Zemin of China

    Q. Mr. President, you spent considerable time with President Jiang 
Zemin this week both in public and in private. I wonder if you could 
give us your assessment of him not only as a strategic partner but as a 
leader and as an agent for change in China.
    The President.  Well, first of all, I have a very high regard for 
his abilities. I remember not so many years ago, there was a--the 
conventional wisdom was that he might be a transitional figure. And 
after I met with him the first time, I felt very strongly that his 
chances of becoming the leader of China for a sustained period were 
quite good, because he's a man of extraordinary intellect, very high 
energy, a lot of vigor for his age or indeed for any age. And I think he 
has a quality that is profoundly important at this moment in our history 
when there's so much change going on: He has a good imagination. He has 
vision; he can visualize; he can imagine a future that is different from 
the present.
    And he has, I think, a very able partner in Premier Zhu Rongji, who 
has enormous technical competence and almost legendary distaste for 
stalling and bureaucracy and just staying in

[[Page 1181]]

the same path the way--even if it's not working. So my view is that the 
potential we have for a strategic partnership is quite strong.
    However, I think that like everyone else, he has constituencies with 
which he must work. And I hope that more of them are now more convinced 
that we can build a good, positive partnership as a result of this trip. 
I hope more of them understand that America wishes China well, that we 
are not bent on containing China, and that our human rights policy is 
not an excuse for some larger strategic motive. It's what we really 
believe. We believe it's morally right, and we believe it's best for 
them, as a practical matter, over the long run.
    So I believe that there's a very good chance that China has the 
right leadership at the right time, and that they understand the 
daunting, massive nature of the challenges they face. They want us to 
understand that there is much more personal freedom now, in a practical 
sense, for most Chinese than there was when President Nixon came here or 
10 years ago. But I think they understand that this is an unfolding 
process, and they have to keep going. And I hope that we can be a 
positive force there.
    Yes, go ahead.
    Q.  Following up on that, do you consider that the three televised 
appearances were, in part, a personal expression of gratitude from 
President Jiang to you?
    The President. I don't know about that. I think that it might have 
been--I think it was a personal expression of confidence in the good 
will that we have established to build the right kind of relationship. 
But more importantly, I think it was a personal expression of confidence 
that he could stand there and answer questions before the people of 
China that might come not only from Chinese press but from ours as well.
    So I wouldn't say gratitude; I think confidence is the right answer. 
But I can tell you, every place I went after that, you know, when I came 
down to Shanghai or when I flew over to Hong Kong, lots and lots of 
people I met with mentioned it to me, that it really meant something, 
that it changed the whole texture of what had happened. And I think that 
we did the right thing. And I'm certain that he did the right thing.
    Go ahead.

Democracy in China

    Q. Ambassador Sasser said earlier this week that he believes that 
communism in China will end. You just said now that democracy will come 
to China. What is the timeframe for that? Will it happen in your 
    The President. I certainly hope so. [Laughter] That's like saying--I 
don't mean to trivialize the question, but let me give you--do I believe 
a woman will be elected President of the United States? I do. Do I think 
it will be a good thing? I do. Do I know when it will happen? I don't. 
Who will make the decision? The American people.
    As I said, I believe that leaders of vision and imagination and 
courage will find a way to put China on the right side of history and 
keep it there. And I believe that even as--when people are going through 
changes, they may not believe that this is as morally right as we do. 
But I think they will also be able to see that it is in their interest 
to do this, that their country will be stronger, that when people have--
if you look at just the last 50 years of history in China, and if you 
look at the swings back and forth, when Mao Tse-tung was alive and you 
were letting a thousand flowers bloom, and all of a sudden there was a 
reaction, you know; and there was the Cultural Revolution, and then 
there was the reaction, and we liked the reaction of that; then there 
was Tiananmen Square.
    If you want to avoid these wild swings where society is like a 
pressure cooker that blows the top off, then there has to be some 
institutional way in which people who have honest grievances, even if 
they're not right--not all the critics will always be right all the 
time, just like the government, the officials won't always be right all 
the time--but if there is a normalized way in which people can express 
their dissent, that gives you a process that then has the integrity to 
carry you on more of a straight line to the future, instead of swinging 
back and forth all the time. The very ability to speak your mind, even 
if you think you can't prevail, is in itself empowering.
    And so, one of the things that I hope is that--the Chinese leaders, 
I've always been impressed, have an enormous sense of history, and 
they're always looking for parallels and for differences. It's a wise 
thing. Our people need to understand more of our own history and how it 
may or may not relate to the moment and to the future.

[[Page 1182]]

And if you think about--one of the things that, if I were trying to 
manage this huge transition--and I'll just give you, parenthetically, 
one thing,--the Mayor of Shanghai told me that in just the last couple 
of years 1.2 million people had been displaced from state industries in 
Shanghai and over one million had already found other jobs. That's just 
in one area of the country. If you're trying to manage that sort of 
transition, one of the things that I would be looking for is how I could 
keep this thing going down the track in the right direction and not have 
wild swings and not be confronted with a situation which would then be 
    So that's what I hope has happened and where I hope we'll go.
    Mr. Knoller [Mark Knoller, CBS Radio], I'll take your question and 
then I'll go. You guys may want to shop some more. [Laughter]

Policy of Constructive Engagement

    Q. Mr. President, if constructive engagement is the right policy in 
your view for dealing with China, why isn't it an appropriate policy for 
dealing with other countries, say, Cuba?
    The President. That's not the question I thought you were going to 
ask--[laughter]--I mean, the example I thought you were going to give. I 
think each of these has to be taken on its own facts. In the case of 
Cuba, we actually have tried--I would remind you, we have tried in good 
faith on more than one occasion to engage Cuba in a way that would 
develop the kind of reciprocal movement that we see in China.
    Under the Cuban Democracy Act, which was passed by the Congress in 
1992 and signed by President Bush, but which I strongly supported during 
the election season, we were given a clear roadmap of balanced actions 
that we could take and that Cuba could take. And we were, I thought, 
making progress with that map until the people, including American 
citizens, were unlawfully shot out of the sky and killed. That led to 
the passage of the Helms-Burton law.
    And even after that, after the Pope went to Cuba, I took some 
further actions, just about everything I'm empowered to take under the 
Helms-Burton law, to again increase people-to-people contacts in Cuba, 
to empower the church more with our support as an instrument of civil 
society, and to send a signal that I did not want the United States to 
be estranged from the people of Cuba forever.
    I do believe that we have some more options, and I think Cuba is a 
case where, because it's close to home and because of the position we 
occupy in the region, our policy has a greater chance of success. But 
even there, you see, whatever policy you pursue, you have to be prepared 
to have a little patience and work with it and hope that it will work 
out in the long run.
    But nothing would please me more than to get some clear signal that 
Cuba was willing to be more open and more free and more democratic and 
work toward a common future and join the whole rest of the hemisphere. 
You know, in our hemisphere, every country but Cuba is a democracy, and 
I would like the see--nothing would please me more than to see some 
rapprochement between the people of our two countries, especially 
because of the strong Cuban-American population in our Nation.
    Thank you very much.

Note: The President's 162d news conference began at 5:23 p.m. in the 
Grand Ballroom of the Grand Hyatt Hotel. In his remarks, he referred to 
President Jiang Zemin and Premier Zhu Rongji of China; President Li 
Teng-hui of Taiwan; freed Chinese dissidents Wei Jingsheng, Bishop Zeng 
Jingmu, and Wang Dan; David Trimble of the Ulster Unionist Party and 
John Hume and Seamus Mallon of the Social Democratic and Labor Party of 
Ireland; Prime Minister Tony Blair of the United Kingdom; Prime Minister 
Bertie Ahern of Ireland; Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto of Japan; 
Mayor Xu Kuangdi of Shanghai, China; and Pope John Paul II. Reporters 
referred to freed Chinese dissident Bao Tong; President Slobodan 
Milosevic of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (Serbia and Montenegro); 
and former President George Bush.