[Weekly Compilation of Presidential Documents Volume 36, Number 10 (Monday, March 13, 2000)]
[Pages 487-493]
[Online from the Government Publishing Office, www.gpo.gov]

Remarks at the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies

March 8, 2000

    Thank you very much, President Brody, Dean Wolfowitz. I thank all 
the members of our administration who are here--Secretary Daley, who is 
coordinating our efforts in the Congress; Secretary Summers; Secretary 
Glickman. I want to say a special word of thanks to Ambassador 
Barshefsky and National Economic Adviser Gene Sperling who

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negotiated this agreement with China and wrung the last drop of blood 
out of it. And my National Security Adviser, Sandy Berger, I thank him 
for his great advocacy; Ambassador Holbrooke; to our OPIC President, 
George Munoz.
    I would also like to acknowledge the presence of a very important 
member of our economic team, Lael Brainard, because her mother works 
here at SAIS, and I want her mother to know she's done a good job. She 
may never speak to me again, but her mother will be happy. [Laughter]
    I want to thank all the distinguished people in the audience, who 
care so much about China, and the faculty and the students here of this 
magnificent institution. And I want to thank my longtime friend Lee 
Hamilton. If I had any respect for this audience, I would just ask you 
to wait 5 minutes; I'd run out and copy his speech, hand it to you. He 
said exactly what I wanted to say in about 2,000 fewer words. [Laughter]
    I also want to say, President Brody and Dean Wolfowitz, how much I 
appreciate the involvement of Johns Hopkins and the School for Advanced 
International Studies in China, in particular, at this moment in history 
and for giving me the chance to come here and talk about what is one of 
the most important decisions America has made in years.
    Last fall, as all of you know, the United States signed the 
agreement to bring China into the WTO on terms that will open its market 
to American products and investment. When China concludes similar 
agreements with other countries, it will join the WTO. But as Lee said, 
for us to benefit from that, we must first grant it permanent normal 
trading status, the same arrangement we have given other countries in 
the WTO. Before coming here today, I submitted legislation to Congress 
to do that, and I again publicly urge Congress to approve it as soon as 
    Again, I want to emphasize what has already been said. Congress will 
not be voting on whether China will join the WTO. Congress can only 
decide whether the United States will share in the economic benefits of 
China joining the WTO. A vote against PNTR will cost America jobs, as 
our competitors in Europe, Asia, and elsewhere capture Chinese markets 
that we otherwise would have served.
    Supporting China's entry into the WTO, however, is about more than 
our economic interests. It is clearly in our larger national interest. 
It represents the most significant opportunity that we have had to 
create positive change in China since the 1970's, when President Nixon 
first went there, and later in the decade when President Carter 
normalized relations. I am working as hard as I can to convince Congress 
and the American people to seize this opportunity.
    For a long time now, the United States has debated its relationship 
with China through all the changes, particularly of the last century. 
And like all human beings everywhere, we see this relationship through 
the prism of our own experience. In the early 1900's, most Americans saw 
China either through the eyes of traders seeking new markets or 
missionaries seeking new converts. During World War II, China was our 
ally, during the Korean war, our adversary. At the dawn of the cold war, 
when I was a young boy, beginning to study such things, it was a cudgel 
in a political battle: Who lost China? Later, it was a counterweight to 
the Soviet Union. And now, in some people's eyes, it's a caricature. 
Will it be the next great capitalist tiger with the biggest market in 
the world, or the world's last great communist dragon and a threat to 
stability in Asia?
    Through all the changes in China and the changes in our perception 
of China, there has been one constant: We understand that America has a 
profound stake in what happens in China and how China relates to the 
rest of the world. That's why, for 30 years, every President, without 
regard to party, has worked for a China that contributes to the 
stability of Asia, that is open to the world, that upholds the rule of 
law at home and abroad.
    Of course, the path that China takes to the future is a choice China 
will make. We cannot control that choice; we can only influence it. But 
we must recognize that we do have complete control over what we do. We 
can work to pull China in the right direction, or we can turn our backs 
and almost certainly push it in the wrong direction.

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    The WTO agreement will move China in the right direction. It will 
advance the goals America has worked for in China for the past three 
decades. And of course, it will advance our own economic interests.
    Economically, this agreement is the equivalent of a one-way street. 
It requires China to open its markets, with a fifth of the world's 
population, potentially, the biggest markets in the world, to both our 
products and services in unprecedented new ways. All we do is to agree 
to maintain the present access which China enjoys. Chinese tariffs, from 
telecommunications products to automobiles to agriculture, will fall by 
half or more over just 5 years. For the first time, our companies will 
be able to sell and distribute products in China made by workers here in 
America, without being forced to relocate manufacturing to China, sell 
through the Chinese Government, or transfer valuable technology. For the 
first time, we'll be able to export products without exporting jobs.
    Meanwhile, we'll get valuable new safeguards against any surges of 
imports from China. We're already preparing for the largest enforcement 
effort ever given for a trade agreement.
    If Congress passes PNTR, we reap these rewards. If Congress rejects 
it, our competitors reap these rewards. Again, we must understand the 
consequences of saying no. If we don't sell our products to China, 
someone else will step into the breach, and we'll spend the next 20 
years wondering why in the wide world we handed over the benefits we 
negotiated to other people.
    Of course, we're going to continue our efforts not just to expand 
trade but to expand it in a way that reinforces our fundamental values 
and, for me, the way the global economic system must move. Trade must 
not be a race to the bottom, whether we're talking about child labor or 
basic working conditions or the environment. The more we avoid dealing 
with these issues, the more we fuel the fires of protectionism. That's 
why we'll continue our efforts to make the WTO itself more open, more 
transparent, more participatory, and to elevate the consideration of 
labor and environmental issues in trade.
    But most of the critics of the China-WTO agreement do not seriously 
question its economic benefits. They're more likely to say things like 
this: ``China is a growing threat to Taiwan and its neighbors. We 
shouldn't strengthen it,'' or, ``China violates labor rights and human 
rights. We shouldn't reward it,'' or, ``China is a dangerous 
proliferator. We shouldn't empower it.''
    These concerns are valid, but the conclusion of those who raise them 
as an argument against China-WTO isn't. China is a one-party state that 
does not tolerate opposition. It does deny its citizens fundamental 
rights of free speech and religious expression. It does define its 
interests in the world sometimes in ways that are dramatically at odds 
from our own. But the question is not whether we approve or disapprove 
of China's practices. The question is, what's the smartest thing to do 
to improve these practices?
    I believe the choice between economic rights and human rights, 
between economic security and national security, is a false one. 
Membership in the WTO, of course, will not create a free society in 
China overnight or guarantee that China will play by global rules. But 
over time, I believe it will move China faster and further in the right 
direction and certainly will do that more than rejection would. To 
understand how, it's important to understand why China is willing to do 
what it has undertaken to perform in this agreement.
    Over the last 20 years, China has made great progress in building a 
new economy, lifting more than 200 million people out of abject poverty; 
linking so many people through its new communications network that it's 
adding the equivalent of a new Baby Bell every year. Nationwide, China 
has seen the emergence of more than a million nonprofit and social 
organizations and a 2,500 percent explosion of print and broadcast 
    But its economy still is not creating jobs fast enough to meet the 
needs of the people. Only about a third of the economy is private 
enterprise. Nearly 60 percent of the investment and 80 percent of all 
business lending still goes toward state-owned dinosaurs that

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are least likely to survive in the global economy and most likely to be 
vulnerable to corruption.
    Much of China's economy today still operates under the old theory 
that if only they had shoveled coal into the furnaces faster, the 
Titanic would have stayed afloat. It is ironic, I think, that so many 
Americans are concerned about the impact on the world of a strong China 
in the 21st century. But the danger of a weak China, beset by internal 
chaos and the old nightmares of disintegration, it's all so real, and 
the leaders of China know this as well.
    So they face a dilemma. They realize that if they open China's 
market to global competition, they risk unleashing forces beyond their 
control of temporary unemployment, social unrest, and greater demand for 
freedom. But they also know that without competition from the outside, 
China will not be able to attract the investment necessary to build a 
modern, successful economy. And the failure to do that could be even 
more destabilizing, with more negative consequence.
    So with this agreement, China has chosen reform, despite the risks. 
It has chosen to overcome a great wall of suspicion and insecurity and 
to engage the rest of the world. The question for the United States, 
therefore, is, do we want to support that choice or reject it, becoming 
bystanders as the rest of the world rushes in. That would be a mistake 
of truly historic proportions.
    You know, as we debate about China here--and we love to do it; it 
absorbs a great deal of our time and energy--it's easy to forget that 
the Chinese leaders and their people are also engaged in a debate about 
us there. And many of them believe that we honestly don't want their 
country to assume a respected place in the world. If China joins the WTO 
but we turn our backs on them, it will confirm their fears.
    All I can say to you is that everything I have learned about China 
as President and before and everything I have learned about human nature 
in over half a century of living, now convinces me that we have a far 
greater chance of having a positive influence on China's actions if we 
welcome China into the world community, instead of shutting it out.
    Under this agreement, some of China's most important decisions for 
the first time will be subject to the review of an international body, 
with rules and binding dispute settlement. Now, opponents say this 
doesn't matter; China will just break its promises. Well, any of you who 
follow these WTO matters know that China is not the only person that 
could be accused of not honoring the rulemaking process. If any of you 
happen to be especially concerned about bananas and beef, you could 
probably stand up and give a soliloquy on that. And now we in the United 
States have been confronted with a very difficult decision, because 
they've made a decision that we think is plainly wrong, in an area that 
affects our export economy.
    But I will say this: We're still better off having a system in which 
actions will be subject to rules embraced and judgments passed by 135 
nations. And we're far more likely to find acceptable resolutions to 
differences of opinion in this context than if there is none at all.
    The change this agreement can bring from outside is quite 
extraordinary. But I think you could make an argument that it will be 
nothing compared to the changes that this agreement will spark from the 
inside out in China. By joining the WTO, China is not simply agreeing to 
import more of our products; it is agreeing to import one of democracy's 
most cherished values, economic freedom. The more China liberalizes its 
economy, the more fully it will liberate the potential of its people, 
their initiative, their imagination, their remarkable spirit of 
enterprise. And when individuals have the power not just to dream but to 
realize their dreams, they will demand a greater say.
    Already, more and more, China's best and brightest are starting 
their own companies, or seeking jobs with foreign-owned companies, where 
generally they get higher pay, more respect, and a better working 
environment. In fits and starts, for the first time, China may become a 
society where people get ahead based on what they know rather than who 
they know. Chinese firms, more and more, are realizing that unless they 
treat employees with respect, they will lose out in the competition for 
top talent. The process will only accelerate if China joins the WTO,

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and we should encourage it because it will lift standards for Chinese 
workers and their expectations.
    There's something even more revolutionary at work here. By lowering 
the barriers that protect state-owned industries, China is speeding the 
process that is removing Government from vast areas of people's lives.
    In the past, virtually every Chinese citizen woke up in an apartment 
or a house owned by the Government, went to work in a factory or a farm 
run by the Government, and read newspapers published by the Government. 
State-run workplaces also operated the schools where they sent their 
children, the clinics where they received health care, the stores where 
they bought food. That system was a big source of the Communist Party's 
power. Now people are leaving those firms. And when China joins the WTO, 
they will leave them faster.
    The Chinese Government no longer will be everyone's employer, 
landlord, shopkeeper, and nanny all rolled into one. It will have fewer 
instruments, therefore, with which to control people's lives. And that 
may lead to very profound change.
    A few weeks ago, the Washington Post had a good story about the 
impact of these changes on the city of Shenyang. Since 1949, most of the 
people of Shenyang have worked in massive, state-run industries. But as 
these old factories and mills shut down, people are losing their jobs 
and their benefits. Last year, Beijing announced it was going to be 
awarding bonus checks to Chinese citizens to celebrate China's 50th 
anniversary under communism. But Shenyang didn't have the money to pay, 
and there was a massive local protest.
    To ease tensions, the local government has given the people a 
greater say in how their city is run. On a limited basis, citizens now 
have the right to vote in local elections--not exactly a democracy; the 
party still puts up the candidate and decides who can vote, but it is a 
first step. And it goes beyond Shenyang. Local elections now are held in 
the vast majority of the country's 900,000 villages.
    When asked why, one party official in Shenyang said, ``This is the 
beginning of a process. We realize that in order to improve social 
control, we have got to let the masses have a say.'' Well, sooner or 
later that official will find that the genie of freedom will not go back 
into the bottle. As Justice Earl Warren once said, ``Liberty is the most 
contagious force in the world.''
    In the new century, liberty will spread by cell phone and cable 
modem. In the past year, the number of Internet addresses in China has 
more than quadrupled from 2 million to 9 million. This year, the number 
is expected to grow to over 20 million. When China joins the WTO, by 
2005, it will eliminate tariffs on information technology products, 
making the tools of communication even cheaper, better, and more widely 
available. We know how much the Internet has changed America, and we are 
already an open society. Imagine how much it could change China.
    Now, there's no question China has been trying to crackdown on the 
Internet. Good luck! [Laughter] That's sort of like trying to nail Jello 
to the wall. [Laughter] But I would argue to you that their effort to do 
that just proves how real these changes are and how much they threaten 
the status quo. It's not an argument for slowing down the effort to 
bring China into the world; it's an argument for accelerating that 
effort. In the knowledge economy, economic innovation and political 
empowerment, whether anyone likes it or not, will inevitably go hand in 
    Now, of course, bringing China into the WTO doesn't guarantee that 
it will choose political reform. But accelerating the progress, the 
process of economic change, will force China to confront that choice 
sooner, and it will make the imperative for the right choice stronger. 
And again I ask, if China is willing to take this risk--and these 
leaders are very intelligent people; they know exactly what they're 
doing--if they're willing to take this risk, how can we turn our backs 
on the chance to take them up on it?
    Now, I want to be clear. I understand that this is not, in and of 
itself, a human rights problem. But still, it is likely to have a 
profound impact on human rights and political liberty. Change will only 
come through a combination of internal pressure and external validation 
of China's human rights struggle. We have to maintain our leadership in 

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latter as well, even as the WTO contributes to the former.
    We sanctioned China under the International Religious Freedom Act 
last year. We're again sponsoring a resolution in the U.N. Human Rights 
Commission condemning China's human rights record this year. We will 
also continue to press China to respect global norms on 
nonproliferation. And we will continue to reject the use of force as a 
means to resolve the Taiwan question, making absolutely clear that the 
issues between Beijing and Taiwan must be resolved peacefully and with 
the assent of the people of Taiwan. There must be a shift from threat to 
dialog across the Taiwan Strait. And we will continue to encourage both 
sides to seize this opportunity after the Taiwan 
    In other words, we must continue to defend our interests and our 
ideals with candor and consistency. But we can't do that by isolating 
China from the very forces most likely to change it. Doing so would be a 
gift to the hardliners in China's Government, who don't want their 
country to be part of the world, the same people willing to settle 
differences with Taiwan by force, the same people most threatened by our 
alliance with Japan and Korea, the same people who want to keep the 
Chinese military selling dangerous technologies around the world, the 
same people whose first instinct in the face of opposition is to throw 
people in prison. If we want to strengthen their hand within China, we 
should reject the China-WTO agreement.
    Voting against PNTR won't free a single prisoner or create a single 
job in America or reassure a single American ally in Asia. It will 
simply empower the most rigid anti-democratic elements in the Chinese 
Government. It would leave the Chinese people with less contact with the 
democratic world and more resistance from their Government to outside 
forces. Our friends and allies would wonder why, after 30 years of 
pushing China in the right direction, we turned our backs, now that they 
finally appear to be willing to take us up on it.
    I find it encouraging that the people with the greatest interest in 
seeing China change agree with this analysis. The people of Taiwan 
agree. Despite the tensions with Beijing, they are doing everything they 
can to cement their economic ties with the mainland, and they want to 
see China in the WTO.
    The people of Hong Kong agree. I recently received a letter from 
Martin Lee, the leader of Hong Kong's Democratic Party, who has spent a 
lifetime struggling for free elections and free expression for his 
people. He wrote to me that this agreement, and I want to quote it, 
``represents the best long-term hope for China to become a member of 
good standing in the international community. We fear that should 
ratification fail, any hope for political and legal reform process would 
also recede.'' Martin Lee wants us to vote in favor of PNTR.
    Most evangelicals who have missions in China also want China in the 
WTO. They know it will encourage freedom of thought and more contact 
with the outside world. Many of the people who paid the greatest price 
under Chinese repression agree, too. Ren Wanding is one of the fathers 
of the Chinese human rights movement. In the late 1970's, he was thrown 
into prison for founding the China Human Rights League. In the 1980's, 
he helped lead the demonstration in Tiananmen Square. In the 1990's, he 
was thrown in prison yet again. Yet, he says of this deal, ``Before, the 
sky was black. Now it is light. This can be a new beginning.''
    For these people, fighting for freedom in China is not an academic 
exercise or a chance to give a speech that might be on television. It is 
their life's work. And for many of them, they have risked their lives to 
pursue it. I believe if this agreement were a Trojan Horse, they would 
be smart enough to see it. They are telling us that it's the right thing 
to do, and they are plainly right.
    So if you believe in a future of greater openness and freedom for 
the people of China, you ought to be for this agreement. If you believe 
in a future of greater prosperity for the American people, you certainly 
should be for this agreement. If you believe in a future of peace and 
security for Asia and the world, you should be for this agreement. This 
is the right thing to do. It's an historic opportunity and a profound 

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    I'll do all I can to convince Congress and the American people to 
support it. And today I ask for your help.
    Thank you very much.

Note: The President spoke at 3:50 p.m. in the Kenny Auditorium. In his 
remarks, he referred to William R. Brody, president, Johns Hopkins 
University; and Paul Wolfowitz, dean, and Joanne Brainard, executive 
assistant to the associate dean for student affairs, Paul H. Nitze 
School of Advanced International Studies. The President also referred to 
PNTR, permanent normal trade