Return to: Index of 1996 Secretary of State's Speeches/Testimonies ||
Electronic Research Collections Index ||
U.S. Department of State
96/05/17 Speech/Q&A: American Interests & the U.S. China Relationship
Office of the Spokesman
U.S. Department of State
Office of the Spokesman
Text As Prepared for Delivery May 17, 1996
"American Interests and the U.S.-China Relationship"
Address And Q&A Session by
Secretary of State Warren Christopher
to the Asia Society, the Council on Foreign Relations
and the National Committee on U.S. - China Relations
May 17, 1996
McGraw Hill Building
New York, New York
Thank you for that very kind introduction. It’s a great pleasure
to see Les Gelb and Barber Conable again. I want to thank the Council
on Foreign Relations, the National Committee on United States-China
Relations, the Asia Society and Business Week for hosting me. I am very
pleased to have the chance to speak with you today about the United
States and China.
There can be no doubt that the stakes in our relationship with
China are tremendous. China’s future will have a profound impact on the
security and prosperity of the Asia-Pacific region and the world. As
Secretary of State, I have an important responsibility to develop our
relationship in ways that will benefit the United States, as well as
China and our allies and friends.
To reach this goal, we strongly support China’s development as a
secure, open, and successful nation that is taking its place as a world
leader. China has an important and constructive role to play in the
coming century -- and we welcome it. The United States and China share
many interests that can only be served when our two countries
deal constructively and openly with each other. By deepening China’s
integration into the international system, we can best ensure that
China’s development as a strong and responsible member of the
international community promotes our interests as well as its own.
We do not have any illusions about the difficulty of managing our
relations during this period of dramatic change and transition in China.
On some critical issues, we have deep differences. Our focus must be on
the long term and we must seek to resolve our differences through
engagement, not confrontation. We will do our part -- but China, too,
must do its part. Here at home, we must mend the consensus, frayed
since Tiananmen, that has supported a constructive approach to China for
almost a quarter-century -- an approach that has profoundly served our
I have had the privilege of witnessing many of the remarkable
changes that have shaped America’s role as a Pacific power. As a young
officer in the U.S. Navy, I was present in Tokyo Bay at the time of
Japan’s surrender in 1945. As a trade negotiator with Japan during the
1960’s, I saw the beginnings of that nation’s dramatic rise. As
Deputy Secretary of State during the 1970’s, I helped achieve the
normalization of ties with China. And as Secretary of State, I joined
President Clinton in uniting the leaders of the Asia-Pacific region
behind a bold vision of economic growth and integration.
The roots of that vision reach back almost two centuries. From
the days of the China Clippers carrying merchants and missionaries, to
Admiral Nimitz’s armadas, the United States has had enduring interests
across the Pacific. Over the past half-century, our military presence
-- and our generous assistance -- have promoted stability and given
Asian nations the chance to build thriving economies and strong
President Clinton recognizes that Asia is more important to our
interests than ever before. During the last three years, we have
pursued a comprehensive strategy in Asia that has produced concrete
benefits for each and every American. Today, Americans are more secure
because we have invigorated our core alliances in Asia and maintained
100,000 troops in a region where we have fought three wars in the past
half-century. We are more prosperous because we have opened markets
among the fastest-growing economies in the world. Our trade with Asia
has almost doubled since 1990. And we face a brighter future because we
are cooperating with former enemies to
build new ties across the Pacific.
China’s evolution will play a central role in shaping that future.
From North Korea to the Spratly Islands, China can tip the balance in
Asia between stability and conflict. Its booming economy holds a key to
Asia’s continued prosperity and, increasingly, to our own. Its
cooperation is essential to combating threats ranging from the spread of
nuclear weapons to alien smuggling and global environmental damage.
China’s people have made dramatic progress in building a market
economy and a more vibrant society. In roughly two decades, China has
managed to quadruple its economic output -- a monumental achievement by
any measure. Millions of Chinese consumers have moved well beyond the
“Four Musts” -- a bicycle, a radio, a watch and a sewing machine -- and
now often own cellular phones and personal computers. The most
revolutionary slogan of the last decade has been Deng Xiaoping’s
injunction that “to get rich is glorious.” Party propagandists and the
People’s Daily compete for attention with radio call-in shows, satellite
dishes, and the Internet.
But these changes have also generated what historian Jonathan
Spence calls “internal pressures that the rest of us can only guess at.”
Rising incomes and an easing of social controls have raised
expectations. Economic advances have brought improved living standards
for many, but left millions behind. Farmers flock to cities in search
of better jobs -- a restive “floating population” that numbers as many
as 100 million. Population growth and pollution strain China’s natural
China’s leaders face these complex challenges at a time of
political transition. Confronted with the worldwide collapse of
communism and the passing of the Deng Xiaoping era, they are turning to
nationalism to rally their country and legitimate their hold on power.
This, in turn, has prompted fears that an increasingly nationalistic
China might exert its growing power and influence in ways that challenge
the security and prosperity of its Pacific neighbors.
These changes have opened important new opportunities for U.S.-
China cooperation on a broad range of shared interests -- including
non-proliferation, peace on the Korean peninsula, and the fight against
narcotics trafficking. But the changes in China have also created
serious strains in our relationship. In the wake of China’s
crackdown following the Tiananmen Square demonstrations, some Americans
see China’s growing power, and our differences on issues such as trade
and human rights, as proof that China represents a fundamental threat to
our interests. Some Chinese contend that despite our public assurances,
the United States really seeks to contain and weaken China.
Both views are fundamentally flawed. We reject the counsel of
those who seek to contain or isolate China. That course would harm our
national interests, not protect them. Demonizing China is as
dangerously misleading as romanticizing it. American policy toward
China has been most successful when we have acknowledged that country’s
great complexity, recognized that change requires patience as well as
persistence, and respected China’s
sovereignty while standing up for our own values and interests.
Since 1972, the foundation for deepening engagement between our
nations has been the “one China” policy that is embodied in the three
joint communiqués between the United States and the People’s Republic of
China. This policy is good for the United States, the PRC, Taiwan and
the entire region. It has helped keep the peace on both sides of the
Taiwan Strait -- and under its umbrella, Taiwan’s democracy and
prosperity have flourished.
The United States strongly believes that resolution of the issues
between the PRC and Taiwan must be peaceful. We were gravely concerned
when China’s military exercises two months ago raised tensions in the
Taiwan Strait. Our deployment of naval forces to the region was meant
to avert any dangerous miscalculations. We are encouraged that both
sides have now taken steps to reduce tensions.
On the eve of the inauguration next Monday of Taiwan’s first
democratically elected President, it is timely to reflect on the
enduring value of our “one China” policy for both the PRC and Taiwan --
and on our common interest and responsibility to uphold it. I want to
tell you publicly today what we have been saying privately to the
leaders in Beijing and Taipei in recent weeks.
To the leadership in Beijing, we have reiterated our consistent
position that the future relationship between Taiwan and the PRC must be
resolved directly between them. But we have reaffirmed that we have a
strong interest in the region’s continued peace and stability -- and
that our “one China” policy is predicated on the PRC’s pursuit of a
peaceful resolution of issues between Taipei and Beijing.
To the leadership in Taiwan, we have reiterated our commitment to
robust unofficial relations, including helping Taiwan maintain a
sufficient self-defense capacity under the terms of the Taiwan Relations
Act. We have stressed that Taiwan has prospered under the “one China”
policy. And we have made clear our view that as Taiwan seeks an
international role, it should pursue that objective in a way that is
consistent with a “one China” policy.
We have emphasized to both sides the importance of avoiding
provocative actions or unilateral measures that would alter the status
quo or pose a threat to peaceful resolution of outstanding issues. And
we have strongly urged both sides to resume the cross-Strait dialogue
that was interrupted last summer.
The United States also has an important interest in ensuring a
smooth and successful transition of Hong Kong on July 1, 1997. We
support the 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration and its “one country,
two systems” framework. Beijing’s commitment to maintain Hong Kong’s
open economy, democratic government, distinct legal system, and civil
liberties is crucial to Hong Kong’s future prosperity -- and to China’s.
Building on our enduring “one China” policy, the Clinton
Administration’s approach to China is guided by three tenets: First, as
I said at the outset, we believe that China’s development as a secure,
open and successful nation is profoundly in the interest of the United
States. Second, we support China’s full integration and its active
participation in the international community. Third, while we seek
dialogue and engagement to manage our differences with China, we will
not hesitate to take the action necessary to protect our interests.
Let me briefly explain each of these three elements:
First, the wisdom of encouraging a stable and thriving China is
best shown by considering the dangerous consequences of its opposite.
History demonstrates that an isolated China can produce harmful, even
disastrous, results for the Chinese people, the region and the world.
The reforms that China has undertaken since the late 1970's have
produced great benefits. As China meets the needs of its people, it
will be more secure. And a more secure China is likely to be more open
to reform and to be a better neighbor.
Our participation in China’s internal economic development, for
example, has helped to expand our commercial ties, with U.S. exports to
China doubling in the first half of this decade. Our exchanges on the
rule of law are contributing to legal reforms in China that strengthen
accountable government and make it easier for American companies to do
The second element of our strategy is to support a China that not
only abides by international rules, but that plays an active and
responsible role in setting them. As China gains the benefits of this
participation, it must assume commensurate obligations. China’s full
participation in the international community is essential to our ability
to address the critical global and regional challenges of the next
No area better illustrates the benefits of gaining China’s deeper
involvement in the international community than the fight against the
spread of weapons of mass destruction. A little over a decade ago,
China stood outside the world’s major non-proliferation regimes. Today,
China is a member of the International Atomic Energy Agency, and a
signatory to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and the Chemical
Weapons Convention -- a dramatic turnabout that our engagement helped to
produce. The United States and China have worked together to achieve
NPT extension, controls on ballistic missile exports, and the shutdown
of North Korea’s nuclear weapons program. With China's help, we hope to
complete a Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty for signature at the UN General
Assembly this September.
We still face serious proliferation challenges with China. But
the significance of the steps already taken should be recognized.
China’s smooth integration into the global trading system is also
in our interest. That is why the United States strongly supports
China’s accession to the World Trade Organization on commercially
acceptable terms. We have worked with China to develop a roadmap of
concrete steps to widen access to its markets and bring its trade
practices in line with WTO rules.
Both our nations’ interests are also served by China’s full
participation in new structures for regional security and economic
cooperation. China’s membership in the ASEAN Regional Forum is an
important example. It encouraged China’s statement last year that it
would abide by international law to settle its claims in the Spratly
Islands. And as a result of its membership in APEC, China is lowering
its tariffs as part of its down payment toward
achieving open and fair trade in the region by 2020.
But the process of integration is incomplete and there remain
important areas of difference. To manage these differences, we seek
engagement. For engagement to be successful, we must be prepared to
take the actions necessary to protect our interests -- the third element
of our approach. Where we have differences, we will press our views and
interests candidly and forcefully, with all the appropriate means at our
Our willingness to enforce U.S. law, for example, was critical to
reaching an understanding last week with China on nonproliferation and
nuclear-related exports. Following intensive discussions that I held
last month with Vice Premier Qian, China has made a public commitment
not to provide assistance to unsafeguarded nuclear facilities. And it
has agreed to important consultations on export control policies and
related issues. At the same time, we have serious concerns about
China’s nuclear and military cooperation with Iran -- and we will
continue to press this issue with Chinese leaders.
We have also stressed to China the importance of fully
implementing the agreement on protecting intellectual property rights
that we reached in February 1995. The piracy of compact disks, videos,
and software is growing, causing billions of dollars in losses to
American companies. The President has made it clear that if the
Chinese authorities do not act to curtail sharply this piracy, we will
have no choice but to go ahead with carefully targeted sanctions.
We do not want a trade war with China. That would serve no one’s
interests. The sanctions lists issued this week should not be seen as
the end of the process -- but as a step that could lead to a successful
outcome. That said, like any other nation, China must fulfill its
agreements and meet its responsibilities as a leading trading nation.
No one should doubt that we will protect our interests.
Trade and investment are helping to create a more open China. But
we will not rely solely on the beneficial impact of increasing economic
development to bring about progress on human rights. Recent economic
and legal reforms have somewhat diminished the arbitrary power of the
Chinese government over the daily lives of its citizens. But grave
human rights abuses continue, including the arrest of those who
peacefully voice their opinions, restrictions on religious freedom, and
repression in Tibet.
The American people have a deep and abiding interest in the
promotion of human rights in China and around the world. We will
continue to speak out on behalf of those in China who defend universally
recognized rights, as we did together with the European Union at the UN
Human Rights Commission last month. We will continue to work with China
to strengthen its judiciary. We know that change in China will take
time, and that the most repressive periods in recent Chinese history
have occurred when China was isolated from the world. That is why we
Our support for continuing Most Favored Nation trading status for
China should be seen in the context of the three elements of our policy.
The MFN debate should not be a referendum on China’s current political
system, or on whether we approve of the policies of the Chinese
leadership. The issue at stake is whether renewing MFN unconditionally
is the best way to advance American interests. The President and I are
convinced that the answer is a resounding yes -- a conclusion reached by
every American president since 1979.
Revoking or conditioning MFN would not advance human rights in
China. But it would damage our economy and jeopardize more than 200,000
American jobs. It would harm Hong Kong, which is why legislative
leader Martin Lee and Governor Chris Patten support MFN’s unconditional
renewal. It would hurt Taiwan, whose economy depends heavily on its
commercial ties with the PRC and U.S.-China trade. It could undermine
our ability to work with China on regional security issues such as North
Korea, and on any of the other important interests we share, from
nonproliferation to the global environment. And it would weaken our
influence throughout a region that still looks to America as a force for
stability and security.
The issues that I have discussed today only begin to reflect the
breadth of our relationship with China. We have an extraordinarily
diverse and demanding agenda.
Given the range of our interests, and the importance of China to
our future security and well-being, I believe the time has come to
develop a more regular dialogue between our two countries. Holding
periodic cabinet-level consultations in our capitals would facilitate a
candid exchange of views, provide a more effective means for managing
specific problems, and allow us to approach individual issues within the
broader strategic framework of our overall relationship.
I also believe that our nations’ two leaders should hold regular
summit meetings. I intend to discuss these ideas with Vice Premier Qian
when we meet in Jakarta this July.
In the United States, we also face an immediate priority. If we
are to sustain the advances that we have made with China since the
historic opening in 1972, we must rebuild the bipartisan consensus that
has guided our relations with China since then. Our interests demand it
-- and our allies and friends expect it. We must continue to have the
full support of the American people to meet the difficult challenges
that lie ahead.
Thank you very much.
QUESTION AND ANSWER SESSION
MR. BARBER CONABLE: Mr. Secretary, I perhaps could ask the first
question while the audience is getting ready with their questions. In
talking to Chinese leaders, we find they frequently assume that we have
less interest in them since the end of the Cold War, because we no
longer need them for geopolitical balancing.
There is also an assumption in China and a fear there and in other
countries that our presence in the Western Pacific is going to be
diminished over a period of time, and they point to a withdrawal from
some of our bases there as perhaps one part of this concern.
What can you say about these issues? I think I'm quite confident you
don't believe disengagement is an option there any more than it is in
the rest of the world for a country with as complex relations as the
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: Barber, I'm very glad to be positive on both
aspects of your question. First, the end of the Cold War gave us an
opportunity to have even closer relationships in the Asia-Pacific
region. When President Clinton and I came into office in 1993, one of
our top priorities was to give more attention to Asia and to China than
we had in the past.
This was not in derogation of Europe, but it was because we felt that
the United States had not looked adequately to the west, especially with
the tremendous economic opportunities
that are presented in Asia. So I don't have any hesitation in
indicating that we will maintain a strong interest in Asia.
On the second part of your question, we're committed to being a Pacific
power. We're committed to maintaining about 100,000 troops in Asia. It
serves the United States' interests to do so, but it's also a very
important force for stability in the region, because most of the
countries there trust us more than they trust some of their most
worrisome neighbors. So a resounding "yes" on both parts of your
QUESTION: William Blystein, retired American diplomat. I liked your
speech. I think it was a very fine one, and I agree with almost
everything you've said. But I would like to get you to comment on an
accusation that I will make, and that is that if you take the American
Government as a whole in its addressing China and Japan, there is a
hectoring quality to some of the points that you've made, particularly
on your third principle of American policy, namely, compliance with the
I think that this doesn't fit well stylistically with Chinese or Asians.
In other words, you're going to use pressure, as unpublic pressure as
possible, as the best. I'd appreciate your comment on this. I'm not
accusing you of doing this. (Laughter)
MR. CONABLE: His name is "Warren;" not "Hector."
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: Bill, I think your question is a good reminder
to us that the Chinese civilization has been around for a long time.
They frequently remind me of that. It's longer than we have.
(Laughter) We need to be careful in the way we address them on various
It is a worthwhile thing that if they're going to be members of the
international community, if they're going to have the benefit of
institutions that have been created in the post-World War II period,
there are certain rules that need to be followed for membership. The
World Trade Organization is a very good case in point.
For nations to become members of the World Trade Organization, it's
quite natural that the other countries require a certain amount of
market access, especially for leading nations such as China. So we have
strongly encouraged their membership in the WTO, but on acceptable
terms; on terms that would provide the kind of access that other great
I think it's in that sense, Bill, that we need to try to hold them to
the same standards that others follow, and the United States will
continue to do it, but we'll try to avoid hectoring.
QUESTION: There are certain hectoring qualities about the way the
Chinese treat us. I realize the difficulty of getting all the questions
on human rights into one question. Why do you believe that when Chinese
leaders continue to condone long years of torture of their own citizens
and violation of their own laws, that they can be relied on to honor
legal business commitments, and, for that matter any other commitments?
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: We have, of course, a good deal of differences
over human rights with China and have made that regularly known, and
most recently at the Human Rights Commission meeting in Geneva. We'll
continue to make those points.
On the other part of your question, I would say, though, that most of
the judgments about Chinese willingness to carry forward on their
commitments are made by American businesses, and American businesses are
there in very large numbers.
The Chinese have made tremendous strides in developing their economy.
As I said in my remarks today, it's a remarkable development. The
growth in the cities of China is absolutely stunning. The growth of
their economy, as a whole, is stunning.
United States businesses want to participate in that. Although there
are certainly frustrations for all of those who, in the audience, have
dealt with China would understanding, even in the business field,
nevertheless, our businesses are prepared to undertake big commitments
on our side in return for the great opportunities that exist.
With respect to the attitude of the United States Government, there are
many areas in which we have good, sound relations with China and have
been able to depend upon an ability to do business with them. They are
a permanent member of the United Nations with veto power. Although, as
Madeleine Albright will tell you, relationships are not always easy.
Nevertheless, it has been possible for us to accomplish a number of
things, such as in Haiti, with their concurrence.
In the nuclear field, their membership in the Non-Proliferation Treaty,
I think, has given us an opportunity to bring them into conformance with
some but not yet all standards. So we see a good deal of compliance in
that area, for example, when they agreed to join the Missile Control
Regime. They have been following the commitment they took to that.
I would say that we will monitor the situation very carefully. But we
must continue to try to find ways to do business with as important a
country as China. Of course, it's one of the reasons why we enjoy and
look forward to having a dialogue with them about the rule of law and
about their judiciary.
QUESTION: I'm Karen Elliot House from the Wall Street Journal. After
several years of resisting the idea of presidential summits, I found
interesting your remarks that you now think it's a good idea. So I have
Why this change in view? And am I correct in inferring that we should
assume there may be such a summit before November?
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: I think it's important for the leaders of our
two important nations to meet and talk. There have been meetings
between our two Presidents around the edges of other international
meetings -- around the edges of the APEC meeting, or here at the United
Nations. I think we should regularize our contacts with China.
I said in my remarks, I think we should regularize them at the Cabinet
level so that every meeting doesn't become a crisis, or meetings don't
just respond to crises. We should have a broad dialogue with them. We
have many, many things in common with China. We have some points of
But the points of differences would be so much easier to manage and
handle if we had a regular dialogue with them. So I think there ought
to be a regular dialogue, both at the Cabinet level and, ultimately, at
the highest level.
I said in my remarks I want to talk to Foreign Minister and Vice Premier
Qian Quichen about this when we meet in July. I would not expect that
either part of my suggestion would be taken up in the course of this
year. But I do think they're very important suggestions for the future.
We quite regularly met with the Russian leaders. Even in the darkest
days of the Cold War. Our relations with China, I think, merit regular
contacts between our leaders in the future. I do hope that will happen.
QUESTION: I'd like to go back to the issue of human rights.
(Inaudible) in Geneva. That failed miserably this year, partly because
China made very effective use of the common trade deals, or the spread
of smoking trade deals as a way of putting pressure on countries
(inaudible). It's not really an option next year. It's not an
The Administration has rejected linkage with MFN so that economic
sanctions are probably not a tool to use on human rights any longer. A
dialogue, per se, hasn't produced any kind of concrete results, and
we're facing many of the problems that you mentioned, including very
ominous signs on Hong Kong with the effective dissolution, or promise of
dissolution of the first elected legislature that Hong Kong has had.
MR. CONABLE: May we have the question?
QUESTION: Could you please outline what tools the Administration does
have available to address these very concrete issues?
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: I've been involved in working on human rights
matters almost all of my professional career and almost all of my career
One lesson I have learned, it is a very long-term project. Progress is
not made overnight, but it's necessary to continue to seek progress over
a longer term.
As I said in my remarks, we do not depend entirely or solely on the
economic development of China as a way to seek remedies in its human
rights. We're going to continue to talk with them; we're going to
continue to pursue it in both international fora as well as bilaterally.
We hope to get more support from our allies around the world. But it's
something we're not going to give up on. We can't turn our back on
these problems. I think engagement is much more likely to produce a
positive result than simply trying to walk away from the situation.
As I said in my remarks, some of the worst repressive period in Chinese
history has come when they've been isolated, when somebody has sought
containment. That's one of the reason we seek engagement. It's not
easy but we'll continue our to make human rights a point with them as we
go through building a more solid relationship.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, thank you for your lucid presenting. I'm Mike
McGaster from Rutgers University. I have a question about the joint
communiques as a basis for the one-China policy that is the root of
The Shanghai Communique was issued over 20 years ago at a time when
Taiwan democracy had not yet developed. It was not permitted in Taiwan
at that time to even express any ideas of Taiwan independence.
The Shanghai Communique is based on the principle that all Chinese on
both sides of the Taiwan Straits agree that there is but one China and
that all Chinese believe that there is but one China. That clearly is
no longer the case.
Can American policy continue to be based on a principle that's so out of
keeping with reality, and won't it be certain that the more Taiwan
democracy develops, particularly if there's a removal of the threat of
force in the Taiwan Straits, the more outspoken the voices of Taiwan
independence will be, and this does, it seems to me, create a certain
contradiction for American policy. We can persuade China to reduce the
threat of force, but this will only increase the voices for independence
in Taiwan, won't it?
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: As I said in my remarks, I think that the one-
China policy has served both countries -- I'm sorry, both entities very
well -- (laughter). It has served China. You can see the great
progress in China, but it served equally well in Taiwan. Not only has
there been a great march toward democracy, but there's been a great
march toward economic progress and economic prowess.
I see no reason to change a policy that's worked so well, both in Taiwan
and in China. I think I have some question about the premise of your
question. I'm sure you can find people both in Taiwan and China who
have some doubts about the one-China policy, but from the standpoint of
United States' interests, I think we're well served by having robust
unofficial relations with Taiwan and managing good relations with China.
That's served us well in the past.
Of course, what we need to examine here is what is in the long-term
interests of the United States. That's what our policy ought to be
based upon, has been based upon, will be based upon, and in those terms
I think the maintenance of the one-China policy continues to be sound
MR. CONABLE: Mr. Secretary, I understand we have time left for only two
QUESTION: We've for many years discussed China in the context of the
great strategic triangle involving previously the Soviet Union, now
Russia. With the active courtship that has been resumed between Russia
and China, are you satisfied that we have an open discourse with Moscow
to explain each other's intentions and plans in our several policies
And, secondly, are there issues on which you might be concerned that
Russia and China are headed toward collaboration that would prejudice
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: The triangular relationship, of course, is one
of great importance. The key point I would make is that it's not a
zero-sum game. If China and Russia have good relationships, that does
not somehow detract from our relationships with China and with Russia.
Indeed, I think the United States serves to benefit very greatly from
good relationships between China and Russia.
We need to put the Cold War behind us when we think about that and not
be obsessed with the notion that we should try to keep them from having
a satisfactory relationship. Good relationships between China and
Russia can help to avoid tensions and border skirmishes and even worse
than that in the Asia region, and I think it would be very conducive to
long-term American interests.
I have no question that we have a very active dialogue with Russia.
Certainly, part of that dialogue can be and will be on the subject of
China. For example, when President Clinton met with President Yeltsin
in Moscow recently, they talked about the importance of China joining
with us in the Comprehensive Test Ban, and I think those discussions
between President Yeltsin and President Ziang Jemin were useful to our
I see the triangular relationship as a plus, and I just urge we not be
rooted in the Cold War mentality that said that somehow if they had good
relationships with each other, that it would detract from United States
relationships with either one.
MR. CONABLE: Thank you. One last question.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, Norman Kaplan. At a recent meeting that I had
with a senior official of the Chinese People's Institute of Foreign
Affairs, I was told, "Why don't your leaders come here more often and
talk to us face to face about our problems." And he repeatedly said,
"On very sensitive issues, most of the issues that have been raised here
-- human rights, Taiwan, trade, the Chinese people are open to anything.
Why don't you make suggestions? Why don't you work with us to help us
resolve these problems?"
My question specifically is why don't the professional diplomats, such
as yourself, get much more deeply involved in resolving the current
trade dispute between our two countries before it gets out of hand and
results in the loss of China's friendship or cooperation or mutual
economic benefits, and the loss of China's cooperation with the free
world? Thank you.
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: There's been some interest in my travel
schedule, and it's noted that I was only in China once. (Laughter) I
think it's perhaps useful for me to point out that I have met 13 times
with Chinese Vice Premier and Foreign Minister Qian Qichen in the three
years that I've been in office in cities all over the world.
Indeed, with no disrespect to the Foreign Minister, I think I've met
with him more times than I've seen my grandchildren. (Laughter) So
I've been doing my part, and I will continue to do my part on meetings.
I did outline in my remarks an enhanced basis for contacts with China at
the highest levels, so I respond to your question positively on that
With respect to the trade issues that are now so much in the news, the
sanctions that were proposed this week are the beginning of a dialogue,
not the end of the dialogue. But I want to emphasize, the United States
has very strong interests.
One of the economic areas of the world where we are ahead is in
software, in just the kind of products that are protected by
intellectual property. Karen (Elliot House), I restrained myself
earlier, but I don't think I'll do so now. I was just flabbergasted to
see the leading economic paper in the United States say in its editorial
this morning that they didn't think IPR was very important. Somehow
they sympathized with the Chinese.
I don't sympathize when they break the 1995 agreement as flagrantly as
they have. I hope the one-month period we have for discussion will
produce an agreement that is satisfactory to us, that we can go forward
on. But the fact that last year's agreement was violated gives us a
good deal of concern.
But I'll be involved in those discussions in this next month, doing
everything that I can to try to help resolve that urgent issue, because
none of wants a trade war, none of us wants to see the escalation of the
oscillation back and forth between various kinds of sanctions. So we'll
work hard to settle that, but it won't be settled because it's
unimportant. It will be settled because it's extremely important to
American business, and I think it's one of our core issues. Thank you
MR. CONABLE: Thank you, Mr. Secretary.
To the top of this page