NEWSMAKER: SAMUEL BERGER
AUGUST 14, 1997
President Clinton's National Security Adviser, Samuel Berger, has just returned from a three-day trip to China. He discusses human rights, emerging markets in China, and Chinese arms build-ups with Charles Krause.
CHARLES KRAUSE: Samuel Berger has just returned from a three-day trip to China. He was there to discuss preparations for a summit meeting to be held this fall in Washington between President Clinton and China's president, Jiang Zemin. It'll be the first state visit by a Chinese President to the U.S. since the Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989. Mr. Berger, welcome. Is there any question now that the summit will, in fact, take place?
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SAMUEL BERGER, National Security Adviser: No. The summit will take place in late October of this year and then President Clinton will visit China next year.
CHARLES KRAUSE: Now, you had a chance while in China earlier this week to talk with the Chinese leadership, including President Jiang. Tell me, what were they saying? Why is this summit so important to them?
SAMUEL BERGER: Well, I think the summit is important for both countries. This is an enormously important relationship. The way in which China evolves over the next 10 years as the largest country in the world will have an enormous impact on our future, whether it's the environment, or whether it's non-proliferation. So I think for both countries engaging with each other so that we can expand the areas of cooperation and deal forthrightly with our differences is extremely important.
CHARLES KRAUSE: Now, relations between the two countries seemed to have improved fairly significantly over the last year or so. Why is that? What's changed?
SAMUEL BERGER: I think that we have broadened the range of our discussion with China and tried to engage them in not only a discussion of specific subjects that are problems or specific areas in which we can cooperate but a broader strategic dialogue. And, after all, there's hardly a problem; there's no problem in Asia for which China is not an important player and problems beyond Asia. So we're engaged with them now in a larger dialogue about issues from Korea to Cambodia, as well as the specific bilateral issues in our relationship, whether it is getting them help--encouraging them to sign the comprehensive test ban treaty as we did last year, or areas where we have problems, such as human rights.
Human rights tops the agenda.
CHARLES KRAUSE: Well, let's take a look at some of these issues that are on the agenda, I guess starting with human rights then. What did you tell them? Did you raise the issue, for example, of religious freedom while you were there?
SAMUEL BERGER: I did and the broader issue of human rights. I made clear that this continues to be a very important issue for our administration and for the American people and that even as they grow and expand and the daily lives of the Chinese people improve rather significantly, as they have over the last 10 years, with a greater degree of choice, and where they live and where they work, still there has been very little, if any, improvement in the political rights. And political dissent is still not enjoyed in China. And I've said to them very clearly this is an area where we disagree and we would hope to see greater improvement on the part of the Chinese.
CHARLES KRAUSE: Do you expect them to take any specific steps before the summit to indicate that they may be listening to what you're saying?
SAMUEL BERGER: Well, I would hope on a continuing basis to take steps, both individual steps and steps in terms of a process of embracing human rights and a process by which we can engage with them on specific matters over time. This is an important issue. It's not the only issue in our relationship, but it certainly is an important issue in our relationship.
CHARLES KRAUSE: A last question on this issue, but, you know, there's been this debate, obviously, about what the United States can do and can't do and should do and shouldn't do with regard to human rights in China. From your perspective, what kind of leverage do we really have?
SAMUEL BERGER: Well, I think there are two ways in which we need to hopefully affect the evolution in China. Over time engagement with China and China's engagement with the world economically and in every other way I believe has a liberalizing effect. The fact that Chinese people now watch television stations from across the world, the fact that they have E-mails and faxes, all of those things make it harder for the central government to maintain control. But even beyond that, I think we have to continually continue to speak up for the people who are being denied their human rights, even if it doesn't have an immediate impact, because that reflects the values we believe in. And over the long-term, hopefully it has an effect.
Will China join the World Trade Organization?
CHARLES KRAUSE: Let's take a look at trade, which is another important part of the relationship. The Chinese have been wanting to join the World Trade Organization in negotiating with us over that. Do you see any--was any progress made while you were there?
SAMUEL BERGER: This was not a negotiating meeting. This was not a meeting in which we were talking about the tariff on this product or that product. We have made it clear to the Chinese that we are--we would welcome their membership in the WTO; that we are prepared to negotiate with them very seriously on that. Their offers so far have not been adequate. They've not been comprehensive. They have to come into the WTO on commercially acceptable terms. They can't be admitted to the WTO simply because they're a big country. And I made that clear to them.
So I think over time we will make progress. I don't know whether it will be in the short-term because for China to do the kinds of things that it must do requires it to do some economic restructuring internally, which are going to have some fairly significant domestic effects as they take on, for example, the state enterprises. And I think they have to come to grips with that. And as they do that, it will be, I think it'll follow, WTO membership, and greater market access will be easier for them to do.
CHARLES KRAUSE: Would it, though, be an issue that would be discussed when the two presidents meet in October?
SAMUEL BERGER: I expect it will be discussed. And I think that we ought to try to use the summit to give impetus to a whole series of issues. But I would not expect any agreements certainly at the summit or any dramatic breakthroughs. I think this is going to take a while for the Chinese as they come to grips with the kinds of market opening measures that are necessary from our perspective for them to join the WTO.
Keeping an eye on China's military build-up.
CHARLES KRAUSE: How about the Chinese arms buildup? There have been a number of intelligence reports, at least reported in the press in the United States, suggesting that the Chinese are modernizing, are improving their weaponry, even have plans to build aircraft carriers and nuclear submarines. Is that of concern? Did that come up in your discussions?
SAMUEL BERGER: There's been some modernization of the Chinese military. It's from a fairly low base. I mean, their military equipment, by and large, is 50's and 60's vintage. And they are doing some modernizing. I don't think at this point it is threatening to their neighbors. But obviously it's something that we'll watch very carefully.
CHARLES KRAUSE: How about arms sales to countries like Iran and Pakistan?
SAMUEL BERGER: Well, this is an important area. There has been here some progress and some areas where we are not satisfied. For example, on the progress side, as I said, they've stopped nuclear testing; they joined the non-proliferation treaty. They indicated last year and we have every evidence that they're complying that they would no longer provide any assistance to unsafe guarded nuclear facilities. So I think there's been some progress. We still have concerns. We have concerns with, for example, some of their arms sales to Iran. And I raised this with them when I was there.
CHARLES KRAUSE: But again these are not issues that will preclude the summit from going forward?
SAMUEL BERGER: No. These are not issues that will preclude the summit from going forward. They may be issues that will be discussed at the summit. A summit is an opportunity to engage the Chinese both to expand our cooperation but also to deal very candidly with areas of difference and see whether we can make some progress. And I think the fact that we are moving towards regular summits between the President of the United States and the president of China is a healthy thing, just as we now have regular summits with the president of Russia, so that each summit is not such a spectacular event. I think as we regularize this relationship over time we will continue to make progress.
What will China be like in 30 years?
CHARLES KRAUSE: As you know, there's been a debate in this country and elsewhere about China's intentions, about whether it will emerge as the great superpower in the 21st century. What's your view on this as you prepare for a summit and go forward?
SAMUEL BERGER: Well, I think it's a very important question. I think how China evolves will have an enormous impact on the next generation. Whether it evolves increasingly towards the international community economically in terms of joining non-proliferation regimes, in terms of adhering to the universal human rights standards on the one hand, or whether it will evolve in a more chauvinistic or nationalistic direction is one of the great questions that will determine the next decade and the next thirty years. I think that we can influence that choice. Ultimately, it will be made by the Chinese, but if we're engaged with the Chinese and if we are pulling them into these regimes, I think we have a better chance of influencing that direction than if we were to turn our back on the Chinese or not talk to them.
CHARLES KRAUSE: And a last question. You've met President Jiang now and you've met the other leadership. Tell me, what is your sense of them? Are they likely to be the kinds of people, are they the kinds of leaders who are interested in this kind of evolution, or not?
SAMUEL BERGER: Well, President--they're on the verge of what they call their 15th party congress. Every four years they have this, and it will be very important in terms of determining the leadership for China over the next period. I think President Jiang will emerge from that as continuing to be President, perhaps in an enhanced position. President Jiang is somebody who knows a great deal about the West. I think he likes the West. But he obviously has China's interests uppermost in his mind. But I think he is somebody that we will be working with over the next several years as we try to integrate China into the international community.
CHARLES KRAUSE: Well, thank you very much.
SAMUEL BERGER: Thank you.