October 29, 1997
Amidst protests outside the White House, President Clinton and Chinese President Jiang met for two hours and then spoke to the international press. After this background report by Tom Bearden, Jim Lehrer talks with three China experts about the summit, the issues resolved and those still disputed.
TOM BEARDEN: As the Chinese president arrived at the White House this morning, the shouts of protesters across the street could faintly be heard until they were drowned out by the military band that played the national anthems of both countries. President Clinton welcomed Jiang, then used diplomatic language to make an oblique reference to two of the issues that divide the two countries: human rights and the environment.
A RealAudio version of this segment is available.
October 29, 1997:
A discussion on the meeting of Presidents Jiang and Clinton.
October 28, 1997:
Secretary of State Madeleine Albright previews the China summit.
October 27, 1997:
The upcoming summit with China has focused attention on its president, Jiang Zemin.
October 8, 1997:
China is constructing the Three Gorges Dam on the Yangtze River, but what will be the social and environmental costs?
July 29, 1997:
The Senate considers allegations that the Chinese government tried to influence the '96 elections through illegal campaign contributions.
June 24, 1997:
The House votes to maintain China's Most Favored Nation trading status, ignoring calls to impose sanctions for human rights violations.
May 19, 1997:
President Clinton says he wants to renew China's Most Favored Nation trading status for another year.
April 16, 1997:
Does China's leadership have a grand strategy to dominate Asia in the coming years and view the U.S. as a long term enemy?
March 27, 1997:
Sandy Berger discusses VP Al Gore's trip to China, and possible attempts by China to influence the 1996 elections.
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PRESIDENT CLINTON: For together we can lay the groundwork for a safer, better world, where peace prevails and prosperity grows, where we join to fight the threats that none of us can talk or alone; where all our children can enjoy clean air, clean water, and a healthy future; and where people are treated with dignity, free to express their beliefs and observe their faiths.
TOM BEARDEN: President Jiang made an equally oblique reference to his country's long-held insistence that its internal affairs are its own business, then abandoned his translator to end his speech in English.
PRESIDENT JIANG ZEMIN, People's Republic of China: Let us, the Chinese and the Americans, join hands and together with people all around the world work hard to bring about a new century of peace, stability, and prosperity. Allow me to thank you, Mr. President, once again, for your warm welcome. Thank you all!
TOM BEARDEN: The two presidents posed for photographers in the Oval Office before beginning their nearly two-hour meeting, the first Sino-U.S. summit in the U.S. since 1985. Meanwhile, the coalition of human rights, labor, environmental, and religious groups continued their protests. They displayed a replica of the "Goddess of Democracy" statue that had been carried by Chinese students during the Tiananmen Square demonstrations, which were brutally suppressed by the Chinese army in 1989.
SEN. RUSS FEINGOLD: The president of China is being honored today with an official state visit. But we are here at this rally to remind the world that it is an honor his government has not yet earned.
RICHARD GERE, actor: And real heroes, the dissidents, the people who have been tortured and have escaped and are speaking here tonight, they are the representatives of that 1,200,000,000 Chinese, and the 6,000,000 Tibetans who are still living in slavery in Tibet. This is a very solemn event. At the same time it's very energized because it's about action.
BETTE RAO LORD, author: Truth tellers still rot in jails; worshipers still fear a knocking at the door; Tibetans still vanish; labor camps still abound; mothers and fathers, sons and daughters still wait to go home. Some day memories of Tiananmen Square will no longer haunt our conscience.
TOM BEARDEN: This afternoon both presidents held a news conference, where, as expected, they announced that they had reached agreement on the sale of U.S. nuclear reactor technology to China for civilian purposes.
PRESIDENT CLINTON: President Jiang and I agree that the United States and China share a strong interest in stopping the spread of weapons of mass destruction, and other sophisticated weaponry in unstable regions, and rogue states, notably Iran. I welcome the steps China has taken and the clear assurances it has given today to help prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons and related technology. On the basis of these steps and assurances I agreed to move ahead with the U.S.-China agreement for cooperation concerning the peaceful uses of nuclear energy. It will allow our companies to apply for licenses to sell equipment to Chinese nuclear power plants subject to U.S. monitoring. This agreement is a win-win-win. It serves America's national security, environmental, and economic interests.
TOM BEARDEN: Later, President Jiang was asked point blank if he had any regrets about what happened in Tiananmen Square.
PRESIDENT JIANG ZEMIN: (speaking through interpreter) The political disturbance that occurred at the turn of spring and summer in 1989 seriously disrupted social stability and jeopardized state security. Therefore, the Chinese government had to take necessary measures, according to law, to quickly resolve the matter to ensure that our country enjoy stability and that our reform and opening up proceed smoothly. The Communist Party of China and the Chinese government have long drawn correct the conclusion on this political disturbance, and facts have also proved that if a country with an over 1.2 billion population does not enjoy social and political stability, it cannot possibly have the situation of reform and opening up that we're having today.
PRESIDENT CLINTON: To answer your question: First, on the general point, I think it should be obvious to everyone that we have very different view of the meaning of the events of Tiananmen Square. I believe that what happened and the aftermath and the continuing reluctance to tolerate political dissent has kept China from politically developing the level of support in the rest of world that otherwise would have been developed. I also believe that, as I said in my opening statement, that over the long run the societies of the 21st century that will do best will be those that are drawing their stability from their differences, that out of this whole harmony of different views there is a coherence of loyalty to the nation. Because everyone has their say, it enables people to accept, for example, the results of the elections that they don't agree with, and so we have a different view. The depth of view in the United States, I think, is nowhere better exemplified than in the so-called "Tiananmen" sanctions. We are the only nation in the world, as far as I know, that still has sanctions on the books as a result of events eight years ago.
PRESIDENT JIANG ZEMIN: (speaking through interpreter) Our two countries have different geographical locations, and we are also thousands of miles apart geographically. We also have different historic and cultural tradition, different level of economic development and different values; therefore, I believe it is just natural for our two countries to hold different views on some issues.
PRESIDENT CLINTON: Let me--I just have to say one other thing. First of all, the United States recognizes that on so many issues China is on the right side of history, and we welcome it. But on this issue we believe the policy of the government is on the wrong side of history. There is, after all, now a universal declaration of human rights.
TOM BEARDEN: President Jiang will attend a formal state dinner at the White House later tonight. Protesters will hold their own "stateless dinner" at the same time.