|PRESIDENT JIANG ZEMIN|
October 30, 1997
In an exclusive interview, the President of the People's Republic of China, Jiang Zemin, talks about human rights, the state of United States-China relations in the next century, Tibet, and Taiwan.
JIM LEHRER: Mr. President, welcome. President Clinton said yesterday that China was on the wrong side of history when it comes to the issue of human rights. Do you disagree?
|The wrong side of history?|
PRESIDENT JIANG ZEMIN: Different countries have different historic tradition, cultural tradition, and level of economic development. We recognize the universality of human rights. However, each country has its own national conditions, and human rights should also fit the respective national conditions of each country.
JIM LEHRER: What do you think he meant when he said wrong side of history?
PRESIDENT JIANG: He didn't spell it out actually. However, if one is to apply the democratic principle that you apply here in the United States, then he will -- we believe that not only in the United States but also in other countries in the world different concepts or alternatives to this issue should be allowed.
JIM LEHRER: Does it disturb you to be questioned as much as you have about human rights?
PRESIDENT JIANG: I'm not disturbed at all. And I believe that China does not feel that it has done anything wrong in the field of human rights. China has a tradition of 5,000 years, and different countries have their different history and culture.
The famous Chinese philosopher in ancient times, Confucius, once said isn't it a pleasure to have friends coming from afar. I'm coming to the United States for my visit upon the invitation of President Clinton. And I have already felt that I am welcomed by majority of the American people here. I have been given a warm welcome by President Clinton and I have also got the feeling of the friendship between our two peoples. Sometimes some noise came up, this is just natural.
JIM LEHRER: The noise did not bother you?
PRESIDENT JIANG: No.
JIM LEHRER: Why not?
PRESIDENT JIANG: Because, as I pointed out earlier, I feel pride and nothing to hide deep in my mind because I believe that the task for me is to ensure that the 1.2 billion Chinese people have adequate food and clothing. However, this is no easy task.
JIM LEHRER: But is it not true, sir, that demonstrations and protests like the ones that are going on here in the United States about your visit and about China would not be tolerated in China, that they would be dispersed or the people involved would be arrested?
PRESIDENT JIANG: First of all one should recognize that demonstrations have indeed occurred in China during different times and different periods. However, the Chinese people went on with this through their own means and their own forms.
As a friend of the American people, I believe that the United States should give serious consideration to the fact that our world is a rich and diverse one. Therefore, it's impossible to have only one mother in the world or to expect that people throughout the world would all follow the U.S. way of thinking because the difference in the different countries is so huge.
China is home to 22 percent of the world's total population. However, God has only given us 7 percent of the world's total arable land. Therefore, it's no easy task for us to feed so many people with these lands. But I'm very happy to see the development we have made in our agriculture. And, for the past few years, thanks to the help we got from the favorable climate, we also achieved bumper harvests.
JIM LEHRER: The impression from the news conference yesterday was that these differences over human rights between your country and the United States are deep and irreconcilable. Is that a correct reading?
PRESIDENT JIANG: As I pointed out earlier, it's just natural for our two countries to have some different views on this issue due to such different aspects that exist between the two countries. And the only approach to this is to work to promote mutual understanding between leaders of the two countries and peoples of the two countries so that we can gradually come closer to one another. And I am an optimist; therefore, I am full of confidence about that.
JIM LEHRER: The American press today described that news conference that you and President Clinton had yesterday as an unprecedented blunt exchange, almost a debate between the two leaders of the two most powerful nations in the world. Is that how you saw it?
PRESIDENT JIANG: I believe yesterday's press conference gave us an opportunity to express our views freely. Real good friends mean that they should treat each other with all sincerity and they will not hide any views from the other. (In English) Do you agree with that?
JIM LEHRER: But that's how you saw that yesterday, as a healthy exchange and not anything that hurt the relationship, you felt it helped the relationship?
PRESIDENT JIANG: My answer is yes, I don't think that it hurt it, the relationship. Instead our two countries, we two exchanged views in a very sincere manner. And, as far as the Chinese side is concerned, we have all along believed that we need to work to seek common ground while putting aside differences. And we need to look for as much common ground as possible.
|Finding a common ground.|
JIM LEHRER: What is the most important ground, the most important common ground between the United States and China as we sit here right now?
PRESIDENT JIANG: Now we are approaching the end of the 20th century and very soon we are going to bring in the next century. The United States is the most developed capitalist country in the world, whereas China is the biggest developing one in the world. And both sides share the responsibility to bring a world of peace, stability, and prosperity into the new century.
And I believe the two sides need to work to promote mutual understanding, expand common ground, strengthen cooperation, and build the future together.
JIM LEHRER: And the differences, the philosophical differences over human rights, over a way of governance, these things are not obstacles to this?
PRESIDENT JIANG: I don't believe they are insurmountable gap between us. And, as someone who studied natural science back in university, I am of the view that both nature and human society are rich, and, therefore, it's impossible that there is only one mother exists there.
And, as far as the development of the Chinese economy is concerned, ever since the 14th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party have been convened, we have been proposing that we need to work under the theory of Deng Xiaoping to achieve the establishment of a market economy under these socialism terms. And what we are working to build is a socialist market economy.
For instance, Germany is under the social market economy. And here in the United States it is the free capitalist economy. But this by no means stand in the way of the free exchange of trade between the two countries. Nor do we have the intention of exporting our socialism with Chinese characteristics to you here in the United States.
JIM LEHRER: Explain to the average American what the current form of government is in China, how would you describe it in American terms?
PRESIDENT JIANG: In our endeavor to develop our economy, we will work to achieve a diversified form of ownership, with public ownership playing the predominant role. Under this mechanism we have the public ownership, collective ownership, private ownership, and even individual ownership.
In addition there are also joint ventures and also solely overseas planted enterprises in China. Because at present the level of economic development in China is still somewhat backward. Therefore, we need to follow Deng Xiaoping's initiative to allow some parts and some people in China to become rich first before achieving common prosperity.
JIM LEHRER: I was referring more to the political system, the governing of the country from a political point of view. How would you describe that?
PRESIDENT JIANG: With the founding of The People's Republic of China, the constitution of new China has been formulated which stipulates that the National People's Congress is the supreme power-holding organ in China.
At the same time, we also have the multiparty cooperation system with the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party and we also have The Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference. And we have our state council which serves as the executive branch.
Naturally the Chinese words of our state council carry different meaning when it is translated literally into English, for in the United States we -- that means your State Department or the department in charge of foreign affairs.
And Premier Li Peng of the State Council is concurrently one of the members of the standing committee of the Politburo of the Chinese. And I am the President of the People's Republic of China.
JIM LEHRER: As a matter of history, do you agree with those who say Communism is a fading concept, a fading philosophy of government?
PRESIDENT JIANG: As the General Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party, ever since the day I joined the revolution, I've been cherishing the ideal to achieve Communism. And I don't believe this is a fading concept.
However, I believe it's fair to say that perhaps in the past people had too much ideals. And now we need to work under the initiative of Deng Xiaoping. And we should also follow the concept, which I would like to quote a Chinese saying which is a thousand mile journey need to start from the first step.
And, therefore, as I counted out in the report I delivered to the 15th Party Congress, we are now under the primary stage of Socialism. And, in the words of Mr. Deng Xiaoping, we are working to build a Socialism with Chinese characteristics. And this primary stage of Socialism would make also last for many years to come. And I am pragmatic about that.
JIM LEHRER: Could it possibly be too that there could be an evolving change in democracy in this human rights area that is so much trouble to the United States and others as well?
PRESIDENT JIANG: I believe most importantly there is a need for deep and mutual understanding about each other's situation. And dialogues can also be carried out on the basis of not interference in each other's internal affairs.
|Tibet and Taiwan .|
JIM LEHRER: Well, two specifics. Do you consider the appointment of a Tibet affairs coordinator at the U.S. State Department interference in your internal affairs?
PRESIDENT JIANG: Tibet is absolutely an inalienable part of Chinese territory. Therefore, this issue is an internal affair of China.
I read many books about your history. And back in middle school I also read articles written by Abraham Lincoln. What Lincoln did in this aspect was to emancipate slaves in the United States. And in China, in 1959, we began to work to abolish serfdom in Tibet.
And actually theocracy have been opposed by people throughout the world ever since the Renaissance period. And, therefore, what we did there was also that we worked to abolish theocracy in Tibet.
JIM LEHRER: So what the United States thinks about Tibet is irrelevant to China, correct?
PRESIDENT JIANG: I believe interest shown on this issue and many others are matters for yourself. However, as for the issues that are within the framework of the internal affairs of China, there are channels for us to gradually achieve the settlement of these matters.
JIM LEHRER: Taiwan fall into the same category?
PRESIDENT JIANG: It goes without saying that Taiwan is also a province of China and an inalienable part of China. Therefore, we will eventually achieve reunification of Taiwan with the motherland according to the principle of peaceful reunification and one country, two systems.
The concept of one country, two systems was first initiated by Deng Xiaoping for the settlement of the Taiwan question. However, this concept was put in place first in Hong Kong. And actually the Hong Kong issue and the Taiwan issue are of different categories.
The Hong Kong question is a question left over from history and it is between China and the United Kingdom; whereas, Taiwan is China's internal affair.
And, because of the civil war, the Koumintang down went to Taiwan and they left the mainland, and that is two --
I believe in this aspect this part of the history about your civil war here in the United States may be relevant. According to the historic books I read about that part of history and also the moving pictures such as the one called Gone with the Wind all show me that the civil war you fought with the leadership of Abraham Lincoln was for the purpose of uniting America together. And I believe actually you succeeded in doing so.
Therefore, the American people will understand the feeling of the Chinese people to see the reunification of Taiwan. And today I will only give you one example to show this. Back several years ago, I once met a delegation of about 700 compatriots coming from Taiwan to the mainland. And the second one on the list of the delegation happened to be my middle school classmate and I immediately recalled his name.
JIM LEHRER: Finally, Mr. President, as a matter of Chinese leadership history, Mao's legacy was that of a revolutionary, Deng Xiaoping's as a reformer. What would you like for your legacy to be, how would you like to be known?
PRESIDENT JIANG: I believe the only thing I would like to do is to continue to follow the Deng Xiaoping theory and to continue to move along the course of reform in opening up as initiated by Deng Xiaoping. However, as I also made it very clear in the report I delivered to the 15th Party Congress, we are Marxists. And we also believe that Marxism, the Mao Tse Tung thought, and the Deng Xiaoping theory are actually integrating with one another.
Karl Marx was a great social scientist. However, both Marx and Engels had not so much experience in the actual practice in that aspect. And Mao Tse Tung founded the People's Republic of China and the socialist system in China. And we also believe that great achievement was scored.
However, mistake was also made in these late years. And Deng Xiaoping summed up the historic experience and opened the cause of reform in opening up which I will continue to follow.
JIM LEHRER: Mr. President, thank you very much.
PRESIDENT JIANG: Thank you.