May 17, 1996
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Two other perspectives now on the U.S. and China. They come from Brent Scowcroft, who was national security adviser to Presidents Ford and Bush. He is now head of the Forum for International Policy, a non-profit research institution, and from Jeffrey Garten, who was Undersecretary of Commerce in the Clinton administration until last year. He is now dean at the Yale School of Management. Thank you both for being with us. Gen. Scowcroft, did you hear anything in what the Secretary said, or--I know you've read the speech, anything new which might put relations back on track?
BRENT SCOWCROFT, Former National Security Adviser: I think the one, the one new thing was what was Sec. Christopher mentioned as new, and that is the suggestion for cabinet level talks and summit meetings. There has been a great gulf between the United States and China on, on that, and that would, I think, be very, very welcome.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: How about anything else? Do you think that more was needed?
BRENT SCOWCROFT: Uh, well, I think it was a good speech. I think when he said one China, there's an explanation needed. Most--my guess is half the members of Congress have no idea what the Shanghai communique was, what it meant, what it replaced and so on, that there needs to be some explanation there.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Remind us.
BRENT SCOWCROFT: Yes.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Remind us.
BRENT SCOWCROFT: Well, it was--we had been supporting Taiwan. As a matter of fact, we had a security treaty with Taiwan. We sat down with the Chinese and we said both Taiwan and China agree that there's only one China. They disagree about who ought to run it, but we agree there's only one China, we don't dispute that, and that has been the framework of our policy, of Taiwan's policy, and China, and has not been changed. Well, any time Taiwan, for example, starts to act as if it's independent, that upsets the Chinese, but in order to understand why it does, you have to go back to the origins of it.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Mr. Garten, the speech was clearly aimed at smoothing the waters a little bit. How serious do you think the breach is right now between the United States and China?
JEFFREY GARTEN, Yale School of Management: Well, I think that, umm, we are in a very fragile situation. Over the last couple of years I think the Clinton administration has tried very, very hard to engage China as Secretary Christopher said. I think they made an extraordinary effort to balance all the competing interests, but we find ourselves right now with a series of events which could really rock the relationship, the threatened sanctions on intellectual property rights, which are perfectly understandable, but nevertheless could really end in a, in a major trade fiction, the upcoming debate on Most Favored Nation normalized trade status, and beyond that, the whole question of China's entry into the World Trade Organization, which may not seem like much in the United States but is an overwhelming issue for China, which is really trying to get into the middle of the trade system.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Plus all of the problems that have happened over the past year.
JEFFREY GARTEN: That's right.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: What do you think is the source of the difficulty?
JEFFREY GARTEN: Well--
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: And I know there's not one, but if you had to name one or two, what would they be?
JEFFREY GARTEN: Well, I think one is that China is in the process of emerging on the world scene as a major power. And we're not used to that. This is the biggest of the big emerging markets, and I think it's going to change the face of the world economy and world politics. And any time in history a country has emerged that way, there has been tremendous disruptions, and I think we're seeing the ripples. Secondly, we don't understand China as well as we would like to, but just to give a specific example. We have a huge problem on the intellectual property rights.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Music CD's--
JEFFREY GARTEN: Right.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: --and videos--
JEFFREY GARTEN: Piracy, the illegal sales of our products. But what is harder to, to recognize is that China has had no tradition of protecting intellectual property rights, and it wasn't very long ago that they didn't even know what that word meant. And they are in the process of trying to set rules and set laws and enforce those laws, but they are where we were well over a hundred years ago. We understandably want them to come up to our standard right away, and that's logical, but they have a long way to travel, and they think they have traveled quite a bit. So there's a tremendous difference in perception about where they should be and how fast they can go.
BRENT SCOWCROFT: I think one of the problems is, is the very term "engagement." The Secretary emphasized that's our policy, and I believe he's very sincere in it, but if you walk, go around all of the functional areas where we intersect with the Chinese, it is confrontation in each and every place. And engagement seems to be a way by which we try to change Chinese institutions or practices.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Domestic institutions.
BRENT SCOWCROFT: And that is not--nowhere was there mentioned when, when the Secretary said, you know, we want to talk about other things--he mentioned narcotics, mentioned non-proliferation, he didn't mention security issues. He didn't mention our respective visions of Asia and how it should develop and so on. These are the kinds of things that are fundamentally missing. And when we deal only with the kinds of issues on which we do have these kinds of differences, the relationship tends to disintegrate, and the Chinese come to the conclusion that we're not engaging, we're trying to contain them and prevent them from emerging into the world status that they think they deserve.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: What do you think about that?
JEFFREY GARTEN: Well, I agree with a lot of that. I think that we, we say engagement, and it has a positive connotation, but a huge amount of our policy is based on scolding and threatening and using sanctions. And I think it's very important to acknowledge that from the administration's standpoint and the standpoint of a lot of Americans this is the way to press China into the world system.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: On not only economic issues, which we've mentioned--
JEFFREY GARTEN: Right.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: --but human rights.
JEFFREY GARTEN: But human rights.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Yeah.
JEFFREY GARTEN: And, and almost on some of those security issues of nuclear sales. But what concerns me is that this is a major power, China, with a very deep history, a very proud country, one that under any circumstance is going to emerge I think along with us as the two most important countries for the next century. And I don't think there's any precedent in history where one country constantly threatening another and having a viable relationship and having real positive engagement. Now, I think that Sec. Christopher advanced the cause considerably today because the idea of having more high-level meetings, particularly if there are the summits and cabinet meetings, that's a big difference from what's happened in the last couple of years. And I agree with, with the general that we have had a gap in communications that surely is the starting point. It isn't the end, though, because you can talk all you want, you can negotiate, but as long as the underlying perceptions of where the two countries are is so different, I think we're in for a very difficult period, regardless of the party in power, regardless of the administration. And the kind of speech that Sec. Christopher gave today is very, very important because I think there hasn't been enough public awareness as to the stakes here.
BRENT SCOWCROFT: But the administration needs to start practicing. The call for dialogue is important, but the President has just been to Asia. He went to Seoul. He went to Tokyo. Then he flew around China to go to Russia, where one of the most important topics was a nuclear test ban. The big tester is China. Now, this sends an enormous signal. Why didn't he stop in China? Certainly what's been going on in China is no worse than what's been going on in Chechnya, and yet, he's prepared to stand there while Yeltsin tells all these stories about Chechnya, which simply aren't, aren't true. So the administration has to have a different cast of mind about China.
JEFFREY GARTEN: I'd like to just, just indicate that I think that this is very complicated in the sense that the administration came into office with a very clear vision that trade and economic issues were going to occupy a much higher level in our overall foreign policy. Now that, I think that was exactly right. I think it was right then and it's right for the future. But this raises very difficult issues with a country like China, which is emerging as a major trading power and which does not have the history of open trade and the rule of law when it comes to trade so that I agree with Brent. I think that it's possible to point to inconsistencies and also to things that might have been done that weren't, but I think we have to recognize that as long as trade is so important to both countries, umm, we're going to have new kinds of foreign policy issues that we haven't had to deal with before, and it's simply not going to be smooth sailing, no matter who is in office.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Well, Mr. Garten and Gen. Scowcroft, thank you so much for being with us.