Excerpts from FRONTLINE's interviews with David Lampton and Kurt Campbell, two China specialists;
Sen. Fred Thompson (R-Tenn.), a China critic; Yang Jiechi, China's ambassador to the U.S.; Dr. Henry Kissinger, a former
U.S. secretary of state and a longtime China observer; and Zhu Bangzao,
spokesperson for the Chinese Foreign Ministry.
He is director of China studies at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced
How can America be friendly with a country which is friendly with so many of
America's enemies -- Iran, Iraq, Milosevic, even Pakistan, when they were
selling nuclear material?
First of all, our relations with China have been, and will remain for the
foreseeable future to be mixed, to be a complex combination of cooperation and
contention. So the first thing is, don't ever expect a kind of nirvana of
peaceful, cooperative productive U.S.-China relations. I can't see that.
We're always going to have a complex mix of compatible interests and
conflictional interests. And really, if you think about it, how could it be
different? We have a far different history, far different political system. The
Chinese have an aggrieved experience with the West and the United States --
lots of resentment. And China is still a very poor country.
So I think we have to sort of get off this notion that its going to be easy to
deal with the Chinese -- it's not. And the Chinese, incidentally, don't think
it's easy to deal with us. But be that as it may, we have important interests
with the Chinese, and we have to manage this relationship so we can get the
maximally productive relationship, the most help we need on the most urgent
problems. And we're going to have to subordinate some of other aggrievances.
The atrocity of the World Trade and Pentagon bombings -- how's that changed
relations between America and China?
It certainly depends on how the Chinese respond.... If they're seen to be
basically positive, this represents a chance to improve U.S.-China relations
that hasn't existed since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, and indeed
since 1989, with the Tianamen massacre.
Since 1991 and 1989, China and the United States have not really been able to
cooperate very significantly in the security area. If we are cooperating in the
security area, this tends to be an area of cooperation that is so important to
the United States that we tend to not clutter the agenda of bilateral relations
with lots of other secondary issues; issues that are very important in this
country, but nonetheless are not of the same magnitude and urgency of the
security concerns. If the Chinese play their cards right and are cooperative,
we could see better relations.
How important is the economy at the moment? How important is that in the
relationship with China?
It's potentially very important. First of all, China, unknown to many
Americans, is our fourth-largest trade partner. There are certainly probably
300,000, 400,000, 500,000 American jobs that are directly dependent to exports
to China, and there are some of our most competitive high tech sector.
Obviously, given the state of our own economy, we don't need more unemployment.
But China's economic importance -- particularly to the United States, but the
global economy -- hasn't been recognized in another way, and that is
inter-dependence. Let me just give you a fact that I think is just
demonstrative of a larger reality. Eighty-seven percent of the motherboards of
computers in the world are made in Taiwan. And of that 87 percent of the brains
of a computer, the motherboards made in Taiwan, 50 percent are now made in the
PRC, and that industry is even moving more rapidly towards the PRC. So in
certain key areas, China's component manufacturing is absolutely key to a
strategic global industry.
So whether you look at it narrowly, or in terms of jobs, China is essential.
Also, China is the most rapidly growing major economy in the world today. And
heaven knows, with Japan lagging and Europe's economy stagnating and the
Americans hovering near a recession, the world needs all the center of growth
that it can get. So I think we are going to recognize that we have a very great
interest in China's prosperity.
So that's one reason to get on with China?
I think the president now has both strategic military reasons to try to have a
decent, productive relationship with China. He has economic reasons and,
frankly, we have great cultural reasons. Some of the most innovative
intelligent students in American universities today come from abroad, and many
of those come from China. So we have cultural reasons, economic reasons and
Does that suddenly mean that China is no longer a threat?
... You can't predict how China is going to behave in the future. But I think
what we can say for now, and for the next ten years is, all Chinese I'm
familiar with -- except a few modest interest groups -- are devoted to the
proposition that the Chinese first need to economically modernize. The
challenge to America is to make it clear to the Chinese people that the world
is supportive of them becoming more prosperous and having a more dignified
place in the world; that the United States does not stand in the way of that;
and create an environment that's going to create the incentives where the
Chinese want to play by the rules, where they feel like they're a member of the
The odds are very great that, if China is able to continue to move in the
direction it's going and that we are basically receptive to the aspirations of
the Chinese people... I think we'll always have difficulty in dealing with
China. But it need not be the kind of experience we faced with the rise of
Japan or Germany.
There does seem to be an anti-American feeling in China?
The way I would put it, there's a deep ambivalence about Americans. Chinese
leaders send their sons and daughters in great numbers here to study. Many of
their sons and daughters are living long term in the United States, opening
businesses. I think there's great respect for American technological and
financial wizardry, great admiration. The Chinese characters for the United
States are the "Beautiful Country." The traditional name for San Francisco is
"Old Gold Mountain." There's this image of the United States as a beautiful,
powerful, clever nation and I think that's the dominant sentiment -- for the
United States, in a sense, to be a role model for China.
But when the Chinese define you as a teacher or a role model, they expect the
teacher to be deferential and considerate of the student. And so, often,
Chinese people see the United States acting in what they believe is an
arrogant, thoughtless way that basically is designed to keep China down. So
there's this admiration that competes with this sense of victimhood, this sense
of "You don't respect us," sort of what we call the Rodney
Dangerfield-"I-don't-get-no-respect" kind of view of the United States. So I
think it's deeply ambivalent. But, on balance, the prevailing sentiment is very
The Republican senator has been a critic of China over the years.
With President Bush's visit to China ... what should he be trying to
The president, I hope, will build bridges where he can and draw lines where he
must. ... That's what our country has to do with regard to China. Clearly, the
Chinese know that we want a good relationship with them. On the other hand,
there's some fundamental conflicts of interest that we have with them on human
rights, on their proliferation activities, Taiwan. I think the name of the game
is going to have to be to avoid incidents until all this plays out, and we find
out whether or not we're going to be dealing with a friendly competitor or an
enemy. I don't think we know that yet. We're hoping for the best, but we need
to prepare for the worst.
What makes you think you might be dealing with an enemy?
Because they're such a large country; because they potentially have such a
tremendous economy; because they are rapidly building up their military;
because they have over 300 missiles pointed toward Taiwan, who we have
obviously a close relationship and commitment to. Because they're going to be
undergoing a change in leadership, nobody knows what that's going to bring
about. They have tremendous potential social problems. Outside the major
cities, if there was a major disruption, we don't know what that would bring
about. It might be worse for the United States than better.
So there are lots of things that could happen that could create difficulty,
both in terms of incidents like the Hainan airplane incident, which is
relatively small, compared to something like Taiwan and that potential or
something major, such as a commitment of their ... to prepare to engage for a
conflict. Like there are those in their country -- from their writings, you can
tell in rather senior positions -- who think conflict with the United States is
inevitable. We cannot assume that that it will not happen, so it's a delicate
balance that we've got to make. But we have no choice but to make it.
Could you spell out for us how dangerous do you think the Chinese military
They don't have to be a threat sufficient to invade the United States. They
just have to be a threat sufficient to go against our interests. ... Certainly
if Taiwan comes up again, most people think that they're not in a position, for
example, to invade Taiwan tomorrow. Obviously they could unleash devastation on
Taiwan through the air. But they're behind the curves pretty substantially. The
question is not today; the question is tomorrow, and the next day and the day
As everyone knows, they think in long terms, and we think in short terms,
usually. And the fact of the matter is that they could be as big an economy as
ours before long. That would allow them to continue their military budget
increase. They are now at 17 percent, so you know it's substantially more than
that. Nobody really knows how much the increase is, but it's going to continue
to increase. They are making great strides in technology. They are getting
technology from all over the world including the United States -- something
that I'm very concerned about. I think we've been blind to that. We've assisted
them in ways that we shouldn't be assisting. We're concerned about what's going
out the back door in terms of theft of sensitive nuclear technology. But we've
been negligent in terms of what we're giving them out the front door in terms
of our trade and dual-use items -- things that can be used for military
Already the United States has imposed sanctions on China for nuclear
material getting to Pakistan.
And lifted them.
Had lifted them. Why did they suddenly lift them?
For new agreements. The history is that they proliferate. We catch them, we
impose sanctions. They promise to be better, we lift sanctions. And they go
back and proliferate more. That's been the history. We've got to get more
serious with them and we've got to draw the line. Every foreign policy of every
major nation involves reason, common sense, carrots and sticks. You can't have
all carrots and no sticks. You can't substitute promise after promise with
known violators of prior promises at the expense of protecting ourselves or
setting an example.
Do you think that China maybe [is] no longer a communist state, but things
have changed so dramatically that actually the Communist Party will wither
China and the United States are engaged in a major gamble with each other. The
United States is gambling that, with increased engagement and especially with
increased trade, it'll become a more liberal society and more open society.
China, on the other hand, is betting that they can open up to the extent
necessary to promote their economic prosperity. They're smart enough to know
that a certain amount of capitalism is a good thing and they've got to go in
that direction to feed 1.3 billion people. But that they can open up to that
extent, but not to the extent they lose control -- and control is the name of
It's not communism in the sense of the Soviet Union, where they're trying to
convince the world, as it were, of a doctrine. It's more a matter of they're
keeping control, and they will do what is necessary to keep the communist
regime there in control. So they're betting that they can keep that control.
It's going to be some years, probably, before we see who's right. In the
meantime, the name of the game in terms of diplomacy and national security is
to try to keep incidents from happening until we reach that point that throw us
off-kilter and get us into trouble with one another and make the world more
dangerous. ... I'm willing to take that gamble. I think we've got a fair chance
of winning that gamble.
But it's not at all clear that that's the way that it's going to turn out ...It
very well could be, if they can open up somewhat, do better than they've done
in the past but still arrest American citizens at will, proliferate weapons of
mass destruction and be an imminent threat to our friend across the Taiwan
He is senior vice president and director of the International Security Program
at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
...China's one of those countries that has very complex feelings towards the
United States. They like our music. They like our movies. They like much about
what the United States stands for. At the same time, they are deeply
dissatisfied with certain aspects of American foreign policy. Many Chinese
believe, fundamentally, that the United States is set on destabilizing China,
or at least trying to stop China from reaching its full potential.....
How important is China in the field of America's foreign policy?
It is critical commercially. It is the only strong economy in Asia today, in
fact, its one of the only growing economies in the world today. ...
Also...there is a worry that if China used its military power or its growing
political influence to undermine U.S. national interests, we could have a very
significant problem in Asia over the horizon.
What sort of problem?
Although China has traditionally never been in a traditional sense an
expansionist power ... they clearly have interests that could potentially run
counter to the United States. ... Some have suggested, as China grows, they
would be increasingly uncomfortable with the large role that the United States
plays in Asia, and that, in a sense, the region wouldn't be big enough for the
both of them. America's challenge, and indeed, the challenge of the world, is
to find a way that these two great powers can find a way to work together to
preserve peace and stability and to preserve prosperity -- no small feat, in
the current context.
People within the Bush administration staff, as well as others, seem to
think China is a military threat. Is that true?
... there is a raging debate, sometimes in full view, sometimes behind the
scenes, about how to conceptualize China. From my perspective, the challenge
for the United States is that China will represent many things. It will be a
challenge in foreign policy and security. It will be a challenge and an
opportunity economically. And so it is likely to encompass all of these things.
He is China's ambassador to the United States.
...We think that China-American relationship should move forward in the
interests of both sides. But China is a country which suffered a lot in the
past. China country, like the United States, jealously guards its own
sovereignty and territory, integrity and dignity. And if people understand
these principles that they apply not only to the United States, but to China
and to other countries, then they can understand the emotions of the Chinese
people on this issue.
How important are economic trade relationships with the United
I think this relationship is important for both sides. We're really in the same
boat, because United States is the largest economy in the world and we do
export a fair amount to the United States. So this market is important for us,
and besides, we believe that the American business community and the American
people are supportive of this relationship, because the China market is also
important for the United States. And they get inexpensive labor there, but good
quality products. So that's why there is continuous American investment in
China. And United States has been exporting more to China. For instance, in the
first half of this year, their export to China has increased by about 17.9
percent, and that's very good.
But in Congress, as we know, there are people who see the China threat.
I would like to, in summary, point out some basic facts. First is that the
Chinese economic system is dynamic. According to IMF, China will be able to
maintain this 7 percent to 8 percent growth rate in quite a few years to come.
Second, the Chinese people are living much better, and they support the
government's policy, both the foreign policy and the domestic policy. Third,
you have a very effective leadership in China, dedicated to the people and to
the interests of mankind. Fourth, you look at China's neighbors. Our neighbors
all like to develop their relations with China. And people want to see any
problem between China and United States ... actually when there were problems
in the first half of the year, some of their leaders came to this country to
urge the American leaders to have better relations with China. And fifth,
China's policy is to develop good relations with the United States to cooperate
on issues which touch on peace, prosperity, stability in the world, and in the
Asian Pacific region.
So I think we are in a new era. People should have a new concept, and I believe
that the American people know even better now where the real threats come
He is a spokesperson for the Chinese Foreign Ministry.
I think we should recognize that China and the United States both want to
improve and develop their relationship, but there are some sensitive elements
in the Sino-U.S. relationship, which will sometimes lead to certain
disturbances. Over recent years, you know that both parties in the U.S., the
Republicans and the Democrats, have both had the same policy towards developing
and improving Sino-U.S. relations.
Since being elected, even the Bush administration has shown a positive attitude
to the further development of bilateral relations. For instance, they have said
that they recognize the importance of the relationship with China, that China
should not be regarded as an enemy, that the U.S. should avoid hostility and
further confrontations with China; and that they wish to see constructive
relations between the two countries. We take all this very seriously.
On the other hand, frankly speaking, there are also differences of opinion
between the two countries. The important question is how to handle these
differences. No one should take a tough attitude just because these differences
create problems. That will not contribute to the solution of the problems.
Basically, I think what we should focus on are the major common interests
between the two countries, which are important and wide-ranging, for instance,
to safeguard peace and stability in the Asian Pacific region and to improve
world economic development and prosperity. Also, we both want a better
environment and less pollution. We both want to fight against transnational
crimes, etc. In those areas, we have important common interests, and we should
cooperate further in those fields. ...
Relations in trade and other areas are improving. We have also had much more
consultation on international issues.
But there are problems, too, like Taiwan non-cooperation -- the fact that the
United States has violated its commitments, exerted pressure on us, and damaged
China's interests. We are strongly against all of this, and have made our views
known very clearly. ...
There are clearly elements within the Bush administration, and within
Congress, who see China as the next great enemy for America.
We think China is not an enemy of the United States, and neither is the United
States an enemy of China. I said just now that the Bush administration has
already stated clearly that China is not the enemy of the U.S., and this view
was also expressed by the secretary of State, Mr. Powell, during his recent
visit to China.
However, U.S. arms sales to Taiwan are quite another matter. They totally
violate the promises made by the United States. We know that under the August
17 communiqué, there are clear provisions in this regard, in which the
U.S. undertakes that it does not seek a long-term policy of arms sales to
The U.S. government also undertook not to increase its arms sales to Taiwan,
either in quantity or in quality, based on the levels of recent years since the
establishment of diplomatic relations. That should lead to a gradual reduction
in sales over a period of time, which would eventually solve the problem
However, what the U.S. did in reality was not what it said. In recent years,
U.S. arms sales to Taiwan have increased both in quality and in quantity. So
this shows who is really to blame here. What the United States has done is
interfered in China's internal affairs, undermined China's sovereignty, and
most importantly, added further to serious tensions across the Taiwan Strait.
At the same time, they have further increased the difficulty of achieving a
peaceful resolution in Taiwan....
Therefore, we hope that the United States will come to a better understanding
of the sensitivity of the Taiwan issue, and the damage done by their arms
sales. They should change their course, stop selling arms to Taiwan, and seek a
proper solution to this issue. This will improve the chances of a peaceful
resolution in Taiwan, and improve long-term Sino-U.S. relations. ...
So what will China do if President Bush decides, despite your views, to go
ahead and deploy theatre and nuclear missile shields?
To ensure the safety of China's own sovereignty and territorial integrity, we
must ensure that our nuclear arsenal is effective. We are opposed to the
theatre missile defense system, especially the fact that the U.S. wants to
include Taiwan in the TMD system. Our position on this is clear-cut.
Just to be clear, does that mean that if President Bush goes ahead, you will
need more nuclear missiles?
China will not enter into an arms race, but we will ensure the effectiveness of
our nuclear weapons. ...
He is a former U.S. secretary of state and a longtime China observer.
So, is there "one China?" Is Taiwan part of China?
I think the art of this period consists of not challenging the principle of "one
China" and leaving open the possibility of an ultimate resolution, but also
making very clear that the United States has an intense interest in a peaceful
resolution. To enable Taiwan to continue its autonomous existence without
facing the issue of its precise legal status and while maintaining the basic
principle of "one China" is a delicate road to go, but every American president
now for 30 years has managed to walk that.
Every time there has been an attempt to disturb it, it led to two things. It
led to immediate intense conflict with China, and it led to a re-affirmation in
the end, because nobody wanted a major confrontation with China to this
principle of a "one-China" policy within which Taiwan is finding a place now. Its
own position has greatly improved since the Nixon policy. It is richer, it is
stronger and it is participating in many international organizations.
But many Taiwanese want to be a separate country.
And many don't.
If it ever came to a conflict between China and Taiwan, should America
I think America has made it very clear in several administrations that if there
is an attack by China on Taiwan, the United States is very likely to resist.
"Very likely?" Or "possibly?" Or "maybe?"
No, [the U.S.] has made it clear that we consider a peaceful resolution an
essential aspect of American foreign policy. This I believe to be a situation
understood by China. But again, it is important to not sound too truculent.
Taking on a billion-plus Chinese is not an enterprise which one should enter
There are three principles that should be followed. One, we should maintain the
"one-China" policy that every American president has articulated, including
President Reagan. Secondly, we should make clear that we want a peaceful
resolution. And three, Taiwan should not challenge that arrangement in a way
that will provoke a conflict. ...
What is the position you think [President Bush] will take up [for his China
The position is that stability and peace in Asia depend on a cooperative
relationship between China and the United States. ...
There are some people who think that, at some time in the future, China may
challenge us for supremacy in the Pacific, and therefore, what do we do today
to prevent that? And you, of course, will say that we will try to thwart any
economic progress in China. If we engaged in such a policy, we would turn a
billion-plus people into nationalist opponents of the United States. I don't
think that that's a desirable option for us. Besides, it wouldn't work, because
there are too many other countries that are willing to work economically with
China. But I don't think the basic relationship depends on economics. It
depends on a political understanding of what is required for peace in Asia.
China has had a long and complex history and has managed to evolve its own
culture for 4,000 years. It therefore is not necessarily true that we know exactly
what is best for the internal structure of China.
I do not know what will happen in China politically. I do know that it is
impossible to maintain the communist system or probably even a strict one-party
system when the economy becomes so pluralistic. Now, what form that takes and
what institutions will evolve, I do not have a clear view about. I do not think
the United States, as a general principle, ought to intervene in this.
Our concern for human rights comes to the fore when there are gross violations
of human decencies. Then other countries, including China, must recognize that
this affects the American attitude towards their country. But towards what
precise institutions will it evolve? I think we ought to leave something to
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