Were you asked for your advice during the [incident]?
I had an opportunity to express my views, yes. I agreed with the approach which
we took, namely, to make a distinction between the loss of life of the Chinese
pilot and our military operations outside territorial waters or territorial
To begin with, it seemed that President Bush or anyone in the administration
didn't really apologize or express their regret about the death of a pilot.
That seemed to have caused a lot of anguish in China.
Well, I don't know whether it caused anguish in China, but it was not a wise
way to proceed. But one has to remember that it was the first experience. And
in a Republican administration, there is a conservative wing that looks at
China as the last embodiment of communism, which therefore tends towards a more
bellicose rhetoric anyway than I would. It's not the dominant element, but
every once in a while they get a crack at public statement.
And that split exists within Bush's own Cabinet?
I wouldn't say it's a split. It's a difference of emphasis. It does exist
between, I would say, the State Department and the Defense Department.
As President Bush is about to go to China, do you think that they have
managed to work out a policy on how to deal with China?
I think the trip of President Bush to China will oblige them to work out a
policy. If you had asked me that question before what happened at the World
Trade Center, I would have said it certainly will lead to a resolution of
disagreements about China. Now I think that the president will be so
preoccupied with handling the immediate crisis that the ultimate resolution may
have to wait until after he's been in China.
On the other hand, I think when he goes to China and sees what China has
accomplished since he was there last in 1975, he will realize that the simple
categories of communism and Cold War posture are not fully applicable, or even
at all applicable to the contemporary China.
So what is applicable?
What is applicable is to understand that first of all China has undergone a
huge revolution in the last 30 years. Anyone who saw China as I did in 1971 --
and for that matter even in 1979, because not much had changed between 1971
and 1979 -- and sees China today, knows one is in a different economic system.
When I first saw China, there were no automobiles. There were no supermarkets.
There were no high-rise buildings. There were no consumer goods. There were no
restaurants that were at least accessible that foreigners could see. It was a
Stalinist society, and a very poor Stalinist society. So the economic
system has totally changed, and the private sector in the economic system is
now the dominant sector. It didn't exist at all as late as 1979.
Secondly, the political system has changed, though not as rapidly. The China of
the 1970s was a communist dictatorship. The China of the twenty-first century
is a one-party state without a firm ideological foundation, more similar to
Mexico under the PRI than Russia under Stalin. But the measurement of the
political and the economic evolution has not yet been completed, and is one of
the weak points of the system.
So it's no longer a communist state?
I don't consider China a communist state, no. I know that sounds paradoxical,
but it's my view.
It's not a party of the workers and the peasants?
Certainly not a party of the workers and the peasants. In fact, Jiang Zemin in
recent weeks has officially said that capitalists and the entrepreneurs should
be enrolled in the Communist Party.
When you went to China in 1972, that led to huge transformations. One was
that the position of Taiwan suddenly changed. Taiwan [had been] part of the
United Nations. It was internationally recognized. It was a friend of
No, no. But that isn't the defining issue. It was a friend of America. The
defining issue is that the government in Taiwan was considered to be the
government of all of China, and the authorities in Beijing were not recognized
as a government of China. So Taiwan was the residuary for all of China.
You and President Nixon changed all that.
Well it did not make excessive sense to say that 20 million people are the
recognized government of a billion people that have their own institutions. We
did not change it in the sense that we said this has to end, but there was a
U.N. vote that transferred the legitimacy of China from Taiwan to Beijing.
Beijing was recognized as the government of all of China. Then, under President
Carter, we followed what the U.N. had already done eight years earlier.
But there is a tremendous bitterness, obviously, in Taiwan that suddenly
they're kicked out of United Nations, that suddenly they're no longer
recognized as a state or country.
I have great respect for the Taiwanese. They have done an extraordinary job.
But it was not a sustainable position to say that the legitimate government of
China resides in Taiwan, which at that time didn't have much contact with the
Couldn't you have said they're two separate countries?
Certainly nothing is easier than to rewrite history. If we had made Taiwan a
separate state, it would have led to a fundamental conflict with China, and
probably to war. Certainly in the long term, it would have led to war.
In the short term, it would not have made it possible to resume relations,
because in the Chinese mind, the humiliation of China started with the
annexation of Taiwan by Japan. If the United States had suddenly declared
Taiwan as a separate state -- for which we would have had no support among
other nations -- the consequences would have been giving up our relationship
with China and committing ourselves to a long-term conflict with China.
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 reaffirmation 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
You've even said in the past that it would be preposterous for America to go
to war for a country they don't recognize, when you recognize China as a
I haven't said that. That I did not say.
So you don't think it would be?
It is not. You're pushing these questions to a useless point. Every American
president, regardless of party, has said that America has an intense interest
in a peaceful resolution. And I think it should be left at that.
Obviously that is [what] you call the policy of strategic ambiguity.
I haven't called it a policy of strategic ambiguity. ... I have said 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. Those are three perfectly clear principles. I haven't used any of
the other slogans.
If Taiwan proclaimed independence, that would be seen by China as a
declaration of war.
What China would do, I cannot predict. China has all but given up the claim to
the use of force, except in the circumstance of Taiwan declaring its
independence. That is a huge step forward over what the situation was 30 years
And if Taiwan did declare independence?
I think Taiwan will probably not declare independence. The question isn't
independence. The issue is whether Taiwan will declare itself as a sovereign
separate state. That will start a huge crisis if that happens. ...
One of the arguments Deng Xiaoping and others said during the incidents in
Tiananmen Square was that if they allowed this spread of democracy, this spread
of revolution, it would cause chaos in China. What role should America play? Do
they want a strong government in China?
China has had a long and complex history and has managed to evolve its own
culture for 4,000 years. It therefore 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
Could you understand why the leadership felt they had to take action during
the Tiananmen Square crisis?
Deng Xiaoping thought of himself as a great revolutionary and a great reformer.
He had dismantled the Chinese communist management of the economy. In my
next-to-last conversation with him, which was about six months before Tiananmen
Square, he said to me that his aim would be the next phase to reduce the
Communist Party to philosophical issues. And I said, "What's a philosophical
issue?" And he said, "Well, like if we make an alliance with Russia." Given his
view of Russia, that was not the likeliest thing that would ever happen. So I
thought that he thought he was in the process of not necessarily creating a
democracy, but creating the conditions for a different kind of political
[What did Deng tell you after Tiananmen Square?]
He said that he did not understand why we failed to grasp that the alternative
was not democracy, but total chaos and risking all the reforms that had been
Could you understand why, after eight weeks of demonstrations, there he felt
he had to take some action?
No. I think the methods they used were too brutal and were wrong. But I
remember I knew Deng Xiaoping when he came out of prison. He had, after all,
been imprisoned for nearly ten years by Mao. I know what China looked like
before he took over, and so in my own mind, I don't think of Deng Xiaoping as
an oppressor. I think of somebody who, faced with that crisis, made a very
painful and decision with which I cannot agree. But I also think of him as a
[How do you think the Sept. 11 attacks will change President Bush's agenda
for his China trip?]
I don't think he's had a chance to give it any thought. I would have said,
before the World Trade Center events, that he would try to get a normal
relationship with China -- making clear to China what the limits are of what
America can accept, but also showing understanding for some of Chinese
necessities. I thought he was moving towards the position that I have more or
Everybody who has dealt with China over an extended period of time has come to
more or less the same conclusions. There are nuances of differences, but not
fundamental differences. I think that President Bush was heading in this
direction, and I have no doubt that he will again wind up in this position. But
right now he has to be preoccupied with the atrocity committed in New York and
And what is that position you think he will take up?
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.
Do you think China will go along with President Bush's war on
I think China will do nothing to obstruct it, and they probably will go along
Will they ask for anything in return?
I don't think we should pay people to fight terrorism. I would be amazed if they asked for anything in return.
You don't think they might say, "Could you lessen your being so vocal on human
I would be surprised. I don't expect that.
What about if they said, "Could you give us more freedom on Taiwan?"
They won't say that. They're not that unsubtle. They will not say, "Will you
give us a military shot at Taiwan?" (A) We wouldn't give it; (B) I think they
are expecting some historical evolution to take place. And it is taking place.
More and more of the Taiwanese economy is connected with the mainland. There
are more and more exchanges taking place. There's no reason to doubt that over
a period of ten years or so, or maybe more, the conditions of life on the two
sides of the Taiwan Strait will become more comparable, and the dialogue on the
political level therefore easier.
In China, there is tremendous opposition to President Bush's desire for a
missile shield. Can you understand it?
You know, this is a very strange phenomenon. I keep reading that in American
newspapers, and I keep reading extensive speculations. I meet with the Chinese
leaders periodically, and while I don't say they've endorsed the missile
shield, it has not been in the forefront of their discussions.
Of course, in principle, they're against it. We are the ones that keep asking
them what they think about it. I think their basic concern is a land-based
missile defense of Taiwan hooked into the American communications and other
systems, which in effect would make Taiwan then an outpost of the United
States. That is a concern they frequently express. A missile defense shield of
the United States, while they may not like it, it is not a big obstacle to our
What about the question of President Bush allowing Taiwan to buy more
weapons? That seems to be another thing China feels very, very strongly
But he's done it, and our relationship has continued. It was in the process of
improving, and will almost certainly continue to improve. But there's now this
temporary interruption due to the World Trade Center challenge. ...
China is incredibly unstable [with] such a disparity of incomes within the
country, such unrest, troubles on the border, Muslim fundamentalist problems.
Do you see the future of China actually being one of collapse rather than
No. I see the future of China as growth. I think that historically China has
often gone through periods of consolidation, and then periods of sort of
weakening central authority. They undoubtedly face tremendous challenges.
Like any developing country, it has an inequality of wealth. In the Chinese
case, it is particularly [pronounced] by the fact that they decided they
couldn't make the whole country move forward simultaneously, so they've started
region by region. So the interior regions are much less well off than the
coastal regions. And this is certainly a huge challenge, because it produces a
flow of populations from the poorer regions to the richer regions. ...
There does seem, as we talked about, to be some sort of split within the
Bush Cabinet, certainly the beginning. I mean, still quite recently, just
before the World Trade Center disaster, you had Defense Secretary Rumsfeld
talking about China being a potential enemy.
Well, he keeps saying that, and as defense secretary, of course he has to think
of a lot of potential enemies. I do not think it's a wise course to articulate
this or to base our policy on it. And I do not see under modern circumstances
what we would be fighting about. ...
Secondly, the Chinese military budget today is officially listed as, I think,
about $15 billion. But even if you double it, that's only a tenth of ours. So
the possibility of China challenging the United States for the next ten years
over the Pacific is next to zero. There could be a conflict between us and
China over Taiwan, but I think that, too, will not occur with the proper
policies on both sides.
And the next 50 years?
I don't know what happens in the next 50 years. But I cannot now design a
policy in which we try to keep China from developing, because in 50 years, if
they develop, they might be rich enough to challenge us, and adopt the
principle that we will hold down any state that might in the future become
strong. That would make us a world empire for which we wouldn't have the
talents or the convictions.
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