dr. henry kissinger
He is the former U.S. Secretary of State who secretly went to Beijing in 1972 to help re-open China to the U.S. He recently was hired by the Walt Disney Company to advise on their dealings with China. China warned the Disney Company that the release of its film

q:  What does Jiang Zemin want from this upcoming summit? What does he hope to get from it?

kissinger:  Well a number of things. One, relaxation of tensions with the United States because I think the Chinese believe that continued tension with the United States is going to hurt their economic reform program. And it will encourage neighboring countries that they are more afraid of than us, to become more difficult to deal with. Secondly, he wants to put Taiwan in a great power perspective. And third, he wants a strategic dialogue with the United States about the future evolution of Asia.

q:  And in terms of his own standing? How does he need to be received at this summit to get what he wants?

a:  I believe he needs to be received respectfully and it isn't important that he receives any spectacular result because I don't think any spectacular results are possible. But I think it is important that he's perceived as having been treated as a major interlocutor for the United States and he will not get into difficulties at home for not coming back with a huge agreement. He might get into difficulties if it looks as if it weren't taken seriously or treated like some provincial.

q:  And President Clinton, what does he need from this summit?

a:  I'm never a hundred percent sure that I understand what President Clinton wants. But Clinton ought to want the same thing. I think in many respects this summit is as important as Nixon's first visit to Shang -- that wound up in the Shanghai community of Beijing. Because we've run out of the old ideas ...and the national environment in which the first meeting took place is irrevocably altered so there is no longer a triangular relationship. There is no longer the fear of overpowering Soviet Union but there is a world situation which is very fluid in many parts of the world and in which the relationship between the most populous nation and the most advanced nation can be quite decisive. That seems to me to be the key issue and the real test is can we manage this dialogue?

Nixon and I are often given credit for opening China. That we did. In my view that would have happened anyway. What we do deserve some credit for is to conduct the dialogue by keeping it focused on fundamentals and that's the challenge before the administration now.

q:  So, briefly, in the wake of the Cold War, how should we deal with China?

a:  We should deal with China as -- I don't like the word partner, but --the two countries whose decisions can most affect the future of Asia are China and the United States. I think it's important that they understand what we're likely to do. It's important that we understand how they view the situation. If we're fortunate, we will find that there is a certain parallelisms, that enables us to manage situations like Korea, Cambodia, and other potential trouble spots and I think that's quite achievable.

q:  Where does human rights fall on the agenda of this summit?

a:  Well, I think of course human rights is always an important American concern and-- it's inseparable from my history. On the other hand, what we cannot do is make a checklist in which we say you have to release so many prisoners and every time we meet, we have to be rewarded by some specific event. We have to bring it into some relationship to other objectives and we also have to know what we mean. Because anyone who visited China as I did and as many of us did in the 70s and compares it to today, knows that the life of the average Chinese has improved tremendously. Not enough by our standards but tremendously by where they started. And one has to get some sense of the evolution. When privatization is completed as they say they want to do. It's an entirely different economy. The state will be out of 80% of the area where it was previously active. So that will bring about new forums. So we have to distinguish between what the latest hot idea is that we want to get them to do without pressure, and what is likely to happen anyway.

q:  President Clinton began his Administration linking human rights to trade issues and then did a complete U-turn. What happened? Why?

a:  Because he realized not only could he not achieve human rights objectives, he was bringing about the opposite on human rights and he could achieve no other objective while he was linking these together and I think he showed courage in reversing course.

q:  How do you answer those who say-- and they're popular figures, and Congressional figures out there --who say we're the richest country in the world, we can certainly afford to take a stronger moral stand on human rights against China.

a:  Well they're implying that the only, at least, principle motive in having present relations with China is economic. There is undoubtedly a significant economic motive but that's not the decisive one, at least not to people like me.

I think the importance of relation with China is that if we maneuver ourselves into confrontation with China, a number of things will happen. First of all it will be extremely long. The Chinese have not survived 5000 years by giving up easily. And secondly, it means paradoxically that in all the surrounding countries of China, of China in Asia, relations with the United States will become extremely controversial. So we will have worst relations with the neighbors of China by confronting China. Third, we will not achieve the human rights objectives and so I think this is one of those of demagogic arguments that one has to be careful about.

q:  And looking at China's behavior or adherence to international standards of human rights - what is the best way to be able to change China's behavior?

a:  First of all there are severe limits to our ability to influence Chinese behavior, either by what the human rights groups would want or what the people like I would want. I have found that if in an environment of general cooperation, if one raises the human rights issues, especially if one uses it in a context where one does not pretend to be lecturing the Chinese about their domestic institutions, but in terms of its impact on America --that there is a possibility of making progress.

q:  And you don't think that those who say we should speak loudly, clearly, firmly and often have the right idea?

a:  No. Many would say we should talk loudly, and frequently and emphatically. The question who's supposed to do the talking? I have no objection. In fact, there is some good in private groups making their concern known and thereby bringing them to the attention of the Chinese. It has merit. What I object to is the US government making things that are otherwise in the mutual interest conditional on this additional demand. That, in my experience with every country where it has ever been tried has backfired.

q:  So is there a way to engage China and at the same time pressure - if that's the right term- them to change?

a:  First of all if I may say so, if our discussion in Washington takes the same form as this questioning, we'll be in real trouble. If the whole issues is put in terms of what progress we're making on human rights, then the visit will be a disaster because it will then be perceived in China as America being extremely intrusive in their domestic affairs especially if one doesn't give them credit for what has been achieved. So I would say there is undoubtedly a human rights component that cannot be shirked, but it must be put into proper perspective with other issues that I have mentioned.

q:  Around the time of the summit, Americans will be seeing two films that are very sympathetic to issues concerning Tibet and the Dalai Lama. What do you think of the power of these popular films to have an impact on policy and people's perception of it is. And does it concern you?

a:  From the strictly foreign policy point of view it may raise some problems but just as I don't think that human rights ought to go beyond the bounds in foreign policy, so I think foreign policy ought not to go beyond the bounds in artistic endeavor and I believe movie-makers should make the movies they think are appropriate and this country is strong enough to have an internal debate without the government telling either the media or the movie-makers what kind of movie would be appropriate.

q:  But are people who are not so familiar with the issues who're hearing from actors turned advocates like Richard Gere and seeing Free Tibet concerts -- are they naive in some sense about the issues concerning China?

a:  Well, I think that Richard Gere is a better actor than he's a political analyst but I would never presume to say to Richard Gere to keep quiet just because he made an impression that from my point of view doesn't take all the factors into account. We have to be able to run our country the way we do it without intervention from the Chinese. I raise no problem about Richard Gere or any articles that may be written.

q:  And what do you say to the young people who go to these concerts-- who're sensing a very sort of sympathetic --

a:  What I would say to the people --you know there's a lot of self-gratification, a lot of issues in this world where if you go to a concert and raise your arms and dance around, you think you could achieve something significant. All I'm asking of them is before they take a position, study it and think about it and not let them get -- themselves get swept away.

But I'm not saying the opposite, I'm not saying they shouldn't take seriously what is being said. They should just not think rock music evening is the only way you could learn about Tibet or any other issue.

q:  And is Hollywood itself now suddenly facing China's politicizing of some of the trade issues? What about a company like Disney....

a:  I think Disney did absolutely the right thing. They cannot cancel a film just because it may make foreign policy somewhat more difficult and the Chinese have to be mature enough to understand how our economy works, particularly if their economy will soon work the same way in most respects. So I do not want American companies to set up their own foreign offices and to screen out views, even views many think are simpleminded.

q:  What do you think the fallout will be... China's reaction to it and to companies like Disney and Sony trying to do business in China?

a:  I hope the Chinese will not take retaliation, partly because it's a misunderstanding of the nature of our system. And partly because it will backfire.

q:  In what sense?

a:  In the sense that the films that will be made on their merits will be made. But there could be additional films made just to show that no outsider can intervene.

q:  You talked before about the Clinton Administration's understanding the error of its early ways. Has China been more effective in linking its rhetoric and its goals and dictating the terms of our relationship than the US?

a:  No. Chinese have existed for 5000 years in a very complex environment. We existed for 200 years in a very simple foreign policy environment. The Chinese have operated balance of power systems, the United States has never done it and has rejected the very notion of it. So there are big differences in the psychological attitudes. The Chinese don't understand, they have no experience with our legalistic, moralistic approach to foreign policy. We as a nation have trouble understanding theirs. So it's a question of harmonizing or at least producing settled expectations.

q:  So is Hollywood in that sense getting an object lesson in the realpolitik of dealing with China?

a:  No, Hollywood is Hollywood and the only thing that would worry me more than what they're already doing is if they started becoming foreign policy conscious. Let the producers make their movies, let them decide what they consider important and then the Chinese have to decide this is part of the package that is America.

q:  And how should President Clinton and how should we in America deal with China in a post-Cold War world?

a:  We should deal with China by ....We all tend to repeat what we know. What Nixon and I to some extent did in China, when we got there, we were in the glorious position that there was nothing to talk about except important issues, there was no trade, there were no visitors, there was none of the usual stuff of diplomacy. So the only choice we had was to talk about fundamentals. What are we trying to do. Let us explain to you what we're trying to do. Tell us what you're trying to do. And on that basis without any formal agreement, without legal ... certain parallelism of policy developed and we're now at a point where a lot of things are being talked about. But the fundamental things are being neglected.

q:  And those are -- I mean security and strategic issues aside those are --

a:  Well they have security and strategic issues. But these are very important. Korea, South East Asia, then there're other issues that will become more and more important like environment and nuclear proliferation. But we have to curb our tendency of transforming diplomacy into moral missionary work. It would be a relief if for once we said here's the problem, not tell us how you view the problem. If we did not present 10 points they've got to do and conduct ourselves as if this were an examination which they get a grade on their comprehension.

I would think nonproliferation is something in which our interests are absolutely parallel and theirs ought to be greater than ours, they have more neighbors and more hostile neighbors. But if we go to them and say the range of missiles that's permitted to be sold is 300 miles, not 310, not 290, it's 300, why should they accept it? Why should they not be permitted to say 250 or 350 or whatever. I don't know what they think but it seems to me with the right attitude, a soluble problem, I don't know within which 50-mile range but something like that, I just don't see why that should be soluble, what they have to gain by selling weapons.

q:  And where should human rights fall in that foreign policy?

a:  Human rights is one of the categories that needs to be discussed and we have to understand that the Chinese experience with this sort of attitude is different than ours, not only in their domestic policy but secondly in Chinese history, they have not found Western advice necessarily beneficial or humane. And they look at this as a further assertion of the West's trying to mix into Chinese domestic affairs. But within these limits, it's one of the subjects to discuss especially if we can put it into fundamental principles rather than in things that we can sell to the Congress.

q:  And to those in Congress and elsewhere who say that President Clinton has in fact caved in on human rights for the sake of the Chinese market?

a:  Look, it's very easy to construct all kinds of arguments and to make all kinds of accusations -- the question is whether we will subordinate everything to domestic politics. The best the President can do is to say here is my understanding of the international situation and of the American interest including human rights. Then let the opponents say what they want because the argument about trade is really an attack on his motives, it's not an attack on the substance necessarily.

q:  Would you define the conflict between trade interests, business interests and human rights interests and explain what --

a:  I don't accept that -- I think of foreign policy in terms of the national interest of the United States. I would gladly sacrifice the interest of -- several American corporations to a clear perception of the national interest. So my concern about Chinese relations - it's next to nothing with economics. I supported it when there was no trade. The first step we made towards China was to permit a hundred dollars worth of goods to be bought in China. So this was not a huge economic motive.

My concern is that the United States and China do not slide into a confrontation which will go on for a long time if it ever happens and which we will deeply regret and a lot of the heroes of these confrontational proposals will have taken to the hills when the implications become clear. And after what we've been through in Vietnam, we should not easily look for conflicts when there's no national need for it.

q:  One of those issues being trumpeted is Tibet and support for the Dalai Lama. Is Tibet a kind of microcosm of the kind conflict that illuminates our bigger relationship with China?

a:  Tibet has been for hundreds of years part of China. Therefore, the mere raising of an issue that sounds as if we're trying to separate a part of China creates special sensitivities. I do not like some of the things that the Chinese are doing-- many of the things the Chinese are doing in Tibet--but it's not as simple either as some of the people pretend who don't even know what it is that is being asked for by the Tibetans.

q:  America has this tradition as you say -- a sort of legal and moral approach to foreign policy and also of very much supporting the underdog - is there a moral imperative to do so?

a:  There are a lot of things in human life that go on that you see and where human beings have to adjust to the fact that they cannot change everything going on around them that they don't approve of. The question the United States has to ask is- are we involved everywhere in the world where something is going on that we find unattractive?

And secondly, do we escalate the involvement beyond the moral statement - which I don't question to ask - that produce political confrontations and involve on the other side what they consider the survival of their political structures? And when we do that, we have taken on an order of policy involvement that I would be amazed that the American people would sustain in practice

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Solitary NationApril 22nd