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
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
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
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