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Taking Sides

China considers its proper role in the international coalition against terrorism.

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  • ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH:

    The arrival of Air Force One in Shanghai yesterday marked President Bush's first official visit to China, and his first trip overseas since the September 11 attacks. The President is attending the annual Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation, APEC meeting. Trade issues and economics were supposed to top the agenda in the gathering of 21 leaders from Pacific Rim nations.

    But the weekend summit has become instead an opportunity for the White House to bolster the anti-terrorism coalition. This morning, President Bush asked for some specific help from China's President Jiang Zemin. The United States wants China to provide intelligence and to aid in going after the financial assets of the terrorists. China has its own problems with Islamic unrest within its borders.

    Of the country's 1.3 billion people, as many as 38 million may be Muslims; most live in Xinjiang province, which shares a border with Afghanistan, and China labels as extremist a movement there in favor of independence. Xinjiang has a large percentage of China's oil and natural gas deposits. The two leaders spoke to reporters after their first face-to-face meeting. President Bush said he was confident the Chinese would stand side by side with the American people.

  • PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH:

    The President and the government of China responded immediately to the attacks of September 11. There was no hesitation. There was no doubt that they would stand with the United States and our people during this terrible time. We have a common understanding of the magnitude of the threat posed by international terrorism. All civilized nations must join together to defeat this threat and I believe that the United States and China can accomplish a lot when they work together to fight terrorism.

  • ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH:

    President Jiang urged caution.

  • PRESIDENT JIANG ZEMIN (Translated):

    In the discussions that I've had with President Bush this morning, we talked about ways of opposing all forms of terrorism. Recently what we have been doing has shown our position. Of course we also hope that the fight against terrorism should be accurate and hit the target and not hurt innocent people. At the same time, we also hope that the United Nations should be fully involved.

  • ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH:

    The Chinese President also raised the issue of Taiwan, which China considers a renegade province.

  • PRESIDENT JIANG ZEMIN (Translated):

    Today, there is a major opportunity for improvement in Sino-U.S. relationships. We have decided to conduct high-level dialogue on cooperation on the economy, trade, energy resources and cultural exchange.

    We will enhance our discussions on and coordination of major international and regional issues. I believe that as long as our two nations hold on firmly to matters of common interest and deal properly with relations according to the three joint communiqués, especially on the subject of Taiwan, that Sino- U.S. relations will move forward.

  • ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH:

    President Bush did not respond to the Taiwan comment. Taiwan is boycotting the Shanghai summit because of a dispute with China over who would be allowed to represent Taiwan.

  • ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH:

    We follow up with two guests. Both have served in the National Security Council as senior directors of Asian affairs. Douglas Paal served in the Reagan and first Bush Administrations. He is now the director of the Asia Pacific Policy Center, a non-profit group in Washington. Kenneth Lieberthal served during the Clinton Administration. He is now a professor of political science and business administration at the University of Michigan.

    Ken Lieberthal, before we get into what each side wants from the other in this post-September 11 world, what specifically has China done since the 11th to help the U.S. fight terrorism?

    KENNETH LIEBERTHAL, University of Michigan: They've done a number of things that have really been very helpful. At the United Nations they were actively engaged in developing the counter terrorism resolution that the U.N. adopted and of course supported that.

    They sent a vice minister of foreign affairs to Pakistan to encourage Musharraf and his government to support the U.S. effort against Afghanistan. They did that before Musharraf actually declared his support at a time when we were very concerned about that.

    They sent a delegation of intelligence office officers to the United States to share information with us and see how we could be more effective in sharing intelligence to the benefit of both sides.

    And, broadly speaking, they've given strong and consistent political support to the counter terrorism effort, including being willing to see a counter terrorism resolution adopted by the APEC leaders meeting going on in Shanghai now.

    That's different from the original agenda — puts the spotlight more on President Bush's agenda than on Jiang Zemin's original agenda. So it's in the category of a helpful move. In an array of ways, they've moved in the right direction on this issue.

  • ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH:

    And, Doug Paal, what does President Bush want now? We've heard he wants more help going after the financial assets and that sort of thing, but flesh that out for us.

  • DOUGLAS PAAL:

    Well, the United States is going to work with the Chinese to identify flows of funds that the Chinese banks may be able to monitor. The Federal Bureau of Investigation, the FBI, is going to open an office in Beijing, a new level of cooperation between the police in an effort to identify terrorists and to track their movements and capture them if possible.

    Then there's, as Ken Lieberthal just outlined, a broad level of diplomatic cooperation without which the U.N. mandate would be very difficult to maintain.

  • ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH:

    And Ken Lieberthal, what is happening specifically? Give us some information about Xinjiang Province and how that might influence what President Jiang can and can't do.

  • KENNETH LIEBERTHAL:

    China's Muslims are actually spread across China, a large number of them live in Eastern China and are highly assimilated. The ones in Xinjiang, I think it's in the level of eight million or so, are much less assimilated. Many of them are concerned about the Hahn migration over the years into Xinjiang and Northwest China.

    The Chinese have found that there have been some real terrorist incidents that have occurred there. These have been sporadic but the Chinese have identified people who have been trained in Pakistan and elsewhere who have slipped across the border and trained counterparts in Xinjiang and engaged in some bombings and other kinds of violence. China clearly is concerned this could grow.

    They want to crack down hard on it. They certainly would like U.S. understanding of efforts they take against it, and the dilemma for us of course is to, on the one hand understand what China does against legitimate terrorists but on the other hand not condone what China does simply to suppress a cultural identity and a desire for greater degrees of freedom among the people of Xinjiang.

  • ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH:

    Doug Paal, add whatever you want to that and tell us what else China would like from the U.S. in return for the help.

  • DOUGLAS PAAL:

    Well, you know, China sees the opportunity of cooperation with the United States on this issue of common concern as so important, they've actually begun a dance to refine the language they've used to describe the activities of people in Xinjiang Province. In the early phase, terrorists and splitests and independence seekers were all lumped together.

    But they have been sort of painfully coming up with new definitions so they don't get crosswise with the United States and the U.S. can maintain its principle position of supporting people who want greater autonomy while condemning those who actually use terrorism for their ends.

  • ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH:

    And, Doug Paal, does China worry about the U.S. sticking around in Central Asia and having, I think the Chinese term is a wolf at the door and tiger at the back?

  • DOUGLAS PAAL:

    Well, they do worry about that, and there was a considerable amount of press play in the early days after the 9/11 bombing – 9/11 events — when the Chinese were talking about encirclement or efforts to keep a great power like China down by occupying new territory.

    I think they've come to take a more realistic view. The United States does as the President has said, does not have a desire to hold territory in that part of the world but trying to prosecute successfully an enemy that the Chinese have in common with the United States.

  • ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH:

    And, Ken Lieberthal, anything about the worries about the U.S. sticking around?

  • KENNETH LIEBERTHAL:

    I think that there are Chinese strategists, as Doug suggested, who have to think of the downside and the downside here may be at the end of the day that they face U.S. troops to their Northwest and Southwest or at least strong U.S. military position there.

    But fundamentally, the Chinese have really leapt at the opportunity to try to change the nature of the relationship with the Bush administration, turning it from what was originally described in Washington as one of strategic competition to one that was described this morning by both leaders as a relationship that consists of constructive cooperation.

    I think they regard that as extremely important for them to be able to meet their tremendous domestic challenges and aspirations. They're going to stress the positive as long as this relationship looks like it can move in the right direction.

  • ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH:

    And, Ken Lieberthal, staying with you, anything worry you about that? What happens to the big issues, Taiwan, for example?

  • KENNETH LIEBERTHAL:

    Well, you know, in a sense the Administration recently has done a masterful job of putting together a global coalition around the issue of counter terrorism. That's clearly the issue that needs focus right now.

    But equally clearly, the other issues in our relationship with China and other issues around the world are not going away. So over time we are going to need to be able to manage, for example, with China, the issues of nonproliferation, the cross-strait relations with Taiwan of human rights domestically and so forth.

    I found it encouraging that the discussions today seemed to indicate an agreement to expand our dialogue across the full range of the relationships on our bilateral agenda where issues on our bilateral agenda – I really hope that's followed up in a very substantial way because a one dimensional foreign policy will not work over the long term.

  • ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH:

    Doug Paal, do you think the sort of coalition that's forming could help solve some of these other problems, too or do you think they could get be put on the back burner and just boil up later?

  • DOUGLAS PAAL:

    We've had a very up and down history with China over the last century and a half and in the last decade in particular. So it shouldn't get too optimistic at any one point. But it's been my experience in my time in government that when the United States had a fairly constructive dialogue on a common purpose with the Chinese, the other issues that are not easy to deal with become easier to manage. They may not get resolved. They may get put off, but they become easier to manage day to day.

  • ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH:

    Is it too– am I wrong Douglas Paal to say that the geopolitics of Central Asia are being redrawn here?

  • DOUGLAS PAAL:

    Well, I've heard some Europeans talk about this meeting in Shanghai being a new Yalta. And I think that's a bit strong. It is true however that the United States being more actively involved in the protection– implicitly in the protection of Central Asian "Stans" as they're called, the republics in Central Asia is a new factor, it's something that has to be thought of hard by the Chinese and the Russians.

    The United States could make a positive contribution to this new organization they've got called the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, which is intended explicitly to address criminal and terrorist and other problems that those countries share in common.

  • ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH:

    And that's Russia, China and what other countries?

  • DOUGLAS PAAL:

    Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan.

  • ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH:

    And Ken Lieberthal, do you think that something really — I have the feeling this is a tipping point of some kind, a really important moment in Chinese-U.S. relations because of what's happening in Central Asia.

  • KENNETH LIEBERTHAL:

    It is potentially a tipping point. And we may look back five years from now and say that this was the event that if it had any good side to it at all, it is that it permitted the U.S. and China to begin a process of cooperation that over time has really borne fruit. I think it's really premature to say that. I've learned to be a little bit cautious about long-term predictions about U.S.-China relations.

    A, some of the other issues we've just been discussing can come back to haunt us, but B, and very importantly, too if our military actions in Afghanistan and other developments end up producing destabilization of Pakistan, something that we certainly don't want to see occur but conceivably could occur, we may find that the Chinese and we have very different views about why that came about and how to handle the issue.

    So I think we're still in the stage where it is easier to be cooperative and mutually supportive. There's a lot of things we're going to have to deal with in the future. If we deal with them well, this will have been a tipping point.

  • ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH:

    Doug Paal, Ken Lieberthal, thanks.