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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release October 23, 1997
                            PRESS BRIEFING BY 

The Briefing Room

3:21 P.M. EDT

COLONEL CROWLEY: Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen. Welcome back to the White House briefing room. We have a very important speech tomorrow by President Clinton leading up to the summit next week with Chinese President Jiang Zemin. And here to set the stage for those two events, the Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs, Sandy Berger.

MR. BERGER: Thank you. I know many of you were here yesterday when Ken Lieberthal and Harry Harding gave their -- what I thought was quite interesting -- briefing on China. For those of you who were not, I would recommend that you might read it. I think it's a very penetrating analysis of what is going on in China and where China is headed.

Only because Terry Hunt requested it, I decided that I had to, of course, repeat my quiz from the last briefing. And the question this time is, what country is two percent bigger than the United States in land area, has a population 4.66 times the population of the United States, is over 1.2 billion to our 265 million, and is adding 12 million people per year? This is a lot easier. This is a lot easier than the quiz that I gave you before the South America trip.

Let me talk just briefly and then try to answer your questions about the meeting itself and then the speech tomorrow. I'll do it sort of in reverse order, because obviously the speech tomorrow foreshadows the meeting.

I think most people would agree across a fairly broad spectrum of views on China that the direction which China takes over the next 10 years, the next 20 years, the next 30 years will have a profound effect on Asia, on the United States, indeed, on the world as a whole. China itself, obviously, will make the decisions that determine that direction. But we can influence that direction in many ways by the nature of our relationship. The President's view has been that by engaging with China, we can both pursue and expand the areas of our cooperation as well as deal with them directly, face to face, on areas of our differences. And that's exactly what will happen when President Jiang comes to Washington.

We have a very wide range of interests with respect to China. We have an interest in stability in the region, for example, and stability in Asia. We've worked with China very cooperatively on Korea, on negotiating the end to Korea's nuclear program and on trying to pull North Korea into four-party talks, which really have the only prospect that I see out there for achieving a peaceful resolution of the problem on the Korean Peninsula. That is a very important interest to the United States, and the President and President Jiang will be discussing that.

There are a wide range of other security interests that we have in common. China is a member of the U.N. Security Council, a Permanent 5 member. Its vote was necessary for moving forward on the Gulf war, its vote was necessary for moving forward on Haiti and every other major U.N. sponsor undertaking of recent years. We have an interest in curbing the spread of weapons of mass destruction. In recent years, China has moved towards the international community with respect to embrace of international regimes involving nonproliferation. It has become a signatory of the Nonproliferation Treaty, the Chemical Weapons Treaty, the Biological Weapons Treaty. Last year, China, as did we, sign the treaty banning all nuclear explosions; the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.

There still are areas of concern that we have with respect to some of China's weapons relationships, and that will be a subject of discussion. We have an interest in working with China on transnational threats for which China's cooperation is extraordinarily important.

China borders 15 different nations. So if you're talking about drugs or terrorism or alien smuggling or any of these new security dangers that know no borders, China's cooperation is extremely important, and in some of these areas we've worked well with China, for example, on alien smuggling, on others in terms of law enforcement cooperation, for example. There's been some cooperation; we'd like to deepen it.

We have an interest in opening China's market, notwithstanding the fact that our exports are at an all-time high, which -- and our trade deficit is at an all-time high with China -- and we can talk about that more later; that is obviously extremely important to us.

We have an interest in the planet that we share with China. China is one-fourth of the world, obviously. The largest cause of death in China today is respiratory illness caused by pollution. The most striking thing that one sees if you go to Beijing and have not been there for a while, first you're kind of overcome by the new skyline which looks like a modern Asian skyline, and then you look up and you see the sky -- or you don't see the sky. The level of pollution in China is a serious problem. And we have important areas where we can cooperate with the Chinese there.

We also have important differences with China, most particularly on human rights where, again, the President will raise this with President Jiang as we have consistently. We believe that human rights -- we believe that engagement with China, that liberalization, economic liberalization of China over time has a liberalizing effect. As China increasingly is open to commerce, fax machines, e-mails, satellite dishes, it is increasingly difficult to suppress ideas, creativity, thought, opposition.

But that is not in and of itself a sufficient human rights policy. Commercial diplomacy is not an adequate human rights policy. We also have to stand up for the values that we believe in and that are not just American values, but that are universal values, that are embraced by many countries in Asia and all around the world, and we have to speak for, speak out for and speak up for those who are fighting for those values in China -- even if the dividend for that, even if progress from that is dreadfully slow.

So, just to sum up, I would say that the summit will focus on -- let me put it this way -- I have said to our people in preparation for the summit that we should consider the summit to be a milestone, but not a millstone -- and what I meant by that slightly obtuse phrase is that it is a milestone in the sense that we can use the summit to try to make progress on a number of areas, but we ought not to see the summit as an artificial deadline that works against us, that we have to have a WTO agreement by the summit or else. If we have progress on WTO that is satisfactory to us, good; if we don't, we'll continue to negotiate with the Chinese going forward.

So I would see the summit focusing -- and I will just conclude with this -- on these issues: the general strategic relationship between the countries; the question of how we can work together on stability and peace, on nonproliferation, which is extraordinarily important; on human rights and rule of law; on economic and commercial cooperation, including American exports to China and the trade deficit; on science and technology, where we have had a very active and robust relationship, 30 or so agreements, and hopefully we will continue that; and finally on energy and the environment, a dialogue begun when the Vice President was in China.

And as I pointed out before, given the fact that China is essentially a coal-based economy -- high-sulphur, coal-based economy, with enormous growth needs and, as either Ken or Harry said yesterday, not the resources internally to meet those needs. We, on the other hand, have quite a good deal of technology with respect to fuel efficiency. This is obviously a promising area of cooperation.

The end. Questions.

Q Sandy, do you see any irony in Jiang's itinerary of symbols of Americanism like the Liberty Bell and Williamsburg and Pearl Harbor? What's he up to?

MR. BERGER: We have not determined their itinerary; they have. But quite honestly, I would rather have him go to Independence Hall and Williamsburg than go to a baseball game and ride on a subway. I think that -- I'm not sure what significance comes from having him go to --

Q Cowboy hat.

MR. BERGER: Cowboy hat -- go to a Baltimore Orioles game, go to a Marlins game. I suppose that would be less controversial. I think it's -- let him see Independence Hall and we'll talk about with him what that means -- the United States.

Q Was this their idea, most of the itinerary?


Q What do you think their point is in -- are they trying to flatter us?

MR. BERGER: Well, Jiang has an interest -- Jiang himself is not a blank slate, as many of you know. He has read a good deal about American history, quotes from Jefferson, he has some knowledge of American history. And I wouldn't want to characterize what their intent is. I think he has a genuine interest in American history. Perhaps he wants to send a message back to his people. I wouldn't only assume that it is calculating in that sense. But, as I say, I would just as soon have them go to Independence Hall than throw out a baseball.

Q China is the largest communist country in the world. Is the President going to raise the question to open to the world not only for human rights but also for democracy?

MR. BERGER: Undoubtedly, the President will, as we have in previous meetings, as I have in my meetings with the Chinese, as the Secretary of State certainly has, as the Vice President. There will be, both in the President's speech tomorrow and in the meetings with Jiang a full discussion of human rights and why it is not only consistent with our values and with universal values, but why it's ultimately consistent with China's national interest.

It is very difficult, in my judgment, for China to sustain the kind of growth that it has had over the last 20 years in an information economy without unleashing the creative potential of its people. And I don't think creativity is divisible between the political side of your brain and the economic side of your brain. I think that if you're going to have an economy driven -- that increasingly goes upscale, from an economy that competes on the basis of low wages to economy that competes on the basis of technology, then it's going to have to unleash and harness the full potential of its people. And I think that suggests that it's in China's interest to liberalize.

Q Are the two countries on the verge of a nuclear proliferation agreement? Are they pretty close?

MR. BERGER: Well, this has certainly been an area that we have discussed very substantially with the Chinese, and let me put it in some context. As I think I noted before, a number of areas where the Chinese have moved into the international community with respect to nonproliferation. There are still some problems. One is their nuclear cooperation, quite honestly, with Iran, and there are still some concerns that we have with respect to some kind of grey areas in Pakistan.

In 1996, in the resolution of the infamous ring magnet case, they agreed that they would not cooperate with unsafeguarded nuclear facilities; read Pakistan. And they have complied with that. But there are some areas that are a little hazy as to whether they're covered by that. So those are the two big problems.

We have pressed them for commitments on that. I don't know whether they will make them or not. If they do, then we would look at going forward with a 1985 peaceful nuclear energy agreement which would enable American companies to compete with other companies around the world on the civil nuclear power area with China. But I want to be clear about one thing, because some of the reporting has had the cart before the horse here. The horse is nonproliferation on this. Our objective is trying to get greater control over their cooperation with other countries that are developing nuclear weapons. That's the horse. If we are able to do that, the cart possibly would be the peaceful nuclear energy agreement.

Q How much does Tiananmen Square -- how much does the shadow of Tiananmen Square hang over U.S.-Chinese relations now, and how much should that color U.S.-Chinese relations eight years later?

MR. BERGER: Well, I think Tiananmen is something the Chinese are going to have to come to grips with in their own way of thinking, in their own view of their history, in their own view of themselves, so I don't think it's something one can ignore. Neither do I think that we should freeze the relationship in time.

We have to pursue a course that is in the best interest of the United States. And I started out by listing seven or eight areas where we have an interest in engagement with China. We also have fundamental areas of disagreement, including human rights, including what happened in Tiananmen Square. So I think it is a part of China's recent history that it has to come to grips with, it is, I think, part of our discussion of generally of human rights with China, but I don't think it should define the entire relationship.

Q Sandy, you were just describing China as a communist country with which we have some differences over issues like human rights, but that is nevertheless modernizing and trying on some market reforms. The same could be said of Cuba. Cuba is a pariah and China is a candidate for constructive engagement. Why doesn't China get the Cuba treatment?

MR. BERGER: Well, I think that we have very different historical relationships with China and with Cuba. Cuba, we have had an embargo on Cuba for 37 years. It is the only non-democracy in the hemisphere. There has been very little evidence that there's any interest on the part of Mr. Castro in significant liberalization, economic or political. And at this stage of the game, to end that embargo would be to send, I think, just the wrong signal.

So in each situation, you have to decide what is the best course to pursue with respect to your objectives.

Q What it comes down to is, do we engage with China because China has clout?

MR. BERGER: No. I mean, in each -- there's no simple formula that leads you to the right answer for every foreign policy question in a post-Cold War world. I think you have to look at the range of your interests. What are your capabilities, what is your capacity, and what balance of those interests best fits the present situation, and in judgment of the President, what policy best advances America interests in the aggregate. And that -- the decisions been made.

Q Can you be more specific about the environment initiative? Has it been worked out? And could you also say something about how receptive the Chinese have been to having this put on the agenda?

MR. BERGER: We're in the very early stages of this. We raised it initially when the Vice President went to China, met with the Chinese leaders -- April? Don't hold me to that. Roughly April. And so, it's a new issue, and the Chinese react to things a little slowly sometimes. Leon Fuerth and Jack Gibbons went to China in August to pursue it. And what I would hope the summit would do would be to give kind of impetus to launching this, that we would be working together on energy and the environment and it would be the beginning of a process that could lead to very specific, concrete projects.

Q Will the President's global warming initiative be part of those discussions?

MR. BERGER: I am sure --

Q There were some comments last week where they spoke about very constructive dialogue or something with the United States regarding global warming --

MR. BERGER: Well, I can only speak for this end. As those of you who covered the speech yesterday or watched the evolution of this in the last few days, to imagine the President not raising climate change with Jiang is hard for me to conceive of. I mean, this is clearly -- we are the number one producer of greenhouse gases; China is the number two producer of greenhouse gases. China will exceed the United States by early in the 21st century, and I am sure that the President will talk to Jiang about this. Now, whether or not that produces any common ground or any greater degree of mutual understand I don't know, but I am certain he will raise it.

Q What are we going to hear from the President tomorrow? Is he going to have advice for Americans to how they should treat Jiang when he travels around?

MR. BERGER: No. I think tomorrow the President will speak to the American people along the lines that I've talked about here; that is, what are our interests, what does this summit matter, why should we be engaged with the Chinese, what are our values, how do we advance our values in the context of this kind of relationship. I think it's a broader speech about why the U.S.-China relationship matters to the American people as they move into the 21st century.

Q President Jiang had expressed some concern about the U.S.-Japanese security treaty, or the guidelines for this, and there were indications, reports in the Asian press that he would take these concerns to the summit to discuss them and perhaps get clarification. Have the Chinese indicated that they want this somewhat on the agenda to --

MR. BERGER: Well, it would not surprise me. They raised it with me when I was there in August. There is a concern on the part of the Chinese that the U.S.-Japanese security guidelines somehow are directed at China. That is not the case. The guidelines are a way of, in a sense, modernizing our defense relationship so what we, in a contingency like Korea, are better able to cooperate with Japan in a useful way, and they're not directed at any country, not directed at China, and I made that statement, Secretary Albright has made that statement; I suspect they will want to hear that from the President.

Q It's true that no WTO deal is very likely at this summit, but are you hopeful that China might make some comment that it's willing to join this information technology agreement to eliminate duties on computers and chips? You apparently have put this on a short list if items that you want the Chinese to take a close look at.

MR. BERGER: Well, we would welcome that. I have no indication that they intend to. Let me say just a word about WTO. We would welcome China's accession to the WTO on normal terms. In order for this to make sense for the United States, China has to not only accept the privileges of being a member of the WTO like MFN status, but also has to accept the obligations and responsibilities. For example, national treatment -- dealing with all countries on an equal basis of nondiscrimination, et cetera. Charlene Barshefsky and her people have been discussing this with the Chinese over several months; progress has been very slow, and we have been very clear ourselves that we're not going to lower the bar for the summit.

Q Do you think the information technology agreement would be a good way to make a down payment or move along --

MR. BERGER: We think the information technology agreement is a very good agreement and we would like to see China sign it; I don't know that they intend to do it.

Q It sounds from what you've spoken about that you don't really expect any significant number of agreements to come out of the summit; rather, the summit is a chance to move U.S.-China relations past the post-Tiananmen Square chill, and it will; it's more of a setting up framework.

MR BERGER: I would say several things. Number one, I think regular summits between the largest developed country in the world and the most powerful country in the world and the largest developing country in the world, indeed the largest country in the world, I think regular summits between the presidents of those two countries are generally a good thing -- number one.

Number two, we would hope to make progress on a number of these issues that I've talked about and show some forward movement on these. And I think some of these are significant and all of them are useful. But I think that it is also important that the terms of the relationship be very clear, and that, from our perspective, is -- that we do not seek to contain China, we do not seek to treat China as our enemy. We want to engage with China to expand areas of cooperation, but also because we have fundamental differences with China. And it is, in our judgment, better to deal with those differences face to face than sending press releases over the oceanic transom.

Q Harry Harding said yesterday that he felt that in the last decade that China had not changed so much as the U.S. image of China. And, in fact, there are three movies coming out that portray the Chinese in a rather bad light. How much do you hope that this visit -- that it begins to change some of the process of the way Americans view China? And if that does change, would that make your own diplomacy with China easier?

MR. BERGER: We tend to -- and this is not just -- I even remember during the good part of the Cold War, we swung between a period with the Soviet Union -- we swung between periods of great euphoria -- detente, to periods of great despair that we should all head for the shelters. And I think there is a tendency sometimes in our relationships to move from extreme to extreme.

I would hope that what would come out of the summit would be a better sense of the American people as to why engagement with China is a pragmatic way of proceeding. It doesn't mean we embrace China, it doesn't mean that we agree with everything that they do; in fact to the contrary. But we cannot isolate China; we can only isolate ourselves from China. The rest of the world has already chosen, so we can turn our back, but the world will go forward -- and that through engagement, there has been some progress. There have been some areas of serious disappointment. But this is a long-term process, and I believe it's in the interest of the American people to continue steadily on this road.

Q If they know so much about us, why do they think that the U.S. government would intervene against protesters? And have they made any formal requests to the White House for a crackdown on --

MR. BERGER: The answer to the second question is, no, and certainly we wouldn't do that. I mean, obviously, we will provide protection we would provide to any -- appropriate protection to any visiting head of state. We certainly are not going to interfere with people's First Amendment rights.

Their understanding of America sometimes is imperfect. And one of the values of their coming, and maybe one of their values, John, of going to Independence Hall -- maybe -- is for them to learn about the United States. It's not a bad thing to learn about, if you're China.

Q There's a bit of a financial crisis, kind of a -- stock market fell down in Hong Kong overnight. How well does the U.S. view China's managing of that so far? Is that a concern? Also, it seems to be somewhat currency-related. Should the Chinese advise Hong Kong to maybe put their currency onto a floating exchange basis?

MR. BERGER: If I can quote the President, who quotes Bob Rubin, who quotes Alan Greenspan, I'm not going to comment on exchange rates.

Q The other part about their managing -- I mean, is that going to be part of the talks about how well they're managing the financial situation in Hong Kong right now?

MR. BERGER: I don't know the answer to that. We certainly are going to mention Hong Kong because we -- I think I stood in this very spot right before the Hong Kong reversion and said, don't judge the Hong Kong reversion only by what happens on July 1. And in saying that I was not saying, minimize bad things that happen on July 1, I was saying, pay attention on August 1 and September 1 and October 1.

This is an evolution and I think we will want to make it clear to President Jiang that we continue to watch this situation. So far, there have been some positive things that have happened, some things that have been more troubling, but we want to be clear that the international community still has an interest in how that reversion takes place.

Q Sandy, we've had a briefing here now on U.S.-China summit that I don't think has included the word Taiwan. Do you find that a little strange or is that --


Q -- isn't that at the top of their security --

MR. BERGER: I've been answering every question I get. Would you like to ask a question about Taiwan?

Q Yes, what role does it play in the summit?

MR. BERGER: This clearly will be discussed in the summit, probably raised -- raised by either side, certainly raised by the Chinese side. We will reiterate what has been U.S. policy for 25 years, by one measurement, or since 1979 by another measurement, i.e., our one China policy, which has, I would say, served Taiwan, China, and the United States extremely well. Taiwan during that period has become our sixth largest trading partner and has become democratic. The Chinese-Taiwan relationship has been relatively stable with some periods of skirmishing. And the U.S. relationship with both Taiwan and with China has benefited. So the one China relationship that we have maintained continues to be our policy. We will make that clear. And I think it is a policy that was well conceived originally and continues to make sense for the United States.

Q Sandy, is the administration concerned that there may be some more resistance to Hong Kong going to a floating currency simply because it's so close to the hand-over?

MR. BERGER: I really am not going to -- I really would rather not get into currency issues.

Q Do you expect to come up this issue that the FBI is --

MR. BERGER: But I would refer you to Bob Rubin, who loves to answer those questions.

Q -- the FBI is currently investigating an allegation that the Chinese attempted to influence one or more American elections? Do you expect that to arise?

MR. BERGER: Well, we have raised this issue, these allegations with the Chinese on a number of occasions. I think initially Secretary Albright, the Vice President, other occasions. The Chinese have very vigorously denied that they were engaged in any effort to channel campaign contributions illegally into American campaigns. I suspect they would say the same thing again. It wouldn't surprise me if it came up in the context of this summit, but that has been their very clear and unequivocal position.

Q Can you describe the personal relationship between these two men, between these two Presidents? Is there a relationship? Are they on a first name basis? How -- what's the chemistry?

MR. BERGER: Well, they've met four times and they've met each time on the periphery of a larger meeting. So the dynamic is different. You're at APEC, and you have a bilateral for 45 minutes in a hotel room. And the relationship, I think, has been cordial, and I think they've talked -- particularly in New York -- I can't remember which meeting that was when they met in New York -- UNGA -- where they talked about very much their envisioning their responsibilities to the next generation, their responsibilities -- Jiang did -- to the 21st century. So it has both been a conversation that has taken place on a larger level, as well as, obviously, raising specific issues.

But I think this offers a different kind of opportunity, simply by virtue of the fact that he's here and by virtue of the fact that there's a little more time to talk to each other in a more informal basis than tends to happen in a bilateral when you've got consecutive translation and you've got 45 minutes, which means you have 22 minutes, which means you have 11 minutes. You've got to cover -- if you don't cover Tibet, then, my God, you've sold out Tibet. I mean, Taiwan, excuse me -- not Tibet. Tibet, too. So it tends to me more hurried. I would think this would offer an opportunity to have slightly a more elastic kind of conversation.

Q What about Tibet? (Laughter.)

Q It's there, isn't it? (Laughter.)

MR. BERGER: God, can't even make a mistake with this group. (Laughter.) We have repeatedly encouraged the Chinese government to engage in a dialogue with the Dalai Lama and to preserve the cultural identity and integrity of Tibet. As you know, we've met with the Dalai Lama on a number of occasions, and I think it is a serious issue and it is one that will come up in the context of these discussions.

Q Will you name the special envoy by the deadline?

MR. BERGER: I don't know what the plan is in terms of timetable. We will -- I don't think it's special envoy, first of all. Coordinator -- whatever it's called -- coordinator.

Q Whatever it's called, will you meet the deadline for naming that?

MR. BERGER: I hesitate only because this is -- the State Department was involved in these negotiations with the Hill and I'm not real clear exactly what they said in terms of when it would be done. But we certainly will appoint somebody.

THE PRESS: Thank you very much.

END 3:58 P.M. EDT