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"China's biggest challenge in the coming years will be to maintain stability at home by meeting, not stifling, the growing demands of its people for openness and accountability... Our long-term strategy must be to encourage the right kind of development in China -- to help China grow at home into a strong, prosperous and open society, coming together, not falling apart; to integrate China into the institutions that promote global norms on proliferation, trade, the environment and human rights."

President Clinton
U.S. Institute for Peace
April 7, 1999

China presents a paradox: it faces demographic, environmental, political, and economic and social challenges so severe that the country could become highly unstable; and it has achieved sufficiently rapid economic growth that it may in the coming years become a major factor in regional and global affairs. These uncertainties about China's future require a comprehensive policy of engagement that promotes and protects all of America's interests, from guarding against potential security threats to facilitating the economic success and political changes that will benefit the people of both China and the United States. President Clinton's vision and policy toward China over the past eight years reflect his belief that U.S. interests are best served by a secure, stable, open and prosperous China that embraces international non-proliferation and trade rules, cooperates in regional and global peacekeeping and security initiatives, and expands the rule of law and respect for the basic rights of the Chinese people. The Clinton Administration's strategy of engagement with China has produced concrete results for Americans, including an historic trade agreement paving the way for China's entry into the World Trade Organization and benefiting U.S. commercial, agricultural, environmental and labor interests while opening Chinese society to democratic values and the rule of law. President Clinton's record of achievement with China serves American interests and will set the course for U.S.-China relations in the 21st century.


Strengthening Security and Nonproliferation

  • Maintained a consistent policy based on three pillars: A "one China" policy, an abiding commitment to the peaceful resolution of cross-Strait differences and support for dialogue between the people on both sides of the Taiwan Strait. This policy has played a critical role in promoting stability across the Strait.
  • Dispatched naval forces to the area around Taiwan in 1996 to counter the People's Republic of China's efforts to influence Taiwan's domestic elections through provocative military exercises, clearly signaling to the PRC the grave consequences that would follow the use of force against Taiwan.
  • Fully met U.S. obligations under the Taiwan Relations Act to provide sufficient defensive military capability to Taiwan. In economic and other areas, maintained robust unofficial ties with Taiwan.

North Korea:

  • Worked with China bilaterally and through the Four Party process to reduce North Korea's suspension of long-range missile tests and a continuation of talks between the United States North Korea aimed at improving relations. Four Party talks helped establish the context for the historic North-South summit on June 13, 2000.

South Asia:

  • Coordinated closely with China to formulate and implement the UN Security Council's efforts to manage proliferation problems on the Indian subcontinent.
  • Worked with China to convince Pakistan to end its incursion over the Line of Control, helping to defuse the Kargil crisis in July 1999.


  • Worked successfully to secure China's signature on the Chemical Weapons Convention in 1993 (with ratification in 1997) and on the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) in 1996.
  • Strengthened China's nuclear export control system and addressed concerns regarding Chinese nuclear assistance to Pakistan with China's agreement in May 1996 to halt all assistance to non-safeguarded nuclear programs.
  • China agreed to halt its nuclear cooperation with Iran in September 1997, stopped existing Chinese-Iranian nuclear cooperation (except for two minor projects), and has adhered to its pledges not to provide new nuclear assistance to Iran.
  • Elicited 1997 interim directive and control list governing nuclear related dual-use exports and Chinese membership in Non Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Exporters Committee (Zangger Committee).
  • Secured China's commitment at the June 1998 Summit in Beijing to further strengthen its export control regime for dual-use chemicals and related production equipment and technology to ensure they are not used for production of chemical weapons. China also announced it had expanded the list of chemical precursors that it controls.
  • Elicited China's commitment at the June Summit to "actively study membership in the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR)" building on 1994 Joint Statement whereby China committed to halting exports of MTCR-class ground to ground missiles.
  • Secured China's commitment in November 2000 not to assist, in any way, other countries in the development of ballistic missiles that can be used to deliver nuclear weapons, and to put in place comprehensive missile-related export controls.

Expanding Trade

U.S. Exports:

  • Signed historic legislation in October 2000, granting China permanent Normal Trade Relations status following presidential certification of the terms of China's WTO accession. Upon China's accession, the expanded export opportunities will directly benefit American farmers, businesses and workers as China lowers its tariffs and reduces its barriers to an unprecedented degree. China's membership in the WTO will also promote the rule of law and open Chinese society to foreign ideas, models and individuals.
  • Concluded a WTO accession agreement in November 1999 that will open Chinese markets to American goods and services in a fair and transparent manner.
  • Signed the U.S.-China Agricultural Cooperation agreement in November 1999, which lifted long-standing unscientific Chinese prohibitions on the export of U.S. citrus, grain, beef and poultry to China.
  • Exported $13.1 billion-worth to China in 1999, making China one of the fastest growing export markets for American goods and services.
  • Promoted trade with the result that China is the United States' fourth largest trading partner; exports to China support more than 170,000 American jobs.
  • Signed in April 1999 an aviation agreement which will double the number of flights between the two countries, authorize a new U.S. carrier to begin services and remove all restrictions on U.S. gateway departure cities for U.S. airlines.
  • Signed an Export Control End-Use Visit Arrangement in June 1998 permitting U.S. officials to visit end-users in China of U.S. products and technology. Through the end of 1999 U.S. officials had conducted a total of 50 visits: 49 post-shipment verifications and 1 pre-license check.
  • Secured in 1998 a tough and enforceable textile and apparel agreement that builds on the 1995 agreement and establishes orderly conditions for textile and apparel imports.
  • Concluded a far-reaching bilateral intellectual property agreement in 1995 and a follow-up report in 1996 that established a framework for ensuring protection of U.S. intellectual property rights and a mechanism for ongoing consultations.
  • Since 1994, resolved investment-related disputes through the annual Joint Commission on Commerce and Trade chaired by U.S. Secretary of Commerce and China's Trade Minister and expanded discussions on commercial law and arbitration issues.
  • Since 1994, encouraged China's constructive role in securing APEC's commitment to achieve zero-for-zero tariff reductions in several key areas and free trade and investment in the Asia Pacific Region by 2020.

Advancing Human Rights and Promoting International Organizations

Human and Political Rights:

  • Secured China's signature of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in October 1998 and October 1997.
  • Negotiated the release abroad on medical parole of prominent dissident Wei Jingsheng, imprisoned from 1979 to November 1997 and of student leader Wang Dan, imprisoned from 1989 until April 1998.
  • Elicited President Jiang's agreement at the October 1997 summit in Washington, D.C. to receive a delegation of U.S. religious leaders in February of 1998. This delegation traveled throughout China, including Tibet.
  • Redesignated China in September 2000 as one of several countries worldwide that are particularly severe violators of religious freedom, in accordance with the International Religious Freedom Act, establishing a mechanism to work toward improved treatment of all religious in China.

Rule of Law:

  • Placed a senior Department of Justice prosecutor in China for three months in 2000 to introduce counterparts to the U.S. prosecutorial system and learn firsthand about developments in Chinese criminal law and jurisprudence.
  • Held the U.S.-China Symposium on Legal Aid Systems as part of President Clinton's initiative on rule of law in June 2000, between the American Bar Association -- working together with the State Department -- and the PRC Ministry of Justice's National Legal Aid Center. Associate Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy opened the symposium.
  • Participated in the first U.S.-China Symposium on the Legal Protection of Human Rights in December 1998 -- including U.S. and Chinese government officials, academic experts and NGO representatives.

Other Human Rights Initiatives:

  • Participated in a U.S.-China Symposium on the Legal Protection of Human Rights in December 1998, organized and funded by the Aspen Institute and other private foundations, where senior U.S. and PRC government officials, scholars and human rights experts discussed criminal law and procedure, religious freedom and administrative law.
  • Coordinated with the Administrative Law Advisory Committee, a group of top U.S. experts in administrative law who worked closely with China's Administrative Law Research Group to provide detailed comments on and analyses of drafts of proposed legislation being considered by the National People's Congress, on various aspects of commercial and administrative law.

Fostering Cooperation on Global Issues


  • Signed and sent to Congress in January 1998 the certifications required to implement the Peaceful Nuclear Cooperation Agreement, following China's action on non-proliferation, ending the 12-year ban on the export of significant equipment for civilian nuclear power plants to China.
  • Created the Energy and Environment Cooperation Initiative during President Jiang's 1997 visit to the United States to focus U.S. efforts at the intersection of energy and environmental science, technology and trade.
  • Initiated the U.S.-China Forum on Environment and Development in Beijing in March 1997, co-chaired by Vice President Gore and Premier Zhu, to expand cooperation and dialogue on sustainable development and protection of the global environment. The Forum's second session was held in Washington in April 1999 and third session in Honolulu in January 2000. These meetings have led to numerous agreements and initiatives aimed at reducing sulfur dioxide emissions, making clean U.S. environmental and energy technologies available to China and expanding cooperation on renewable energy sources and energy efficiency.

Law Enforcement:

  • Negotiated a Mutual Legal Assistance Agreement to facilitate cooperation in pursuing criminal investigations with a nexus in both countries. The agreement text balances law enforcement utility with strong protections against its use in pursuing political or cultural repression.
  • Concluded a Customs Mutual Assistance Agreement in April 1998 to assist cooperation in Customs enforcement and a joint project among the United States Government, the Chinese government and the American business community to establish a Model Port Project in Shanghai in April 1999.
  • Established a Joint Liaison Group Subcommittee on Law Enforcement in October 1997, complemented by training at the International Law Enforcement Academy in Bangkok, leading to greater cooperation on counternarcotics, alien smuggling, intellectual property protection and crimes at sea.


October 10, 2000 President Clinton signs legislation enacting Permanent NormalTrade Relations (PNTR) status for China following presidential certification of the terms of China's WTO accession.
September 19, 2000 President Clinton's leadership results in 83-15 vote in the Senate in favor of enacting permanent Normal Trade Relations status for China.
May 28, 2000 President Jiang calls President Clinton to congratulate him on the House vote on PNTR and urge stronger U.S.-China relations.
May 24, 2000 President Clinton's leadership results in 237-197 vote on May 24 in House of Representatives in favor of enacting permanent Normal Trade Relations status for China.
November 1999 President Clinton calls President Jiang to break logjam in WTO negotiations.
September 1999 President Clinton meets President Jiang at APEC in Auckland, New Zealand. Elicits agreement to resume WTO negotiations.
July 1999 President Clinton calls President Jiang in wake of Lee Teng-hui's "special state-to-state relations" remarks to confirm U.S. "one China" policy is unchanged.
June 1999 President Clinton dispatches Presidential Envoy Thomas Pickering to China to present the explanation of the tragic mistaken bombing of the Chinese Embassy in Yugoslavia.
April 1999 President Clinton hosts visit of Premier Zhu to the United States, first by a Premier from China since 1984. Makes substantial progress on WTO, signs Aviation Agreement, holds Joint Environment and Development Forum with Vice President Gore, and signs Customs Assistance Agreement.
June 1998 President Clinton travels to China on State visit, holding an historic live open press event with President Jiang. China announces decision to begin active study of MTCR membership. Both sides pledge greater coordination on the environment, science and technology.
November 1997 President Clinton promotes nonproliferation, human rights and trade agenda in meeting with President Jiang at APEC in Vancouver. Pledges U.S. support in Asian financial crisis and elicits PRC cooperation, particularly with respect to restraint on devaluation of Chinese currency.
October 1997 President Clinton hosts President Jiang's State visit to the United States, the first since 1985. Renews cooperative spirit in relationship, signs Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Energy, initiates Rule of Law cooperation, and expands meaningful human rights dialogue.
November 1996 President Clinton meets President Jiang at APEC in Manila, helps to stabilize relationship buffeted by tension in the Taiwan Strait.
March 1996 President Clinton dispatches two carrier battle groups to area near Taiwan in response to PRC missile tests on the eve of Taiwan elections.
October 1995 President Clinton meets President Jiang at APEC in Osaka.
November 1993 President Clinton establishes personal relationship with President Jiang at APEC meeting in Seattle, elicits commitment to advance bilateral ties.


Summary of U.S.-China Bilateral WTO Agreement, November 17, 1999.

Joint Press Conference of the President and with Premier Zhu Rongji of the People's Republic of China, April 8, 1999.

Remarks by the President to the U.S. Institute for Peace, April 7, 1999.

Remarks by the President to Students and Community of Beijing University, June 29, 1998.

Fact Sheet: Achievements of U.S.-China Summit, June 27, 1998.

President Clinton: U.S.-China Relations in the 21st Century, June 11, 1998.

Joint U.S.-China Statement, October 29, 1997.

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