THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
(Hong Kong Special Administrative Region)
For Immediate Release
July 3, 1998
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT
TO THE COMMUNITY AND BUSINESS LEADERS OF HONG KONG
Hong Kong Convention Center
Hong Kong Special Administrative Region
10:42 A.M. (L)
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much. To Jeff Muir, and
Victor Fong, thank you both for your fine remarks and for hosting me.
I thank all the members of the Hong Kong Trade Development Council
and the American Chamber of Commerce for making this forum available,
and so many of you for coming out on this morning for what will be my
last public speech, except for my press conference, which the members
of the press won't permit to become a speech, before I go home.
It has been a remarkable trip for my wife and family and
for the Senate delegation and members of our Cabinet and White House.
And we are pleased to be ending it here.
I want to say a special word of appreciation to
Secretary Albright and Secretary Daley, to Senator Rockefeller,
Senator Baucus, Senator Akaka, Congressman Dingell, Congressman
Hamilton, Congressman Markey, and the other members of the
administration and citizens who have accompanied me on this very long
and sometimes exhausting, but ultimately I believe very productive
trip for the people of the United States and the people of China.
I'm glad to be back in Hong Kong. As I told Chief
Executive Tung and the members of the dinner party last night, I
actually -- I may be the first sitting President to come to Hong
Kong, but this is my fourth trip here. I was able to come three
times before -- once with Hillary -- in the period we now refer to as
back when we had a life. (Laughter.) Before I became President.
And I look forward to coming again in the future.
I think it's quite appropriate for our trip to end in
Hong Kong, because, for us Americans, Hong Kong is China's window on
the world. I have seen remarkable changes taking place in China, and
since the possibilities of its future -- much of which clearly is and
for some time has been visible here in Hong
Kong, with its free and open markets and its vibrant entrepreneurial
Devoid of natural resources Hong Kong always has had to
fall back on the most important resource of all -- its people. The
entrepreneurs, the artists, the visionaries, the hardworking,
everyday people have accomplished things that have made the whole
world marvel. Hong Kong people have dreamed, designed and built some
of the world's tallest buildings and longest bridges. When Hong
Kong ran out of land, the people simply went to the sea and got more.
To the average person from a land-locked place, that seems quite
I thank you for giving me a chance to come here today to
talk about the relationship between the United States and all of
Asia. I have had a great deal of time to emphasize the importance of
our future ties with China and I would like to reiterate them today
and mention some of the points that the two previous speakers made.
But I would like to put it in the context of the entire region. And,
after all, it is the entire region that has been critical to the
success of Hong Kong.
We have a fundamental interest in promoting stability
and prosperity in Asia. Our future is tied to Asia's. A large and
growing percentage of our exports, our imports and our investments
involve Asian nations. As President, besides this trip to China, I
have been to Japan, Korea, Indonesia, the Philippines, Australia and
Thailand, with more to come. I have worked with the region's leaders
on economic, political, and security issues. The recent events in
South Asia, in Indonesia, in financial markets all across the region
remind the American people just how very closely our future is tied
Over the course of two centuries, the United States and
Asian nations have built a vast, rich, complex, dynamic relationship
-- forged in the beginning by trade, strained on occasion by
misunderstanding, tempered by three wars in living memory, enriched
by the free flow of ideas, ideals, and culture. Now, clearly, at the
dawn of the 21st century, our futures are inextricably bound together
-- bound by a mutual interest in seeking to free future generations
from the specter of war. As I said, America can remember three wars
we have fought in Asia. We must make it our mission to avoid
The cornerstone of our security in Asia remains our
relationship of longstanding with five key democratic allies --Japan,
South Korea, Australia, Thailand, the Philippines. Our military
presence in Asia is essential to that stability, in no small measure
because everyone knows we have no territorial ambitions of any kind.
Nowhere is this more evident than on the Korean
Peninsula, where still, every day, after 40 years, 40,000 American
troops patrol a border that has known war and could know
war again. We clearly have an interest in trying to get a peace on
the Korean Peninsula. We will continue to work with China to advance
our efforts in the four-party talks, to encourage direct and open
dialogue between North and South Korea, to faithfully implement the
agreement with North Korea to end their nuclear weapons programs and
to insist that North Korea do the same.
I am encouraged by the openness and the energy of South
Korea's new leader, Kim Dae Jung. Last month, in an address to our
Congress, he said, "It is easier to get a passerby to take off his
coat with sunshine than with a strong wind."
Of course, our security is also enormously enhanced by a
positive partnership with a prosperous, stable, increasingly open
China, working with us, as we are, on the challenges of South Asian
nuclear issues, the financial crisis in the region, the Korean peace
effort, and others.
Our oldest ties to Asia are those of trade and commerce,
and now they've evolved into some of our strongest. The fur pelts
and cottons our first traders bought here more than 200 years ago
have given way to software and medical instruments. Hong Kong is now
America's top consumer for cell phones. Today, roughly a third of
our exports and 4 million jobs depend on our trade to Asia. As was
earlier said, over 1,000 American companies have operations in Hong
Kong alone. And as we've seen in recent months, when markets tremble
in Tokyo or Hong Kong they cause tremors around the world.
That is why I have not only sought to ease the Asian
economic difficulties, but to institutionalize a regional economic
partnership through the Asian Pacific Economic Council leaders
meetings that we've started in Seattle, Washington in 1993, and which
in every year since has advanced the cause of economic integration
and growth in the region. That is why I'm also working to broaden
and deepen our economic partnership with China and China's
integration into the world economic framework.
It clearly is evident to anyone who knows about our
relationship that the United States supports China's economic growth
through trade. We, after all, purchase 30 percent of the exports of
China -- far more than any other country in the world, far more than
our percentage of the world's GDP.
We very much want China to be a member of the World
Trade Organization. We understand the enormous challenges that the
Chinese government faces in privatizing the state industries and
doing so at a rate and in a way which will permit people who lose
their jobs in the state industries to be reintegrated into a changing
economy and have jobs and be able to education their children, find a
place to live and succeed in a stable society.
So the real question with this WTO accession is not
whether the United States wants China in the WTO -- of course, we do.
And the real question, in fairness to China, is not whether China is
willing to be a responsible international partner in the
international financial system. I believe they are. The question
is, how do you resolve the tension between the openness requirements
for investment and for trade through market access of the WTO with
the strains that are going to be imposed on China anyway as it
undertakes to speed up the economic transition and the change of
employment base within its own country.
We are trying to work these things out. We believe that
there must be an end agreement that contains strong terms that are
commercially reasonable. We understand that China has to have some
transitional consideration because of the challenges at home. I
think we'll work this out. But I want you to understand that we in
the United States very much want China to be a member of the WTO. We
would like it to happen sooner, rather than later, but we understand
that we have not only American but global interests to consider in
making sure that when the whole process is over that the terms are
fair and open and further the objectives of more open trade and
investment across the world.
I also would say in that connection I am strongly
supporting the extension of normal trading status, or MFN to China.
I was encouraged by the vote in the House Ways and Means Committee
shortly before we left. I hope we will be successful there. I think
anything any of you can do to support the integrity of the existing
obligations that all of us have including, and especially in the area
of intellectual property, will be very helpful in that regard in
helping us to move forward.
In addition to trade and security ties, the United
States and Asia are bound by family ties, perhaps our most vital
ones. Seven million Americans today trace their roots to Asia, and
the percentage of our citizens who are Asian Americans is growing
quite rapidly. These roots are roots they are eager to renew or
rebuild or to keep. Just last year 3.4 million Americans traveled to
Asia; 7.8 million Asian traveled to the United States. Thousands of
young people are crossing the Pacific to study, and in so doing,
building friendships that will form the foundations of cooperation
and peace for the 21st century.
All across the region we see evidence that the values of
freedom and democracy are also burning in the hearts of the people in
the East as well as the West. From Japan to the Philippines, South
Korea to Mongolia, democracy has found a permanent home in Asia.
As the world becomes smaller, the ties between Asia and
the United States -- the political ties, the family ties, the trade
ties, the security ties -- they will only become stronger. Consider
this one little statistic: In 1975 there were 33 million minutes of
telephone traffic between the U.S. and Asia; in 1996 there were 4.2
billion minutes of such traffic, a 127-fold increase. That doesn't
count the Internet growth that is about to occur that will be truly
Now, the result of all this is that you and I in our
time have been given a remarkable opportunity to expand and share the
storehouse of human knowledge, to share the building of wealth, to
share the fights against disease and poverty, to share efforts to
protect the environment and bridge age-old gaps of history and
culture that have caused too much friction and misunderstanding.
This may be the greatest moment of actual possibility in
human history. At the same time, the greater openness, the pace of
change, the nature of the global economy, all these things have
brought with them disruption. They create the risk of greater gaps
between rich and poor, between those equipped for the Information Age
and those who aren't. It means that problems, whether they are
economic problems or environmental problems, that begin in one
country can quickly spread beyond that country's borders. It means
that we're all more vulnerable in a more open atmosphere to security
threats that cross national borders, to terrorism, to drug smuggling,
to organized crime, to people who would use weapons of mass
Now, how are we going to deepen this relationship
between the U.S. and Asia, since all of us recognize that it is in
our interest and it will further our values? I believe there are
three basic lessons that we can learn from the immediate past that
should guide our path to the future.
First, building economies and people, not weapons of
mass destruction, is every nation's best path to greatness. The vast
majority of nations are moving away from, not toward, nuclear
weapons, and away from the notion that their influence in the future
will be defined by the size of their military rather than the size of
their GDP and the percentage of their citizens who know a great deal
about the world.
India and Pakistan's recent nuclear test, therefore,
buck the tide of history. This is all the more regrettable because
of the enormous potential of both countries. The United States has
been deeply enriched by citizens from both India and Pakistan who
have done so very well in America. They and their relatives could be
doing very well at home, and therefore, could be advancing their
nation's cause around the world. Both these countries could achieve
real, different, fundamental greatness in the 21st century, but it
will never happen if they divert precious resources from their people
to develop nuclear and huge military arsenals.
We have worked hard with China and other leading nations
to forge an international consensus to prevent an intensifying arms
race on the Indian subcontinent. We don't seek to isolate India and
Pakistan, but we do seek to divert them from a self-defeating
dangerous and costly course. We encourage both nations to stop
testing, to sign the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, to settle their
differences through peaceful dialogue.
The second lesson that we should take into the future is
that nations will only enjoy true and lasting prosperity when
governments are open, honest, and fair in their practices, and when
they regulate and supervise financial markets rather than direct
Too many booming economies, too many new skyscrapers now
vacant and in default were built on shaky foundations of cronyism,
corruption, and overextended credit, undermining the confidence of
investors with sudden, swift, and severe consequences. The financial
crisis, as all of you know far better than I, has touched nearly all
the nations and households of Asia. Restoring economic stability and
growth will not be easy. The steps required will be politically
unpopular and will take courage. But the United States will do all
we can to help any Asian government willing to work itself back to
financial health. We have a big interest in the restoration of
growth, starting the flows of investment back into Asia.
There is a very limited time period in which we can
absorb all the exports to try to do our part to keep the Asian
economy going. And while we may enjoy a brief period of surging
extra investment, over the long run stable growth everywhere in the
world is the best prescription for stable growth in America.
We are seeing some positive steps. Yesterday Japan
announced the details of its new and potentially quite significant
banking reform proposals. We welcome them. Thailand and Korea are
taking decisive action to implement the IMF-supported economic reform
programs of their countries. Indonesia has a fresh opportunity to
deepen democratic roots and to address the economic challenges before
it. Thanks to the leadership of President Jiang and Premier Zhu,
China has followed a disciplined, wise policy of resisting
competitive devaluations that could threaten the Chinese economy, the
region's, and the world's.
Even as your own economy, so closely tied to those of
Asia, inevitably feels the impact of these times, Hong Kong continues
to serve as a force for stability. With strong policies to address
the crisis, a healthy respect for the rule of law, a strong system of
financial regulation and supervision, a commitment to working with
all nations , Hong Kong can help to lead Asia out of turbulent times
as it contributes to China's astonishing transformation by providing
investment capital and expertise in privatizing state enterprises and
sharing legal and regulatory experience.
The final lesson I believe is this: Political freedom,
respect for human right and support for representative governments
are both morally right and ultimately the best guarantors of
stability in the world of the 21st century. This spring the whole
world looked on with deep interest as courageous citizens in
Indonesia raised their voices in protest against corruption and
government practices that have brought their nation's economy to its
knees. They demonstrated for change, for the right to elect leaders
fully accountable to them. And in just two weeks the universal
longing for democratic, responsive, accountable government succeeded
in altering their political future.
America will stand by the people of Indonesia and others
as they strive to become part of the rising tide of freedom around
the world. Some worry that widespread political participation and
loud voices of dissent can pull a nation apart. Some nations have a
right to worry about instability because of the pain of their own
past. But nonetheless, I fundamentally disagree, especially given
the dynamics of the 21st century global society.
Why? Democracy is rooted in the propositions that all
people are entitled to equal treatment and an equal voice in choosing
their leaders, and that no individual or group is so wise or so all
knowing to make all the decisions that involve unfettered power over
other people. The Information Age has brought us yet another
argument for democracy. It has given us a global economy that is
based on, more than anything else, ideas. A torrent of new ideas are
generating untold growth and opportunity, not only for individuals
and firms, but for nations.
As I saw again in Shanghai when I met with a dozen incredibly
impressive Chinese entrepreneurs, ideas are creating wealth in this
Now, it seems to me, therefore, inevitable that
societies with the freest flow of ideas are most likely to be both
successful and stable in the new century. When difficulties come, as
they do to every country and in all ages -- there is never a time
that is free of difficulties -- it seems to me that open debate and
unconventional views are most likely to help countries most quickly
overcome the difficulties of unforeseen developments.
Let me ask you this: A year ago, when you celebrated
the turnover from Great Britain to China of Hong Kong, what was
everybody buzzing about after the speeches were over? Will this
really work? Will this two-system thing work? Will we be able to
keep elections? Will this work? How many people were off in a
corner saying, you know, this is a pretty tough time to be doing
this, because a year from now the whole Asian economy is going to be
in collapse, and how in the world will we deal with this? When you
cannot foresee the future, and when problems coming on you have to
bring forth totally new thinking, the more open the environment, the
quicker countries will respond. I believe this is profoundly
I also believe that by providing a constructive outlet
for the discontent that will always exist in every society -- because
there is no perfect place, and because people have different views
and experience reality differently -- and by finding a way to give
everybody some sense of empowerment and role in a society, that
freedom breeds the responsibility without which the open, highly
changing societies of the 21st century simply cannot succeed.
For all these reasons, I think the forces of history
will move all visionary people, including Asians, with their
legendary assets of hard work, intelligence, and education, toward
freer, more democratic societies and ways of ordering their affairs.
For me, these lessons we must carry forward into the new
century, and in this time of transition and change, as we deepen
America's partnership with Asia. Success will come to those who
invest in the positive potential of their people, not weapons to
destroy others. Open governments and the rule of law are essential
to lasting prosperity. Freedom and democracy are the birthrights of
all people and the best guarantors of national stability and
Now, as I said, a little over a year ago, no one could
have predicted what you would have to endure today in the form of
this crisis. But I am confident Hong Kong will get through this and
will help to lead the region out of it, because of the lessons that I
have just mentioned, and because they have been a part of the fabric
of your life here for a very long time.
For years, Hong Kong people have enjoyed the right to
organize public demonstrations, due process under law, 43 newspapers
and 700 periodicals, giving life to the principle of government
accountability, debate, free and open. All this must continue. The
world was impressed by the record turnout for your May elections.
The results were a mandate for more democracy, not less, and faster,
not slower, strides toward political freedom. I look forward to the
day when all of the people of Hong Kong realize the rights and
responsibilities of full democracy.
I think we should all pledge, each in our own way, to
build that kind of future -- a future where we build people up, not
tear our neighbors down; a future where we order our affairs in a
legal, predictable, open way; a future where we try to tap the
potential and recognize the authority of each individual.
I'm told that this magnificent convention center was
built in the shape of a soaring bird on a patch of land reclaimed
from the sea. It's an inspiring symbol of the possibilities of Hong
Kong, of all of Asia, and of our relationship with Asia. Just a
couple of days ago, Hong Kong celebrated its first anniversary of
reversion to China. I am going home for America's 222nd anniversary
May the future of this special place -- of China, of the
relationship between the United States and China and Asia, soar like
the bird that gave life to this building.
Thank you very much.