THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
(Shanghai, People's Republic of China)
For Immediate Release
July 1, 1998
INTERVIEW OF THE PRESIDENT
Shanghai Stock Exchange
Shanghai, People's Republic of China
Q Mr. President, we are very honored to have this
opportunity to talk to you, now that your trip in China is almost halfway.
And I guess you have gained a clearer picture of today's China and what it
all about. So we noticed that when you visit China you chose Xian as the
first stop. Can you tell us why you decided to visit Xian first, in your
first trip ever to China?
THE PRESIDENT: I wanted to start with a place that
the history of China, the culture of China, the permanent character,
will, for the Chinese people. And I did it for personal reasons, because I
think it's always helpful for me to understand where people are and where
they're going if you understand where they come from.
But I also did it because I knew the American people would
this. And one big goal of this trip for me was to have the American people
learn more about China and the Chinese people learn more about America. So
that's why I went to Xian first.
Q Now, Mr. President, speaking of Xian, I remember at
speech at the Xian Airport you quoted Li Shi, which is an ancient Chinese
philosophy book. Now, in your opinion, based on the several days of
observation you've had in China, do you think there's still a difference
between Eastern and Western philosophy? And, if so, how can these two
philosophies cohabitate with each other in the world today?
THE PRESIDENT: Oh, I think there are some differences.
Western philosophy is probably somewhat more explicitly individualistic.
much Western philosophy is
rooted either in the religious tradition of Judaism and
Christianity, or in kind of the materialist tradition. But,
still, I think at bottom, the best of Western and Eastern
philosophy attempt to get at the truth of human life and human
nature, and attempt to find a way for people to live more fully
up to that human truth. And so I think if you strip it away, we
have a lot to learn from Eastern philosophy and perhaps China can
learn some things from Western philosophy, because they help us
to look at the world in a different way and acquire a fuller view
of what the truth is.
Q And you do mention that it's a very good way to
learn the history and culture of a nation in order to understand
more about the nation. So, Mr. President, in your memory can you
recall the first time you ever learned or heard about China? I
mean, for instance, is it by a book or a movie or some other
THE PRESIDENT: Oh, no, no, I remember -- it's when
I was a young boy and I was reading -- my mother and father, they
got me a set of encyclopedias when I was a boy, where you go,
it's world topics A through Z -- no computers, you know?
Q And China is C. (Laughter.)
THE PRESIDENT: And I remember looking at the maps
of the world and reading about China. I was probably, I don't
know, eight or nine years old. And I was fascinated by what I
read. I always wanted to come here from that time on.
Q Now, Mr. President, now that you're in China --
this is your seventh day in China, and during the last seven days
you've talked to people from all walks of life; you've discussed
issues on a wide range with many various people. Is the China in
your impression now different from when your mother first gave
you that map when you were eight or nine years old?
THE PRESIDENT: Oh, yes.
Q And what's the most impressive difference?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, for one thing, at that time I
had very little understanding. It's still the most populous
country in the world, but I think one is immediately struck by
the dramatic economic growth and by the opening of China to the
rest of the world, in terms of learning -- the quest for
You know, I went to that Internet Cafe this morning
and watching the Chinese young people get on the Internet and go
all over the world looking for information -- this is I think a
very important development.
I also believe there is a genuine increase in
people's control over their own lives. Incomes are going up,
people have more choices in education, more choice in jobs, the
freedom to travel. The state-run industries are going down in
relative importance and cooperatives and private businesses are
coming up. And there's more say at the grass-roots level now
over who the local leaders are and what their policies are. So I
think there's a genuine movement toward openness and freedom in
China, which obviously as an American, and as an American
President, I hope will continue and increase and which I believe
is right -- morally right, but I also think it's good for China.
Q Do you have any surprises? Except for this.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I don't know about surprises.
I think I was -- I was a little surprised -- yes, I have two.
First, I did not expect when I came here that my entire press
conference with President Jiang would be played live on
television, and then my speech at Beijing University. And then,
of course, yesterday I had the call-in radio show here in
Shanghai. So I did not anticipate being able to have that sort
of open, sweeping communication with the Chinese people. And I'm
very pleased and I appreciate President Jiang's decision to let
the press conference be aired and all the other decisions that
were made. That I think was very good. I think it was also good
for the Chinese leaders. I mean, the Mayor of Shanghai and I had
a wonderful time on the radio yesterday.
So I think bringing the people into the process of
making these decisions and having these discussions I think is
very, very important, because if you think about a lot of the
problems that we face -- we could take American issues, we could
take Chinese issues -- how are you going to guarantee that all
these people who work for state-owned industries get good jobs?
How are you going to deal with the housing problems if people no
longer have a housing guarantee connected to their job, but there
are vacant apartments in Shanghai but you can't seem to put the
two together? How do you solve these problems?
Very often there's not any simple answer. And
people feel better just to know that their views are heard, their
concerns are heard and that there can be a discussion where
people work together toward the answers. So I think this whole
democratic process, in my view, is very, very important to make
society work when things are changing as quickly as they are now.
Q Now, Mr. President, you've obviously made very
in-depth observations of China today. You mentioned a lot of the
problems that this society is dealing with today. For instance,
state-owned enterprise reforms and so on and so forth. So whose
job do you think is tougher, if you have to make a comparison,
yours or President Jiang Zemin's?
THE PRESIDENT: Oh, I don't know. I think that he
faces enormous challenges here at home of a scope that Americans
have a hard time imagining. Probably the only element of my job
which is more difficult right now is that since the Cold War is
over and America has this role which is temporary -- it won't
last forever -- as the only superpower in the world, I have a lot
of work to do to deal with America's challenges and problems at
home and then to try to get the American people to support our
nation doing what we should do as a force for peace and
prosperity and stability around the world.
So our people have normally been rather like the
Chinese people, you know -- we want to attend to our own affairs
and not be so involved in the rest of the world unless we just
had to be, throughout the last 200 years. But in the last 50
years we've learned that we can only succeed at home if we have
positive relationships around the world -- which is the main
reason I wanted to come to China.
Q Now, allow me to follow up on that, Mr.
President. You mentioned America is the only superpower left for
now in the world. And America's leadership role in the world has
often been talked about in domestic politics, if not sometimes in
international occasions, too. Now, in your opinion, does the
world today need a leader, and, if so, how should the United
States assume the responsibility and why?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I think the short answer to
your question is, yes, the world needs a leader, but not in the
sense of one country telling everyone else what to do. That is,
let's take something that didn't happen in Asia.
If you look at the problem, the civil war in Bosnia,
the terrible problem in Bosnia. We had the military resources to
work with NATO, our military allies in Europe, to move in and
stop the war. Because we were the largest party to NATO, if we
hadn't been willing to take the initiative it wouldn't have
happened. On the other hand, we couldn't have done it alone. We
had to have people work with us.
I'll give you another example. We want to do
everything we can to end the stalemate between North and South
Korea. But if China had not been willing to work with us I don't
think we could have started these four-party talks again or we
would be very effective in urging North Korea and South Korea to
talk directly. But because we can work with China, we can have
Here, I come to China and I say, we want to be your
friends; we share the security interest and we're working
together with India and Pakistan on the nuclear tests; we're
working to stop the transfer of dangerous weapons; we're working
to cooperate in environmental projects; and we know we have
differences and I want to tell you why I believe in religious
freedom or political freedom. If you think about it, that's a
leadership issue for the United States. But the success of the
leadership depends upon having a partnership with China.
So it's a different sort of world leadership than in
the past where it's just a question of who has the biggest army
gets to send a list of instructions to another country and you
think it will be done. That's not the way the world works now.
You have to have -- sometimes you have to stand strong for what
you believe in, in terms of sending the soldiers into Bosnia or
imposing economic sanctions on South Africa, as both China and
the U.S. did in the time of apartheid. But most days you get
more done by finding a way to engage countries and work with them
and persuade them that you're doing the right thing. It's
important to have allies in the world we live in -- to be more
cooperation, even from a leader's point of view you have to have
allies and people that will work with you.
Q According to my understanding, Mr. President,
the role of America in the world, I mean, the United States in
the world, in international affairs is not, as some people
believe or argue, the role of world cop according to your
THE PRESIDENT: No, we're not the world's policeman.
But sometimes we have to be prepared to do things that other
countries can't or won't do. For example, I think we did
absolutely the right thing these last several years to insist
that we keep economic sanctions on Iraq until they give up their
weapons of mass destruction program. I think we did the right
thing to go into Bosnia. I think we did the right thing to
restore democracy in Haiti.
But most times the problems cannot be solved by
military means. And most times, even if we take initiative, we
should be trying to create a world in the 21st century, where
there is a structure where peace and prosperity and the ability
to solve new problems -- like the environmental problems -- where
that kind of structure works, and where you minimize weapons of
mass destruction, drug trafficking, ethnic wars, like we had from
Rwanda to the Middle East to Northern Ireland.
And so the United States' role I think is to try to
create a structure where more likely than not the right things
will be done when problems arise -- not to just do it all
ourselves or tell other people what to do.
Q Okay, Mr. President, let's come back to your
trip in China. Now you have already finished, let's say, already
you have been in China for almost one week. What do you think
are the major achievements through your trip here?
THE PRESIDENT: I think there are several. First
of all, in the whole area of nonproliferation, the fact that we
have agreed not to target nuclear weapons at each other is very
important. It's important for, I think, three reasons.
One is, it eliminates the prospect that there will
ever be a mistaken launch of a nuclear weapon. Second, it's a
great confidence-building measure. It's a symbol, if you will,
of the growing friendship of the two countries, and it should
make other countries in the Asia Pacific region relax a little.
And, third, since India and Pakistan did these nuclear tests, it
reaffirms that we believe that's not the right way to go. We
should be moving away from nuclear weapons, not toward them. So
that's the first thing.
The second thing is, China has agreed to work with
us to stop the transfer of technologies to countries that might
misuse it, to not assist unsafeguarded nuclear facilities like
Pakistan's, and to consider joining the worldwide system that
prevents the exportation of dangerous technologies. So that's
We announced more efforts on our energy and
environmental initiative. This is very important, you know. You
have long-related problems with the number one health problem in
China because of air pollution. Your major waterways have
pollution, the water table is down. We have to find a way to
grow the economy and replenish the environment. So this -- I
predict to you 10 years from now people will look back and say
that's one of the biggest things they did, they agreed to work
more there. We agreed to deepen our cooperation in science and
technology where we've already achieved a lot together. So I
think in all these areas this is important.
There is a huge potential benefit to the Chinese
people and, therefore, to the American people in the rule of law
project we're doing where we're working with Chinese people to
set up the right kind of legal procedures to deal with all the
questions that are going to come up as you privatize the economy.
For example, my wife met the other day I think in Beijing --
Q Beijing University.
THE PRESIDENT: -- yes, and she was telling me about
a case that was raised where a woman was divorced from her
husband because there had been problems in the home. And they
had one child, but they couldn't move out of the home, even
though they had a divorce, because the house came to the husband
through his job.
So as you change the society there will have to be
all kinds of legal changes made. And I think if we work together
on that I think we can find a way to enhance freedom and
stability. So all things these are important.
But, finally, I think that in the end it may be that
the biggest achievement was the increased understanding and the
sense of a shared future. I mean, I think the press conference
that President Jiang and I did will be viewed as historic for a
long time to come. And the fact that he wanted to do it, he
enjoyed it and it was on national television I think was very
Q And I think Chinese people and American people
THE PRESIDENT: I think so. So I think it's a very
Q Now, Mr. President, you mentioned the
achievements in the last several areas -- for instance,
detargeting of nuclear missiles at each other and cooperation in
scientific and environmental areas, and increased understanding.
In your joint statements with President Jiang Zemin you both also
acknowledged that China and the United States have areas of
disagreement. In one word, you have agreed to agree and you have
agreed to disagree.
Now, in your opinion, in the world today China is
now the largest developing nation and the United States is the
largest developed nation. For these two nations to have areas of
agreements and disagreements, how should they develop their
relationship? Is the world too small for two large nations?
THE PRESIDENT: No. No. For one thing, in every
relationship, in every business partnership, in every family, in
every enterprise you have agreements and disagreements. I'll bet
you at your station you have agreements and disagreements. So
what you have to do is you identify your agreements and then you
identify your disagreements, and then you say, here's how we're
going to deal with these. And you keep working to try to bridge
Our major differences are in trade, over some terms
of trade issues, and in the human rights area -- how we define
it, how China defines it, where we should go from here. But if
you back up three years ago, we've made significant progress in
both those areas. And if you back up five years ago we had a lot
of difference in the proliferation area, most of which have been
So there's been a lot of progress in this
relationship in the last five and a half years. And I would say
to the people of China and the people of the United States, the
world is not too small for two big countries; it is a small world
and we should all act that way. That should make us both more
responsible -- with a greater sense of responsibility for our own
people, for our partnership with each other and for the rest of
the world, as well.
Q Now, Mr. President, you mentioned the areas of
differences between China and the United States. However, do you
think that this trip to China has helped you understand why China
is the way China is?
THE PRESIDENT: Oh, absolutely. There's no question
about that. And I hope that this trip to China has helped the
Chinese people understand why Americans are the way we are.
Q Mr. President, we have noticed that your
daughter, Chelsea, accompanied you to Beijing and to all of the
China trip, and also particularly to the Beijing University when
you made the speech.
THE PRESIDENT: Yes.
Q And in your speech, high hope was placed on the
young generation of both China and the United States. And we
wondered whether Chelsea -- did Chelsea ever mention to you her
impression of the Chinese youth in her interaction with the
Chinese college students?
THE PRESIDENT: Oh, yes, she very much wanted to
come here. She wanted to make this trip and her university work
was concluded in time for her to be able to come. But she has
very much enjoyed getting out, meeting young Chinese people and
seeing what's going on. She said to me just yesterday how
incredibly exciting she thought Shanghai was and how she wished
she could stay here a while when we leave and go back, just to
see more of it.
And I think any young person in the world coming
here would be excited by it, and would be excited to see how
eager the young Chinese people are to build good lives for
themselves, to learn more about the rest of the world. The
hunger for knowledge and for the improvement of one's capacity to
do things among these young people is truly amazing. The energy
they generate is astonishing and it makes me feel very hopeful
about the future.
Q One last question, Mr. President. Do you think
that your conversation with President Jiang, face-to-face in such
a summit is easier than the hot line, which has to go over the
THE PRESIDENT: Oh, yes, always better. I think
face-to-face is always better. But I also believe that once you
get to know someone and you feel comfortable with them -- you
know, President Jiang and I have a very friendly relationship
and it permits us to deal with all these issues so that the hot
line then becomes very useful.
If we were strangers, for example, the hot line
would not be so helpful because it would be awkward. But when
there's a problem, as there was with the nuclear tests -- and I
didn't want to wait until I got to China to talk to President
Jiang about how we should respond to the India and Pakistani
nuclear tests, so I called him on the hot line. And because we
had already met several times and we felt -- and he had had this
very successful state visit to the United States, the hot line
was very, very important, very helpful. So I think the telephone
is important. The Internet is important. All communications can be
good, but none of it can take the place of face-to-face
Q Thank you very much for giving us this
opportunity to sit together with you face-to-face. Thank you
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you.