THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
(Guilin, People's Republic of China)
For Immediate Release
July 2, 1998
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT
IN DISCUSSION ON THE ENVIRONMENT WITH
CHINESE ENVIRONMENTAL SPECIALISTS
Seven Star Park
Guilin, People's Republic of China
11:00 A.M. (L)
Q (started in progress) -- the local government to stop
the logging. But the local government is so poor, they ask for
And then finally, the central government agreed to give them 11 million RMB
per year to stop the logging.
THE PRESIDENT: Good.
Q So, now, well, for the time being, the monkeys are
This is one thing we have done. And I brought with me a picture of the
monkeys and will give it to you as a gift.
THE PRESIDENT: Oh, thank you.
Q So this is the only red-lipped primate besides human
beings. And the total number of it is less than 12 --
THE PRESIDENT: My cousins. (Laughter.) How many total
Q Less than 1,200.
THE PRESIDENT: You know, in our country we have exactly
same issue. We have, in the Pacific Northwest and the West -- California,
Oregon, Washington -- the U.S., we have -- about 90 percent of our
forest is gone. So now we have a law, a national law on endangered
and it also protects the forest.
And we still have some logging in the forest, but you can't
in and just cut all the trees down, you have to be
very careful, tree by tree, as the aging process goes, because I
don't know how old the trees are, but these trees in the U.S.
sometimes take 200 years for full growth. When our Native tribes
were there -- Native American tribes -- they would only cut the
trees after seven generations of growth. And, of course, that's
not enough for an industrial society. So now, we have pine
forest; we just grow them faster. In 20 to 30 years they can be
harvested. And we try to get people to stay away from the old
So, in this case, as I understand it, the provincial
government has the first say, but the national government can
come in and stop it.
Q Yes. And actually, the county government, they
own -- they run the state timber companies there.
THE PRESIDENT: What about tree planting projects,
who does that? At what level is that done?
Q Well, at different levels. The central
government, local government, and also NGOs are all involved in
this tree planting. But tree planting is so slow that all these
older forests -- they may have some trees over 400 years old, and
all these newly planted trees are so small, there's no comparison
with the forest.
THE PRESIDENT: I agree with that. Interestingly
enough, we now believe that tree planting may be most important
in cities. We just had a study done in the U.S. which shows that
a tree planted in a city will take in ten times as much carbon
dioxide as a tree planted in the countryside. Now, you say,
well, of course, because that's where the smog is. But the
important thing is we did not know until this study was done that
the tree could take in ten times as much and still process it.
I noticed in Shanghai yesterday -- I say this
because Shanghai, you know, is growing very fast and they have
all these wonderful new buildings -- but I drove to one of the
building complexes yesterday to meet a family in their new home
and I drove past a lot of the old residential areas, and in all
the old areas there were lots of trees -- not only trees down the
street, but trees up against the buildings.
So we're looking at whether in our country we should
be supporting more of these tree planting operations in the
cities because they do much more to clean the air than we had
thought they did.
(In commenting on children's health)
THE PRESIDENT: Well, one of the things I think will
really help is your government is moving to ban lead in the
gasoline, going to unleaded gasoline. And that will help a great
deal. And that's a very forward step.
But also children's lungs, they get polluted with
all the things in the atmosphere. And, you're right, that will
make -- smoking will become, interestingly enough, even more
dangerous, more difficult because of all the pollution in the
So one of the things that I hope we can do in our
partnership with the Chinese government is to work on the
technologies that will clean up the air in ways that we have been
able to do without hurting the economy. We think there are ways
to do that.
In fact, one of the things that I hope -- I'm glad
we have one business person here because one of the things we
have seen is that we have actually created a lot of new
businesses for cleaning the environment, and it creates a lot of
jobs, provides a lot of opportunity for people to get an
education and do this work.
THE PRESIDENT: I believe that China has a unique
opportunity because you're developing rapidly, but later in time
than other countries, to avoid some of the terrible mistakes we
made. And if I could just mention, in the conservation area, our
traditional energy use that causes pollution is about one-third
in vehicles -- transportation -- about one-third in buildings,
both housing and office buildings, and about one-third in
factories and in power plants. And I think that if you -- again,
in China, it's probably more in factories and power plants -- a
bigger percentage -- probably now, but it will come toward these
If you just taken them each in turn, in the
vehicles, you have opportunities that, I think, that will come to
you because of the development of fuel injection engines, which
will take 80 percent of the pollution away, or natural
gas-powered vehicles, which, I think, are worth looking at.
In the residential areas, yesterday in Shanghai, I
spoke to the American Chamber of Commerce in Shanghai, and there
on a visit was the businessman who is the head of our
homebuilders association in the whole U.S. Just a few weeks ago,
we went to California, which has a warm climate like much of
China, and we started -- we announced a low-cost housing project
for people with modest incomes. And in these houses, they have
solar panels that now look like ordinary shingles on the roof and
can be produced and sold for very little money, but they save
huge amounts of money -- energy. You know, then the power plant
can be used to power the country's industry -- if you use it.
They have windows which let in more light but keep out more heat
and cold. Now, they cost a little more, but over a 10-year
period they save huge amounts of energy.
All these things could be jobs for Chinese people
coming out of the state-owned enterprises. Someone could come in
and start making these solar panels that go on the roof, someone
should start making these windows. They have light bulbs that
cost, in our country, they cost twice as much, but they last four
or five times longer, and they don't emit the same amount of
And then, finally, in the manufacturing industries,
there are whole businesses in America -- like you said, they make
money going into these plants and saying, here are 100 things you
can do and you will cut your energy use by 20 percent and
increase your profits by 20 percent. And in power plants, in our
old power plants, as much as 70 percent of the energy that goes
in them, as you know, is lost in waste heat. So now we have huge
facilities in America being heated and cooled with the waste
I was in a cafe yesterday in Shanghai that had a
picture of a famous American basketball player, Michael Jordan.
Everybody knows who he is. Almost no one knows that the United
Center where he plays basketball is completely heated and powered
by waste heat, recovered from the normal electric generating
So these are things that we would like to work with
you on, because these are all mistakes Americans made that we had
to go back and undo. But since China is now building new
factories, building new power plants, building new homes, selling
new cars -- if you can do these things in the proper way the
first time, you will have undreamed of efficiencies. And it will
help the economy, not hurt it.
So I thank you for what you're doing.
Q I'm from the environmental monitoring station
of Guilin City. Mr. President, you are very welcome to visit
Guilin. Now I'd like to introduce to you the environmental
quality situation in Guilin. Since our efforts in the 1970s, the
water quality of the Li River has reached a grade two level of
the state, that is the drinking water level. And the urban air
quality has reached a grade one level.
We have two problems. One is the acid rain, because
Guilin is in the acid rain area. The second problem is that in
the atmosphere there's still a lot of dust and smog, so we need
to work hard to improve the situation.
In terms of noise, as Guilin is quite an old city
and the city proper is quite small, and the roads are quite
narrow, so the noise situation is not so good. And of
course, today what we hear is the sound of cities, lots of
To improve the environment, the people in Guilin
have paid a big price since the 1970s. We have closed down or
suspended 27 factories polluting the country. And we have also
viewed some sewage treatment plants. So now we now the poisonous
elements in the Li Jiang River now cannot be monitored -- that is
to say, the level has been reduced to a lower level.
And also with the development of the tourism
industry, more and more tourists have come to Guilin. So these
tourists have consumed more energy and leave more waste than the
local people do. So we are faced with a problem of the treatment
of domestic sewage. And through our efforts over these years,
some factories have also set a good example. For instance,
Legion Beer Brewery -- they have done a good job in treating the
waste water. But still some other factories still need to
improve the work in this regard.
So I think, Mr. President, your visit to Guilin this
time has actually provided us with a good opportunity. We hope
that we can enhance the cooperation with American businesses,
American science community in this regard. Especially we hope
that cooperation can be stepped up in the area of environmental
legislation, so that we can further improve our environment,
because water and the mountains of Guilin not only belong to
Guilin, but also belong to the peoples around the world.
So I'm really honored by your presence and arrival
today in Guilin.
THE PRESIDENT: One of the things we find -- I'd
like to ask Mr. Kong to talk next and then come back to Mr. Zhou,
because I want to pursue this. I think it's a very good thing if
one business does the right thing here, but if you don't have
legislation, sometimes it can be unfair to one business, because
if one business does the right thing and the others don't, then
the business that's the most responsible could have a hard time
making a profit. But if everyone in the province or country has
to do it, then everyone is in the same footing.
I would like to ask two questions. One is, if you
were to adopt legislation, say, limiting the discharge of
factories into the water and requiring that it be treated, would
it be done at the provincial level or the national level? And
two, are there funds available from the national government to
help communities like Guilin finance sewage treatment centers for
the tourists or for the people who live here?
Because 20 years ago in the United States, this was
a horrible problem. And I grew up in a little town -- a town not
so little, about 35,000 -- that had three lakes. And the lake
with the largest number of people living on it and the largest
number of tourists was totally polluted. But we could not afford
to fix it. But the national government said -- they gave us over
time about 65 percent of the cost of it, and we came up with the
rest, and we cleaned up the lake. So now the children can swim
there. People don't get sick if they ingest the water. But we
had to have some help. Where would the laws come from --
provincial or national level? And is there now a fund which
helps you with the sewage treatment?
Q Well, we have national legislation for the
limit on the discharge. We actually already have six laws in
this regard. The first is the general law; that is the
environmental protection law. And we also have water pollution
control act, noise control act, marine environment law, and the
wildlife protection act, and also air quality protection law. So
these laws actually are enacted by the national People's
Congress. As for the provincial level, we also have our
legislations. Actually, these legislation are specific in
accordance with the local conditions.
As for the fairness, all the factories are treated
as equals. No matter what factory it is, as long as its
discharge exceeds the limit imposed by the state, then that
factory must be dealt with and penalized.
As for the funding, the central government has given
us a lot of help in this regard, because in the past the Li Jiang
River once was turned into a seriously polluted river with two
colors; one is green, the other is red -- very serious pollution.
And since the treatment of the water pollution started the
central government has allocated several hundred millions of RMB.
And as for other sources of funding, they mainly
come from the taxation or the charges levied from the factories.
And actually these fees collected are also returned to the
factories to help them to deal with the environmental problem.
So actually these are the sources of funding.
Q There is national legislation and the
provincial legislation. But basically the provincial legislation
is based on the administration and the national legislation.
THE PRESIDENT: It can be more stringent.
Q Can be more stringent. It only can be more
THE PRESIDENT: But not weaker? That's good, yes.
Q But funds from the central government,
basically the investment for the environment basically is the
responsibility for the local government, including fees. The
central government gave them a little money. It basically is not
a common case. The reason is that -- so in this case the central
government gave them some money. But basically it was provided
by themselves, locally.
THE PRESIDENT: You actually -- you're a lawyer and
you helped to write these laws, right? (Laughter.) So what do
you think the next step should be? What is the next most
important thing to be done?
Q I think the central government should provide
some additional funding to local government, is my personal will.
And -- (inaudible) -- people they share the same idea. But we
have some different ideas from the economic people, from --
(inaudible) -- people. So we still have different views and
positions on this issue.
THE PRESIDENT: Let me say, in our country there is
still a big fight over every new step, because there are always
people who are afraid that if we take a new step it will hurt the
economy. But in the end -- he talked about the tourists --if you
want the tourists to come to Guilin, you have to have a clean
environment. If you want a stronger economy, you have to produce
healthy children. So at some point we have to see these things
Q The problem right now is the fee or the penalty
is too light.
THE PRESIDENT: Too light.
Q So a lot of our experts suggest to raise the
penalty for the polluters.
Q I think the big problem is there is no
community involvement. I went to -- I stayed for over two years;
I know in the U.S. the enforcement of environmental law is very
important, and U.S. EPA and the local government and NGOs. But
there are so few NGOs in China -- -- enforcement of the
environmental law, just the government's behavior, not the
individual. It's a big problem. So how we can supervise or
monitor this process? If a company discharged some polluted
water in the night, who will know? It's a great problem. I
think the enforcement of environmental law by -- (inaudible) --
involvement is most important in China.
THE PRESIDENT: Do you believe -- let me ask you
this - do you believe that most ordinary Chinese people believe
that the environmental standards should be raised, that they
basically support a strong environmental policy?
Q I think this public awareness is still not so
strong, so public should be educated, make them know they have a
right to that.
THE PRESIDENT: That goes back to what Mr. Liang
says about educating the public.
Mr. Kong, why did you clean up your factory if you
didn't have to do it?
MR. KONG: Well, as an entrepreneur, I'd like to say
something of my views. While the motive of business is to earn
money, make profit, there's no doubt about it, but the modern
entrepreneurs must have two responsibilities. One is to create
wealth; the second is to adopt advanced technology to protect the
environment and ecology. So look back at our experience. We are
actually a beer brewer and we use the water Li Jiang River and I
think this is the best -- one of the best beers in China. And I
believe a lot of American tourists have already tasted that.
In the beginning period, the purification process
was not very good, our discharge did not reach the level. But at
that time, although we made a lot of money, we felt quite guilty
because we thought we were kind of destroying the environment.
And last year we persuaded our shareholders not to get their
dividends, but to just retain the dividends in the company until
we set up a discharge treatment plant. And actually after the
water is purified and the sewage is processed, the discharge
actually can reach or even exceed the state level.
So after that we feel quite happy because we really
feel that God has blessed us because we are living in such a
beautiful environment. So I think everybody, every citizen in
Guilin has the responsibility to protect our environment and the
beautiful waters and the mountains. And I believe that only with
the environment here being protected can hundreds of millions of
tourists come here. But I think the tourists should also come to
realize that we local people have also paid a big price for that
-- to protect the environment.
On the other hand, I think there's a problem that
has not been resolved yet. As Mr. President, you mentioned that
environmental protection actually requires the efforts of
everybody, every enterprise, every plant. Only in this way can
the planet, can the Earth be really preserved well. So we think
we really should enhance the public awareness of protecting the
environment. If everybody could do a good job in this regard
then there will be no problem in the environmental protection.
And also in this regard, I think to protect the environment will
require a lot of funding and also a lot of risk-taking courage.
For instance, my company, we have invested more than 10 million
RMB-yuan in environmental projects, but we have not actually
gotten any return from that. So we have to explain to our
shareholders why we have done this.
And I think in other regard we think that government
should also provide some incentives to those factories that have
taken these environmental protection measures. For instance, the
Guilin government has already subsidized 2 million RMB-yuan to
us. So I think, apart from the responsibilities of the general
public and also the enterprise, the government should also take
some responsibility in this regard.
THE PRESIDENT: I know we have to go out to the
program, but I wanted to give every one of you a chance to say --
is there any specific think that you believe that I could do, or
the United States could do in partnership with China that would
be most helpful to you in what you're trying to achieve? If you
were to ask us to go back and work with the Chinese government on
one thing that we could do, or with our business people on one
thing to be helpful, what would it be?
Q I would like to make a short comment on
communications between the two countries. I think before, the
communications between the two countries was limited to
government circle. So I think today's roundtable is a
significant start in history. We have NGOs invited to attend
this important event. You know, NGOs in China is so young and so
few. This is a big problem. I wish the U.S. to produce 90
minute TV series which is sponsored by U.S. EPA and the U.S.
Information Agency about U.S. environmental movement. So I think
the most important thing is -- (inaudible) -- and development of
-- (inaudible) -- in U.S.
THE PRESIDENT: So you think, for example, if we
could arrange to have some of our leaders of our environmental
groups come here and meet with citizens like you, you think that
would be helpful.
Q Yes, sure, so we can widen the NGOs channel to
communication on environmental issue. And what we can do -- my
organization is the media business and the grass-roots
environmental -- we can provide some opportunity, like we can do
something. We have a TV program, weekly TV program on China
National Television, for over two years. It's broadcast at 1630
Friday, repeated at lunchtime Saturday. It's a countrywide TV
program. We independently produce it for over two years. So we
will broadcast in the TV series about environmental protection in
the U.S. What we want to do is tell Chinese people, don't copy
the mistake made by U.S.
For example, we focused on some
environmental-friendly lifestyle. We tell the Chinese people,
don't follow some wrong thing, like too many air conditioners and
too many private cars, too many one-time use products.
THE PRESIDENT: One-time use, yes. Yes, I agree
Q And by this we educate -- sustainable
consumption. So I think this by we not only benefit to Chinese,
but also benefit to Americans. If we run more communication
projects between the two countries, we will encourage, induce the
Americans to pay more attention to advocating sustainable
consumption, which will help your sustainable production and the
We are seeking a training center, an NGO training
center. Maybe we can authorize something like a training program
for enforcement of environmental law. We'll tell the citizens
how to sue a company, polluter, and even how to sue the
government if they cannot enforce the environmental law. So we
can give them more information. I think they are not the
resources available in the U.S. to Chinese. And, of course, we
can keep this TV series to keep the Chinese people know by media
what America is doing, what we should do.
And anyway, I think the communication of the NGOs --
why the NGOs channel is very important. And furthermore, I think
that the U.S. comparing with European country and Japan, the U.S.
is far behind in providing assistance to China. I think now
talking is more than action. I know in China the environmental
issue draws more and more attention from Chinese people -- no
matter government or NGOs. So I believe that there will be big
environmental movement in China in the near future. If Americans
don't want to give up this good opportunity, economically,
politically, and environmentally, you have to take action now.
THE PRESIDENT: I agree with that. (Applause.)
Give that speech to the Congress. Unfortunately, all the people
here from my Congress agree with you, but we believe that the
U.S. Congress does not give enough aid in these areas. And I
think it is a huge mistake, and I'm always trying to get more.
So I will take what you said and publish it widely when we get
You raised another issue that I think is important.
We have this rule of law project with China, and my wife met with
some people earlier in the week about this. But what happens
when you have these environmental laws and the government has to
enforce them is you will always have some honest disputes. And
so there has to be some way of resolving them. When our
environmental agencies impose regulations, if the companies think
they're wrong or unfair or they made a mistake or they think they
have a cheaper way to do the same thing, well, they have a way to
go into the courts and we examine that. So there has to be -- I
agree with you, that will be a part of it.
What else? Anybody else want to say what you think
of that? Yes, Mr. Zhou.
Q I have a specific suggestion. I assume maybe
you can support us to raise the alliance for an energy efficiency
challenge and encourage some big leading American company to be
the co-initiator with such voluntary activities to protect
environment and to do energy efficiency in China. Thank you.
Q When we try to protect the animals, the monkeys
in the province, those people are really poor. And so we have
experienced when these people say, you people in Beijing, you
live in the houses with heating, electricity, gas, and lighting,
and everything. Why should we change? We are moving into your
houses and you people come here and live in this forest and see
whether you can stop the logging and have a decent life. So I
think is basically the rich countries and the poor countries are
facing the same problems. But we are facing the problem of we
want to develop the economy, but we have so many difficulties
THE PRESIDENT: It's an honest problem, too. And in
the rural areas in all developed countries, people tend to be
poorer. And they have to make their living, they believe, from
natural resources. I told you, we had the same problem with the
old-growth forests, and we had never handled this very well. So,
in 1993 and '94, the Congress adopted a plan that I asked them to
adopt to provide extra funds to these communities which were
making the money from the logging to try to change the basis of
To be honest, no one knew whether we could do it or
not. We didn't know. We thought we could, but we didn't know.
But I can tell you now, five years later, the unemployment rate
in all those communities is now lower than it was before we
started to protect the trees. So over a five-year period, we
were able to do this. And I think it requires a lot of effort
and some money and a lot of thought and very good, vigorous local
leaders -- you have to have local leaders who have confidence and
then people who can change, you know. But I think this can be
MS. LIAO: If I could just site a specific
interest and topic, my organization is women NGOs and the
full-time staff are women. We focus on sustainable consumption
and the children's education. We public children's environmental
guide. We got grant from U.S. EPA to publish 10,000 volumes of
this book. Of course, we need more support to donate to every
child in China. Every child in China got this book.
THE PRESIDENT: Really?
MS. LIAO: Yes. And by my -- my organization views
the women is a very important force in environmental movement
because women, sooner or later, a mother, they care for the
children's future. So whenever we tell women you have to do
something or you choose -- (inaudible) -- they say, oh, terrible,
terrible, what we can do, we have to protect the children.
So this way, we have many volunteers at my
organization of women. And we hold an annual forum on women
journalism and the environment. Almost every media organization
attended this forum, which was very helpful. We think that,
also, women are consumer decision-makers. Women choose
environmental-friendly lifestyle, like reduce, recycle -- and
reuse. So I would like to, by this chance, I would like to
express that hope that we'll promote more cooperation between two
countries and women and the environment.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. I agree with that. But
interestingly enough, as a result of what you're saying -- and
that goes back to what Mr. Liang was saying -- I think the more
awareness the children have about this, and the more this is
taught in school, the better. Because in our country now, I
believe that the children are the strongest environmentalists.
You know, when I visit a community in America,
suppose I -- next week I have to go to Atlanta, Georgia, when I
get back -- very often a group of children will meet me at the
airport, and they will bring me letters that the children have
written. Sometimes they're six years old, these children. Very
young. And I always look over these letters to see what they're
writing me about. They ask me questions, and sometimes they're,
how do you like being President, or something. But there are
more letters from children age 12 and under on the environment
than any other subject now, for the last several years.
So when the children begin to ask their parents
about this, when they begin to talk about this at dinner, when it
becomes a concern for the children, and then when the mothers are
concerned about their health, I think it can change a country.
No American official can talk to any group of schoolchildren for
10 minutes without being asked about the environment. It's an
amazing thing. The children are sort of out there.
Well, I suppose we better go do the program, but
this is very helpful. And we have taken careful note of what you
have all said, and we will try to follow up. And I admire you
all very much, and I thank you for what you're doing. It will
help not only the Chinese people, but all the rest of us as well.
Thank you. (Applause.)