THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
(Hong Kong Special Administrative Region)
For Immediate Release
July 3, 1998
PRESS CONFERENCE BY THE PRESIDENT
Hong Kong Special Administrative Region
5:23 P.M. (L)
THE PRESIDENT: Good afternoon. I know most of the
American journalists here are looking forward, as I am, to
returning home for the 4th of July. But I didn't want to leave
China without first reflecting on the trip and giving you a
chance to ask some questions.
Let me begin, however, by thanking the people who
came with me who worked so hard on this trip -- Secretary
Albright, Secretary Rubin, Charlene Barshefsky, Secretary Daley,
Secretary Glickman, Janet Yellen, Mark Gearan. I'd like to say a
special word of thanks to all the members of the White House
staff who worked so hard to prepare me for this trip, along with
the Cabinet Secretaries. I want to thank the congressional
delegation, Senator Akaka, Senator Rockefeller, Senator Baucus,
Congressman Hamilton, Congressman Dingell and Congressman Markey;
and also the staff of the embassy and the consulates.
Over the past week, we have seen the glory of
China's past in Xian, the vibrancy of its present in Beijing, the
promise of its future in Shanghai and Hong Kong. I don't think
anyone who was on this trip could fail to appreciate the
remarkable transformation that is underway in China, as well as
the distance still to be traveled.
I visited a village that chooses its own leaders in
free elections. I saw cell phones and computers, carrying ideas,
information, and images around the world. I had the opportunity
to talk directly to the Chinese people through national
television about why we value human rights and individual freedom
I joined more than 2,000 people in worship in a
Beijing church. I spoke to the next generation of China's
leaders at Beijing University; to people working for change in
law, academia, business, and the arts; to average Chinese during
a radio call-in show. I saw the explosion of skyscrapers in one
of the world's most modern stock exchanges in Shanghai. I met
with environmentalists in Guilin to talk about the challenge
China faces in developing its economy while improving its
environment. And here in Hong Kong we end the trip where I hope
China's future begins, a place where free expression and free
markets flourish under the rule of law.
Clearly, China is changing, but there remain
powerful forces resisting change, as evidenced by continuing
governmental restrictions on free speech, assembly, and freedom
of worship. One of the questions I have tried to frame on this
trip for the future is how do we deal with these issues in a way
most likely to promote progress. The answer I think is clear:
dealing directly, forcefully, but respectfully, with the Chinese
about our values.
Over the past week, I have engaged not only the
leadership, but the Chinese people, about our experience and
about the fact that democracy is a universal aspiration; about my
conviction that in the 21st century democracy also will be the
right course practically as well as morally, yielding more
stability and more progress.
At the same time, expanding our areas of cooperation
with China advances our interests -- stability in Asia,
nonproliferation, the rule of law, science and technology,
fighting international crime and drugs, and protecting the
environment. The relationship between our two countries is
terribly important. The hard work we've accomplished has put
that relationship on a much more positive and productive footing.
That is good for America, good for China, good for Asia, good for
Now I look forward to returning home and pressing
for progress on a number of fronts: passing a balanced budget
that makes the investments in education and research we need for
the 21st century; expanding health care and providing a Patient's
Bill of Rights; pursuing campaign finance reform; protecting our
children from the dangers of tobacco.
Now, I'd be happy to take your questions, and I'd
like to begin with Mr. Bazinet.
Q Mr. President, from your staff to President
Jiang Zemin, this trip has been hailed as a success -- we
leaving here with one symbolic agreement. I wonder if you could
explain to us what exactly or how exactly you will show your
critics back in Congress that you did meet your expectations on
this trip. Thank you.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, on the substance, I think we
have reinforced our common commitment to regional security, which
is terribly important here in the progress I believe can be made
in the next several months, in the next couple of years in Korea,
and the job we have to do in South Asia with India and Pakistan.
We made substantial progress in nonproliferation, not only in
detargeting, but in other areas as well. We got a significant
commitment from the Chinese to take another step toward full
participation in the Missile Technology Control Regime. We had
an agreement on the rule of law which I believe practically --
these rule of law issues I think will practically do an enormous
amount to change the lives of ordinary Chinese citizens, not only
in regularizing commercial dealings, but in helping them with
other daily problems that impinge on freedom if they're not
fairly and fully resolved.
I'm pleased by the science and technology initiative
that we signed, which has already produced significant benefits
for both our people. I'm very pleased that we now have a Peace
Corps agreement with China. And I think we have really broken
some ground in cooperation on the environment. And again I say
that I think China and the United States will both have heavy
responsibilities to our own people and to the rest of the world
in this area.
I believe that the fact that we debated openly these
matters at the press conference of our disagreements is quite
important, as well. And I might say that a lot of the democracy
advocates from Hong Kong said that they felt that in some ways
the fact that we had this public discussion, the President of
China and I, in the press conference might have a bigger impact
over the long run on the human rights picture than anything else
that happened here.
I have acknowledged in candor that we have not made
as much progress on some of the trade issues as I had hoped, but
I also now have a much clearer understanding of the Chinese
perspective. I think they want to be in the WTO; I think they
want to assume the responsibilities of opening their markets and
taking down barriers and allowing more investment. But I think,
understandably, since they are also committed to privatizing
state-owned industries, they have big chunks of unemployment for
which they have to create big chunks of employment. And they
want to have a timing for WTO membership that will permit them to
continue to absorb into the work force people that are displaced
from the state industries.
So I have an idea now about how we may be able to go
back home, put our heads together and come up with another
proposal or two that will enable us to push forward our trade
agenda with the Chinese. So, in all those areas, I think that we
made substantial, substantive progress.
Q Mr. President, have you and President Jiang
Zemin achieved a constructive strategic partnership that you've
talked about? What do you mean by that term, and how can you
have that kind of a relationship with a country that you say
unfairly restricts American businesses?
THE PRESIDENT: For one thing, I don't think it's
the only country in the world where we don't have complete fair
access to the markets. We still have trade differences with
Japan, which is a very close ally of ours, and a number of other
countries. So we don't have -- we can have a strategic
partnership with a country with whom we do not have a perfect
I think that -- first of all, let me remind you
about what our interests are. We have profound interest in a
stable Asia that is progressing. We have a profound interest in
a partnership with the world's largest country in areas where we
can't solve problems without that kind of partnership -- and I
cite India, the Indian subcontinent, the Asian financial crisis,
and the environmental challenges we face as examples of that. So
I think that our interests are clear and I think we're well on
the way toward expanding areas of cooperation and defining and
honestly and openly dealing with areas of differences that are
the essential elements of that kind of partnership.
Q Mr. President, during your news conference with
President Jiang, he mentioned that you raised campaign
fundraising with him. And I wonder if you could share with us
just what ideas you expressed to him. And also, since he said
that the Chinese conducted an investigation and that they found
the charges were totally absurd, did you suggest that he might
want to cooperate with Justice Department and also congressional
THE PRESIDENT: Let me say, he was interested in a
very -- in what I might call a narrow question here, but a very
important one, and in my mind, the most important one of all.
The question here, the question that was raised that was most
troubling was whether people at high levels in the government of
China had either sanctioned or participated in the channeling of
funds in violation of American law not only into the presidential
campaign but into a number of congressional campaigns. That
charge has been made. He said they looked into that, and he was,
obviously, certain, and I do believe him that he had not ordered
or authorized or approved such a thing, and that he could find no
evidence that anybody in governmental authority had done that.
He said that he could not speak to whether any
people pursuing their own business interests had done that. He
didn't say that it happened or he knew that it happened. I want
to make it clear -- he just said that his concern was on the
And I told him that that was the thing that we had
to have an answer to and that I appreciated that, and that if he
were -- if the government of China were contacted by any people
doing their appropriate work I would appreciate their telling
them whatever they could tell them to help them to resolve that
to their satisfaction, because I do think that is the really
Q Thank you, Mr. President. Many democracy
advocates were encouraged by your trip to China and, in fact, Val
Tong (phonetic) granted an interview to test the limits of
Chinese tolerance. But, sir, why did you find it impossible to
meet with the democracy advocate in Beijing, where it would have
had the most impact? And would you feel compelled to intervene
personally if Val Tong (phonetic) is arrested after you leave?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I have continued -- first, let
me answer the second question first. I have continued to raise
individual cases and will continue to do so with the Chinese
government and with the President. I would very much like to see
China reassess its position on categories of arrestees as well.
And let me just mention, for example, they're probably 150 people
who are still incarcerated as a result of events in Tiananmen
Square who were convicted of non-violent offenses. There are
also several people still incarcerated for a crime that is no
longer a crime -- that the Chinese themselves have said we no
longer want to, in effect, pursue people who have committed
certain offenses against the state under which were basically a
rubric for political dissidents. I suggested that they look at
that. So in all that, I will continue to be active.
On your first question, I did my best to meet with
people who represented all elements of Chinese society and to do
whatever I could to encourage democratic change. The decisions I
made on this trip -- as I remind you, the first trip by an
American President in a decade -- about with whom to meet and how
to handle it were basically designed -- were based on my best
judgment about what would be most effective in expanding human
rights. And we'll have to -- I think, at this moment, it looks
like the decisions I made were correct, and we'll have to see
over the course of time whether that is accurate or not.
Q Mr. President, in the days leading up to your
visit there was very dramatic testimony in the U.S. Congress
about forced abortions -- allegations, reports that there were
forced abortions still continuing in China. Did you specifically
raise the issue of forced abortions with President Jiang Zemin?
And if you did, what did he say to you about this allegation?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, they all say the same thing.
They say that is not Chinese policy, that it violates Chinese
policy. My view is that if these reports are accurate there may
be insufficient monitoring of what's being done beyond the
capital and beyond the place where the orders are being handed
out to the place where the policy is being implemented.
And so I hope by our presence here and our concern
about this, which, I might add was -- this issue was first raised
most forcefully a couple of years ago by the First Lady when she
came to Beijing to speak at the Women's Conference. I'm very
hopeful that we will see some progress on this and that those who
are making such reports will be able to tell us over the coming
weeks and months that there has been some real progress.
Q But did you raise it with President Jiang?
THE PRESIDENT: We talked about it briefly. But
they all say the same thing, Mr. Blitzer. They all say that this
is not policy; that they've tried to make it clear -- and I have
tried to make it clear that it's something that we feel very,
very strongly about. But, as I said, I believe that if, in fact,
the policy is being implemented in a way that is different from
what is the stated policy in Beijing, we may get some reports of
improvements in the weeks and months ahead and I hope we will.
Q Mr. President, while you've been in China the
ethnic cleansing in Kosovo appears to be continuing. You and the
Secretary of State have both talked very firmly to President
Milosevic about stopping and it is not stopping. Is there a
point at which you're going to move, or is, in fact, this a bluff
which he's successfully calling?
THE PRESIDENT: No, I don't think that's accurate.
But the situation -- let me say, first of all, I still believe
the situation is serious. I still believe as a practical matter
the only way it will ultimately be resolved is if the parties get
together and resolve it through some negotiation and dialogue. I
think that Belgrade is primarily responsible here. But I think
that others, when they're having a good day or a good week on the
military front, may also be reluctant to actually engage in
dialogue. So I think this is something that all parties are
going to have to deal with.
Now, I have, since I have been on this trip, checked
in almost daily on the Kosovo situation and continue to support
strongly with our allies continuing NATO planning and a clear and
unambiguous statement that we have not, nor should we, rule out
any options. And I hope that is still the position of our
Q While NATO is planning, people are dying every
THE PRESIDENT: They are, Mr. Donaldson, but there
is -- the conflict is going on; both sides are involved in it.
There is some uncertainty about who is willing and who is not
willing to even negotiate about it. And we're working on it as
best we can.
Q Mr. President, if this trip is followed in the
days or weeks to come by the piecemeal release of few Chinese
dissidents, would you consider that a success? And why not set a
deadline for China to release all of its political prisoners?
And, if I may, sir, you spoke a minute ago about the powerful
forces resisting change in China. Do you believe there could
every be democracy here?
THE PRESIDENT: Oh, yes. The answer to the second
question is yes. I believe there can be and I believe there will
be. And what I would like to see is the present government,
headed by this President and this Premier, who are clearly
committed to reform, ride the wave of change and take China fully
into the 21st century and basically dismantle the resistance to
it. I believe there -- not only do I believe there can be, I
believe there will be.
Now, I believe that, again, on your first question,
I think I have to do what I think is most effective. And
obviously, I hope there will be further releases. As I said, I
would like to see not only targeted, selected high-profile
individual releases, which are very important, but I think that
the next big step would be for China to look at whether there
could be some expedited process to review the sentences of whole
categories of people, because that would tend to show a change in
policy rather than just the product of negotiation with the
In all fairness, while I very much value the role
that I and our country have been able to play here, the best
thing for China will be when no outside country is needed to
advance the cause of human rights and democracy.
Q Mr. President, the U.S. policy pushed for a
negotiated reconciliation between the People's Republic and
Taiwan. But some in Taiwan believe that by endorsing the three
no's, your administration has taken away some of the bargaining
power that they would need in a negotiation. Did that concern
you? Can you tell us why you thought it was important to
publicly articulate the three no's policy, when people in Taiwan
were saying this would make it more difficult?
And also, if you'll forgive me, just a quick
two-parter -- as you look back at the ups and downs of your China
policy over the past six years, have you ever had occasion to
regret the very tough and sometimes personal words you had on the
subject for George Bush in 1992?
THE PRESIDENT: Let me answer the Taiwan question
first. First, I think there may be difference of opinion in
Taiwan. Yesterday, the Taiwanese leader, Me. Lee, said that the
United States had kept its commitments not to damage Taiwan or
its interests in any way here. I publicly stated that because I
was asked questions in public about Taiwan, and I thought it was
an appropriate thing to do under the circumstances. But I did
not announce any change in policy. In fact, the question of
independence from Taiwan, for example, has been American policy
for a very long time and has been a policy that has been embraced
by the government in Taiwan, itself.
So I believe that I did the right thing there to
simply clarify to both sides that there had been no change in our
policy. The substance of the policy is obviously something that
the Chinese government agrees with. I think what the Taiwan
government wants to hear is that we favor the cross-strait
dialogue and we think it has to be done peacefully and in an
orderly fashion. That is, I believe, still the intention and the
commitment of the Chinese government.
So I didn't intend, and I don't believe I did,
change the substance of our position in any way by anything that
I said. I certainly didn't try to do that.
Q And about what you said --
THE PRESIDENT: Oh, I'm sorry. I forgot. Well, let
me go back and try to retrace the steps there. I think that at
the time -- you may have a better record of exactly what was said
and what wasn't -- I felt very strongly that the United States
should be clear and unambiguous in our condemnation about what
happened nine years ago, at the time. And then we needed to have
a clear road going forward which would attempt to -- not to
isolate the Chinese, but would attempt to be very strong about
how we felt about what happened and would, in essence, broaden
the nature of our policy.
What I felt was that in genuine concern to maintain
a constructive relationship with China, for security reasons and
for economic reasons, that we didn't have high enough visibility
for the human rights issue. I believed that then; I still
believe that. I think any President would say that once you've
served in this job you understand a little bit more the nuances
of all policies than you do before you get it. But I believe, on
balance, that we have a stronger human rights component to our
engagement strategy than was the case before, and I think that is
Q Mr. President, during your trip, at least in
the first cities you visited, we saw a sort of passion release
program of human rights dissidents. And, of course, thousands of
others are still in prison in labor camps. Since you did not
meet with them, sir, what would your message be to those who
wanted to meet with you? And to follow up on your response to an
earlier question, why is that you feel that it would not help
their cause to have sat down and met with some of them?
THE PRESIDENT: Because I believe over the long run
what you want is a change in the policy and the attitude of the
Chinese government on whole -- not just on this, that, or the
other specific imprisoned dissident or threatened dissident --
although those things are very important. I don't want to
minimize that. I'm glad Wei Jingsheng is out of jail. I'm glad
the bishop is out of jail. I'm glad Wang Dan is out of jail. I
think these things are important.
But what I am trying to do is to argue to the
Chinese government that not because we're pressuring them
publicly, but because it is the right thing to do -- the right
thing to do -- that the whole policy should be changed. And
after all, our relationships have been characterized, I think, by
significant misunderstanding, including the misunderstanding of
the Chinese of our motive in raising these issues.
And so I felt that by going directly to engage the
Chinese, starting with the President, and especially taking
advantage of the opportunity to have this free and open debate
before all the Chinese people, I could do more in the short and
in the long run to advance the cause of human rights.
Q The other part of the question is, is there
some message to these individuals that you'd like to send them?
THE PRESIDENT: My message is that the United States
is on your side and we did our best. We're on the side of free
speech. We're on the side of not putting people who dissent in
prison. We're on the side of letting people who only dissented
and exercised their free speech out of prison, and that we
believe that this new, heretofore, unprecedented open debate
about this matter will lead to advances. We think that it's
going to take a lot of discipline and a lot of effort, but we
believe that this strategy is the one most likely to advance the
cause of free speech and free association and free expression of
religious conviction, as well.
Q A question from the Irish Times. I understand,
Mr. President, that you have been following events in Northern
Ireland very closely during your trip and that you telephoned
party leaders from Air Force One yesterday and you spoke to them
about the prospect of serious violence this weekend -- Could I
ask you, what would you say to those on the opposite side of the
dispute at this time, and also, about the burning of ten Catholic
church in Northern Ireland? And could I ask you, too, is there
any prospect of you visiting Ireland this year now that the
Northern Ireland elections are behind us?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, yes, I did call Mr. Trimble
and Mr. Hume to congratulate them on the respective performances
of their parties, and the leadership position that -- this was
right before the elections -- I mean, the election for leadership
-- but that we had assumed Mr. Trimble would be elected and that
either Mr. Hume or the nominee of his party, which turned out to
be Mr. Mallon, would be selected as the First Deputy. And I
wanted to talk to them about what the United States could do to
continue to support this process and, in particular, whether
there was anything that could be done to diffuse the tension
surrounding the marching season and, especially, the Drumcree
And we had very good, long talks. They said they
needed to get the leadership elections out of the way. They
wanted to consult with Prime Minister Blair, who had been up
there, and with Prime Minister Ahern, and that we would agree to
be in, more or less, daily contact in the days running up to the
marching date in the hope that that could be done.
I think it's very important that the people of
Ireland give this new assembly a chance to work -- people of
Northern Ireland. And I think it would be tragic indeed if
either side felt so aggrieved by the ultimate resolution of the
marching issue that they lost the bigger picture in the moment.
I think that is something that must not happen.
Obviously, I feel personally horrible about what has
happened to the churches. In our country, we had this round of
church burnings in the last few years and during the civil rights
days, we had a number of bombings of black churches, which really
reflected the darkest impulses of some of our people at their
worst moments. And I would just plead to whoever was responsible
for this for whatever reason, you need to take the churches off
the list, and you need take violence off the list.
Q Mr. President, this morning you mentioned the
new package of Japanese banking reforms and said you welcomed
them. Do you believe that those reforms and other domestic
financial measures will be sufficient to stem the slide of the
yen and prevent the Japanese economy from going deeper into
recession, perhaps spreading fear in China and elsewhere in the
region and to the United States?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, the Japanese economy has been
at a period of slow to no growth for a period of years now. And
of you look at the dislocation here in Hong Kong, for example,
you see what regional ramifications it has if Japan slows down;
and you have the problems in Indonesia and Korea and Thailand and
I will reiterate, I think that the Chinese have done
a good thing by maintaining the stability of their currency and
not engaging in competitive devaluations. I hope they will
continue to do that. But I don't think anyone seriously believes
that the financial situation in Asia can get better and that,
therefore, we can resume global growth in a way that won't have a
destructive impact on the United States and other countries
unless Japan can grow again. We all have a vested interest in
that, as well as our best wishes for the people of Japan.
Now, I'm encouraged by the fact that the Prime
Minister announced this program and announced it several days
before he had originally intended to. And I think what the
markets are waiting for now is some action and a sense that if it
turns out that the implementation of this program is not enough,
that more will be done.
It is not rational, in my view, to believe that the
Japanese economy is met to contract further. This is an
enormously powerful, free country, full of brilliant people and
successful businesses and staggering potential. And this is
almost like a historical anomaly. Now, we know generally what
the elements of the problem are. But what I hope very much is
that as soon as these elections are over, there will be a strong
sense of determination and confidence not only on the part of the
Japanese government, but the Japanese people, and that the rest
of us will do whatever it is we have to do to support their doing
whatever they have to do to get this turned around. But we have
a huge stake in getting Japanese growth going and I think that it
can be done because of the fundamental strengths of the Japanese
people and their economy. But I think that it's going to take
some real concerted action. And if the first steps don't work,
then you have to just keep doing more. You just have to keep
working through this until it's turned around.
It's not a situation like the Depression in the
United States in the '30s, which took, literally, years and years
and years to work out of because we had fallen so much below
anything that they're facing now. And we didn't have anything
like the sophisticated understanding or the sophisticated economy
or capacity in the '30s that they have now.
So I think we can get through this in a reasonable
amount of time, but the rest of us, including the United States
and China, need to have both good wishes and determination for
Japan and just understand, however, that there's a limit to what
we can do until they do the things that they have to do. But I
think after this election, we may see a little more moment there.
Q Mr. President, you spent considerable time
with President Jiang Zemin this week both in public and in
private. I wonder if you could give us your assessment of him
not only as a strategic partner, but as a leader and as an agent
for change in China.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, first of all, I have a very
high regard for his abilities. I remember not so many years ago,
the conventional wisdom was that he might be a transitional
figure. And after I met with him the first time I felt very
strongly that his chances of becoming the leader of China for a
sustained period were quite good because he's a man of
extraordinary intellect, very high energy, a lot of vigor for his
age, or indeed for any age. And I think he has a quality that is
profoundly important at this moment in our history when there's
so much change going on.
He has a good imagination. He has vision; he can
visualize; he can imagine a future that is different from the
present. And he has, I think, a very able partner in Premier Zhu
Rongji, who has enormous technical competence and almost
legendary distaste for stalling and bureaucracy and just staying
in the same path the way -- if it's not working. So my view is
that the potential we have for a strategic partnership is quite
However, I think that like everyone else, he has
constituencies with which he must work. And I hope that more of
them are now more convinced that we can build a good, positive
partnership as a result of this trip. I hope more of them
understand that America wishes China well; that we are not bent
on containing China, and that our human rights policy is not an
excuse for some larger strategic motive. It's what we really
believe. We believe it's morally right and we believe it's best
for them, as a practical matter, over the long run.
So I believe that there's a very good chance that
China has the right leadership at the right time, and that they
understand the daunting, massive nature of the challenges they
face. They want us to understand that there is much more
personal freedom now, in a practical sense, for most Chinese than
there was when President Nixon came here or 10 years ago. But I
think they understand that this is an unfolding process and they
have to keep going. And I hope that we can be a positive force
Yes, go ahead.
Q Following up on that, do you consider that the
three televised appearances were in part a personal expression of
gratitude from President Jiang to you?
THE PRESIDENT: I don't know about that. I think
that it might have been -- I think it was a personal expression
of confidence in the goodwill that we have established to build
the right kind of relationship. But, more importantly, I think
it was a personal expression of confidence that he could stand
there and answer questions before the people of China that might
come not only from Chinese press, but from ours as well.
So I wouldn't say gratitude; I think confidence is
the right answer. But I can tell you everyplace I went after
that -- you know, when I came down to Shanghai or when I flew
over to Hong Kong, lots of lots of people I met with mentioned it
to me, that it really meant something, that it changed the whole
texture of what had happened. And I think that we did the right
thing. And I'm certain that he did the right thing.
Q Ambassador Sasser said earlier this week that
he believes that communism in China will end. You just said now
that democracy will come to China. What is the time frame for
that? Will it happen in your lifetime?
THE PRESIDENT: I certainly hope so. (Laughter.)
That's like saying -- I don't mean to trivialize the question,
but let me give you -- do I believe a woman will be elected
President of the United States? I do. Do I think it will be a
good thing? I do. Do I know when it will happen? I don't. Who
will make the decision? The American people.
As I said, I believe that leaders of vision and
imagination and courage will find a way to put China on the right
side of history and keep it there. And I believe that even as
-- when people are going through changes, they may not believe
that this is as morally right as we do. But I think they will
also be able to see that it is in their interest to do this, that
their country will be stronger, that when people have -- if you
look at just the last 50 years of history in China, and if you
look at the swings back and forth, when Mao Tse Tung was alive
and you were letting a thousand flowers bloom, and all of a
sudden there was a reaction -- you know -- and there was the
Cultural Revolution and then there was the reaction, nd we liked
the reaction of that. Then there was Tiananmen Square.
If you want to avoid these wild swings where society
is like a pressure cooker that blows the top off, then there has
to be some institutional way in which people, who have honest
grievances -- even if they're not right -- not all the critics
will always be right all the time, just like the government, the
official won't always be right all the time -- but if there is a
normalized way in which people can express their dissent, that
gives you a process that then has the integrity to carry you on
more of a straight line to the future, instead of swinging back
and forth all the time. It is -- the very ability to speak your
mind, even if you think you can't prevail, is in itself
And so, one of the things that I hope is that -- the
Chinese leaders, I've always been impressed, have an enormous
sense of history and they're always looking for parallels and for
differences. It's a wise thing. Our people need to understand
more of our own history and how it may or may not relate to the
moment and to the future. And if you think about -- one of the
things that, if I were trying to manage this huge transition --
and I'll just give you, parenthetically, one thing, -- the Mayor
of Shanghai told me that in just the last couple of years 1.2
million people had been displaced from state industries in
Shanghai and over one million had already found other jobs.
That's just in one area of the country. If you're trying to
manage that sort of transition, one of the things that I would be
looking for is how I could keep this thing going down the track
in the right direction and not have wild swings and not be
confronted with a situation which would then be unmanageable.
So that's what I hope has happened and where I hope
Mr. Knoller, I'll take your question and then I'll
go -- you guys may want to shop some more. (Laughter.)
Q Mr. President, if constructive engagement is
the right policy in your view for dealing with China, why isn't
it an appropriate policy for dealing with other countries -- say,
THE PRESIDENT: That's not the question I thought
you were going to ask -- (laughter) -- I mean, the example I
thought you were going to give. I think each of these has to be
taken on its own facts. In the case of Cuba, we actually have
tried -- I would remind you -- we have tried in good faith on
more than one occasion to engage Cuba in a way that would develop
the kind of reciprocal movement that we see in China.
Under the Cuban Democracy Act, which was passed by
the Congress in 1992 and signed by President Bush, but which I
strongly supported during the election season, we were given a
clear road map of balanced actions that we could take and that
Cuba could take. And we were, I thought, making progress with
that map until the people, including American citizens, were
unlawfully shot out of the sky and killed. That led to the
passage of the Helms-Burton law.
And even after that, after the Pope went to Cuba, I
took some further actions, just about everything I'm empowered to
take under the Helms-Burton law, to again increase
people-to-people contacts in Cuba, to empower the church more
with our support as an instrument of civil society, and to send a
signal that I did not want the United States to be estranged from
the people of Cuba forever.
I do believe that we have some more options and I
think Cuba is a case where, because it's close to home and
because of the position we occupy in the region, our policy has a
greater chance of success. But even there, you see, whatever
policy you pursue you have to be prepared to have a little
patience and work with it and hope that it will work out in the
But nothing would please me more than to get some
clear signal that Cuba was willing to be more open and more free
and more democratic and work toward a common future, and join the
whole rest of the hemisphere. You know, in our hemisphere every
country but Cuba is a democracy, and I would like the see --
nothing would please me more than to see some rapprochement
between the people of our two countries, especially because of
the strong Cuban-American population in our nation.
Thank you very much.