DAPNSA James B. Steinberg at Harvard University
NOVEMBER 1, 1997

I want to thank Graham Allison and the Robert and Renee Belfer Center for inviting me here this morning. I can't imagine anything better than being back in Cambridge on a fall Saturday ... seeing so many old friends ... and knowing that November has begun and the Harvard football team is undefeated in the Ivy League. I congratulate Bob Blackwill on his foresight in inviting me for the same day that President Jiang Zemin and Harry Wu are also at Harvard. At least I'd like to think that it was foresight - - or perhaps it was revenge for the 1992 election.

I am particularly pleased to have this chance to talk to you about America's relations with China at the close of the first visit of a Chinese president to the US in more than a decade. The summit between President Jiang and President Clinton represents a milestone in the development of our relationship with the PRC and in securing the cooperation we need to advance a broad range of American interests.

Before discussing some of the Summit's achievements, I'd like to say a word about the Administration's perspective on developing a long-term policy toward China. As a starting point, I'd like to propose a reformulation of the title assigned for my talk today -- "The China Question."

A country of 1.2 billion people, a nuclear power, a permanent member of the Security Council, with one of the world's fasting growing and largest economies, and an expanding role internationally and regionally-- cannot be compressed into a single questio n. The economic, political and military transformation we have seen over the last two decades poses a range of questions about China's future and what policy we should pursue toward China.

How China evolves over the coming years will have profound consequences for America, for the Asia-Pacific region and the world. China, of course, will choose its own direction. But the policy choices we make can help influence whether the China of the 2 1st century is stable, open and non-aggressive -- embraces free markets, political pluralism and the rule of law -- and helps build a secure international order, or turns inward and confrontational.

I've suggested that there is no single "China question." But there are several important China questions that I'd like to address briefly today -- questions that lie at the heart of the lively policy debate touched off by President Jiang's visit.

The first question is whether, with the end of the Cold War, there is a long term strategic basis for America's relationship with China. Some have suggested that the collapse of the Soviet Union has eliminated the underlying rationale that united China and the United States. Some even argue that we are inevitably headed for conflict -- especially given China's growing economic, political, and perhaps most importantly, according to this line of thinking, China' s military strength.

In our view, this perspective not only reflects an unwarranted fatalism, but, more dangerously, risks becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy. As Joe Nye has so often said, if we treat China as an enemy, it will surely become one.

The ties we and China forged during the 1970's and 1980's enhanced the security of both our nations, but they were essentially one dimensional. Today, we have the opportunity to build a more lasting, cooperative relationship across a far broader range o f common interests. As the joint statement issued by our two countries following the summit shows, the United States and China share -- and importantly, perceive that they share -- profound common interests in peace and stability in Asia ... in preventing the spread of weapons of mass destruction and other sophisticated weapons ... in fighting drug trafficking, organized crime and terrorism ... in making global trade and investment as free, fair and open as possible ... and in protecting the global envir onment. And, far from eroding over time, our shared interests are likely to grow as China's economy expands and with it, its stakes in reliable energy supplies, safe shipping and political stability in important markets.

The United States is uniquely well-positioned to develop enduring ties with this new China, because we are not burdened with the legacies of the past that complicate China's relations with so many of its potential partners.

This new strategic foundation for our relationship with China need not come at the expense of our relationship with other key regional and global partners of the United States. The US- Japan alliance has provided the essential underpinning of the securi ty, stability and prosperity that the nations of the region, including China, have enjoyed for decades. It has proven its value, as have our security treaties with Korea, the Philippines, Thailand and Australia. The actions we have taken to renew our al liance with Japan assures that we will continue to support regional stability for decades to come -- an alliance not directed at any country, but rather one that provides a strong foundation for improved relations along all three legs of the triangle - US -Japan, US-China and China-Japan, for the benefit of all the countries of the region.

Similarly, growing ties between the United States and Russia benefit China, just as we welcome the closer relations between China and Russia. There is nothing that foreordains either of these triangular relations as a zero sum game.

If we are to deepen our strategic links to China, it will be essential that the issue of Taiwan continues to be handled in a way that does not endanger either Taiwan's well-being or the region's security. Our "one-China" policy has served the interests o f the US, Taiwan and the PRC very effectively. By recognizing the PRC as the sole legal government of China and maintaining strong unofficial ties with Taiwan, we have established a framework in which Taiwan and the PRC have prospered, increased their t rade and investment dramatically in the last decade and kept the peace. We have no interest in an arms race in the region, but we will continue to supply Taiwan with sufficient capability for its self-defense, consistent with the 1982 Communiqué and the T aiwan Relations Act. And while we do not support Taiwan's membership in the UN, we believe that the people of Taiwan should be heard in appropriate international organizations, such as APEC. The United States has a strong interest in the resolution of d ifferences between the PRC and Taiwan by peaceful means. We have demonstrated by our action that we take seriously actions by others that diverge from a peaceful approach. The best way for the PRC and Taiwan to address their differences is through direc t discussion in a resumed cross-Strait dialogue, as soon as possible.

It is certainly within China's power to seek a role that would pose a danger to its neighbors. But the United States does not take it as a given that China harbors hegemonic ambitions, or that it is fated to threaten our interests in the region. On the contrary -- while we recognize China's wish to take a fitting place as a leader both in Asia and the international community, we believe that China can be a force for stability in Asia and that its interests will best be served by working with us.

This leads to the second China question I'd like to address today---is China prepared to act as a constructive member of the international community, respecting international norms and helping to build effective international regimes?

In answering this question, it is important to remember that China's determination to play an active role in world affairs is relatively recent. For much of its post-revolutionary history, China treated the world with indifference, at times even acting a s a force for instability, particularly in parts of the developing world.

In the last few years, we have seen China begin to adopt policies that appear to reflect a new willingness to engage -- and engage constructively -- on the world stage. China has played an important role in helping to reduce tensions on the Korean penins ula, one of the most volatile and dangerous fault lines in the world. Beijing has helped us convince North Korea to accept the Agreed Framework, which requires Pyongyang to freeze and ultimately end it dangerous nuclear material production program.

China has also agreed to take part in the four party peace talks that Presidents Clinton and Kim proposed, which offer the only realistic avenue to a lasting peace And China is playing an increasingly constructive role in Southeast Asia, through our join t efforts to promote peace in Cambodia and by working with us and the members of ASEAN to advance shared political and economic interests in the ASEAN Regional Forum and APEC.

In assessing China's potential to contribute to international stability and peace, perhaps no issue is more important than China's approach to nonproliferation -- an issue that has moved to the heart of the US-China relationship.

Today, the global diffusion of technological capability and scientific knowledge is eroding technical barriers to proliferation and threatens to outpace multilateral control efforts. That means that now - more than ever - we must increase our efforts to solve the supply side of the proliferation equation, not just focus on demand. Promoting cooperation among suppliers - principally the Western nations, Russia and China - to control the export of technology, equipment, materials and expertise needed to build weapons of mass destruction has taken on an unprecedented urgency.

We believe that China increasingly recognizes the need to join and strengthen this effort. After staying outside the major multilateral nonproliferation regimes for most of its modern history, China, in only the last half decade, has decided to join the N onproliferation Treaty and the Chemical Weapons Convention, and it now respects key provisions of the Missile Technology Control Regime. Last year at the UN, the first leader to sign the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty after President Clinton was Chinese V ice Premier Qian Qichen. China's actions suggest that it is coming to understand that with nations such as Iran and North Korea on or near its borders, a vigorous nonproliferation policy serves its security at least as much as our own. We saw further e vidence of that recognition at the Summit, where China joined the United States in expressing a strong interest in stopping the spread of WMD and other sophisticated weaponry in unstable regions and rogue states -- notably, Iran. Clearly we have travele d a considerable distance from 1985, when President Reagan could not certify that China was not helping other countries acquire nuclear weapons.

On the basis of these Chinese actions and commitments, President Clinton decided to move forward with the U.S.-China Peaceful Nuclear Cooperation Agreement, allowing US companies to seek a license to export nuclear power reactors to China. As President Cl inton said, this agreement is a clear "win-win-win" for the U.S. We have limited the spread of dangerous nuclear technology, while opening the way for US companies to bid on contracts that will provide China with environmental friendly energy sources. G iven the tremendous ecological impact of China's economic development, this agreement clearly serves our broadest interests.

We can't pretend that all issues have been resolved. We will need to be certain that China honors the commitments it has made. Any actions violating these commitments would cut off our peaceful nuclear cooperation. On non-nuclear proliferation matters, we still have concerns about transfers related to ballistic missile and chemical weapons technologies. But we have made some progress in these areas in recent years and are continuing to work with the Chinese to strengthen their export controls in these non-nuclear areas.

A third "China question" is whether China can open its markets and respect the rules of the increasingly open global trading and investment system.

China has shown its determination to develop its market economy following the impulse imparted by Deng Xioping. Not surprisingly, China's enthusiasm is tempered by a wariness about the political and social implications of this remarkable transition away from a command economy. Nonetheless, at the 15th Party Congress last month, China's leadership demonstrated its determination to press ahead, by deciding to privatize large state industries.

China, like the U.S., has seen that its remarkable economic growth has been increasingly fueled by foreign trade. As a result, China has a strong incentive to be in a position in which it can not only benefit fully from international commerce but also be in a position to help write and enforce the rules of that commerce. The best way is for China to be a member of the WTO. We want China in the WTO - but, right now, Chinese products compete freely and fairly in our market, while our goods and services f ace considerable tariffs and non-tariff barriers in China. That's why we have made it a clear condition of WTO membership that China open its markets. During the Summit, China took an important step by announcing that it would sign the Information Techn ology Agreement, cutting to zero tariffs for computers, semiconductors and telecommunications. That coupled with China's improvement in IPR enforcement is a step in the right direction - but more will be needed.

The answers to these questions convince us that there is a solid basis for building a new cooperative partnership with China, that will offer important gains for the American people. At the same time, at the heart of this relationship there is a fundament al difference over the issue of democracy and human rights. And if there is one paramount China question facing us today, it is: how can we manage a relationship with a country of China's importance, in which many interests bring us together, while a ce ntral disagreement divides us?

For post-war American foreign policy, this is uncharted territory. With our democratic allies, our shared values as well as our fundamental common interests provide a foundation that allows us to manage our inevitable differences. During the Cold War, i n our relations with the Soviet Union, we opposed Moscow's key policies virtually across the board, and our differences over human rights mirrored, and in some respects formed a part of our disagreements on strategic, economic and regional issues. But in dealing with China today, our deep differences over human rights stand in sharp contrast to our growing cooperation in so many areas.

Our differences over human rights are not simply an abstract or philosophical disagreement -- important and as universal as these values are. The United States believes that China's human rights policies do not serve China's own interests in tapping the creative potential of its people and providing the accountability and participation that are so essential to assuring a stable political transition to accompany China's emergence as a dynamic market economy. We also believe that a more democratic, open China would enhance regional stability -- because we are convinced that democratic, pluralistic societies are more likely to resolve their differences peacefully. That's why we continue to urge China's democratic neighbors to join with us in encouraging C hina down the path to greater openness.

The answer to this central China question is the one President Clinton gave on Wednesday: the best way to address our differences is directly and candidly, as he did, while recognizing that it neither serves our interest, nor advances the cause of those we seek to help, to isolate China or hold our relationship hostage to any one issue.

The China leadership did agree to take a few, limited steps that appear to reflect at least some understanding of the importance that we attach to these issues. They have invited several prominent religious leaders to observe religious practice in China , and welcomed members of Congress to visit Tibet. They affirmed their willingness to pursue a human rights dialogue at the official and non-governmental levels. They signed an important international human rights treaty, the Covenant on Economic, Socia l and Cultural Rights, reaffirmed their commitment to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and indicated that they were "seriously considering" signing the Declaration on Political and Civil Rights. They hosted a visit of the UN Working Group on Ar bitrary Detention. That said, there is still a long way to go before we can say that China's leaders have embraced our basic convictions about the importance of political expression, genuinely free religious practice and full democratic accountability.

We have no illusions. Such change will not come about overnight. Chinese anxieties about stability are rooted in their history and the dramatic changes now taking place in China have, if anything, heightened the leadership's wariness about moving forward quickly on the political front. But, over the long term, as China becomes more interdependent with the rest of the world for investment, markets, technology and energy, it will be increasingly difficult for China to maintain a closed political system.

Already, computers, fax machines, the Internet, photocopiers and telecommunications are increasing the access of the Chinese people to the outside world. More than 1 billion Chinese now have access to television, there are more than 1,000 radio stations - which are relatively unregulated - and nearly 10,000 newspapers, journals and magazines, a vast increase over the last decade. The means for spreading ideas and information has multiplied enormously, giving more people than ever a chance to think for t hemselves and express themselves. When we consider the impact of a small number of Xerox machines in Eastern Europe in the 1980s, it's hard to imagine how a government could prevent the changes brought by this tide of information.

That does not mean that we can cast a blind eye on China's human rights abuse ¼ or imagine that a trade policy can substitute for a human rights policy ¼ or assume that we have no tools to help speed the process of liberalization. Standing up for those w ho share our ideals will help bring change to China, particularly when others in the international community join us in bringing pressure for reform.

There are other ways to work for systemic change as well. One area in which we can make a difference for China's development into an open, tolerant pluralist society is by strengthening the rule of law in China. The Chinese are receptive to developing t he rule of law - which President Jiang has recently endorsed - because it will aid their economic development and help rein in arbitrary government bureaucracies. We believe that over the long term improved legal institutions will come to protect the rig hts and interests of ordinary Chinese in non-economic areas as well as economic ones. The number of lawyers in China has grown from a few thousand to more than a 100,000 in less than 20 years, and the number of law schools has multiplied from two to more than 100 - making legal practice a critical conduit for new ideas.

As the notion of legality strengthens and adherence to principles such as equal treatment and due process increases, this dynamic won't stop at strictly economic matters. Ultimately, all the people of China will benefit from strengthening the rule of la w. We're pleased that at the Summit, the U.S. and China agreed to establish a joint liaison group pursuing cooperation in this area, including the training of judges and lawyers, exchanges of legal experts, administrative law procedures, legal aid and c ommercial law and arbitration.

We hope that with programs like this - as well as patience and persistence - we can help bring real change to China. We can't be sure of success. And as President Clinton has said, we must be prepared to live and flourish "in a world in which we are at odds with China." But at this point in history, when there is so much to gain through working with China, the answer to our differences is not containment and conflict. As the President has said, we will do more to advance our ideals and interests - as well as the interests of the Chinese people - if we air our differences honestly and both nations go forward guided by a willingness to cooperate to achieve our common goals.

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