THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
(Xian, People's Republic of China)
|For Immediate Release|| ||June 26, 1998|
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT
AND THE FIRST LADY
IN DISCUSSION WITH VILLAGERS AND AREA RESIDENTS
Village of Xiahe
People's Republic of China
10:40 A.M. (L)
THE PRESIDENT: Let me begin by thanking all of youfor spending a little time with my wife and me today, and bythanking everyone in Xiahe for making us feel so welcomed.
I'm sorry that I had to take a little time to answersome questions from our news media, but, as you know, there's 12hours time difference and so, they're running out of time to filetheir stories, and thank you for your patience.
In America, there is a lot of respect for, andinterest in, Chinese history and culture, but also in theremarkable transformation which has occurred here over the last25 years. For example, many Americans are very interested in thefact that over half a million Chinese villages now have localelections, including this one.
They are interested in knowing more about thechanges which have led to rising incomes and giving more peoplethe ability to own their own homes and to make decisions aboutjobs. And they're interested in how small entrepreneurs starttheir own businesses and how villages like this have their owninvestments.
So we really have no set program today. I wouldlike to just hear from each of you about what you are doing andhow you personally have seen things change in China in the lastfew years.
Who would like to go first?
VILLAGER: Maybe it would be interesting in hearingabout some of the changes that have taken place at the school.
THE PRESIDENT: Yes, very much.
VILLAGER: I think that education in China hasachieved great progress during the past few years. And theeconomy and development of China has benefitted education. I'vebeen educated from elementary school through high school. Thelife in university is very rich now, and we're learning a greatdeal now. It is very helpful for our future development.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you.
DOCTOR: I am from the Xiahe Village. I work in thelocal village clinic, and this is the lowest level clinic inChina. We work according to the regulations from the governmentand we try to -- one of our jobs is to prevent the commondiseases in the countryside and report our work to the higherlevel government. Another responsibility of the lower levelclinic is to treat common diseases in the countryside. That'sall for now.
MRS. CLINTON: Doctor, have you noticed improvementsin the health of the people here in the countryside during yourtime as a doctor?
DOCTOR: There has been great improvement in thehealth quality in the countryside people, especially now we havemore money and they do less physical work.
VILLAGER: My name is Yao Linua, and I am themanager of the Terra Cotta Warrior -- I own a little factory. Iam the manager there, and I also manage old people's home. I amjust a country woman, but ever since the reform, I now rent afactory and an old people home and, basically, the factory alsosupports the old people home.
Now the Chinese have become rich, but we shouldn'tforget about old people. In the 20th century we have in Chinamore older people. We really should do more for them, and that'smy goal in my life. That's what I want to do.
MRS. CLINTON: May I ask, how did you start yourfactory? Where did you get the funds to start the factory andget the equipment and materials that you needed?
VILLAGER: I used my own money and got some loanfrom government and actually, several of us work together, so Ialso collect some funds from my partners.
THE PRESIDENT: The older people who stay in yourhome, how do they get the funds to pay to be in the home?
VILLAGER: We get our funds -- some of them getmoney from the government, and the factory would pay for theirexpenses for their living in the old people home.
THE PRESIDENT: And what is the average age of thepeople in the home?
VILLAGER: Sixty-five years old is the average age.The oldest one is 89 years-old.
THE PRESIDENT: This is going to be a big issue inthe future for every country. In our country, the fastestgrowing group of Americans are people over 85. There are stillnot many of them, but they're growing fast. And every societywill have to figure out an honorable way to take care of suchpeople. So I appreciate the work you're doing.
VILLAGER: My name is Yang Dongyi, and I am fromXiahe village. I grew up in this village. First I was a farmer,and now I rent a little company. Ever since the liberation in1949, there are three big changes I experienced myself in thisvillage. The first change I experienced was the life in thevillage after the liberation was better than before. Our lifesince 1982, the reform began, our life has improved compared tobefore the liberation. In 1992, our lifeexperienced another improvement. Before 1989, the average incomein the village was about -- a little bit more than 100 yuan, andthen in 1992, the average income in the village was more than1,000 yuan. And now the average income in the village is over3,000 yuan.
Before 1982, my whole family would only get about100 yuan income per year. Now I and my wife and one daughter,the three of us, we have more than 30,000 yuan income per year.I want to tell the President that the changes in my village andthe change in my own family is also the change in the country.
My personal change, compared to some people in Chinais still relatively small, and this place and Xian, compared tothe coastal cities in China is still a little backwards. But, ofcourse, compared to the U.S., this village is a lot more -- evenmore backward, but we would be willing to work very hard.
THE PRESIDENT: Let me say, first of all, that it'svery impressive how much economic progress has been made in sucha short time.
What specific change do you think has been mostimportant in helping you and your family to earn so much moremoney through your hard work?
VILLAGER: The most important thing is we have agood policy in our country now. In the past, no matter what yourabilities are, you are told to do what you are supposed to do.But after the reform, everyone can have the space to show theirown talent and to work very hard.
The reason now the production improved so much iseverybody can do what they're good at. Some people begin to dobusiness, some people stay in the farmland, and some people beginto have their own company -- they're all doing what they're goodat. They are also paying more attention to learning the newtechnology, so their ability to work has greatly improved.
Another thing is they also learn from the foreigncountries now. They borrow and they learn the advancedtechnology from the foreign country and use on their ownproduction. And that's the main reason where they are now today.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you.
VILLAGER: I am a primary school teacher. I feelthat the whole society now respects a teacher a lot more. Allchildren who are school age now go to enroll in the primaryschool and they have nine years of government-sponsorededucation. The issues associated with young kids have attracteda lot of attention from all aspects of the society.
THE PRESIDENT: What percentage of the teachers arewomen and what percentage are men?
VILLAGER: In primary school, female teachers aremore. They're about 70 percent. I feel that it might be femalesare more suitable for this job.
THE PRESIDENT: And after the children complete nineyears of school, how is it determined who goes on to more school?Like this young woman here is a university student. How is itdetermined who gets to go beyond?
VILLAGER: In China, for the college entrance --there is a college entrance exam, so everybody has to pass theexam to go to the college. And others who didn't pass, then theymight go to technical school to learn some special technique fortheir use.
VILLAGER: My name is Xie Liming. I have benefittedthe most ever since -- my kind of people benefit the most eversince the reform. I served in the air force for 15 years andworked another eight years in the government. In 1992 I opened asmall restaurant with 80 seats. Now I have extended myrestaurant to 500 seats.
My restaurant is among the best in Xian and veryinfluential. I really wish to invite both of you to go to myrestaurant and enjoy my food. If you don't have the chance thistime, you are still welcome after you finish your duty asPresident to come back. (Laughter.)
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you.
VILLAGER: And I also want to ask what is yourfavorite Chinese dish. (Laughter.)
THE PRESIDENT: Well, now I understand how you filla restaurant with 500 seats every night. (Laughter.)
MRS. CLINTON: I would wonder whether any of youmight have any questions for us, because one of the reasons thatmy husband made this trip is so that the Chinese people and theAmerican people can learn more about each other and about ourlives.
VILLAGER: I want to ask the President why do youwant to hold this roundtable discussion with ordinary Chinesepeople.
THE PRESIDENT: For two reasons. First of all, Ithink it's important that people who are in positions like mine,in the United States and in China, in every country, understandhow people live at what we call the grass-roots level, andunderstand how the policies we make affect the lives that peoplelive, because that's actually the purpose of leadership -- to tryto make a positive difference in the lives of ordinary citizens. And secondly, because the American people are veryinterested in learning more about Chinese people as the result ofmy trip. So, when we do this, there will be pictures and reportsof this meeting in America so people just like you in Americawill have a feeling for what it's like to own a restaurant orteach a school or be a business person or be a student or adoctor or run a home for older people. They will feel thesethings in a different way because of this event we're doing here.
VILLAGER: I believe a President who is looking tothe facts of people's life must be a President who is supportedby his people.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you.
MRS. CLINTON: Could I ask the student, what are youstudying at the university?
VILLAGER: I am now taking the basic collegecourses, but I want to major in electronics.
THE PRESIDENT: And what do you want to do when youfinish your degree?
VILLAGER: I want to further my study aftergraduating from college and then I want to have my own fields ofinterest in working.
THE PRESIDENT: Do you believe that in China todayyoung women have the same opportunities that young men do to dowhatever they want with their lives?
VILLAGER: I believe the answer is yes, even thoughthey might have different choices -- but the final answer is yes.
THE PRESIDENT: We have to stop in a moment, but I'dlike to ask the doctor one more question. What do you believethe biggest challenge is for improving the health care of theChinese people now at the village level? What is the largestremaining challenge that would -- any change that could be madethat would improve health much more?
DOCTOR: First of all, from my past experience, Ibelieve the biggest challenge is to improve the environmentalsituation. Prevention is also very important.
THE PRESIDENT: This is a very important point whichhas been made -- important for China and important for the UnitedStates. When a country grows economically, you use more energyand you have more activity, and it leads to strains on theenvironment, especially air pollution, which can really affectpeople's health. So one of China's big challenges, and acontinuing challenge for America, is to grow the economy, but toclean up the environment at the same time. And we can do both,but we have to work at it, and we should work at it together.
VILLAGER: I want to make one comment. All thebusinesspeople in Xian really want to improve the trade betweenthe U.S. and China, and they would like to see that China becomeAmerica's first biggest business partner. And I would, formyself, want to make more U.S. dollars. (Laughter.)
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I'll work on that and I willalso work on accepting your invitation to come to your restaurantwhen I'm not in office anymore. This is very nice, you know.Most people in my position wonder if anyone will want us to eatwith them when we're not in office anymore. (Laughter.)
Thank you all very much. Thank you. (Applause.)Good luck to you, thank you.