THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
(Beijing, People's Republic of China)
For Immediate Release
June 29, 1998
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT
TO STUDENTS AND COMMUNITY OF BEIJING UNIVERSITY
Beijing, People's Republic of China
10:25 A.M. (L)
PRESIDENT CLINTON: Thank you. Thank you, President Chen,
Chairmen Ren, Vice President Chi, Vice Minister Wei. We are delighted to
here today with a very large American delegation, including the First Lady
our daughter, who is a student at Stanford, one of the schools with which
Beijing University has a relationship. We have six members of the United
States Congress; the Secretary of State; Secretary of Commerce; the
of Agriculture; the Chairman of our Council of Economic Advisors; Senator
Sasser, our Ambassador; the National Security Advisor and my Chief of
among others. I say that to illustrate the importance that the United
places on our relationship with China.
I would like to begin by congratulating all of you, the
students, the faculty, the administrators, on celebrating the centennial
of your university. Gongxi, Beida. (Applause.)
As I'm sure all of you know, this campus was once home to
Yenching University which was founded by American missionaries. Many of
wonderful buildings were designed by an American architect. Thousands of
Americans students and professors have come here to study and teach. We
a special kinship with you.
I am, however, grateful that this day is different in one
important respect from another important occasion 79 years ago. In June of
1919, the first president of Yenching University, John Leighton Stuart, was
set to deliver the very first commencement address on these very grounds.
the appointed hour, he appeared, but no students appeared. They were all
leading the May 4th Movement for China's political and
cultural renewal. When I read this, I hoped that when I walked
into the auditorium today, someone would be sitting here. And I
thank you for being here, very much. (Applause.)
Over the last 100 years, this university has grown
to more than 20,000 students. Your graduates are spread
throughout China and around the world. You have built the
largest university library in all of Asia. Last year, 20 percent
of your graduates went abroad to study, including half of your
math and science majors. And in this anniversary year, more than
a million people in China, Asia, and beyond have logged on to
your web site. At the dawn of a new century, this university is
leading China into the future.
I come here today to talk to you, the next
generation of China's leaders, about the critical importance to
your future of building a strong partnership between China and
the United States.
The American people deeply admire China for its
thousands of years of contributions to culture and religion, to
philosophy and the arts, to science and technology. We remember
well our strong partnership in World War II. Now we see China at
a moment in history when your glorious past is matched by your
present sweeping transformation and the even greater promise of
Just three decades ago, China was virtually shut off
from the world. Now, China is a member of more than 1,000
international organizations -- enterprises that affect everything
from air travel to agricultural development. You have opened
your nation to trade and investment on a large scale. Today,
40,000 young Chinese study in the United States, with hundreds of
thousands more learning in Asia, Africa, Europe, and Latin
Your social and economic transformation has been
even more remarkable, moving from a closed command economic
system to a driving, increasingly market-based and driven
economy, generating two decades of unprecedented growth, giving
people greater freedom to travel within and outside China, to
vote in village elections, to own a home, choose a job, attend a
better school. As a result you have lifted literally hundreds of
millions of people from poverty. Per capita income has more than
doubled in the last decade. Most Chinese people are leading
lives they could not have imagined just 20 years ago.
Of course, these changes have also brought
disruptions in settled patterns of life and work, and have
imposed enormous strains on your environment. Once every urban
Chinese was guaranteed employment in a state enterprise. Now you
must compete in a job market. Once a Chinese worker had only to
meet the demands of a central planner in Beijing. Now the global
economy means all must match the quality and creativity of the
rest of the world. For those who lack the right training and
skills and support, this new world can be daunting.
In the short-term, good, hardworking people -- some,
at least will find themselves unemployed. And, as all of you can
see, there have been enormous environmental and economic and
health care costs to the development pattern and the energy use
pattern of the last 20 years -- from air pollution to
deforestation to acid rain and water shortage.
In the face of these challenges new systems of
training and social security will have to be devised, and new
environmental policies and technologies will have to be
introduced with the goal of growing your economy while improving
the environment. Everything I know about the intelligence, the
ingenuity, the enterprise of the Chinese people and everything I
have heard these last few days in my discussions with President
Jiang, Prime Minister Zhu and others give me confidence that you
As you build a new China, America wants to build a
new relationship with you. We want China to be successful,
secure and open, working with us for a more peaceful and
prosperous world. I know there are those in China and the United
States who question whether closer relations between our
countries is a good thing. But everything all of us know about
the way the world is changing and the challenges your generation
will face tell us that our two nations will be far better off
working together than apart.
The late Deng Xiaoping counseled us to seek truth
from facts. At the dawn of the new century, the facts are clear.
The distance between our two nations, indeed, between any
nations, is shrinking. Where once an American clipper ship took
months to cross from China to the United States. Today,
technology has made us all virtual neighbors. From laptops to
lasers, from microchips to megabytes, an information revolution
is lighting the landscape of human knowledge, bringing us all
closer together. Ideas, information, and money cross the planet
at the stroke of a computer key, bringing with them extraordinary
opportunities to create wealth, to prevent and conquer disease,
to foster greater understanding among peoples of different
histories and different cultures.
But we also know that this greater openness and
faster change mean that problems which start beyond one nations
borders can quickly move inside them -- the spread of weapons of
mass destruction, the threats of organized crime and drug
trafficking, of environmental degradation, and severe economic
dislocation. No nation can isolate itself from these problems,
and no nation can solve them alone. We, especially the younger
generations of China and the United States, must make common
cause of our common challenges, so that we can, together, shape a
new century of brilliant possibilities.
In the 21st century -- your century -- China and the
United States will face the challenge of security in Asia. On
the Korean Peninsula, where once we were adversaries, today we
working together for a permanent peace and a future freer of
On the Indian subcontinent, just as most of the rest
of the world is moving away from nuclear danger, India and
Pakistan risk sparking a new arms race. We are now pursuing a
common strategy to move India and Pakistan away from further
testing and toward a dialogue to resolve their differences.
In the 21st century, your generation must face the
challenge of stopping the spread of deadlier nuclear, chemical,
and biological weapons. In the wrong hands or the wrong places,
these weapons can threaten the peace of nations large and small.
Increasingly, China and the United States agree on the importance
of stopping proliferation. That is why we are beginning to act
in concert to control the worlds most dangerous weapons.
In the 21st century, your generation will have to
reverse the international tide of crime and drugs. Around the
world, organized crime robs people of billions of dollars every
year and undermines trust in government. America knows all about
the devastation and despair that drugs can bring to schools and
neighborhoods. With borders on more than a dozen countries,
China has become a crossroad for smugglers of all kinds.
Last year, President Jiang and I asked senior
Chinese and American law enforcement officials to step up our
cooperation against these predators, to stop money from being
laundered, to stop aliens from being cruelly smuggled, to stop
currencies from being undermined by counterfeiting. Just this
month, our drug enforcement agency opened an office in Beijing,
and soon Chinese counternarcotics experts will be working out of
In the 21st century, your generation must make it
your mission to ensure that today's progress does not come at
tomorrow's expense. China's remarkable
growth in the last two decades has come with a toxic cost,
pollutants that foul the water you drink and the air you breathe
-- the cost is not only environmental, it is also serious in
terms of the health consequences of your people and in terms of
the drag on economic growth.
Environmental problems are also increasingly global
as well as national. For example, in the near future, if present
energy use patterns persist, China will overtake the United
States as the world's largest emitter of greenhouse gases, the
gases which are the principal cause of global warming. If the
nations of the world do not reduce the gases which are causing
global warming, sometime in the next century there is a serious
risk of dramatic changes in climate which will change the way we
live and the way we work, which could literally bury some island
nations under mountains of water and undermine the economic and
social fabric of nations.
We must work together. We Americans know from our
own experience that it is possible to grow an economy while
improving the environment. We must do that together for
ourselves and for the world.
Building on the work that our Vice President, Al
Gore, has done previously with the Chinese government, President
Jiang and I are working together on ways to bring American clean
energy technology to help improve air quality and grow the
Chinese economy at the same time.
But I will say this again -- this is not on my
remarks -- your generation must do more about this. This is a
huge challenge for you, for the American people and for the
future of the world. And it must be addressed at the university
level, because political leaders will never be willing to adopt
environmental measures if they believe it will lead to
large-scale unemployment or more poverty. The evidence is clear
that does not have to happen. You will actually have more rapid
economic growth and better paying jobs, leading to higher levels
of education and technology if we do this in the proper way. But
you and the university, communities in China, the United States
and throughout the world will have to lead the way. (Applause.)
In the 21st century your generation must also lead
the challenge of an international financial system that has no
respect for national borders. When stock markets fall in Hong
Kong or Jakarta, the effects are no longer local; they are
global. The vibrant growth of your own economy is tied closely,
therefore, to the restoration of stability and growth in the Asia
China has steadfastly shouldered its
responsibilities to the region and the world in this latest
financial crisis -- helping to prevent another cycle of dangerous
devaluations. We must continue to work together to counter this
threat to the global financial system and to the growth and
prosperity which should be embracing all of this region.
In the 21st century, your generation will have a
remarkable opportunity to bring together the talents of our
scientists, doctors, engineers into a shared quest for progress.
Already the breakthroughs we have achieved in our areas of joint
cooperation -- in challenges from dealing with spina bifida to
dealing with extreme weather conditions and earthquakes -- have
proved what we can do together to change the lives of millions of
people in China and the United States and around the world.
Expanding our cooperation in science and technology can be one of
our greatest gifts to the future.
In each of these vital areas that I have mentioned,
we can clearly accomplish so much more by walking together rather
than standing apart. That is why we should work to see that the
productive relationship we now enjoy blossoms into a fuller
partnership in the new century.
If that is to happen, it is very important that we
understand each other better, that we understand both our common
interest and our shared aspirations and our honest differences.
I believe the kind of open, direct exchange that President Jiang
and I had on Saturday at our press conference -- which I know
many of you watched on television -- can both clarify and narrow
our differences, and, more important, by allowing people to
understand and debate and discuss these things can give a greater
sense of confidence to our people that we can make a better
From the windows of the White House, where I live in
Washington, D.C., the monument to our first President, George
Washington, dominates the skyline. It is a very tall obelisk.
But very near this large monument there is a small stone which
contains these words: The United States neither established
titles of nobility and royalty, nor created a hereditary system.
State affairs are put to the vote of public opinion.
This created a new political situation,
unprecedented from ancient times to the present. How wonderful
it is. Those words were not written by an American. They were
written by Xu Jiyu, governor of Fujian Province, inscribed as a
gift from the government of China to our nation in 1853.
I am very grateful for that gift from China. It
goes to the heart of who we are as a people -- the right to life,
liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, the freedom to debate, to
dissent, to associate, to worship without interference from the
state. These are the ideals that were at the core of our
founding over 220 years ago. These are the ideas that led us
across our continent and onto the world stage. These are the
ideals that Americans cherish today.
As I said in my press conference with President
Jiang, we have an ongoing quest ourselves to live up to those
ideals. The people who framed our Constitution understood that
we would never achieve perfection. They said that the mission of
America would always be "to form a more perfect union" -- in
other words, that we would never be perfect, but we had to keep
trying to do better.
The darkest moments in our history have come when we
abandoned the effort to do better, when we denied freedom to our
people because of their race or their religion, because there
were new immigrants or because they held unpopular opinions. The
best moments in our history have come when we protected the
freedom of people who held unpopular opinion, or extended rights
enjoyed by the many to the few who had previously been denied
them, making, therefore, the promises of our Declaration of
Independence and Constitution more than faded words on old
Today we do not seek to impose our vision on others,
but we are convinced that certain rights are universal -- not
American rights or European rights or rights for developed
nations, but the birthrights of people everywhere, now enshrined
in the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights -- the right
to be treated with dignity; the right to express one's opinions,
to choose one's own leaders, to associate freely with others, and
to worship, or not, freely, however one chooses.
In the last letter of his life, the author of our
Declaration of Independence and our third President, Thomas
Jefferson, said then that "all eyes are opening to the rights of
man." I believe that in this time, at long last, 172 years after
Jefferson wrote those words, all eyes are opening to the rights
of men and women everywhere.
Over the past two decades, a rising tide of freedom
has lifted the lives of millions around the world, sweeping away
failed dictatorial systems in the Former Soviet Union, throughout
Central Europe; ending a vicious cycle of military coups and
civil wars in Latin America; giving more people in Africa the
chance to make the most of their hard-won independence. And from
the Philippines to South Korea, from Thailand to Mongolia,
freedom has reached Asia's shores, powering a surge of growth and
Economic security also can be an essential element
of freedom. It is recognized in the United Nations Covenant on
Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights. In China, you have made
extraordinary strides in nurturing that liberty, and spreading
freedom from want, to be a source of strength to your people.
Incomes are up, poverty is down; people do have more choices of
jobs, and the ability to travel -- the ability to make a better
life. But true freedom includes more than economic freedom. In
America, we believe it is a concept which is indivisible.
Over the past four days, I have seen freedom in many
manifestations in China. I have seen the fresh shoots of
democracy growing in the villages of your heartland. I have
visited a village that chose its own leaders in free elections.
I have also seen the cell phones, the video players, the fax
machines carrying ideas, information and images from all over the
world. I've heard people speak their minds and I have joined
people in prayer in the faith of my own choosing. In all these
ways I felt a steady breeze of freedom.
The question is, where do we go from here? How do
we work together to be on the right side of history together?
More than 50 years ago, Hu Shi, one of your great political
thinkers and a teacher at this university, said these words:
"Now some people say to me you must sacrifice your individual
freedom so that the nation may be free. But I reply, the
individual freedom is the struggle for the nation's freedom. The
struggle for your own character is the struggle for the nation's
We Americans believe Hu Shi was right. We believe
and our experience demonstrates that freedom strengthens
stability and helps nations to change.
One of our founding fathers, Benjamin Franklin, once
said, "Our critics are our friends, for they show us our faults."
Now, if that is true, there are many days in the United States
when the President has more friends than anyone else in America.
(Laughter.) But it is so.
In the world we live in, this global information
age, constant improvement and change is necessary to economic
opportunity and to national strength. Therefore, the freest
possible flow of information, ideas, and opinions, and a greater
respect for divergent political and religious convictions will
actually breed strength and stability going forward.
It is, therefore, profoundly in your interest, and
the world's, that young Chinese minds be free to reach the
fullness of their potential. That is the message of our time and
the mandate of the new century and the new millennium.
I hope China will more fully embrace this mandate.
For all the grandeur of your history, I believe your greatest
days are still ahead. Against great odds in the 20th century
China has not only survived, it is moving forward dramatically.
Other ancient cultures failed because they failed to
change. China has constantly proven the capacity to change and
grow. Now, you must re-imagine China again for a new century,
and your generation must be at the heart of China's regeneration.
The new century is upon us. All our sights are
turned toward the future. Now your country has known more
millennia than the United States has known centuries. Today,
however, China is as young as any nation on Earth. This new
century can be the dawn of a new China, proud of your ancient
greatness, proud of what you are doing, prouder still of the
tomorrows to come. It can be a time when the world again looks
to China for the vigor of its culture, the freshness of its
thinking, the elevation of human dignity that is apparent in its
works. It can be a time when the oldest of nations helps to make
a new world.
The United States wants to work with you to make
that time a reality.
Thank you very much. (Applause.)
Q Mr. President, I'm very honored to be the first
one to raise question. Just as you mentioned in your address,
Chinese and American people should join hands and move forward
together. And what is most important in this process is for us
to have more exchanges.
In our view, since China is opening up in reform, we
have had better understanding of the culture, history, and
literature of America, and we have also learned a lot about you
from the biography. And we have also learned about a lot of
American Presidents. And we have also seen the movie, Titanic.
But it seems that the American people's understanding of the
Chinese people is not as much as the other way around. Maybe
they are only seeing China through several movies, describing the
Cultural Revolution or the rural life.
So my question is, as the first President of the
United States visiting China in 10 years, what do you plan to do
to enhance the real understanding and the respect between our two
peoples? Thank you.
THE PRESIDENT: First of all, I think that's a very
good point. And one of the reasons that I came here was to try
to -- because, as you can see, a few people come with me from the
news media -- I hope that my trip would help to show a full and
balanced picture of modern China to the United States, and that
by coming here, it would encourage others to come here and others
to participate in the life of China.
I see a young man out in the audience who introduced
himself to me yesterday as the first American ever to be a law
student in China. So I hope we will have many more Americans
coming here to study, many more Americans coming here to be
tourists, many more Americans coming here to do business. The
First Lady this morning and the Secretary of State had a meeting
on a legal project. We are doing a lot of projects together with
the Chinese to help promote the rule of law. That should bring a
lot more people here.
I think there is no easy answer to your question.
It's something we have to work at. We just need more people
involved and more kinds of contacts. And I think the more we can
do that, the better.
Is there a another question?
Q Mr. President, as a Chinese, I'm very
interested in the reunification of my motherland. Since 1972,
progress has been made on the question of Taiwan question, but we
have seen that the Americans repeatedly are selling advanced
weapons to Taiwan. And to our great indignation, we have seen
that the United States and Japan have renewed the U.S.-Japan
security treaty. And according to some Japanese officials, this
treaty even includes Taiwan Province of China. So I have to ask,
if China were to send its naval facility to Hawaii, and if China
were to sign a security treaty with other countries against one
part of the United States, will the United States agree to such
an act; will the American people agree to such an act?
THE PRESIDENT: First of all, the United States
policy is not an obstacle to the peaceful reunification of China
and Taiwan. Our policy is embodied in the three communiques and
in the Taiwan Relations Act. Our country recognized China and
embraced a one China policy almost 20 years ago. And I
reaffirmed our one China policy to President Jiang in our
Now, when the United States and China reached
agreement that we would have a one China policy, we also reached
agreement that the reunification would occur by peaceful means,
and we have encouraged the cross-strait dialogue to achieve that.
Our policy is that any weapon sales, therefore, to Taiwan must be
for defensive purposes only, and that the country must not
believe -- China must not believe that we are in any way trying
to undermine our own one China policy. It is our policy. But we
do believe it should occur -- any reunification should occur
Now, on Japan, if you read the security agreement we
signed with Japan, I think it will be clear from its terms that
the agreement is not directed against any country, but rather in
support of stability in Asia. We have forces in South Korea that
are designed to deter a resumption of the Korean War across the
dividing line between the two Koreas. Our forces in Japan are
largely designed to help us promote stability anywhere in the
Asian Pacific region on short notice. But I believe that it is
not fair to say that either Japan or the United States have a
security relationship that is designed to contain China. Indeed,
what both countries want is a security partnership with China for
the 21st century.
For example, you mentioned NATO -- we have expanded
NATO in Europe, but we also have made a treaty, an agreement
between NATO and Russia, to prove that we are not against Russia
anymore. And the most important thing NATO has done in the last
five years is to work side by side with Russia to end the war in
Bosnia. And I predict to you that what you see us doing with
China now, working together to try to limit the tension from the
Indian and the Pakistani nuclear tests, you will see more and
more and more of that in the future. And I think you will see a
lot of security cooperation in that area. And we can't see the
agreements of today through the mirror of yesterday's conflicts.
Q Mr. President, I've very glad to have this
opportunity to ask you a question. With a friendly smile you
have set foot on the soil of China and you have come to the
campus of Beida, so we are very excited and honored by your
presence, for the Chinese people really aspire for the friendship
between China and the United States on the basis of equality. As
I know that before your departure from the States, you said that
the reason for you to visit China is because China is too
important and engagement is better than containment.
I'd like to ask you whether this sentence is kind of
a commitment you made for your visit or do you have any other
hidden sayings behind this smile. Do you have any other design
to contain China? (Laughter and applause).
THE PRESIDENT: If I did, I wouldn't mask it behind
a smile. (Laughter.) But I don't. That is, my words mean
exactly what they say. We have to make a decision -- all of us
do, but especially the people who live in large nations with
great influence must decide how to define their greatness.
When the Soviet Union went away, Russia had to
decide how to define its greatness. Would they attempt to
develop the human capacity of the Russian people and work in
partnership with their neighbors for a greater future, or would
they remember the bad things the happened to them in the past 200
years and think the only way they could be great would be to
dominate their neighbors militarily? They chose a forward
course. The world is a better place.
The same thing is true with China. You will decide
both in terms of your policies within your country and beyond,
what does it mean that China will be a great power in the 21st
century? Does it mean that you will have enormous economic
success? Does it mean you will have enormous cultural influence?
Does it mean that you will be able to play a large role in
solving the problems of the world? Or does it mean you will be
able to dominate your neighbors in some form or fashion, whether
they like it or not? This is the decision that every great
country has to make.
You ask me, do I really want to contain China? The
answer is no. The American people have always had a very warm
feeling toward China that has been interrupted from time to time
when we have had problems. But if you go back through the
history of our country, there's always been a feeling on the part
of our people that we ought to be close to the Chinese people.
And I believe that it would be far better for the people of the
United States to have a partnership on equal, respectful terms
with China in the 21st century than to have to spend enormous
amounts of time and money trying to contain China because we
disagree with what's going on beyond our borders. So I do not
want that. I want a partnership. I'm not hiding another design
behind a smile, it's what I really believe. (Applause.)
Because I think it's good for the American people
and it's my job to do what's good for them. What's good for them
is to have a good relationship with you.
Q Mr. President, I'm going to graduate this year
and I'm going to work in Bank of China. Just now, Mr. President,
you mentioned the responsibilities of the young generation of the
two countries for international security, environment, and the
financial stability. I think they are really important. And I
think the most important thing is for the young people to be well
educated. And I know, Mr. President, you love your daughter very
much, and she is now studying at Stanford. So, my question is,
several years ago you proposed the concept of knowledge economy
-- so, my first question is, what do you think the education of
higher learning, what kind of role can this play in the future
And the second question is, what expectations do you
have, Mr. President, for the younger generation of our two
THE PRESIDENT: Let me answer the knowledge economy
question first. And let me answer by telling you what I have
tried to do in the United States. I have tried to create a
situation in America in which the doors of universities and
colleges are open to every young person who has sufficient
academic achievement to get in, that there are no financial
burdens of any kind. And we have not completely achieved it, but
we have made a great deal of progress.
Now, why would I do that? Because I believe that
the more advanced an economy becomes, the more important it is to
have a higher and higher and higher percentage of people with a
university education. Let me just tell you how important it is
in the United States. We count our people -- every 10 years we
do a census and we count the numbers of the American people and
we get all kinds of information on them. In the 1990 Census,
younger Americans who had a college degree were overwhelmingly
likely to get good jobs and have their incomes grow. Younger
Americans who had two years or more of university were likely to
get good jobs and have their incomes grow. Younger Americans who
didn't go to university at all were likely to get jobs where
their incomes declined and were much more likely to be
And the more advanced China's economy becomes, the
more that will be true of China -- the more you will need very
large numbers of people getting university education and
technical education. So I think it is very, very important.
Now, let me say one expectation I have for the
younger generation of Americans and Chinese that has nothing to
do with economics. One of the biggest threats to your future is
a world which is dominated not by modern problems, but by ancient
hatreds. Look around the world and see how much trouble is being
caused by people who dislike each other because of their racial
or their religious or their ethnic differences -- whether it's in
Bosnia, or the conflict between the Indians and the Pakistanis,
or in the Middle East or the tribal continents in Africa.
You look all over the world, you see these kind of
problems. Young people are more open to others who are
different, more interested in people who are different. And I
hope young people in China and young people in America that have
a good education will be a strong voice in the world against
giving in to this sort of hating people or looking down on them
simply because they're different.
Thank you. (Applause.)
Q Mr. President, with regard to the question of
democracy, human rights and freedom, actually this is an issue of
great interest to both the Chinese and American peoples. But, to
be honest, our two countries have some differences over these
issues. In your address just now you made a very proud review
and retrospection of the history of the American democracy in
human rights. And you have also made some suggestions for China.
Of course, for the sincere suggestions, we welcome. But I think
I recall one saying, that is we should have both criticism and
So now I'd like to ask you a question. Do you think
that in the United States today, there are also some problems in
the area of democracy, freedom, and human rights, and what your
government has done in improving the situation? (Applause.)
THE PRESIDENT: I do, and, first of all, let me say,
I never raise this question overseas in any country, not just
China, without acknowledging first, that our country has had
terrible problems in this area -- keep in mind, slavery was legal
in America for many years -- and that we are still not perfect.
I always say that, because I don't think it's right for any
person to claim that he or she lives in a perfect country. We're
all struggling toward ideals to live a better life. So I agree
with the general point you made.
Now, I will give you two examples. We still have
some instances of discrimination in America -- in housing or
employment or other areas based on race. And we have a system
set up to deal with it, but we have not totally eliminated it.
And in the last year, I have been engaging the American people in
a conversation on this subject, and we have tried to identify the
things that government should do, the things that the American
people should do either through the local government or through
other organizations, and the attitudes that should change the
minds and hearts of the American people. So that's one example.
Now, let me give you another example. We have --
when I ran for President in 1992, I was in a hotel in New York
City, and an American immigrant from Greece came up to me and he
said, my son is 10 years old and he studies the election in
school and he says I should vote for you. But he said, if I vote
for you, I want you to make my son free, because my son is not
really free. So I asked this man, what do you mean? And he
said, well, the crime is so high in my neighborhood, there are so
many guns and gangs that my son does not feel that he -- I can't
let him walk to school by himself, or go across the street to
play in the park. So if I vote for you, I want you to make my
I think that's important, because, you see, in
America, we tend to view freedom as the freedom from government
abuse or from government control. That is our heritage. Our
founders came here to escape the monarchy in England. But
sometimes freedom requires affirmative steps by government to
give everyone an equal opportunity to have an education and make
a decent living and to preserve a lawful environment. So I work
very hard to try to bring the crime rate down in America, and
it's now lower than it has been at any time in 25 years, which
means that more of our children are free. But the crime rate is
still high; there is still too much violence.
So we Americans need to be sensitive not only to
preserve the freedoms that we hold dear, but also to create an
environment in which people can build a truly good and free life.
That's a good question. (Applause.)
Q Mr. President, you are warmly welcome to Beida.
You mentioned a sentence by Mr. Xu Jiyu, but our former president
once said that when the great moral is in practice, the morals,
they will not contradict each other. And I don't think the
individual freedom and the collective freedom will contradict
each other. But in China the prosperous development of the
nation is actually the free choice of our people, and it's also
the result of their efforts. So I think that freedom, real
freedom, should mean for the people to freely choose the way of
life they like and also to develop. And I also think that only
those who can really respect the freedom of others can really say
that they understand what freedom means. (Applause.)
I don't know whether you agree with me or not.
THE PRESIDENT: First of all, if you believe in
freedom, you have to respect the freedom of others to make
another choice. And even societies that have rather radical
views of individual freedom recognize limits on that freedom when
it interferes with preserving other people's rights.
For example, there's one of our famous court cases
which says we have freedom of speech, but no one should be free
to shout the word "fire" in a crowded movie theatre where there
is no fire, and cause people to stampede over each other.
There's another famous court decision that says my freedom ends
where the other person's nose begins, meaning that you don't have
freedom to hit someone else.
So I agree with that. People have the freedom to
choose and you have to respect other people's freedom and they
have the right to make decisions that are different from yours.
And there will never be a time when our systems and our cultures
and our choices will be completely identical. That's one of the
things that makes life interesting.
Q Mr. President, I have two questions. The first
question is, the U.S. economy has been growing for more than 18
months, so I'd like to ask, apart from your personal contribution
to the United States, what other factors do you think important
for the success of the U.S. economy? Maybe they can serve as
good reference for China.
The second question is, when President Jiang Zemin
visited Harvard University last year, there were a lot of
students outside the hall demonstrating, so I'd like you, Mr.
President, if you are in Beijing University, and if there were a
lot of students outside protesting and demonstrating, what
feeling would you have?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, first of all, on the United
States economy, I believe that the principal role of government
policy since I've been President was to, first of all, get our
big government deficit -- we had a huge annual deficit in
spending -- we got that under control. We're about to have the
first balanced budget in 30 years. That drove interest rates
down and freed up a lot of money to be invested in creating jobs
in the private sector. Then the second thing we did was to
expand trade a lot, so we began to sell a lot more around the
world than we had before. And the third thing we did was to
attempt to invest more in our people -- in research, development,
technology, and education.
Now, in addition to that, however, a lot of the
credit here goes to the American people themselves. We have a
very sophisticated business community; they were investing money
in new technologies and in new markets and in training people.
We have an environment where it's quite easy for people to start
a business, and perhaps this is the area that might be most
helpful to China.
I know that my wife has done a lot of work around
the world in villages, trying to get credit to villagers so they
could borrow money to start their own businesses, to try to take
advantage of some skill they have. And we have seen this system
work even in the poorest places in Africa and Latin America,
where opportunity takes off.
So we have tried to make it easy in America for
people to start a business, to expand a business, and to do
business. And then we have also tried very, very hard to get new
opportunities into areas where there were none before. And all
these things together -- but especially, I give most of the
credit to the people of my country. After all, a person in my
position, we're supposed to have correct policies so that we
create a framework within which the American people then create
the future. And I think that is basically what has happened.
Now, you asked me an interesting question.
Actually, I have been demonstrated against quite a lot in the
United States. I told President Jiang when he was there, I was
glad they demonstrated against him, so I didn't feel so lonely.
(Laughter and applause.)
I'll give you a serious answer. If there were a lot
of people demonstrating against me outside, suppose they were
demonstrating over the question that the first gentleman asked
me. Suppose they said, oh, President Clinton is trying to
interfere with the peaceful reunification of China and Taiwan,
and he shouldn't be selling them any weapons whatever. Well, I
would try to find out what they were demonstrating against and
then I would ask my host if they minded if I would go over and
talk to them, or if they would mind if one or two people from the
group of demonstrators could be brought to see me and they could
say what is on their minds, and I could answer.
Remember what I said before about what Benjamin
Franklin said -- our critics are our friends, for they show us
our faults. You have asked me some very good questions today
that have an element of criticism in them. They have been very
helpful to me. They have helped me to understand how what I say
is perceived by others -- not just in China, but around the
world. They have helped me to focus on what I can do to be a
more effective President for my people and for the things we
And so I feel very good that we have had this
interchange. And from my point of view, the questions were far
more important than my speech -- I never learn anything when I'm
talking, I only learn things when I'm listening.
Thank you very much. Thank you. (Applause.)