THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
(Beijing, People's Republic of China)
For Immediate Release
June 29, 1998
PRESS BRIEFING BY
SANDY KRISTOFF, SENIOR DIRECTOR OF ASIAN AFFAIRS, NSC;
JEFF BADER, DIRECTOR OF ASIAN AFFAIRS, NSC;
STANLEY ROTH, ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF STATE FOR EAST ASIAN AFFAIRS
AND SUSAN SHIRK, DEPUTY ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF STATE FOR
EAST ASIAN AND PACIFIC AFFAIRS
Beijing, People's Republic of China
1:58 P.M. (L)
MR. MCCURRY: I wanted you to get some sense -- when we
about constructive engagement, I think it's important to look at the nuts
bolts of that. And I'm delighted that we have some of the people who have
been working in and around the summit to tell you a little bit more about
of the substantive achievements of the President's time here.
We're about halfway through the President's visit to China,
and some extraordinary things have happened in the course of the visit,
that I'm not sure that I can explain or any of us can explain entirely.
certainly what's happened during this trip -- the press conference, the
national televised address the President made to the people of China today
could likely have some profound impact on the way the political culture of
China adapts to the changes that are underway here -- clearly underway.
When the President of the United States is trying to find
more and learn more, when the Secretary of State is trying to find out more
and learn more, and when the National Security Advisor is trying to bring
all together for proper briefings of the President and others, they turn to
those in our government who are really the best experts that we have and
might arguably be the best experts anywhere on what is occurring in this
rapidly changing and dynamic society.
There's a lot that you all have asked those of us
who are sort of political appointees of the President about
what's happening on this trip, what the President has
accomplished, what is the meaning of some of the truly historic
things we've seen, but we decided it would be useful for you to
have an opportunity just to ask questions of those that we would
ask questions of when we're trying to figure it out. And so, for
that reason, departing from what is the usual custom here, we're
going to bring you the people who have actually been doing all
the work at this summit and who I think, now that the substantive
portions of the meetings here in Beijing have concluded, can take
a breather for a second and step back and reflect on some of it.
So I'm delighted to introduce in no particular order
-- and they don't plan to speak. I think they're more interested
in hearing what your observations and questions are, because
they've been wrestling with it themselves -- but available to you
now are Sandy Kristoff, who is the Senior Director of Asian
Affairs at the National Security Council; Jeff Bader, the very
hardworking peripatetic Director of Asian Affairs at the National
Security Council; a second time arounder in the administration,
Stanley Roth, who is the Assistant Secretary of State for East
Asian and Pacific Affairs, previously served at the National
Security Council himself; and Susan Shirk, who is the Deputy
Assistant Secretary for East Asian and Pacific Affairs at State.
These are our best China hands and are now in your
hands. They reserve the right to disagree with each other.
Q It seems to me that one obvious question is, do
you think that the debate, such as it was, on Saturday, and the
President's address today reverberates and causes an impact here
in China, or is it just an isolated event and we go back to
business as usual as soon as the President is gone?
MS. KRISTOFF: I think the debate that happened at
the joint press conference and the President's speech at Beida
were extraordinary events. I think they were heard widely by not
only the American public back home, but by, more importantly, the
Chinese people. And I think what it is is evidence of the way in
which the President's policy has worked and has been successful
in terms of engagement, because what engagement really means is
that you can work through your differences, continue to agree to
disagree, and continue to fight, not pull any punches, and at the
same time, produce results and cooperate in areas where you do
have shared interests. And I think that that's what this summit
MR. ROTH: Let me say that I think the best answer
to that question really is in a lot of pieces that you've been
doing, because while we've been busy following around the
President, the Secretary of State, and the other officials, many
of you have been interviewing Chinese people. And I think the
real answer is going to come not from American officials, but, of
course, from the people of China. And we've seen repeated quotes
in the press from people indicating that it will have profound
reverberations from here, that this is being noted, studied, that
this is an unusual event, and that they have recognized this.
And I think this will be percolating within China for quite some
time to come.
MS. SHIRK: I was an academic in my former life, so
as a China watcher, I will say that I do think this is a
significant political event in China -- a domestic political
decision by Jiang Zemin to allow President Clinton to speak
directly to the Chinese people at the press conference and in the
Beida discussion with the students.
Taboo subjects that had not been discussed
previously such as Tiananmen and Tibet were discussed at that
press conference. Jiang Zemin even initiated the discussion of
Tibet. It's not going to be possible to bury those subjects
again. And I'm sure that many of the things that President
Clinton said about the connection between freedom and stability
by speaking to the Chinese people on their own terms, their own
ideas about stability, I think will certainly resonate with a
good many people in China.
Now, as to what happens next, we don't know. I
don't think it would be wise to say this opens up a whole new era
in China, but it was a very self-conscious decision on President
Jiang's part to allow this kind of open discussion of previously
MR. BADER: I'm not going to repeat -- but I think
every previous speaker has covered it pretty well -- but just a
number or two. We've estimated about 85 to 90 percent of the
people of China have access to television. This was covered on
television, covered on radio nationally -- both events. None of
us are aware of any precedent for this -- for a foreign leader
having a live broadcast to an audience throughout China.
Q Can you talk a little bit about the internal
discussion about Tibet? I mean, the fact that Jiang discussed
the subject openly is very, sort of, tantalizing for me. Did he
show any more interest in a private setting in pursuing this in a
way that you people feel is meaningful?
MR. BADER: Carol, the private discussions on Tibet
-- I think what you saw in public, what Jiang said was very
significant. I cannot recall a Chinese leader ever talking about
multiple channels of discussion with the Dalai Lama before,
talking about openness to dialogue. They've used that phrase,
but the context in which it was offered suggested a kind of new
readiness to talk if certain conditions are met.
Now, he laid out conditions. Clearly, they haven't
closed yet. But we welcomed what President Jiang said, if it was
a positive statement. The private discussions -- I think what
you heard in public represents the Chinese position, and that was
the significant part, the fact that he said it publicly.
Q Given the fact that when Albright was here in
April, my understanding was that you felt basically that they
were not prepared to move on Tibet at all. What do you attribute
the change, the apparent change from then to now?
MR. BADER: I wouldn't go too far in saying that
there has been -- I don't want to overplay or -- how should I say
-- exaggerate how close they may be to a dialogue. There are
still conditions. But the tone of what he said was new, and as I
say, the fact that he way public about it before a nationwide
audience was new.
The Dalai Lama has said some things in the last few
months in his visit to the United States. They were very
positive about strengthened U.S.-China relations, about the way
to deal with China. I think it is -- one can't know what is
going through the minds of the Chinese leaders on this, but it is
possible. I'm sure they're observing these statements and it's
possible this is a reflection of that.
Q Two things were said before the summit -- one
was that the Chinese wanted to give the President a successful
summit, and secondly, they wanted to move into a post-Tiananmen
phase of relations. First off, is there any sense, any belief
that the Chinese permitted the televising of these things as a
way to be able to give the President a successful summit. And
secondly, are we now, because of this summit, in a post-Tiananmen
MS. KRISTOFF: I think when we, this year, started
planning for this summit we had a couple of goals in mind -- one,
to produce a summit that had concrete results, that advanced the
issue that were most important to us and those we had already
outlined in the October summit. I think a summit without results
would not have been a successful summit. So I think you've got
to sort of zero in on what we actually produced.
One of the other things that I think we had as a
goal of the administration for this was to -- and other people
have spoken about this -- was to show the American people the
complexity of China; that China is dynamic, is changing, has
enormous challenges before it. Americans have not seen much of
China. And part of the way that we wanted that to happen was to
have pictures to go back home. I think the other thing we wanted
to do was to have the President have access to the Chinese
people, through the joint press appearance, through his speech at
Beida, and through a series of events that he's going to do
throughout this trip, so that an image of America could be given
to the average Chinese. That would not have happened in the
absence of the broadcast of the press --
Q You're talking about an American goal, I'm
talking about the Chinese goals of wanting a successful summit
and wanting to move into a post-Tiananmen phase.
MS. KRISTOFF: And what I'm saying is that over the
course of months of trying to set this summit up our description
of what constituted a success became as well a Chinese acceptance
or willingness or belief, if you will, that the notion of the
President having access of images of China going back to the
United States, that that was fundamentally an important part of
making this summit a success.
Q Are we in a post-Tiananmen phase?
MS. KRISTOFF: Are we in a post-Tiananmen phase? I
think we're in the next phase of the relationship. We're going
to build on the successes.
MR. ROTH: If you mean does Tiananmen cease to be an
issue, the answer is, of course not. If you mean are we working
to improve the relationship to increase our strategic dialogue,
increase the overall -- of course.
Q I was wondering if you could share with us some
of the analysis that has come by your people as they read the
Chinese media and newspapers over the last couple of days. It
wasn't just that they broadcast this thing live, but there were
things that we're published or not published, broadcast or not
broadcast province by province. What have you found interesting
that we haven't noticed?
MS. SHIRK: I think it's really too soon to have a
full analysis. Naturally, we'll be very interested in the
response of Chinese people throughout the country to these events
and to the President's remarks, and I hope we'll be learning more
in the next several weeks.
MR. BADER: I can add a little bit. Frankly, we've
been a bit overwhelmed with preparing our leaders for the events
and haven't done the full analysis that Susan was talking about
yet. But I think we've seen some preliminary indications. The
Xin Hua coverage was not complete. They left out significant
portions. They had a couple of sentences about -- I saw a
reference I think to Sandy Berger saying this was the most candid
discussion on human rights that had been held in whatever. So
Xin Hua was certainly selective.
I think what this demonstrates in a way is that you
had a decision here by the leadership to televise and broadcast
these things live, which was a bold decision. But you have a
system which still, obviously, is far from a free system and
which was selective and restrictive in the way it covered it.
But the full analysis, I think we need some time to see just how
much of it they're going to cover it and how much they're not.
Q One follow-up. From the guest lists of the
state dinner, what can you tell? For instance, were all the
members of the politburo there? Does Li Peng take the kind of
role you would expect him to as the second-ranking figure?
MR. BADER: I wasn't at the head table, but from
where I was sitting, I could see what appeared to be all of the
members of the politburo standing committee. I counted -- I
think they were all there. So I think that was meant to be a
show of leadership unity.
Q Are any of you familiar with how the audience
was selected for the Peking University event today, and did it
strike any of you that some of the questions on sensitive
subjects from the students seemed to be particularly in keeping
with Chinese party dogma?
MS. SHIRK: I spoke with the senior White House
advance person about this. The seats were divided up by
departments. Each department has a certain number of seats, and
then they drew lots. So it was a random selection. In fact, he
told me that Beijing University had its own press conference. I
guess you weren't there to describe the method because there was
such interest in how this was done.
MR. ROTH: Let me take a crack at the second half of
your question. I think you really miss the significance of the
questions if you only look at it as in similarity between some of
the official positions. I think what you saw from the students
were two different faces of China that exist side by side.
One, I think you saw some real friendship for the
United States. You saw that particularly at the second event,
where the President got a tremendous round of applause as he
worked up to the podium and even as he just walked onto the
stage. And I think that was real, not ginned up.
At the same time, I think you saw real evidence of
the growing nationalism of the current generation in China
itself, and that was reflected in a number of questions. And the
President picked up on that in one of his responses towards the
end. And so when you see this nationalistic face, whether it be
on Taiwan, whether it be on demonstrations at Harvard or any of
these other subjects, I think that reflects a genuine trend that
is out there. And that's something that we have to deal with in
Q If I could just follow up, does that mean that
the current university students don't care about human rights or
democracy in the way the 1989 students did?
MR. ROTH: I don't think so. I think that's --
MR. BADER: This is not exactly an answer to your
question, but the feedback that we got to the President's speech
-- not necessarily university, but generally around town in the
soundings we took -- was overwhelmingly positive. And of course
a good component of that was about human rights. That suggests
to me that there is a tremendous interest in human rights broadly in
the society, and that the remarks on that subject were well
received. I would be surprised if Beida were the exception to
Q There was a question about Taiwan from the
students, and the tone was rather nationalistic. Of course, the
President gave the standard answer. But according to Sandy
Berger the other day when he briefed us, Jiang Zemin spoke at
length about the Taiwan issue, and the President in response
didn't state the so-called three noes of the "One China" policy.
Can you give us a sense of how the Taiwan discussions went and
what percentage of the bilaterals that touched on this particular
MS. KRISTOFF: I think that the discussion between
the two presidents was not dominated by the Taiwan question. I
don't think that you could say that it took up 80 percent of the
conversation. The bilateral between the two presidents focused
on human rights, nonproliferation, some trade points, and then,
from China's side, the Taiwan issue.
As Berger made very clear yesterday, and as we can
all repeat here today, the President reaffirmed our longstanding
policy on Taiwan. He made it quite clear that our policy is
consistent and unchanged -- and no news beyond that.
Q Will somebody from the delegation be going to
Taiwan to brief the government there or simply Richard Bush of
the AIT, as reported? Any decision made on that?
MR. ROTH: Having worked for Richard -- with Richard
Bush and hired him 15 years ago, I think saying "simply Richard
Bush" does him a disservice. This is a very significant
Q Well, I'm not trying to denigrate Richard Bush.
MR. ROTH: He will be the briefer.
Q He will. When will he be going?
MR. ROTH: Shortly.
Q I have two unrelated questions -- one on MTCR.
Obviously, the Chinese have agreed to go this step toward MTCR
because they think it's in their interest. I'm curious why they
think it's more in their interest today than it was several years
ago when we were sanctioning their missile behavior, and what's
changed in their mentality and thinking.
And secondly, when you experts stood around this
weekend, what's your best guess as to why they decided to
broadcast the press conference?
MS. SHIRK: I think the short answer to that
question is that through its own calculations, and through our
discussions, China has really come to rethink what its interests
are in these regional situations, such as South Asia and the
Persian Gulf. And I think that China now has come to see that it
has an interest in helping to preserve stability in these
regions; that to nurture a close relationship with one particular
ally through various mechanisms, including support for its
missile program, in the long term is not really in its own
Second, it really has -- China has come to have a
real stake in the global nonproliferation regime. I think you
see this in the way they've joined all the various regimes one by
one. There still are a couple they haven't joined, but we think
that their new interest in moving toward joining the MTCR is
highly, highly significant. The Chinese do have a record, when
they say that they are actively studying joining a regime, of
shortly thereafter actually joining it. So we think this is
really a major accomplishment of the summit.
Q What about the second half of it? The second
part of this question -- why do you think Jiang decided to
televise the --
MR. BADER: Okay, the short answer is, we do not
know. We do not know. Having said that, President Jiang clearly
had to understand that there was going to be a tremendous
audience for this event -- I mean, probably hundreds of millions
of people, and if not hundreds of millions of people, hundreds of
millions of people will hear about it -- or the conversation was
all about this, almost immediately.
President Jiang had to be aware of that in making
the decision. So I think that President Jiang consciously made a
decision -- and President Jiang, having been to Washington and
having been to the joint press conference, had a sense of the
kinds of subjects that would be discussed, and he made a
conscious decision to allow this kind of discussion before a
large national audience.
Now, again, I'm going to retreat into the -- it's
too early to analyze what this meant, but I guess what I'm saying
is, this is significant, and I think it's significant not only in
terms of bilateral relations. The earlier question talked about
was this a successful summit and how much were they trying to
please us. I think this should not be seen solely or even
primarily as something that was done for President Clinton,
because President Jiang is a Chinese politician and Chinese
politicians, like American politicians, make calculations based
upon domestic result and domestic impact.
Q I watched the Chinese television coverage, live
coverage of your President's speech at Beijing University. And
the English translator, I mean, the American translator, didn't
sound very familiar with the Chinese language. And even my
daughter, who is 11 years old, could not understand her very much
your Chinese translator. So at the end of the CCTV, the CCTV
announcer said, okay, he was very sorry that the translator was
offered by the American side. So they agreed with President Bill
Clinton's speech, that we should increase exchange, but the first
exchange must be to study Chinese language. And what's your
comment about that?
And another thing is, why did your President didn't
answer the student question directly. That's why the second
question -- you should answer my question directly. Two
MR. ROTH: This is very easy, actually. The
President connected very well with the audience at Beida, and you
could see -- being in the audience, you could see as a question
came, that the President was listening very carefully. He was
very comfortable in his answer. He was speaking directly to the
students that asked the question. If that didn't come through on
television, that's a shame, but within the auditorium I think it
was a very connected event. And I don't think that any of the
four of us would say anything other than that, yes, certainly,
more people should learn Chinese.
Q Can I ask just a simple question regarding
Taiwan? The Chinese side usually will link the U.S. arms sales
policy to Taiwan to the proliferation issue. Are they still
MR. ROTH: Simple question, simple answer. No
linkage. We did not agree to any linkage. No change on U.S.
Q To follow up on the earlier question about how
well the Chinese audience heard it, have you heard anything about
technical problems. We've heard that from some of our bureaus,
those watching on Chinese television, had great difficulty
hearing the audio sound for much of the broadcast.
MR. ROTH: We were all at the event -- so we
Q Are you going to check into that, because it's
possible it's a technical problem or it's possible it's
MR. MCCURRY: No indication that it was deliberate.
We did check into it. And CCTV was having trouble with the feed
that was coming from the interpreter's booth and going into what
their main audio feed was. There were times, especially when the
President was speaking extemporaneously, where they were trying
to work in the booth to figure out what the correct
interpretation would be, where the volume dropped down and people
really did experience trouble. We've heard that anecdotally from
a number of different people.
But as one CCTV executive communicated to someone
that we are in contact with, this was new to them. They don't
customarily do these types of live broadcasts, and so they were
thinking it through.
The other point on the interpretation -- the
President wanted these to be very personal remarks and worked on
them right up to the very last minute, and there was not the time
that one would normally have to prepare a more elegant and
sophisticated interpretation, but we're confident that the
President's message did get through. And certainly the response
was a very positive one.
Q U.S. officials have made clear that the reason
why the President did not meet with dissidents is because of fear
of retribution, harassment. I'm wondering if the reason why we
didn't get any questions from the students at Peking University
is the same reason: they feared, for the same reason. Could we
realistically have expected them to ask about human rights or
MR. BADER: First of all, on the dissident question,
the President made a decision about what was going to be the most
effective way to advance human rights in China and the overall
agenda. We think that having the President speak to hundreds of
millions of Chinese about human rights was the best way to do so.
And I think we had much greater impact doing it that way than
Now, as for the questions, I don't know -- again,
this is just speculation. If you picture a foreign leader
visiting the United States before an American student audience,
the American students probably would not be critical of their own
country in their questions; they would be critical of the foreign
So I'm not surprised that there were not questions
from the students pointing to problems within China. I think
that's not so much unique to China; I think that's kind of a
Q Can you address some of the -- are we seeing
some dovetailing here? And how do you look at the play-off
between allowing the President to go nationwide and talk about
these issues so openly? And is China trying to help the
President address some of the criticism in the U.S.? Or is there
an agenda here domestically with some of the anti-leftist books
that we're seeing and some of the movement in that direction?
MS. KRISTOFF: I think in the run-up to the summit
the Chinese were well aware of the discordant voices in the
United States that were criticizing the President, his decision
to come, his entire China policy. I think that on the trips that
many of us took to China in the run-up to the summit, including
Mr. Berger's trip in early June, we made clear that the only way
we could counter the critics was if we had results from the
summit -- results on issues that mattered, like nonproliferation,
like security questions, like South Asia, like energy and
And so that's what -- I think that that's what we
focused on. I think that's what China focused on. And that was
literally what the discussions were about for the last six,
seven, eight weeks.
Q One more analytical point. If you compare the
coverage here to last fall when Jiang Zemin was in the United
States with what you've, on a preliminary basis, noticed here so
far, what differences do you see?
MR. BADER: I think this was clearly far more
extensive, that you heard the entire message. The entire press
conference was broadcast, including things that were critical of
aspects of Chinese policy. That didn't happen at the previous
summit in terms of how it played in China itself -- major
Q Are we anywhere near a stage of China like what
we saw in the Soviet Union in the late '80s?
MS. SHIRK: Turn to the academic, right. I don't
think it's the same. I think the historical experiences of the
two countries are very different. I think China has had a
tremendous transformation in its economic life, in its social and
cultural life. And I think that this is certainly stimulating a
certain amount of political debate. Where it ends up, we really
don't know. I think it would really be a mistake to look at the
trajectory of the Soviet Union and Russia and say the exact same
thing is going to happen in China.
MR. MCCURRY: I want give a special thank you to
Sandy Kristoff. That may very well have been her last briefing
before she goes out to make a fortune in the private sector.
THE PRESS: Thank you.