Briefing by Mike McCurry

Office of the Press Secretary
(Beijing, People's Republic of China)

For Immediate Release June 29, 1998


Shangri-La Hotel
Beijing, People's Republic of China

2:30 P.M. (L)

MR. MCCURRY: I want to give a special thank you to Sandy Kristoff, that may very well have been her last briefing before she goes off to make a fortune in the private sector.

All right. We are now, as you know, going to Shanghai later today and completing out the balance of the trip. I think most of you got the schedule on the President's calendar for tomorrow. And unless there's any other local business --

Q Can you give us a highlight about what you expect to come out of the meeting tomorrow?

MR. MCCURRY: The President is very much looking forward to

his visit to Shanghai. He spoke today about the future of this relationship. In many ways, Shanghai is the future of China because of the changes that are taking place in China are reflected in the very dynamic growth, economically, and the changes occurring in South China. And he will see that and literally be a part of that over the coming days.

He's especially interested in this discussion that he will have about the 21st century in China with Shanghai community leaders. Obviously, touring the library is an opportunity for him to make vivid the argument he made today, that information technologies and the flow of information will inevitably produce change in China. And touring the library will be a dramatic part of that.

He is looking forward to his interview on radio and the opportunity, we hope, to have some direct dialogue with citizens in Shanghai. And then he will meet the mayor and some of the community leaders and see the leadership of what is one of the most dynamic areas in China.

Q -- in any way that you haven't had a large business delegation?

MR. MCCURRY: A large?

Q Business delegation.

MR. MCCURRY: No, because in many ways -- I made this point to the others -- when the President has traveled, for example, to Africa, we've taken business leaders there. As they establish a foothold and develop new commercial relationships in emerging areas of market opportunity.

China is much different because literally American business is here. I mean, he will be seeing members of the American Chamber of Commerce, but they are well established here. This is not a case of the President needing to bring business with him to China; they are literally already here and they're interested in what we can do to further the relationship and to be of assistance.

Q On "Face The Nation," Secretary Albright said we didn't do as well on trade as we wanted to. Can you elaborate?

MR. MCCURRY: Well, I think that we had hoped to find an amicable way in which China could accede to the WTO. And we still have disagreements on that and we're still going to have to work through that. That's principally what the reference was to.

Q Mike, can you tell us how and why it was decided that the President and the delegation should stay at the Diaoyutai Guest House here in Beijing?

MR. MCCURRY: I can't. There are a lot of things that went into the decision. I mean, it was convenient and had a number of ways in which we could accommodate various parts of the delegation. I saw one reference to the fact that, you should have stayed at the China World Hotel because it's more accessible. And those of you who have ever stayed there with part of any delegation -- and Secretary of State and others -- know that that's a bit preposterous. It's no more accessible than the Diaoyutai would be.

Q There's a nice mall there?

MR. MCCURRY: Yes, there's a good drugstore there.

Q Mike, as a follow up, has the delegation or U.S. officials been given any special, or not special, caution about having discussions at the Diaoyutai or discussing sensitive information in their room?

MR. MCCURRY: Whenever the President's delegation goes anywhere we get a briefing from U.S. security officials on the nature of the security environment we're going into. And we received that briefing prior to coming to China, the way we would receive it before going into any foreign country.

Q Are there one or more bubbles over there?

MR. MCCURRY: We have ways in which we can do the orderly business of the government in a secure manner.

Q Was Sasser off the reservation when he said on ABC that communism in China is possibly coming to an end?

MR. MCCURRY: No. I saw the transcript of what he said and he was forced to make a prediction about the nature of the political regime here and whether or not it would change over time, and I think he said, probably. And I think that's probably a fair assessment.

Q Can you give us more of a preview about the speech tomorrow morning at 9:40 a.m.

MR. MCCURRY: No. I wish I could. I, personally, can't; we'll see if any of my sharpshooters can.

Q Sandy talked about moving from individual dissidents -- you know, asking for release of individual dissidents -- to moving to these classes, What is he exactly talking about? And have we rank ordered them?

MR. MCCURRY: For a long time in the difficult nature of the human relations dialogue with China we were at a point where -- that resonates familiarly with those of you who remember the 1970s and early 1980s with respect to the Soviet Union -- that we were asking about --

Q But human rights was always the first issue discussed.

MR. MCCURRY: And it in many ways still is. It certainly was still the major dominant focus of this trip in many ways. But at that point the only way you could make progress was by giving named individuals and trying to get piece by piece, case by case, some progress.

We're in a situation where that has proved somewhat effective with the People's Republic; when we've raised individual cases we've had some individual success in getting releases or getting different arrangements made.

But I think everyone would desire to move from the anecdotal to a structure in which these concerns can be raised and dealt with in a more thorough and comprehensive way. Don't underestimate the significance of the announcement by the two Presidents that we are resuming the human rights dialogue between our two governments.

Assistant Secretary of State for Human Rights John Shattuck has quite literally at this moment putting together the nuts and bolts of that part of this relationship, which will included -- late in the fall -- a conference in Washington that will allow experts in the rule of law and human rights from both of our sides to really talk about what it means for China to formally sign the international covenant and how that will be reflected in the day-to-day practices of the government, drawing on some of the expertise of people who are not necessarily in the United States government, but are some of our top human rights experts.

That's the kind of cooperation and dialogue we want to see on this issue. We certainly want to see progress in individual cases. But we've reached the point now where -- you know, we're looking for lists of people that we can submit, but the sense is that that's not enough because we need to move to a much larger, more thorough way of addressing these concerns.

Q I read where when President Clinton came to Moscow in January of 1994 and signed a de-targeting agreement and got permission to appear on Russian national television, and the next day Guydar was out and the whole of Russian politics changed for the worse for a while. Give us a sense of why we think that the American delegation feels that this time it's going to be better, different than it was in January of 1994 in Moscow.

MR. MCCURRY: Well, we can't predict -- this is not a transparent regime and there's still, and will remain, aspects of the Chinese leadership that remain opaque to U.S. decision makers.

But there are clear -- as you saw from our experts who briefed a moment ago -- some conscious decisions made about the way in which they dealt with this government -- our government dealt with this President and it perhaps reflects something about the internal dynamic of their ruling elite. We can't know for sure, we can't understand entirety the kind of challenges and the dynamic that President Jiang Zemin faces.

But the actions developed at this summit do suggest a certain course for the future, and that is a hopeful course. We certainly are going to, on behalf of our government, do things that encourage those tendencies that we think reflect the futures that both of our peoples desire.

Q Mike, what does resuming human rights dialogue -- when did that dialogue exist before?

MR. MCCURRY: Since late 1995, the formal structure of a dialogue had been in suspension and had been reserved for the highest level meetings that we had between our two governments. Up until that time, up until April of 1994 we had had a formal structure for human rights dialogue and then that was put in abeyance -- although human rights continued to be a very major element of the agenda we pursued through our bilateral contacts and became a built in priority of the bilateral agenda for this exchange of state visits.

Q On religious freedom, an underground preacher that we talked to right outside the church yesterday mentioned that even within the church itself there is a group of people who are being suppressed, in terms of not being able to practice their religion liberally. Is the President aware of an issue like that?

MR. MCCURRY: Well, we certainly were aware of some of the restrictions that exist on freedom of expression and freedom of faith, that's one of the things that we've raised and one of the reasons why we pressed hard for the exchange of religious leaders that occurred late last year and earlier this year. That will remain an ongoing concern.

All of our concerns for human rights are going to remain. I don't think anyone should interpret the events of the last two days being a melting away of these very serious obstacles that exist between our two governments on these issues. What we have tried to do is find a way to overcome some of those differences and to build on the more hopeful elements of this trip to see if we can't lend momentum to the improvements that we seek. By no means do the difficulties, do some of our concerns wither away.

Q I'd like to follow up on that question. How about Chinese underground preachers -- who see Clinton going there, you know, doing a Sunday service? It's basically affirming that there is freedom of religion in the country.

MR. MCCURRY: Well, we didn't confirm that there is freedom of religion. What we did was acknowledge the trend that the pastor at this church spoke to at the end of his sermon yesterday -- the growth of a more organized form of, practice of worship in China and the development of more opportunities for people to gather in places where they can express their faith.

We certainly would suggest that some of the restrictions we're aware of are still there and they will lend more reason and urgency to the dialogue on human rights that we will pursue.

Q I apologize for coming in a minute late, if this has already been asked. But it appeared that the Chinese made a very late decision to allow televising of the speech at Beijing. Could you talk a little about how that came about and what you know about it, what your thoughts are?

MR. MCCURRY: Well, I know that they had reserved the right to allow nationwide television broadcast and had not made any decision on that -- certainly as late as yesterday, as late as last night and it was an open question this morning. To my knowledge they did not ever indicate to us that it was not likely.

Our own expectation was that having allowed the nationwide broadcast of the press conference it would have been difficult for them not to allow broadcast of the President's remarks because they would not want to appear to take some kind of step backwards.

At the same time, they had a lot of logistic concerns which I think ended up being reasonably well placed. They had concern about the ability to make the logistical arrangements that would be necessary for an event of that magnitude, given that it's not something that they customarily do. And they pressed hard for finalizing arrangements and we pressed hard for them keeping an open mind about a speech that clearly was not going to get written until the very last minute.

Q How do you feel about the decision that they went ahead with it?

MR. MCCURRY: Oh, I think the United States very much welcomed the opportunity that Chinese citizens had to see our President -- President Clinton put great care into thinking how he would present his argument to the students and thought a lot about the format for his exchange with the citizens; crafted his answers, he told me afterwards, because he wanted to really address the younger generation that was in that audience. And he thought very specifically of how he could talk to them in a way that would be very personal and he hoped very convincing. And he said it was -- in the back of his mind somewhere was the fact that his own daughter, who is a college student, was in the audience too and he was almost talking to -- wanted to talk to this audience of students in a way that would be comfortable for them and for their generation.

Q -- the Chinese to sign the U.N. convention during the G-8, and is that maybe where Clinton and Jiang will next meet?

MR. MCCURRY: I don't know. I know that there may be other opportunities before then. The G-8 will not be until next year, in Germany.

Q General --

MR. MCCURRY: You're thinking of UNGA, U.N. General Assembly. There may be some prospect that that would be a venue, but it hasn't been decided as far as I know.

Q But you don't know where the next meeting will take place?

MR. MCCURRY: I don't know. I'm not aware that there's been any conversation to that end, yet. Although, there clearly is an agreement that this dialogue at this level is very useful for both governments and I think both Presidents would acknowledge that they would expect that to continue.

Q (Inaudible).

MR. MCCURRY: Well, we haven't set any time and place, though.

Q Can I get you to expand a little bit on the point you made a minute ago about the care the President put into his remarks? It seemed to me that in his visit here in Beijing we've seen a lot of the same techniques that Clinton uses in domestic -- for his domestic audiences. A lot of times the same phrases in his domestic speech as we heard -- here today.

What do you make of that and is he getting more comfortable bringing his personal style into foreign policy? Does this particular summit lend itself more to that kind of personal style?

MR. MCCURRY: Well, part of it is that's the nature of the President; that's just who he is and I think he approaches situations like this using whatever reservoir of skills and talents he's got as a political leader. But I also think he's uncommonly good at understanding the perspectives of those that he's dealing with and understanding what their concerns are.

He spent a lot of time, for example, yesterday -- or, Saturday -- thinking about the argument the Chinese often make about stability in response to our pressing our concerns about human rights, and wanted to preempt that argument or address that from their perspective. And I think one of the things that makes him effective -- whether the audience is domestic or whether it's overseas -- is that he really does deal with the issues that really motivate the concerns of the audience that he's addressing.

And I think he knew, was not surprised that there were questions about Taiwan and about, you know, some of the issues raised in the Q&A today because he's been told that and he's experienced some of that in his own dialogue.

Q After you showing some kind of cooperation from Chinese side -- are you considering lifting any kind of sanctions like OPIC or other things?

MR. MCCURRY: Well, I can't -- I think Mr. Berger, when he was here, talked about the Tiananmen sanctions regime that's in place and talked about the kind of criteria that exists under our law for considering whether or not those can be addressed. And as you know, that has not been a principle focus of this summit and I don't have much to add beyond that to what Mr. Berger said.

Q Mike, do you see the focus now shifting from human rights to commercial or other themes as we go on to Shanghai? What kind of themes do you see in Shanghai?

MR. MCCURRY: No. I mean, as the President argued today, these are integrally linked -- that the kind of economic explosion you've seen in South China is predicated on the flow of information and the ability of people to make free choices -- choices, both in the marketplace and then in the structuring of their own lives. And those go together hand in hand.

I think the message is that the prosperity that is Shanghai and South Asia can go hand in hand with greater respect for individual freedom. And, in fact, in some ways those two are -- one's necessary for the other; they're not divisible, as the President said today.

Q Mike, you're going to be going on to Hong Kong after Shanghai. What will be the message, the sort of summing up that he'll be giving in Hong Kong?

MR. MCCURRY: The focus in Hong Kong will clearly be on the turnover and the transformation one year later and what we have seen, what the expectations are, the remaining concerns that we have and the ways in which, again, we can celebrate the transformation that has occurred in Asia and talk about the central role that China plays in the economic stability of the region -- since Hong Kong opens up the aperture somewhat for a broader view of all of the Asian regional economy.

Q To follow up on a question here about the Chinese -- how late they made their decision. I was wondering whether we transmitted to them the advance excerpt that was released in the press room today and whether that may have played some role in their decision to allow the speech to go forward on television.

MR. MCCURRY: They were quite anxious to receive an advance text. But as you know, we did not make one available -- I think we did make available to them the same excerpts that we made available to all of you, although they would have had access to the same excerpts once they were made available.

Q It was after that that they made a decision to put it on national television?

MR. MCCURRY: I don't know precisely when they made the decision. They'd have to tell you that. We learned late morning that it looked relatively certain that they were going to televise it, and that we certainly were aware that they were equipping themselves to provide live coverage if necessary.

Q Can you share the President's mood now, how tired he is?

MR. MCCURRY: He's actually enjoyed -- you know, for those of you who've traveled with Bill Clinton, this has not been a schedule that has been hell-bent by any means. And he's had I think some of the respiratory stuffiness that he has back home he's had here, but he's feeling great and he feels very satisfied with his meetings; delighted with the kind of coverage that's been available; confident that he has been able to project some of his message to the Chinese public; and delighted to build on these past of couple of days and move into the second half of the trip.

Q Mike, can you be a little bit more precise. You said, you know, late morning. Do you recall when it was exactly?

MR. MCCURRY: I don't think they had ever at one point said, ta-daa, we're going to do this. I think it was clear from our advance people who were over on site that they had everything necessary to do a live broadcast. We had expected that they probably would. And we may not have ever been told formally that they were going to do it. I think it became generally assumed that's what they were going to do late in the morning.

We were still, though, awaiting confirmation even as the broadcast began. I asked the Embassy to double check and make sure that it was being nationally televised. So we didn't really have confirmation, per se, until it was on the air.

Q Sorry for the repetition, but the question of translation -- was there any problem, other than the fact that it was not as elegant as you would have liked?

MR. MCCURRY: Since I don't speak Chinese I really can't answer it beyond the answer I already gave.

Q Was there any problem with the transmission of the translation?

MR. MCCURRY: Our understanding anecdotally from checks with our consulates is that there was some audio difficult, but it was just -- the audio was -- it sounded like the pods were down or something, that you had to really boost it in order to hear it.

Q Were there any technical problems at the news conference broadcast, do you know?

MR. MCCURRY: I don't know the answer to that. I hadn't heard any reported, none that I was aware of.

Q At the end of the speech of Bill Clinton the crowd was very excited, they wanted to reach out and shake hands with him. Normally, in the states the President is pretty good coming down and shaking hands with the crowd. The crowd pushed up to the front, he just left.

MR. MCCURRY: The President, during his remarks -- some of you may have seen this, too -- to his right the crowd was pressing forward and there were some students that looked like they were literally falling over. There was kind of a separation between the kids who were standing and the kids who were seated, and some of the kids actually looked like they were going to fall over because of the press.

The President said that when he saw the press of the people coming forward he was very concerned about not repeating the incident that occurred in Accra, so he wanted not to create that. But I think he spent a lot of time waving and saying goodbye to the kids.

Normally, we would work a ropeline; but I think, from experience, he doesn't want to do anything that's going to put anyone in danger.

Q -- the question he asked about translation. But there was a rumor going around that the translator for CCTV was provided by Washington. Is that right?

MR. MCCURRY: We did a lot on this before you arrived here, so check the earlier transcript.

Q I apologize. Okay.

Q You're saying there's no special restrictions here because of Chinese security -- ropelines? Because I don't think he has done a ropeline, has he?

MR. MCCURRY: He hasn't, and none that -- we wouldn't necessarily accept those restrictions in any event. But I think he made a judgment call on -- he was prepared to go do a ropeline, but he made a judgment call that that probably was not a smart thing to do, just given what he read in the crowd there.

Q Again, at the library lawn, the crowd was sort of being limited to much further away from the stage position. But as it gets closer, the whole crowd comes around. Whose decision was that?

MR. MCCURRY: On the library audience we initially, this morning, were initially told that they had provided tickets for only 400 people. And said, well, look, our understanding is there are many more students that want to be there. I don't know if there was any estimate on the crowd, but there may have been a couple thousand people there by the end. So they clearly let more people in. I think they had originally planned for an audience that they had ticketed of 400; they ended up with an impromptu audience that included a lot of students who just wanted to be there.

So that may have been why there were kids hanging off of speakers and out dorm windows and things like that.

China Briefings - June 29, 1998

Press Briefing by Gerwirtz, Gearan, Gee and Turley

Briefing by Kristoff, Bader, Roth, and Shirk

Briefing by Mike McCurry

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