You are here

President Clinton and President Jiang Zemin Joint Press Conference, 1997

President Jiang Zemin met with President Clinton on a U.S. visit.
October 29, 1997

For other documents and articles on Bill Clinton, click here.


Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release October 29, 1997

                        AND PRESIDENT JIANG ZEMIN

Old Executive Office Building

3:30 P.M. EST

PRESIDENT CLINTON: Mr. President, let me again say how pleased we are to welcome the leader of a great people with a remarkable civilization, history and culture -- a people now with its focus on the future. Your visit gives us the opportunity and the responsibility to build a future that is more secure, more peaceful, more prosperous for both our people.

To that end, I am pleased that we have agreed to regular summit meetings. I look forward to visiting China next year. We also have agreed to high-level dialogues between our Cabinet officials on the full range of security matters, and we will connect a presidential hotline to make it easier to confer at a moment's notice.

China and the United States share a profound interest in a stable, prosperous, open Asia. We've worked well together in convincing North Korea to end its dangerous nuclear program. Today, President Jiang and I agreed we will urge Pyongyang to take part in four-party peace talks with South Korea.

We also agreed to strengthen contacts between our militaries, including through a maritime agreement to decrease the chances of miscalculation and increase America's ties to a new generation of China's military leaders.

A key to Asia's stability is a peaceful and prosperous relationship between the People's Republic of China and Taiwan. I reiterated America's longstanding commitment to a one China policy. It has allowed democracy to flourish in Taiwan and provides a framework in which all three relationships can prosper -- between the United States and the PRC, the United States and Taiwan, and Taiwan and the People's Republic of China.

I told President Jiang that we hope the People's Republic and Taiwan would resume a constructive cross-strait dialogue and expand cross-strait exchanges. Ultimately, the relationship between the PRC and Taiwan is for the Chinese themselves to determine -- peacefully.

President Jiang and I agreed that the United States and China share a strong interest in stopping the spread of weapons of mass destruction and other sophisticated weaponry in unstable regions and rogue states -- notably, Iran. I welcome the steps China has taken and the clear assurances it has given today to help prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons and related technology.

On the basis of these steps and assurances, I agreed to move ahead with the U.S.-China agreement for cooperation concerning the peaceful uses of nuclear energy. It will allow our companies to apply for licenses to sell equipment to Chinese nuclear power plants, subject to U.S. monitoring. This agreement is a win-win-win. It serves America's national security, environmental and economic interests.

President Jiang and I agreed to increase the cooperations between our countries in fighting international organized crime, drug trafficking and alien smuggling. Our law enforcement officials will share information and consult regularly. And starting next year, we will station drug enforcement administration officers in Bejing.

I'm also pleased that we will expand our cooperation on rule of law programs. Through them, we'll help China to train judges and lawyers, increase our exchanges of legal experts and materials, strengthen commercial law and arbitration in China, and share ideas on issue such as legal aide and administrative reform.

In both China and the United States, trade has been a critical catalyst for growth. China's the fastest growing market in the world for our goods and services. Tomorrow, Boeing will sign a contract for the largest sale of airplanes to China in history -- 50 jets, valued at $3 billion. This contract will support tens of thousands of America jobs and provide China with a modern fleet of passenger planes.

Still, access to China's market remains restricted for many America goods and services. Just as China can compete freely and fairly in America, so our good and services should be able to compete freely and fairly in China. The United States will do everything possible to bring China into the World Trade Organization as soon as possible, provided China improves access to its market. China's decision today to join the information technology agreement, which cuts to zero tariffs on computers, semiconductors and telecommunications equipment, is a strong step in the right direction.

As we pursue growth, we almost protect our shared environment. Already, pollution has made respiratory illness the leading health problem in China. Today our countries agreed to a joint initiative that will help China reduce air pollution and increase clean energy production, including through the use of American technology. The initiative builds upon the work begun by the Vice President in Bejing this spring.

I also discussed with President Jiang the special responsibility our nations bear as the top two emitters of greenhouse gases to lead in finding a global solution to the global problem of climate change. This is a broad agenda in which China and the United States share important interests that we can best advance by working together.

But we also have fundamental differences, especially concerning human rights and religious freedom. I'm convinced the best way to address them is directly and personally, as we did yesterday and today, and as we will continue to do until this issue is no longer before us, when there is full room for debate, dissent and freedom to worship as part of the fabric of a truly free Chinese society.

Mr. President, I am very pleased that tomorrow you will visit Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia, for it was there that our founders set forth the beliefs that define and inspire our nation to this very day. We believe all individuals, as a condition of their humanity, have the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. We believe liberty includes freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom of association. We believe governments must protect those rights. These ideas grew out of the European Enlightenment, but today they are enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, not as a birthright of Americans or Westerners, but of people everywhere.

I welcome China's decision to invite a delegation of distinguished American religious leaders to China to pursue a dialogue on religious freedom. I'm pleased we have recommitted to discuss our differences over human rights at both governmental and non-governmental levels.

Mr. President, China has known more millennia than America has known centuries. But for more than 220 years, we have been conducting our great experiment in democracy. We still struggle to make it work every day, and we know it requires struggle every day. The American people greatly admire China's extraordinary economic transformation, and we understand the importance that your own experiences and your present challenges lead you to place upon maintaining stability. We also appreciate the fact that human rights have been advanced in China by greater freedom from want, freedom of movement in career choice, and widely-held local elections. But we also believe that China will enjoy more growth and more stability as it embraces more fully the political, as well as the economic aspirations of all your people.

In the Information Age, the true wealth of nations lies in people's ability to create, to communicate, to innovate. Fully developing these resources requires people who feel free to speak, to publish, to associate, to worship without fear of reprisal. It is China's extraordinary human resources that will lift it to its rightful destiny of leadership and widely-held prosperity in the 21st century.

As we look ahead, the United States welcomes China's emergence as a full and constructive partner in the community of nations -- a great nation that joins its strength and influence to our own to advance peace and prosperity, freedom and security.

Mr. President, thank you for coming to the United States. We look forward to building on the good work of this day so that the best days for all our people are yet to come.

PRESIDENT JIANG: Ladies and gentlemen, a while ago I had an in-depth exchange of views with President Clinton on China-U.S. relations and on international and regional issues of mutual interest. The meeting was constructive and fruitful.

President Clinton and I have agreed on identifying the goal for the development of a China-U.S. relationship oriented toward the 21st century. The two sides believe that efforts to realize this goal will promote the fundamental interests of the two peoples and the noble cause of world peace and development.

We both agree that our two countries share extensive common interests in important matters bearing on the survival and development of mankind, such as peace and development, economic cooperation and trade, the prevention of the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and environment protection.

Both sides are of the view that it is imperative to handle China-U.S. relations and promptly address our differences in accordance with the principles of mutual respect, non-interference in each other's internal affairs, equality and mutual benefit, and seeking common ground while putting aside differences.

President Clinton and I have also reached broad agreement on the establishment of a mechanism of regular summit meetings, the opening of a hotline between the two heads of state, the establishment of a mechanism of meetings and consultations between the two foreign ministers and other officials, an increase in exchanges between the armed forces of the two countries, and exchanges and cooperation between our two countries in economic, scientific, and technological, cultural, educational and law enforcement fields.

My visit will achieve the purpose of enhancing mutual understanding, broadening common ground, developing cooperation, and building a future together, and bring China-U.S. relations into a new stage of development.

President Clinton and I share the view that China and the United States enjoy a high degree of complementarity and a huge potential for cooperation in the economic and trade feuds. To step up our economic cooperation and trade not only benefits our two peoples, but also contributes to economic development and prosperity of the world.

And I would also like to take this opportunity to thank you, Mr. President, for the kind reception accorded to me.

Now, questions are welcome.

PRESIDENT CLINTON: Let a Chinese go first.

Q I have a question which I would like to ask of President Jiang. President Jiang, for the past few years you have reiterated once and again that we need to take a long-term perspective and we should view China-U.S. relations from the perspective of the 21st century. Therefore, Mr. President, what measures will the Chinese government make and how can a sound and stable relationship between China and the United States be brought into the 21st century.

PRESIDENT JIANG: And your question recalled of me of the first meeting that President Clinton and I had in Seattle when we agreed that we need to work to bring a world of prosperity, stability, and peace into the 21st century. The meeting that I had with President Clinton during my current trip to the United States was the fifth one that we had with one another. However, my visit is the first by a Chinese head of state to the United States in 12 years.

And this shows that both sides are working together and taking many specific measures to achieve this goal, and, to put it more specifically, I believe it is very important for the two peoples of China and the United States to enhance mutual understanding. And I'm also coming here to the United States for the purpose of deepening mutual understanding between our two peoples.

There are a lot of works from ancient Chinese literature and culture describing the view that one should scale a great height in order to have a grander sight. And the development of modern science and technology also told us that if you have a greater height you can see farther into the long distance.

I do not want to take much of the time, so I would like to leave more time to President Clinton. (Laughter.)

Q Sir, we're told that you have asked, even last night, for the release of some political dissidents. And the Chinese have not done so. Is it acceptable for China to refuse even such a modest gesture?

PRESIDENT CLINTON: Well, first of all, we had a long discussion about human rights; we discussed a lot of issues related to human rights, every conceivable aspect of it. And we have profound disagreements there. But that does not mean that this visit should not have occurred or that we don't have a big interest in continuing to work together. After all, this interest that we have in working with China relates to the fact that we have common values and common interest related to preserving peace, to growing the economy, to stopping the spread of dangerous weapons. We have an agreement to fight narco trafficking. We have an agreement to work together on the terrific environmental challenges we face -- right across the board. So I think that you have to see this meeting in the context of that. But you shouldn't in any way minimize the steep differences that still remain between us over that issue.

Q I have a question for Your Excellency, President Jiang Zemin. Why is the Taiwan issue, the core issue in China-U.S. relations?

PRESIDENT JIANG: The three Sino-U.S. joint communiques all covered the question of Taiwan, because this question is involving the sovereignty of the People's Republic of China. The late Mr. Deng Xiaoping proposed the system of one country-two systems for the settlement of the Taiwan question and for the accomplishment of peaceful reunification of China, and this is the only correct policy.

However, we also say that we do not commit to renounce the use of force, that this is not directed at the compatriots in Taiwan, but rather at the external forces attempting to interfere in China's internal affairs and at those who are attempting to achieve separation of the country or the independence of Taiwan.

I'm very happy that I discussed this issue in clear-cut terms with President Clinton during my current trip as we have done in our previous meetings, and I believe the joint statement that the two sides are going to release will also carry explicit explanations on the Taiwan issue.

Thank you.


Q Mr. President -- a question, actually, for both Presidents -- the shootings in Tiananmen Square were a turning point in U.S.-Chinese relations and cause many Americans to view China as an oppressive country that crushes human rights. President Jiang, do you have any regrets about Tiananmen? And, President Clinton, are you prepared to life any of the Tiananmen sanctions, and if not, why not?

PRESIDENT JIANG: The political disturbance that occurred at the turn of spring and summer in 1989 seriously disrupted social stability and jeopardized state security. Therefore, the Chinese government had to take necessary measures, according to law, to quickly resolve the matter to ensure that our country enjoys stability and that our reform and opening up proceeds smoothly.

The communist party of China and the Chinese government have long drawn the correct conclusion on this political disturbance, and facts have also proved that if a country with an over 1.2 billion population does not enjoy social and political stability, it cannot possibly have the situation of reform and opening up that we are having today.

Thank you.

PRESIDENT CLINTON: To answer your question, first, on the general point, I think it should be obvious to everyone that we have a very different view of the meaning events at Tiananmen Square. I believe that what happened and the aftermath and the continuing reluctance to tolerate political dissent has kept China from politically developing the level of support in the rest of the world that otherwise would have been developed. I also believe, as I said in my opening statement, that over the long run the societies of the 21st century that will do best will be those that are drawing their stability from their differences; that out of this whole harmony of different views, there is a coherence of loyalty to the nation because everyone has their say. It enables people to accept, for example, the results of the elections that they don't agree with. So we have a different view.

The depth of the view in the United States I think is nowhere better exemplified than in the so-called Tiananmen sanctions. We are the only nation in the world, as far as I know, that still has sanctions on the books as a result of the events of eight years ago.

Now, you asked a specific question. Our agreement on the nuclear proliferation issues allows me to lift the sanction on peaceful nuclear cooperation. It is the right thing to do for America. This is a good agreement. It furthers our national security interests. China is to be complimented for participating in it and the decision is the right one.

The other sanctions which cover a range of issues from OPIC loans to crime control equipment and many things in between under our law have to reviewed on a case-by-case basis. So as a result of our meeting today, the only Tiananmen Square sanction which is being lifted is the one on peaceful nuclear cooperation, and it is a good thing for America and China. And I applaud the Chinese side for the work they have done with us on this specific nuclear issue. It is a substantial step forward for us.

PRESIDENT JIANG: I would like to speak a few words in addition to this question. Our two countries have different geographical locations, and we are also thousands of miles apart geographically. We also have different historic and cultural tradition, different levels of economic development, and different values. Therefore, I believe it is just natural for our two countries to hold different views on some issues.

Now, people in the world are standing at the turn of the century when we're going to bring in the 21st century, and science and technology have developed significantly as compared with, for instance, the period when Newton lived. And I also believe the that world we are living in is a rich and diverse one, and, therefore, the concepts on democracy and human rights and on freedoms are relative and specific ones, and they are to be determined by the specific national situation of different countries.

And I am also strongly of the view that on such issues as the human rights issue, discussions can be held on the basis of non-interference in the internal affairs of a country. And it goes without saying that as for the general rules universally abided by in the world, China also abides these rules.

My stay here in the United States is rather a brief one. There is the fact that since I came here I have been immersed in the atmosphere of friendship from the American people and I was also accorded a warm reception from President Clinton and Vice President Gore. However, sometimes noises came into my ears.

According to Chinese philosophy, Confucius say, isn't it a pleasure to have friends coming from afar. And, naturally, I am also aware that in the United States different views can be expressed and this is a reflection of democracy. And, therefore, I would like to quote a Chinese saying, which goes, "Seeing it once is better than hearing about it a hundred times." I've also got my real understanding about this during my current trip. However, I don't believe this will have any negative impact on our effort to approach each other.

PRESIDENT CLINTON: Let me -- I just have to say one other thing. (Laughter.) First of all, the United States recognizes that on so many issues China is on the right side of history, and we welcome it. But on this issue we believe the policy of the government is on the wrong side of history. There is, after all, now a Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The second point I'd like to make is that I can only speak from our experience. And America has problems of its own, which I have frankly acknowledged. But in our country I think it would amaze many of our Chinese guests to see some of the things that have been written and said about me, my family, our government, our policies. And, yet, after all this time, I'm still standing here and our country is stronger than it was before those words were uttered six years ago. (Laughter.)

Excuse me, before those words began to be said six years ago -- they're still being said every day. (Laughter.)

Q Mr. President, I have a question for both President Jiang and President Clinton. President Clinton, you stated your position with regard to Taiwan that this is a question for the Chinese people to resolve. But we all understand you have brokered peace in Bosnia, in the Middle East. Do you see any role for the United States to play in the securing of a permanent peaceful environment in the Taiwan Strait?

And for President Jiang, about the cross-strait dialogue. President Clinton said that he has urged President Jiang to resume the interrupted dialogue. I wonder if President Jiang will respond positively and take some measures to resume the dialogue as soon as possible.

PRESIDENT CLINTON: First of all, I think the most important thing the United States can do to facilitate a peaceful resolution of the differences is to adhere strictly to the one China policy we have agreed on, to make it clear that within the context of that one China policy, as articulated in the communiques and our own laws, we will maintain friendly, open relations with the people of Taiwan and China; but that we understand that this issue has to be resolved and resolved peacefully, and that if it is resolved in a satisfactory way, consistent with statements made in the past, then Asia will be stronger and more stable and more prosperous. That is good for the United States. And our own relations with China will move on to another stage of success.

I think the more we can encourage that, the better off we are. But I think in the end, since so much investment and contact has gone on in the last few years between Taiwan and China, I think the Chinese people know how to resolve this when the time is right, and we just have to keep saying we hope the time will be right as soon as possible. Sooner is better than later.

PRESIDENT JIANG: To answer your question in rather brief terms, all in all, our policy is one of peaceful reunification and one country-two systems. And as for more details, elaboration on that -- a few years ago I made my eight-point proposal along that line and at the just concluded 15th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party, I also delivered a report which gave a rather comprehensive elaboration on this. Therefore, I will not repeat them here.

PRESIDENT CLINTON: I, too, will try to be briefer.

Larry, go ahead.

Q Mr. President, could you elaborate a little bit more on your decision to approve these reactor -- or to permit reactor sales? It's certainly something that has raised concerns by some members of Congress. And also, could you describe just what kind of commitments you've received from China? Are they actually written?

PRESIDENT CLINTON: Well, let me say, first of all, I am completely convinced that the agreements we have reached are sufficiently specific and clear that the requirements of the law will be met and that the national security of the United States will be advanced, and that we will have greater success in our global efforts to keep nuclear technology and other dangerous weapons from falling into the wrong hands as a result of the agreement we have made with China.

Q President Jiang, among the common ground you reached with President Clinton, what is the most important one?

PRESIDENT JIANG: I believe very importantly that I and President Clinton held full exchange of views on issues of mutual interest to us, and we also reached common ground on the major areas of our discussion. And I believe the most important thing is that both sides have expressed the desire to work in order to bring a world of peace, stability, and prosperity into the next century. I believe this is the most important common ground we have.


Q Mr. President, the United States and China are inevitably big powers in the Pacific. Are you comfortable with the size of America's military presence in Asia? And I'd also like to ask President Jiang if he would view a reduction of American troops in the region as a step towards improving relations.

PRESIDENT CLINTON: The question you ask of me, the answer is simple -- it's yes. I believe that our presence in the Pacific, where everyone knows we have no territorial or other destructive ambitions, is a stabilizing factor, and it will lead us to greater partnerships in meeting common security threats in the years ahead.

PRESIDENT JIANG: (Answered in Chinese.)

Q I have a question for both Presidents. Yesterday, Beijing announced its invitation for Russian President Boris Yeltsin to visit Beijing, and today, the heads of state of China and the United States have announced here in the United States to establish a constructive and strategic partnership between China and the United States. Therefore, I would like to have your comment -- the two Presidents -- your perception concerning the triangular relationship between China, the United States and Russia.

PRESIDENT JIANG: I don't see much contradiction in this aspect, for I am coming here to the United States, this time at the invitation of President Clinton for what is our fifth meeting with one another, and, therefore, we are already old friends. And so am I with President Yeltsin of Russia. And I still remember that in the spring of 1995, the three of us met in Moscow. Therefore, I don't see much contradiction in this regard. And we should all commit ourselves to building a peaceful and beautiful new century.

PRESIDENT CLINTON: During the Cold War we were all three suspicious of each other and we tried to play each other off against the other. (Laughter.) So when Russia argued with China, we were very happy. (Laughter.) Today, we must look to the future.

Russia has a strong democracy. Its economy is coming back. We are working with Russia in Bosnia and in other places around the world. In land mass, it is the largest country in the world. It is a rich country. It is a European country and an Asian country. And both China and the United States should have good relations with Russia. And then the three of us should work together on matters of common concern. This is not the Cold War; we need to be looking to the future and a different set of relations.

Q Mr. President and Mr. President, I wonder if you specifically had a chance to raise the cases of the two leading political dissidents in China, Wang Dan and Wei Jingsheng, with President Jiang and ask for their release. And to President Jiang, why not simply release these political prisoners? And, also, why not allow greater religious freedom in Tibet, which has become such an emotional issue here in the United States, as well? Thank you.

PRESIDENT CLINTON: First, as Mr. Berger I think has already told you, my answer to that question is, I discussed every aspect of this issue in great detail.

PRESIDENT JIANG: To be frank with you, President Clinton discussed all these relevant issues with me. I am the President of the People's Republic of China and not the Chief Judge of the Supreme Court of China. And as for the issues such as the one concerning Wei Jingsheng, this involves China's criminal law and will be resolved gradually according to the legal procedure by the court of China.

As for the issue concerning religion in Tibet, in China people have the freedom to exercise their different religious beliefs. However, on this question, I believe religious freedom in Tibet and the violation of criminal law are issues within different framework. And, therefore, I hope that mutual understanding between us will be promoted.

Q My question is for President Clinton. In China, sometimes we are confused by American different policy to China. We know when you -- there are factions in Congress which aren't friendly to China. So as President, how do you coordinate the unbalance to have a unified policy to China? Is there any elements to damage an effective Sino-U.S. relationship?

PRESIDENT CLINTON: Well, let me say -- make a general point first. It is very important that we understand each other so that if we have a difference, it's a real difference and not a misunderstanding. Therefore, in dealing with the United States, unless there is some clear signal to the contrary, you should assume that a statement by the President, the Vice President, the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Defense, the Secretary of the Treasury, the National Security Advisor, the Trade Ambassador, the people in our direct line of authority -- they represent our policy.

We need the support of important people in Congress, and much of the leadership does support this administration's China policy. But I think it would be a mistake to think that the United States has no unified China policy because individuals or groups in the Congress disagree with it. We do have a lot of disagreement. We have had for eight years now, ever since 1989. Until we resolve all these issues, in that sense, our relations will never be fully normal. But we have to keep pushing forward.

We have one last -- yes, this is the last one so the Americas and the Chinese will be even. (Laughter.)

Q For President Jiang -- sir, officials in your delegation have suggested that the protestors who have protested Chinese policies in Tibet are, in many cases, young people, students who have been misguided, misinformed by a Hollywood-led campaign. Sir, if that is so, and if we take to heart your old Chinese saying that seeing once is worth hearing a hundred times, would you be willing to invite either a delegation, a senior delegation from the United States Congress or a group of international journalists to travel to Tibet and to see for themselves? Thank you.

PRESIDENT JIANG: I do, indeed, would like to welcome more people to go to Tibet and see with their own eyes.

PRESIDENT CLINTON: Let me just, following up on that, make it clear again that the United States has no political objective in pressing the cause of Tibetans, the Tibetan Buddhists, the Dalai Lama. We have only asked for the resumption of a constructive dialogue based on a commitment that there would be no attempt to sever Tibet from China, but instead an attempt to reconcile the peoples so that all freedom of religious expression and unique cultures could be preserved.

Thank you very much.


END 4:35 P.M. EST

Original source:

Other documents and articles on Bill Clinton:
President Clinton Press Conference on Human Rights in China | Clinton and Greenspan on China | Statement by the President Clinton on Most Favored Nation Status for China | Joint Press Conference of President Clinton and Premier Zhu Rongji | President Clinton's Beijing University speech | President Clinton and President Jiang Zemin News Conference in Beijing | President Clinton and President Jiang Zemin Joint Press Conference | President Clinton's statement on the release of Harry Wu | President Clinton's Remarks and an Exchange With Reporters Following Discussions With President Jiang Zemin of China in Seattle |