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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

The White House Briefing Room

June 29, 1998


1:58 P.M. (L)

                               THE WHITE HOUSE
                        Office of the Press Secretary
                    (Beijing, People's Republic of China)
For Immediate Release                                     June 29, 1998     
                              PRESS BRIEFING BY 
                        EAST ASIAN AND PACIFIC AFFAIRS			       
                               Shangri-la Hotel
                    Beijing, People's Republic of China 		       
1:58 P.M. (L) 
		MR. MCCURRY:  I wanted you to get some sense -- when we talk 
about constructive engagement, I think it's important to look at the nuts and 
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 some 
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, things 
that I'm not sure that I can explain or any of us can explain entirely.  And 
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 out 
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 it 
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 who 
might arguably be the best experts anywhere on what is occurring in this very 
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 
actually showed.
	     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 
taboo ideas.
	     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 
the future. 
	     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 
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 
senior -- 
	     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 
doing so?    
	     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 
haven't --
	     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 
sensitive issues? 
	     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 
various alternatives.
	     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 
leader's policies.
	     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 
universal phenomenon.
	     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.  
            END                        2:30 P.M. (L) 

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