Presidential Radio Address - 27 June 1998
Good morning. I'm speaking to you today from Beijing. In just 2 days, I've seen some of the rich history and remarkable changes that are taking place in China, home to nearly one quarter of the world's population.
China is the oldest civilization on Earth. In Xi'an, on Friday, I saw the old and the new China, from magnificent Terra Cotta Warriors sculpted by artisans 2000 years before America was founded to the beginnings of democracy in a nearby village where residents soon will hold elections.
I've been touched by the warm reception given to me, my family, and the Members of Congress traveling with us. Tens of thousands of Chinese families have lined the streets to greet us. For all these people, China is changing. I see cell phones, beepers, new office buildings.
China is no longer the same country it was when President Nixon first came here 26 years ago. Never before have so many Chinese had the opportunity to start businesses; lift their families out of poverty; choose where to live, work, and travel; and enjoy the fruits of their labors. But there's also resistance to change, the legacy of a history that has not always been kind to the Chinese people and has left a deeply rooted fear of instability.
Today in Beijing I am meeting with China's leaders to talk about the future of our two countries and a relationship between us that is essential to a peaceful, stable, and prosperous world in the next century. We talked about the United States and China's mutual interests: promoting peace in Korea, where 40,000 U.S. soldiers still risk their lives to patrol the cold war's last frontier; preventing a nuclear arms race between India and Pakistan; restoring economic stability in Asia; stopping the spread of nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons and the missiles to deliver them; combating international crime and drug trafficking; preserving the environment; and opening trade.
We also spoke frankly about our differences, especially concerning human rights. Over the past year, we have seen some progress in this area, though still far from enough. Some of China's famous political prisoners have been released, but others still languish in prison. The Government is loosening its control over many aspects of daily life, yet people still are not completely free to meet, to publish, to speak, to worship according to the dictates of their own hearts.
Throughout this trip, I will raise human rights and try to explain how freedom has been at the heart of America's success and prosperity. I will also argue that in this global information age, when economic success is built on ideas, personal freedom is necessary to the innovation and creativity that are essential to the greatness of any modern nation.
In dealing with China, we must stay true to a course that is both principled and pragmatic. We must continue to expand our areas of cooperation, even as we deal directly with our differences.
China is important to our future, with the largest population on Earth, a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council, an economy increasingly connected to our own. Without China, it will be difficult to face the challenges, successfully, that affect all of us. With China, we can build a safer, more prosperous future for our children, a world of unlimited possibility in the new century.
Thanks for listening.