Text: Vice President Albert Gore Remarks at Qinghua University, Beijing, China March 26, 1997
BG9717E | Date: 1997-04-10
Thank you very much, President Wang. I am grateful to you for your kind words; to Madam Wei, Vice Minister in charge of the State Education Commission; Minister Chen, Minister of the State Planning Commission, who has helped to facilitate my visit here, and my long-time friend, Ambassador Jim Sasser, and other distinguished guests.
It's good to be in China, and it's great to be here at Qinghua University and have the chance to visit your world-famous campus. Since Qinghua University is known in my country as the MIT of China, because of the excellence of your science and engineering programs (perhaps it would he more diplomatic to suggest that MIT is known as the Qinghua University of the United States), I'm really glad to come here and visit.
I have met a number of your graduates. Just yesterday, among the Chinese leaders I had an opportunity to visit with was, of course, your Vice Premier, Zhu Rongji -- a Dean of this university -- and we had a wonderful conversation. Also I was in touch before I left the United States with a recent Qinghua graduate who is now studying at MIT. His name is Jia Lanqing. And I see a couple of people nodding their heads as if you know him. He graduated from here in 1989 with a degree in Civil Engineering. He is now studying for a Masters in Technology Policy at MIT and he wants you to know that he misses you all, especially his friends from the Number One Student Dormitory Building. He is enjoying his time in the United States very much, and he looks forward to returning to China in the future to work on new clean energy sources. And he is getting married! He told me to tell some of his friends here that he is getting married.
The environment is one of the issues that I have been working on here during my visit in China, and yesterday Premier Li Peng and I inaugurated the opening of the China-U.S. Forum on Environment and Development to encourage a more productive dialogue between our two countries on issues related to the environment and how we can protect the environment. That is one of many challenges that China and the United States will face together in the future. It is a future that I want to talk with you about today.
As our century comes to a close, I would like to describe my country's vision of what the next century can offer, and I would like to invite you to join us as friends and as partners in trying to build that future.
So allow me to begin by using a Chinese expression -- and you will have to forgive my pronunciation -- Pao zhuan yin yu -- to throw out a brick to retrieve jade -- and try to explain American perceptions about our hopes and our dreams for the future.
In order to talk to you about the beliefs of my own fellow citizens, I thought it would be important to first try and learn as much as I could about you, and so in preparing for my trip, I spoke to many leading scholars of China in the United States about your culture, your history, your religious and philosophical traditions. I have read some of your poetry and marveled at your many scientific discoveries, and I have asked many questions of historians, economists, jurists who have visited here, environmental researchers and others, in an effort to learn more about your remarkable nation.
One of the first things that impressed me as I dug more deeply into this body of knowledge is the majestic sweep of your history. For millennia, as other cultures and other places sought merely to subsist, China was building and writing and inventing and was sowing the seed of sophisticated social structures that would flower for thousands of years. In fact, form the time of the fall of Roman Empire in the West to the beginning of the industrial revolution, China was for most all of those centuries the pre-eminent and most advanced civilization in the entire world.
None of this comes as any surprise to any of you. But to a new student of your history it makes a profound impression. And my walk yesterday through your ancient Forbidden City more than amplified this impression of the solidity of Chinese civilization.
In some ways, it would be hard to find two countries more different from one another than my country and yours. The United States prides itself on its newness; we are a young country, especially by your standards. We value individuality more than consensus. We value history as you do. In our case we value it not so much as a blueprint to follow or replicate, but rather as a way to learn how we can do better. Indeed, we have focused primarily on the future ever since we were founded two hundred and twenty years ago. So we are very different in many ways.
Yet now, at the dawn of a new era in world history, as we look toward the horizon of a new millennium, I believe that our two nations are destined to work together in leading the way to a peaceful and prosperous future.
Of course, every generation likes to think that what it does will represent a turning point in the affairs of humankind. As often as not, what the people of one generation think of as a turning point turns out merely to be a fleeting interval between essentially repetitious cycles of history.
But I do believe, in this case, it is accurate to say that this is a moment when, to a unique degree, great things do hang in the balance. Old ways of doing things, old ways of thinking and the institutions that are built upon these old ways are being swept aside by great powerful waves of change. These changes touch basic concepts about the security of nations, about the prosperity of peoples, and about the responsibilities of the present generation to all generations to follow.
The sustained and dramatic economic growth here in Asia, and especially here in China, is having a profound impact on prospects for the future here and potentially in the entire world. Self confidence is growing. It's clear that the nations of East and West must find not only a new way of regarding one other, but basic new ways of working with each other at every level. We welcome this emerging prosperity; we encourage it. We continue to keep our minds and our markets open to it.
In terms of security, Asia faces challenges which, in a subtle way, resemble those faced by Europe: how to promote stability and confidence in the durability of peace. For the foreseeable future, military relationships will continue to have great value. But in and of themselves, military relationships are insufficient responses to the kinds of challenges and opportunities we face.
In Asia, therefore, we are participating in and encouraging the development of manifold interlocking political and economic organizations. Here, as elsewhere, we believe that what is needed are new patterns of openness and cooperation that will promote confidence.
In a century that has known so much suffering, we have learned that if the patterns of the past are allowed to simply reassert themselves, it's reasonable to assume that we would only repeat the sorrows of the past. But because of the vast power of new modern weapons, we would repeat those sorrows on a scale not yet experienced, even after all of the horrors of the twentieth century. We argue that countries must learn to regard each other differently. They must learn to forgive the sins of the past upon evidence in others of a genuine desire to do better in the future. They must practice tolerance, they must accord dignity to human life. And all of us -- all over the world -- must do these things boldly, decisively, and with imagination.
There is often an unspoken subtext in the dialogue among nations. The toxic residue of injustices never yet acknowledged often prevents the reconciliation that is the indispensable pre-requisite for new undertakings, new partnerships, and new hopes for the future.
If you ask us what our ultimate beliefs about the possible future of humankind are, they are as follows: We believe in a world in which the expectation of war has been replaced by the cultivation of peace, in which science and technology are devoted to producing the good things of life to be exchanged by nations under fair and equitable rules of trade. And above all, we believe in a world in which nations conduct their affairs, both outside their borders and within, according to the rule of law tempered by a love of justice.
Which brings me to my last point, the one about which I feel most strongly. Americans, in our deepest souls, where the most precious things are kept, believe that the freedom to inquire and debate and, when necessary, to challenge existing institutions and habits of thought, is the key to creating the world that I just described.
We also believe that economic freedoms and political freedoms ultimately are linked. Allow me to draw an analogy to a subject on which I have spent a lot of time working -- the environment. Environmental studies repeatedly teach the lesson that ecological systems are delicately balanced. And one important factor, if damaged, can led to an unraveling that threatens damage to other parts of the environment. In the same way, we believe that economic freedom and political freedom are part of an interlinked system, and that they ultimately rely on one another.
I have no particular belief that your country is going to evolve into something that looks like my own, but it is impossible to come here without realizing that China is in the process of profound change; that it is on its way to becoming something very different from what it has been. As I said at the beginning of these remarks, the American people are primarily interested not in what was, but in what can be. We believe that the only constant in life is change. We must accept change because it is inevitable. And we believe that only those human arrangements that are flexible and adaptable can best endure.
What we're bringing to our dialogue with China, therefore, is our declaration of purpose as Americans. It is what we are doing now, here today, in the course of our engagement with China. We do deeply believe in the transforming power of vision coupled with a commitment to that vision. And our vision is, that we, the United States and China, as friends and partners will share a prosperous and peaceful future, a future of free minds and free markets, sustained by a new consensus on protecting our environment and nurtured by justice, fair play, and a deepening sense of our responsibilities towards one another as human beings.
It was the Chinese writer, Lu Xun, who wrote some sixty-five years ago, that when many people pass one way, a road is made. We believe the way ahead is clear. Let us make that road.
Thank you very much.