Text: Lecture by Stanley Roth, Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia and Pacific Affairs to the American Enterprise Institute U.S. Policy towards China American Enterprise Institute Washington, Dc May 12, 1998
And so what I am going to do is concentrate most of my remarks on the broader question of U.S.-China relations and the U.S.-China policy, and then conclude with some remarks specifically related to what has lured many of you here, which is the subject of Taiwan.
But I think -- what I really want to do is lay out three things. First, I'd like to explain what the administration's China policy is. As you'll see in a few moments, it's not necessarily as self-apparent as you might think. Then I'd like to give my interpretation of what happened at the last summit, and then I'd like to give some remarks about what I think will happen at the next summit. So let me start on that rather ambitious agenda and see if we can do all of it in 20 to 30 minutes.
First, you know, what is China policy?
All too often, China policy is reduced to one simple word, "engagement," or sometimes people are more generous; they reduce it to two words, "comprehensive engagement."
But the reality -- particularly for this crowd, I don't think I need to belabor the point -- is far more complex. I think our policy has to be defined in terms of its objective, its strategy and its tactic. And I wouldn't dream of sitting on a panel next to Art Waldron without having a strategy. But let me first start with "objective."
I think our objective, the big picture -- where are we heading? -- is quite straightforward. The administration has said it on many occasions and in many ways for five years. But essentially, we are seeking a strong, stable, prosperous, open China. That's the objective; where we're trying to get.
The strategy is to try to integrate China into regional and global institutions in order to help achieve this objective: regional institutions -- APEC on the economic side, ASEAN Regional Forum, or ARF, on the security side; global institutions, the whole range. It ranges from getting China to play a more active role in organizations to which it already belongs, such as, as a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council, to joining new organizations such as WTO or adhering to new regimes -- or adhering to older regimes, I should say -- such as MTCR.
But to oversimplify, China has a choice. China has a choice and we want to help them to make the right choice, and we believe that we can affect Chinese choices on the margins with our policy. And the choices between a China that makes the rules -- one could call it a "middle kingdom" China -- a China which believes it's special and doesn't have to play by norms -- or an integrated China that lives by the rules and in fact, over time, helps to formulate them as part of regional and international organizations.
The tactic, which is often confused with the policy, for achieving these goals is engagement. As Harry Harding likes to point out, engagement is not a policy; it's a mechanism for getting there. And he's exactly right. Unfortunately, for shorthand purposes, it's become very easy and, I must confess, I lapsed into it myself to refer to the policy as engagement. But this is the framework that we have in mind as we were moving towards the last summit.
Clearly, several issues came up at the summit itself in terms of this framework. First of all, who engages? I think one of the least noted accomplishments of the summit was the fact that we agreed upon regular high-level engagement and we took out the notion that engagement is now somehow a reward for specific behavior patterns and instead substituted the notion that engagement is something you do because these are two very important players who for better or for worse have to deal with each other and, preferably, get along with each other.
And so at the summit, we agreed on regular contacts at the presidential level, at the Secretary of State level, at the National Security Council level, at the Pentagon and then at the Undersecretary level within the State Department, and at the Assistant Secretary levels. This, I think, is a major breakthrough in terms of how we deal with each other and if you look at the exchanges that have taken place, even since the previous summit which was not all that long ago, you'll see that Secretary Cohen and Secretary Albright have both been out to China already. There's been any number of lower-level visitors; Undersecretary Pickering has been there, I've been there more times than I can count. But this engagement is really proceeding quite vigorously.
But I think you'll rightly challenge me and say, well, is it important who engages or what do they engage about?
And here, once again, I think we had major progress at the summit.
As you know, we defined it for work purposes into what we called nine baskets, the issues that we primarily concentrated in dealing with our PRC counterparts. Of that, I frequently subdivide what I arbitrarily call the Big Three: human rights, nonproliferation, and economic issues. And in each of these I believe we had significant accomplishments at the summit. And I won't belabor the points. But I think in human rights, for example, we had the release of Wei Jingsheng, which was a direct consequence, I believe, of the summit itself, the subsequent release of Wang Dan. We've had the signing of the economic covenant and the clear decision to sign the political covenant. I believe all of these can clearly be seen as summit results.
On the nonproliferation side, I think we had the very important agreement concerning the C-801 and C-802 missiles in the Persian Gulf -- very important to the security of American forces and shipping in that region. And on the economic side, I think we saw two things: one, a greater sense of movement and dynamism as we tried to reach a final agreement on market access in the WTO -- we're not there yet, but I think this last summit gave it an impetus -- and, of course, some major contracts in terms of American business interests, and then trying to remedy the Chinese trade surplus with the Boeing contract being particularly noteworthy the last time around.
But I think you miss the summit if you merely define it in terms of these three issues, because I think one of the most important things that we've done is to broaden the number of issues that we're discussing with the PRC, and necessarily therefore broaden the number of people who are engaging with the PRC. I won't go through all the baskets, but let me just point out some highlights.
One of the most interesting and promising baskets, I believe, is in the rule of law, where we are seeking vigorously to try to help with the training of judges, the training of lawyers, have exchanges to see if we can promote what is now widely recognized as a problem within China itself. Had we been meeting six or eight months ago, some of you in the audience would undoubtedly have pointed out that China doesn't even like this phrase and refuses to use it. Now you see it in the headlines, at least in the English papers, which are the only ones I can read, or where it can tell me about the Chinese ones. But you see this as a major mainstream topic of conversation within China itself, certainly featured on Secretary Albright's recent visit. And I think this is an area where we can work together productively with the government of China, to try to promote some of our own long- term objectives and ultimately, I think, make some improvements in the human rights situation.
A very different basket, that sounds the same, is law enforcement. But I don't think that one should underestimate the significance of China's agreement that we can work on -- open a Drug Enforcement Agency office. This is an indication of another shared interest that we're trying to develop -- in this case, counternarcotics -- where I think that our interests and Chinese interests are veering towards each other.
A third basket, and one which is given enormous priority by the vice president's office -- directly so, I should add -- is energy and the environment. As China becomes a major consumer of energy, and as China's own resources become inadequate to deal with Chinese needs, China comes on to the world market and thus has very different interests than it had previously. For example, I think a compelling case can be made that China now has a much greater interest along the same lines as the United States -- keeping the free flow of oil at the lowest possible price through the Persian Gulf.
And finally, a basket that's got a long way to go, but has had a promising start, is the military-to-military basket. This was an area where we essentially had cut off contact with China for obvious reasons, following the 1989 events in Tiananmen Square, and have slowly been rebuilding with certain clear-cut limitations, not the least of which is that we're not going to resume weapon sales. But I think the key point here is that the military is obviously an enormously important institution within China. It's important in a succession process, it's important in the human rights process, certainly paramount in the security process. And if we're going to be dealing with the Chinese government on a range of issues, we have to have ties to the Chinese military.
Furthermore, I think you can make a case that this is one of the sectors of Chinese society which knew us the least and had a tendency, particularly if you read their writings, to be the most hostile to us. I think you'd see far more talk about the United States as the next enemy of China, reading Chinese military writings, than anywhere else. And so I think it's very important that we try to break down this wall of suspicion on China's part, and I think one of the main ways of doing this is through this engagement process.
We've had a fair amount of success in getting a large number of Chinese military visitors over here, and I think this has been reflected in what I would say is the de-demonization of the U.S. military in China. This is not a process that's complete, but I think it has been considerably advanced. And I must say, from my own experience, I notice enormous changes in the rhetoric from only a year ago. On my last two or three trips to China, I have not heard any mention of U.S. hegemony, neo-imperialism, no calls for the withdrawal of U.S. forces from the region, no protests that the forward deployment of troops was destabilizing, and no talk of the United States as the next enemy.
Now, some of you will undoubtedly tell me that I'm talking to the wrong interlocutors, but they do happen to be the Cabinet and the key decision-makers in China. And I think it's quite significant that you're seeing this very big change in tone, not the least of which is amongst the senior Chinese military leadership. So I would say keep your eye on this basket as one of the most important.
But I would say if you just approach the last summit from this mechanistic perspective of what was accomplished on these nine different baskets, I think you would once again miss the single biggest accomplishment, because I think the biggest accomplishment was our agreement, as noted in the joint statement, to move towards a constructive strategic dialogue, or partnership.
And what this is all about, and I admit it's a vague phrase, is the premise that we have a number of common interests with China, only some of which we are working on or cooperating on well, many of which are areas where we need to do a whole lot better, and some of which are areas in which we previously were more antagonistic than cooperative. We need to try to change that framework.
The premise of this policy, I believe, is that we should be talking to China as a major power, a global power as well as a regional power, on virtually every major international issue, and that our discussion has to have a larger framework than just our bilateral problems, which are admittedly formidable.
This is not, I should add, a pretext for sweeping differences under the rug, not bringing them up or not engaging on them, but rather it is for putting them in a context on which we can at a minimum manage them while getting progress on other fronts, and hopefully over time either narrowing the differences or ultimately eliminating them.
And I think we're making some progress in this framework. Let me give you one example on the functional side. I've already given you the example of the Persian Gulf on the regional side, of what my concept of a constructive strategic partnership would be.
I think that -- you know, take an area like the environment. Here is a case where, up until relatively recently, China, I think, was quite hostile to the whole notion of working on environmental issues. They vocally voiced concern that this was a Western trap designed to keep China poor, that somehow this was unfair treatment that was supposed to slow China's economic growth and keep it weak. Now I think it has become very clear over the past few years to China that in fact environmental issues are very real and of concern to China's own interests as well as to global interests. It is clear when you talk to the Chinese leadership that they see environmental issues as an economic issue, the price they are paying because of environmental degradation; they see it as a health issue because of the price that they're paying as a result, for example, of air pollution, in some cases water pollution, which are having a major impact on their lives.
This change in perspective now makes it possible to start talking to the Chinese about issues like global warming and about different forms of energy cooperation, not from an antagonistic basis -- "You must do this because we say so" -- but rather from the basis of shared interests -- "This is how we can work together using some of American technology, some of American experience, to try to achieve progress."
I deliberately picked this example because it's what I would call "a work in progress." I am not here today to tell you we have achieved total success, I'm not here to say that China has signed on to our position on global warming and we're there. On the other hand, we are talking about this with them intensively in a fashion that was inconceivable even a year or two ago. And so it's an example of the new issues, I think, in the post-Cold War period and how we can work with them.
A far more traditional issue, a security issue in the classic sense rather than in the new sense, I think would be the Korean peninsula. As the American head negotiator in the four-party peace talks in Geneva, I can tell you it's a real pleasure, I must say, to have Chinese talking points in Geneva be virtually identical to my own. To have the Chinese delegation telling the North Koreans that North-South dialogue is the key to peace and security on the Korean peninsula is an enormous help as one proceeds in these negotiations, and it reflects, I think, many shared interests on the Korean peninsula: one, that China that also wants to see stability, and certainly not an outbreak of conflict on the Korean peninsula; two, that China does not want to see a nuclear peninsula. So I think on the basis of these shared interests, we've been able to work quite effectively with the Chinese delegation in the four-party talks.
So I think there's a lot of promise in terms of moving towards this constructive strategic partnership. I have been a bit surprised, as I traveled around the region, to see that some people have interpreted this phrase as a military alliance, and I think the easiest thing is to simply say: never intended in that fashion, that's not the concept, that's not China's concept of this; this is, you know, not what we mean. What we're rather talking about is looking for a framework on which we can, you know, come up with maximizing the number of issues we can work on together.
Having set this framework out for the last summit, let me say a few words about the next summit. And I think the shortest way I can say it is I expect more of the same; that I think again we will see considerable progress in each of the nine baskets. I think we will see an enhancement of the strategic dialogue once again.
This was a major feature, I would say, of Secretary Albright's trip to China, recently completed. We had discussions there, for example, about the Arab-Israeli peace process, we had extensive discussions on the Korean Peninsula, we talked about Cambodia, we talked about climate change. I mean, it was a very broad agenda relating to a number of different issues, and I expect to have more of this far-reaching discussion at the presidential level itself.
Obviously, we have had a lot of engagement already. I've mentioned the Albright and Cohen trips; but we will have more. You know, USTR Barshefsky has been there, Undersecretary Aaron has been there. I expect there to be multiple delegations back and forth between now and the summit. Even today as we speak, our negotiating team led by Ambassador Kristoff is on its way back to do another round of summit preparations. So, you know, there's plenty of contact going back and forth to try to come up with -- if I can use that horrible government word -- the deliverables that we'll have at the summit itself.
And on substance, while it's a little early for me to tell you what the package is, those of you familiar with Chinese negotiating style will recognize that the deliverables will come at the very last minute -- hours, if not minutes, before the meeting starts. Nevertheless, I think it's clear to say there will be deliverables, and I think one can look at the release of Wang Dan, for an example, as a clear indication of a pre-summit deliverable.
Okay, so where does Taiwan fit in with all of this? Well, let me start with a philosophical comment and then get down to the details. Philosophically, I think there has been one historic lesson since 1979 which I think is irrefutable, yet, ironically, I find almost no one in Taiwan believes it. And that is that the stronger the bilateral U.S.- PRC relationship, the better two other sets of bilateral relationships will be. One, the cross-straits relationship, and two, the unofficial U.S.-Taiwan relationship.
To me, this seems self-apparent if you look at what has happened in terms of policy since 1979. We have seen, for example, the flourishing of cross-straits ties between China and Taiwan in a way that was utterly inconceivable before normalization. The number of cross-straits ties -- the commerce, the tourism, even the beginnings of a nascent political dialogue -- was simply inconceivable prior to normalization.
I would also argue that the democratization process that has taken place on Taiwan would have been inconceivable without the additional peace and stability that the normalization process brought about. And so I think, clearly, that the better U.S.-PRC relationship has helped to foster better cross-straits dialogue, and it's immensely strengthened U.S.-Taiwan relationships.
I think people like Bill Tripplett, who are in the trenches on the Hill, when we think about the bad old days, when we had to have hearings on human-rights problems in Taiwan, recognize how fundamentally the situation has changed. We now hold Taiwan up as a role model for peaceful democratic transition, and we hold that out to other Asian countries as a model. That has removed what had formerly been an enormous impediment to the bilateral relationship.
I think if you're looking for more recent examples than 1979, you merely have to contrast 1995-96 with 1998. When U.S.-PRC relations were in crisis in 1995, cross-straits relations were virtually terminated, and there was an increase -- a dramatic increase -- or a resumption even, you could say, of military tensions, leading up to the missile exercises and the deployment of the carriers in March of '96. Clearly, there was a straight-line correlation in the negative sense.
Conversely, I think you can argue that as U.S.-PRC relations have improved, starting with the end of '96 through the state visit, that the prospects for cross-straits relations have once again brightened considerably. I think we all have to be heartened by the resumption of high-level contacts. I think the common wisdom is that there will be resumption of meaningful high-level cross-straits dialogue some time this year. And I think that's an enormously positive sign, not just for the United States, which wants to see this reduction in tensions, but for Taiwan itself.
Well, I guess the key point I am trying to make is that I do not see this process, the administration does not see this process, as a zero sum game. There is simply no way that we accept the proposition that if U.S.-PRC relations are strengthening, that the U.S.-Taiwan unofficial relationships have to get worse. We simply think the opposite is the case.
Having said that, what do I think will be the results at the summit on this particular issue? I think that, frankly -- one, I think the atmosphere that the summit creates will help to foster results in the cross-straits dialogue process. So in that sense, even though there won't be any formal announcement on cross-straits since that is not an American issue, I think that, you know, it will help in terms of the summit.
But going beyond that, I think that in terms of substance, I think each side primarily said its piece the last time around; that we said what we had to say, and China said what it had to say, in the joint statement. And I am not sure that there is really much more to add only a few months later.
Let me say categorically that there won't be a fourth communique on Taiwan arms sales. Let me say categorically there won't be a fourth communique on any Taiwan issue.
So I don't think there's any need for anxiety on the part of Taiwan on this score.
I do not know yet, and nobody does, whether there'll be any form of joint U.S.-China statement as a result of this particular summit. But I think common sense should tell you that if one of the goals of engagement is to have regular summits -- meaning more or less annual -- we are rapidly going to run out of things to say in joint statements, that you can't have break-through, you know, statements on a regular basis and it becomes a counter-productive exercise. So I'm not even clear yet, and I don't think we will be until the last few days before the summit, how we will handle the question of announcing the results of the summit, whether there'll be one joint statement, two separate statements, a press conference with no written statements. It's just too early to tell. But there will not be a Taiwan-related communique.