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Clinton Defends 'Constructive Engagement' Of China


WASHINGTON (AllPolitics, Oct. 24) -- In advance of his summit next week with Chinese President Jiang Zemin, President Bill Clinton addressed the politically charged issue of U.S. relations with China, arguing for closer ties with the world's most populous nation.

In the first speech of his presidency entirely devoted to the subject of China, the president called next week's summit the best opportunity since Richard Nixon's breakthrough 1972 visit to China to forge a new strategic partnership between the two nations.

Outlining the stakes involved in the thorny U.S.-China relationship, Clinton said, "The emergence of a China as a power that is stable, open and non-aggressive ... rather than a China turned inward and confrontational, is deeply in the interests of the American people." (480K wav sound)

Clinton strongly defended his continued policy of "constructive engagement" -- promoting economic and political ties, while at the same time pressing for democracy, open markets and human rights -- calling it "our best hope to secure our own interest and values and to advance China's."


"As always, America must be prepared to live and flourish in a world in which we are at odds with China, but that is not the world we want," the president said. The U.S.' objective? "Cooperation," Clinton said. (352K wav sound)

The president has faced criticism from both the right and the left from people who want him to go slow on trade with China until it improves its human-rights record. "I believe that view is wrong," Clinton said. (256K wav sound)

"Isolation of China is unworkable, counter-productive and potentially dangerous. Military, political and economic measures to do such a thing would find little support among our allies around the world, and more importantly, even among Chinese themselves working for greater liberty," Clinton argued. (608K wav sound)

And though human rights has proved the most sensitive issue in the U.S.-China relationship, Clinton pledged to push the issue with the Chinese president. "Those who fight for human rights and against religious persecution at the risk of their jobs, freedom and even their lives find strength in the knowledge that they are not alone, that the community of the democracies stands with them," he said.

"The United States must and will continue to stand up for human rights, to speak out against their abuse in China or anywhere else in the world. To do otherwise would run counter to everything we stand for as Americans," Clinton continued. (384K wav sound)

But White House aides are attempting to lower summit expectations on human rights, saying they expect no major breakthroughs.

Presidents Clinton and Jiang have met four times over the past five years, but always at various international gatherings. Next week will be their first formal summit.

In addition to human rights, other issues Clinton intends to take up with the Chinese leader are more open and balanced trade agreements; the sale of nuclear and missile technology to Iran and Pakistan; the reduction of greenhouse-gas emissions; multi-national coalitions against terrorism; law-enforcement cooperation to battle drug trafficking; and protection of intellectual property, such as CDs, movies and software.

CNN's Wolf Blitzer contributed to this report.

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Friday Oct. 24, 1997

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