Chinese president arrives in U.S. for landmark visit
October 26, 1997
Web posted at: 2:25 p.m. EST (1925 GMT)
HONOLULU (CNN) -- Chinese President Jiang Zemin on Sunday
arrived in the United States for a landmark summit aimed at
improving relations that have been strained over human
rights, nuclear proliferation and the status of Taiwan.
Jiang's plane touched down on the U.S. island state of
Hawaii, where he is expected to spend two days before
arriving in Washington late Tuesday afternoon, in what will
be the first formal visit to the nation's capital by a
Chinese president in 12 years. Jiang is scheduled to hold
talks with U.S. President Bill Clinton on Wednesday.
While in Hawaii, Jiang was expected to tour the USS Arizona
Memorial at Pearl Harbor and meet with Honolulu Mayor Jeremy
Harris and Hawaii Gov. Ben Cayetano.
On the eve of his departure for the United States, Jiang --
who also heads China's ruling Communist Party and the
military -- expressed optimism that Sino-U.S. relations were
moving back on track, but he made no promises to release
jailed dissidents or embrace Western-style political
In an apparent effort to play down previous conflicts with
Washington, Jiang offered some words of conciliation.
"In the past few years, China-U.S. relations are moving
towards a favorable development," he told reporters in
Beijing's Great Hall of the People.
"Naturally, in this period, there are also some ups and
downs, and this is nothing strange," Jiang added.
He also said he had ordered China's envoy to the United
Nations to sign the U.N. International Covenant on Economic,
Social and Cultural Rights, which will oblige China to
protect citizens from discrimination and ensure fair
distribution of resources.
This "demonstrates once again the government's staunch
determination to promote human rights conditions in China and
the world as a whole," Jiang said.
However, he made no commitment to sign a similar U.N. charter
on freedoms of speech, religion and assembly.
Jiang also referred to comments Clinton made Saturday
on Sino-U.S. relations, and acknowledged what he described as
"different views" between Beijing and Washington.
"I believe the statement President Clinton delivered earlier
this morning also stressed his mode of handling China-U.S.
relations in a positive manner," Jiang said.
The Chinese leader stressed the "common responsibility" to
promote stability and prosperity. "Whether we are able to
bring a sound and stable China-U.S. relationship into the
21st century has a bearing on world peace and prosperity in
the next century."
Clinton said the upcoming summit represented the best chance
since former U.S. President Richard Nixon's breakthrough
visit to China in 1972 to forge a new strategic partnership.
Defying criticism from some members of Congress for ignoring
China's human rights record, Clinton said that isolating the
Chinese would be "unworkable, counterproductive and
Clinton has dropped the policy of trying to link trade
considerations to human rights in China. "Change may not come
as quickly as we would like. But as our interests are
long-term, so must our policies be," he said.
On Saturday, Jiang evaded questions on whether China would
free jailed activists Wang Dan and Wei Jingsheng, and the
president repeated Beijing's official line: that the men are
not "dissidents," but criminals who have broken Chinese laws.
On Sunday, veteran democracy campaigner Bao Ge made a written
appeal to the Chinese authorities to release 12 people,
including Wang and Wei.
Bao, who himself spent three years in labor camps for his
political activities, said people should be allowed to
exercise freedom of speech, demonstration and association.
"No citizen should be detained and persecuted for peacefully
exercising these rights and freedoms or putting forward
different political opinions," the Shanghai-based dissident
said in his letter to the Justice Ministry.
Members of Congress who criticize China's human rights record
said Friday they would hold a hearing Tuesday on the issue.
Among those expected to testify is former dissident Harry Wu,
who spent 19 years in Chinese prison camps.
Other key issues that are expected to come up during the
Sino-U.S. summit are Taiwan, which China considers a renegade
province, and arms proliferation -- particularly China's
nuclear cooperation with Iran.
Senior U.S. officials were quoted as saying that Beijing had
committed itself to end that relationship with Iran. If
confirmed officially, that would allow the United States to
lift its long-standing ban on the sale of nuclear power
plants to China.
Beijing Bureau Chief Andrea Koppel and Senior Washington
Correspondent Wolf Blitzer contributed to this report.