For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
November 19, 2005
Press Briefing on the President's Visit to China by Mike Green, Special Assistant to the President for NSA and Faryar Shirzad, Deputy Assistant to the President and Deputy NSA for International Economic Affairs
Aboard Air Force One
En route Beijing, People's Republic of China
5:13 P.M. (Local)
MR. GREEN: We're on our way to Beijing. The President's official program begins tomorrow morning. He'll go to Gangwashi Church to worship in the morning. He then has a meeting with President Hu, and then a meeting with President Wen - excuse me, with Premier Wen, and then a social lunch with the Premier. In the afternoon, he will go mountain bike riding with Chinese athletes who are training for the Olympics; talk to them a bit about their experience and their aspirations. And then in the evening he has a social dinner with the Chinese leadership.
In terms of the major themes for the President's visit to China, he begins with the starting premise that we are in a position to strengthen U.S.-China relations and that we can do so based on a comprehensive and a cooperative and a constructive and a candid dialogue. So on issues where we are working well together, we're going to try to do even more. We'll try to find new areas to expand our cooperation. And in areas where we don't see things the same, the President will be candid, as he always has been, with his Chinese counterparts.
At the top of the list, of course, will be North Korea and how to ensure that the September 19th statement of principles achieved in the six-party talks is fully implemented by North Korea, leading to the complete dismantlement of all of North Korea's nuclear weapons and nuclear programs, and opening up the possibility for a transformation of the Korean Peninsula and a resolution of long-standing issues, such as the movement from an armistice to a permanent peace mechanism, human rights and other issues on the peninsula.
Secondly, the President will also talk about economic issues. He will be working to strengthen opportunities for America's workers, for America's farmers. He met with President Hu in New York in September, of course, pressed on these issues. President Hu issued a good statement at the time on intellectual property rights and his own commitment to strengthening enforcement of intellectual property rights protection in China, something that he said is good for China; and other steps to create a more balanced playing field in U.S.-China economic relations. The President will be looking for some concrete action to follow up on that commitment. He'll be pushing for movement towards a flexible market based currency system in China, as he did in New York, and also on beef and some other bilateral trade issues, such as government procurement.
In addition to the economic issues, the President will be talking to President Hu and his Chinese counterparts about things that he believes they should do to strengthen Chinese society by giving more opportunities for Chinese citizens to worship, to speak freely and to exercise other rights, and also to form a civil society with non-governmental organizations that would help to buttress Chinese society at a time when China is undergoing important changes. President Hu has articulated to President Bush this notion of peaceful development. It's clear, as the President said in his speech in Kyoto, that President Hu wants to make the Chinese people more prosperous. That's a good thing. But it's also important, as the President will tell him, to give the Chinese people full opportunities to worship and to speak and to exercise their full rights freely.
There are other issues. The President will talk about China's role in the world. China's responsible as a stakeholder, as a permanent member of the Security Council to make progress with us on issues with Syria, with Sudan, with Iran and so forth - with Burma, for example. And on the Taiwan question, the President will reiterate our consistent position, which is that we have a one China policy based on the three communiqués; we do not support Taiwan's independence; we oppose unilateral moves by either side to try to change the status quo; and we want to see more dialogue between Beijing and Taipei, and particularly dialogue between the governments, because the dialogue thus far has been between the government and Beijing and the opposition and other non-governmental organizations in Taipei.
That's the general thrust of what the President will be talking about. We have a very rich and diverse agenda with the Chinese. And he'll have opportunities in a series of meetings with the Chinese leadership to address all of these issues.
Q Will there be any live coverage of the President's appearances? Do you know what China's television plans to do as the President moves around tomorrow?
MR. GREEN: The President will be making comments to the press, together with President Hu, after their meeting. He'll also, I believe, be televised - at least in part - during his interactions with the Chinese Olympic athletes, and there may be other opportunities. And we've made it clear to our Chinese hosts that the President's message is one that is positive about U.S.-China relations and should be heard by all Chinese citizens, just as when President Hu comes to the United States, his message is heard in full by the American people.
Q So what do you mean by that? Are you saying that - have you requested that they give live coverage? Or what do you mean?
MR. GREEN: We put it to them just the way I just said.
Q Will they carry the statements live or have coverage?
MR. GREEN: We don't know exactly how they'll cover these things. There is Chinese CCTV, the Chinese state television, there's Phoenix TV, they have radio, they have a variety of media outlets, there is print media. But the basic expectation we have, and we've made it clear to them, is that they should give the Chinese people an opportunity to hear everything the President has to say about U.S.-China relations, just as we give the American people and the American press every opportunity to hear what President Hu has to say about U.S.-China relations. It's part of how we're going to have to strengthen our relationship, by letting people hear the leaders on both sides convey their hopes and expectations for the relationship.
Q Why no questions? Why no questions at the joint appearance? Was that broached?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, they're doing statements at this appearance, and you'll be covering the President throughout the day tomorrow.
Q Why no questions? Was that the Chinese decision or your decision?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, these are always things we discuss with the host government.
Q Which was it?
MR. McCLELLAN: Sorry?
Q Who said "no"?
MR. McCLELLAN: These are always things we discuss with the host government.
Q The President's visit to church, what's the message he's hoping to send to the government and what's the message he's hoping to send to the people of China?
MR. GREEN: Of course, it's Sunday, so the President will want to worship. But it's also important that the world see and that the Chinese people see that expression of faith is a good thing for a healthy and mature society.
The church where he will worship is a church that is often called a state-sponsored church, but it's a real church and people really do worship, and it is a real religious service and the parishioners are real people of faith who are congregating to express that faith.
But there are many other religions in China. There are Muslims, there are Buddhists, Tibetan Buddhists, who have more opportunities to worship and to congregate and express their faith than Chinese did a generation ago, or even a decade ago. But there is still much to be done. And the message for the Chinese government is the same message the President has given President Hu before, which is that allowing all Chinese citizens to give full and free expression of their faith is something that's not a threat to the state, it's something, as he said in his Kyoto speech, that makes for a stronger and more mature and stable society, which, ultimately, really should be in Chinese interest and consistent with President Hu's own vision for China's future.
Q What was the feedback from the Chinese after the Kyoto speech?
MR. GREEN: You've seen, I think, the Chinese Foreign Minister statements. But it's not a new element in our dialogue with the Chinese. And it's not a new theme for the President - he talks about freedom everywhere he goes. He talks about it with the Chinese; it's been a feature of our discussions.
You'll note that Secretary Rice, when she came to China last, gave a speech which had some similar themes. It is a regular part of our discourse; the Chinese recognize that. They have engaged in discussions with the President on this before. President Jiang did, and now President Hu has done the same. And they expect it.
Q The President going to make his case for China to move toward currency flexibility, is this something that he's going to express concern about the - the protectionist sentiment in the U.S.? Or is this something he's going to say that China needs to do for its own benefit?
MR. GREEN: In general on these economic issues with China, we've taken an approach that these are steps - whether it's intellectual property rights protection or moving to a market based exchange rate system - that are in China's own economic interests in the near-term and the long-term. We have discussions in the joint economic committee, in the joint committee on commerce and trade at all levels, working levels and senior levels, with the Chinese side. They're productive discussions.
So the premise is that these are steps that are good for China's own economic future, but they're also important for the U.S. and for China's role in the global economy.
MR. SHIRZAD: That's right. Remember, it's not just the United States that has raised the issue of the importance of flexibility in China's exchange rate - the IMF, the G7, and other international observers, and probably most experts that look at the issue - understand that ultimately for a maturing economy like China's, they need to have an exchange rate mechanism that's responsive to market forces. And Secretary Snow and the team at Treasury have done a good job both in terms of public discourse, but also in terms of private discussions with the Chinese to express the importance of their making a move to fully implement the commitments they made on July 21st regarding implementing a market based flexible exchange rate mechanism.
Q So just clarify for me, does flexibility from the U.S.'s perspective mean a full float at some point? Or how do you see the steps that it needs to take playing out?
MR. SHIRZAD: Well, there are different exchange regimes that countries have. The question is whether they Chinese will allow market forces to help drive the movement of their currency. Right now, they control it very tightly, and the question is whether they will implement what they said on the 21st, which is to make their exchange rate mechanism more responsive. They're clearly at a point now where they've moved beyond the full, rigid peg that they had before July 21st. And they need to move. We understand the move to full flexibility will have to be gradual and implemented over time, but it's really time for them to begin to move much further than they have already.
Q Faryar, if you really wanted to pressure them to take steps, one action you could take is to get them labeled a currency manipulator. Do you think that step is warranted at this time?
MR. SHIRZAD: Well, the issue of how they get characterized in Treasury's semi-annual report is really something for Treasury to issue in its report. They'll be issuing their report, the fall iteration of that report fairly soon, and so we'll see what they have to say. I don't want to prejudge or preempt what they have to say.
But remember, ultimately, the issue is not to pressure the Chinese; ultimately, the issue is to make them understand that for their own benefit they need to make this move. I think they do, it's just matter of how quickly they'll implement it.
Q Do you have a time frame of when you want to see action? And are you expecting near-term action on this?
MR. SHIRZAD: I don't want to cite an artificial time frame on it. I think they understand, though, for their own sake they need to get moving on this and implement what they said they wanted to do on July 21st.
Q Can I ask how you guys chose the church where the President is going to worship?
MR. GREEN: This is a church where other senior visitors from the United States - including, I think, if I'm correct, the most recent visitor would have been our former Secretary of Commerce -- and so it's one where people have worshiped before and have seen that while it is sanctioned by the state, the parishioners and the ministers are expressing their faith fully. So it's an opportunity to worship in a genuine way, and convey to the Chinese people the personal importance the President places on this for any society.
Q Mike, you've given a fairly long list of concerns that you have: freedom of worship, the currency, trade, things like that. You said that you expect it to be a candid discussion. Are you expecting it to be tense, I mean, with this very long list of things that you have concerns about?
MR. GREEN: No, I don't, because for President Hu there probably is no relationship more important in the world than with the United States and with the U.S. President. As China develops its economy, defines its role in the world, it's of critical importance to the Chinese leaders to have good relations with us and to make sure that we are supportive of China's goals and not proposing them.
So it's important, very important for the Chinese leadership to have successful meetings with the U.S. President, to have candid discussions and to try to work to expand the areas of cooperation.
The Chinese side, our counterparts often describe these meetings officially as cooperative and constructive; they rarely mention them as candid. But we think candid is an important part of it, as I said, and the Chinese in the meetings are also candid and increasingly frank and honest and flexible in the discussions. Remember, the President saw President Hu in New York in September. They had a pretty long meeting; I think it was about 90 minutes. He'll see him again sometime next year, when the rescheduling of the postponed visit to Washington takes place. He has met him before. And so this is an ongoing dialogue that the two leaders have and these are issues that we've been working through with the Chinese steadily from the beginning.
Q Is it equally important for the United States to have good relations with China?
MR. GREEN: The President is optimistic about U.S.-China relations. China's growing role in the world is probably one of the greatest variables in international relations - that, and the other is where the future of Islam and terror and so forth goes. But, certainly, the rise of China's role in the world is one of the most important variables we all face and the President is optimistic about U.S.-China relations, but believes that to make progress we have to expand the areas of cooperation, but also be very candid about the areas where we disagree. And we've addressed many of those issues. And we've also made progress in areas where we're cooperating, like the six-party talks, where we made an important step forward on the September statement of principles.
Q Mike, some analysts believe the United States has been a little disengaged in recent years in the region, generally, and that the Chinese have stepped in to fill a vacuum in some respects. How do you respond to that?
MR. GREEN: I think that the easiest answer to that question is to look at the APEC leaders' statement that just came out, where the President's leadership and U.S. leadership is in black and white, and you have the 21 leading economies of this region signing on to an agenda that we worked collaboratively with them, but where U.S. leadership was critically important. Three years ago in APEC, the President - together with Prime Minister Thaksin of Thailand, who was the host - put forward a vision of APEC where we would expand cooperation not only on economic integration and liberalization, but also on security issues. And in this meeting, that security agenda - whether it's counter-terrorism or avian influenza or other issues that threaten the economies of this region - is firmly in place, the cooperation is good.
So that's where the rubber hits the road, in meetings like this, in agreements like this, in cooperation on issues like avian influenza, counter-terrorism and trade liberalization and pushing for a successful Doha round, is concrete progress and I think it's very clear in the leaders' statement. It's true that China's presence in Asia and in the world is growing, as you would expect from a nation that has such successful GDP growth. And that's not necessarily a threat to anyone.
But in terms of the region's agenda, making progress on issues that are of common interest, I think the President's leadership in this most recent APEC round really speaks for itself.
Q What about the bird flu, will there be specific discussions about that with President Hu?
MR. GREEN: Yes, the Chinese have been forthcoming on bird flu. I think the SARS experience taught them that for their own internal interests and for their role in the world, they need to be swift and transparent. And so they were very quick to agree with us to cooperate on our international aviation influenza initiative launched at the U.N. in September. They were very helpful as we put together the APEC initiative on avian influenza. And we expect to build on that and discuss with the Chinese some further bilateral initiatives that we can implement to help China deal with a possible pandemic and to strengthen U.S.-China relations in this area.
MR. McCLELLAN: And as you know, they had a good discussion about it in New York, as well.
Q Is the President taking any part in this Boeing ceremony tomorrow, the sale of - no?
MR. GREEN: I don't think so, but it's a very important thing and I think it's a testament to how our approach to China is yielding real results - in this case, an order for seventy 737 aircraft from Boeing.
Q Thank you.
END 5:30 P.M. (Local)