"Two Levels" to U.S.-China Relationship, State's Zoellick Says
Deputy Secretary of State Robert B. Zoellick sees the U.S.-China relationship operating on two levels: interacting bilaterally and dealing with global challenges.
Zoellick mapped out his view of relations between the two world giants during an April 18 interview with Phoenix Television in Washington on the eve of Chinese President Hu Jintao's visit.
Hu met with President Bush April 20, his first visit to Washington since assuming all three top posts in the Chinese government - president, chairman of the Central Military Commission and secretary-general of the Chinese Communist Party. (See related article.)
"[W]hat I’ve tried to explain to some American audiences is that the relationship really needs to be seen on two levels," Zoellick said. "One is how our two domestic systems interact with one another but then also how we look at some of the global challenges … . [T]he relationship between China and the United States is going to be important not only for the two countries, but for the global system for many years to come."
On the domestic level, talks between Hu and Bush will focus on economics "and the anxieties in the United States about our trade, economic and currency relationship," Zoellick said. Among these, he said, are concerns regarding open markets and the $200 billion trade deficit the United States now has with China. Also a top concern, according to Zoellick, is China's need to enforce intellectual property rights laws. (See related article.)
"China's development has been very successful based on interaction with the international economy, heavily connected with U.S. markets and U.S. investors," Zoellick said. "That's a good thing. But to be able to sustain it, we need to be able to show that there's also opportunity and fairness from the U.S. side." It is important, he said, "to send a signal to the American public that it's a fair, two-way street."
In addition to the economic issues, the Bush administration will re-emphasize U.S. support for human rights, with regard to individual cases and China's building the rule of law, Zoellick said.
"[I]n particular, President Bush has an interest in the topic of religious freedom," Zoellick added.
On the global side, Bush and Hu are expected to discuss Iran, North Korea, energy security, the environment and avian influenza, Zoellick said.
Regarding the nuclear ambitions of North Korea and Iran, Zoellick said: "I believe that it's useful to reaffirm that neither the United States nor China want to have either Iran or North Korea to have nuclear weapons and that that would be destabilizing." (See Arms Control and Non-Proliferation.)
Zoellick also explained the idea that China should be a "responsible stakeholder" in the international system, reiterating a theme he made in a speech to the National Committee on U.S.-China Relations in September 2005. (See related article.)
"China has succeeded enormously over the past 25 years in integrating itself into the world system, whether it be commodity markets or capital/currency markets or counterfeiting problems or the UN Security Council," Zoellick said.
With this integration, he said, China, as a major economic power, "has an interest in terms of trying to strengthen and sustain those systems, whether they be issues dealing with trade or currency markets or nuclear proliferation."
In addition to focusing on its internal developments, China must demonstrate "its constructive role in the international system, whether it be economic or security topics," Zoellick said. This will "create a better context for China to pursue what it has called its 'peaceful development,'" he said.
"I think everyone in the world wants to believe and wishes China the best for its peaceful development," Zoellick said, "but nobody is willing to bet their future on it, so they need to have some reassurance that China will be a constructive player in the international system. And that's what the notion of a responsible stakeholder is about."
For additional information, see The United States and China.
Following is the transcript
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
Office of the Spokesman
April 19, 2006
Deputy Secretary of State Robert B. Zoellick
With Phoenix TV
April 18, 2006
QUESTION: Deputy Secretary Zoellick, thank you for making the time to do this interview with Phoenix Television on the eve of President Hu's visit to the United States. First to start, how significant is this visit by President Hu to Washington and what role do you see this type of summit meeting playing in the U.S.-China relationship?
DEPUTY SECRETARY ZOELLICK: Well, our relationship with China is obviously one of our most important in the world and so I think that the meeting is a very significant one for both presidents and both countries. It’s also a little bit unusual because, on the one hand, as two major countries in the world, we have issues to discuss of interest on the global agenda - North Korea, Iran, questions in Sudan and in Darfur - but both of us also very strong domestic interests that impinge on the agenda. For example, with China just coming out of the People's Congress and concerning about moving forward with its development strategy, that relates to the economic relationship with the United States and the anxieties in the United States about our trade, economic and currency relationship.
So what I’ve tried to explain to some American audiences is that the relationship really needs to be seen on two levels. One is how our two domestic systems interact with one another but then also how we look at some of the global challenges. In addition there’s also the short term and the long term. There’s issues we have to face that are quite immediate in terms of dealing with support for the relationship in both countries. But the relationship between China and the United States is going to be important not only for the two countries, but for the global system for many years to come. So we're laying foundations for work, too.
QUESTION: Certainly. As you know, China - I mean, Taiwan is a very important issue for China which remains concerned about a push by Taiwan for independence. Can we expect President Bush to make any statements or issue warnings to Taiwan, as he did during Premier Wen Jiabao's 2003 White House visit?
DEPUTY SECRETARY ZOELLICK: Well, President Bush and the Administration have been very clear about our basis of our policy with Taiwan and I don't expect that to change. The Chinese leadership knows that President Bush is a man of his word and he doesn't say things and then try to change his position on them. So you know, our policy on Taiwan is longstanding, based on the three communiqués, but also the Taiwan Relations Act. And we've emphasized while we have great positive feelings towards our support of a democratic Taiwan, that we don't want to see any change in the status quo from either state of the straits.
QUESTION: The U.S. had encouraged both sides to have dialogue. And right before President Hu left for the United States, he urged Taiwan authorities to recognize the 1992 Agreement on “one China” principle so that both sides can have - resume talks as soon as possible. Do you see this as a key step to unlock the cross-strait situation?
DEPUTY SECRETARY ZOELLICK: I think that Beijing has tried to expand ties with Taiwan and including political dialogue, which I believe is a constructive step. We've encouraged that the Government in Beijing not only reach out to the opposition, but also to the governing party. And I think recently there was some effort to reach out to the governing party as well as the opposition. And that's the type of dialogue we would encourage.
QUESTION: And do you see Taiwan as a potential land mine for the U.S.-China relationship?
DEPUTY SECRETARY ZOELLICK: I hope not. I mean, we've been very clear about our position about, you know, no unilateral changes in the status quo from either side. You know, President Bush has been very clear about the expectations that he has in terms of the five representations that Chen Shui-ben gave, but also we believe there should be no threat of use of force on the part of China. So I hope that it will not dominate the discussions as it appears to be dominating this interview.
QUESTION: Sure. On your side, what issues have the highest priorities on President Bush's agenda that he plans to raise with President Hu?
DEPUTY SECRETARY ZOELLICK: I think there's going to be a combination that reflects the duality I mentioned. Clearly, the economic relationship is very important. There was some progress we made at the recent meeting of the JCCT with Vice Premier Wu Yi and Secretary Gutierrez and Ambassador Portman. But those are issues that relate to some of the efforts to open markets because the U.S. faces a $200 billion trade deficit with China. But there are other issues and China has tried to be supportive with a purchasing mission of over $16 billion, which at least we encouraged that China also make clear that this is part of an ongoing set of business ties. But then there's also the currency and exchange rate issues.
And all of those questions and others like intellectual property are important to send a signal to the American public that it's a fair, two-way street. China's development has been very successful based on interaction with the international economy, heavily connected with U.S. markets and U.S. investors. That's a good thing. But to be able to sustain it, we need to be able to show that there's also opportunity and fairness from the U.S. side.
In addition to the economic issue, the United States stands for human rights. These deal with individual cases. It also deals with building the rule of law in China. And in particular, President Bush has an interest in the topic of religious freedom. Then we have some global issues: Iran, North Korea, broader foreign policy security questions. And then we have a series of topics where I believe we have a good opportunity for mutual interests, such as energy security, dealing with environmental questions, avian influenza. But it takes work to make sure that both governments sort of recognize those and act in a cooperative fashion. So there's plenty for these two leaders to talk about and I only wish there were more time to do so.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) to follow up on the JCCT meeting. A lot of Chinese think during the JCCT meeting, Chinese already make some new commitments on market access and IPR, as you mentioned. So I mean, have Chinese actions by the JCCT reduced some tension already or is the U.S. still looking for more commitment during President Hu's visit?
DEPUTY SECRETARY ZOELLICK: I think there's some positive steps, but the nature of these discussions are that the proof is ultimately in the results. So for example, Madame Wu Yi has put together, I think, a 13 or 14 point plan about trying to strengthen intellectual property rights. Well, I think there are a number of good aspects in there, like IPR accords and special centers that people can go to to deal with IPR problems, but there's always going to be the question of the follow-through and whether this will actually improve the protection of intellectual property rights.
Well, certainly, with some of these other market opening issues, China has also been developing a series of industrial policies, so you might formally reduce tariffs or pledge, for example, as China did to join the WTO government procurement agreement, which the United States has already done, but then it still has to be followed through.
So I don't think this is a bad thing. It's the nature of the process that it's a series of ongoing work on problems. But it is important to recognize that it's not just the work for JCCT meeting or a summit, but this is an ongoing relationship that both sides have to work at.
QUESTION: On Iran and North Korea nuclear crisis, do you think President Bush will go as far as to ask President Hu's support for sanctions on either of these countries?
DEPUTY SECRETARY ZOELLICK: I think that the key starting point, and I had some discussions with Chinese officials in Beijing on this in January, it is to agree on the strategic goals. And I believe that it's useful to reaffirm that neither the United States nor China want to have either Iran or North Korea to have nuclear weapons and that that would be destabilizing. But then beyond that, I think it's useful for the two leaders to then talk about how to try to prevent that or deal with the situation that exists in North Korea. And there, I think going into particularly the Iran point you asked about with sanctions, I think it gives an opportunity for the two leaders to share their ideas about how we try to develop a broad, global coalition that puts pressure on the Iranian Government not to develop the nuclear weapons.
So there are steps to be taken in the atomic energy body, the IAEA, but we are both members of the UN Security Council so there can be steps taken in the UN Security Council. There's been discussions about moving forward with a resolution in the UN Security Council. That could give authority that might take targeted sanctions, which might deal, for example, with individuals as opposed to dealing with a whole economy. But all these together are tactics and what's important is to have a discussion by the two leaders on how to deal with the fundamental problem which I hope they agree on, which is not to have Iran develop nuclear weapons.
QUESTION: And can I have my very last question on your stakeholder concept? Thank you. Since you put forth stakeholder concept, it has been viewed by many China experts as the benchmark standard for the relationship and China, too, has seemed to react positively to it. Do you think your stakeholder concept has resulted in a real shift away from trying to label China as either a partner or a threat to more pragmatic and constructive relationship?
DEPUTY SECRETARY ZOELLICK: I know that people have tried to summarize the stakeholder idea in kind of one simple line to understand whether it's pro or con. That really wasn't the purpose. The purpose was to say that, in part through the hard work of the Chinese people, China has succeeded enormously over the past 25 years in integrating itself into the world system, whether it be commodity markets or capital/currency markets or counterfeiting problems or the UN Security Council.
And so now the question is what purpose is to be served by the integration, and what I was trying to suggest is that China, as a major player, a stakeholder in the international system, has an interest in terms of trying to strengthen and sustain those systems, whether they be issues dealing with trade or currency markets or nuclear proliferation. And so it's a concept that then sets an agenda and that agenda is not going to be solved in one meeting or six months or one year. It's an ongoing process. So it's a way of looking at the relationship. It pays respect for what China has accomplished but it also urges China to recognize that even though much attention in China is understandably focused on internal developments, that China plays a role in the global system and we want to work with China to try to make that a constructive set of relationships.
This is really not only a question for the United States and China. As China grows and succeeds, it will have more influence and so people will raise questions or they'll raise uncertainties. So I know some have also said, well, is the U.S. Government or others hedging against China? Well, part of the point is if you create greater influence in people that are uncertain of how you're going to use that, it's not surprising that people will hedge their relationships. And this is just not the United States or the others in Asia or India or others in the world. And so the logic is the more that we and others can work with China to show its constructive role in the international system, whether it be economic or security topics, and create a better context for China to pursue what it has called its “peaceful development,” or some have called it the “peaceful rise.”
So as I mentioned in the speech that I gave last September, I think everyone in the world wants to believe and wishes China the best for its peaceful development, but nobody is willing to bet their future on it, so they need to have some reassurance that China will be a constructive player in the international system. And that's what the notion of a responsible stakeholder is about. The U.S. and others also need to be responsible stakeholders in the system. And so the topics that we've touched on today and that the presidents will talk about are elements on that agenda, whether they be economic or whether they be security or whether they be political topics. And that's why it's important that the leaders of these two very important countries get together.
QUESTION: Thank you very much, Secretary Zoellick. Thank you for speaking with Phoenix Television. We all hope there will be positive results come out from President Hu's visit.
DEPUTY SECRETARY ZOELLICK: Thank you.