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08/07/2008

Bush and Asia

Following are a few excerpts from an interview the South China Morning Post conducted with President George W. Bush on relations with the Far East.  I offer the following without comment.  You can check out “Week in Review” for my own take on issues of this kind.

 

Q: Mr. President, some would argue that during your presidency the U.S. was focused on the war on terror – Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq – and was less engaged in Asia, especially vis-à-vis countering the influence of China.  How would you describe your legacy under your presidency for Asia and U.S.-Asean relations?  And how do you see the U.S. role in that region?

 

Bush: Let me start with the second, then you can refresh my 62-year-old memory for the first.  There’s plenty of room for countries to work with other countries in the region in a constructive way.  In other words, I don’t view the diplomacy as zero sum.

 

I view the emergence of India and China as positives.  I think it’s going to be very important for the United States to stay engaged – not only with the two nations; if I were Thailand, I’d be asking, what about us, will you remember other nations?  And the answer is, absolutely.

 

In terms of foreign policy in the Far East, it is mistaken if someone were to say that my preoccupation was on the war on terror. You bet I wanted to make sure that we protected ourselves at home.  [But] our foreign policy has been robust in the Far East.

 

Our relations with your country, with South Korea, with Japan and with China have never been better.  And it took a lot of work to get relations, bilateral relations, as strong as they are.  Not many presidents could say, in the history of U.S. diplomacy, that relations with South Korea, Japan, China and Thailand are strong and robust…

 

My only point to you is, is that – or the Taiwan-Chinese relationship and that issue.  It’s a very sensitive issue for the Chinese government.  And people who study this very closely will see that the issue is in a better place.  And I made it abundantly clear that there was some red lines for the United States on this issue, that there would be no unilateral declaration of independence, that our policy was still the same.  It’s very important for the presidents to be very consistent.

 

Q: How do you evaluate the current [Sino-U.S.] relations, the welcome of the bilateral relations for the last part of 30 years, especially with the eight years under your presidency?  And which areas do you think the two countries could broaden and deepen cooperation?

 

Bush: [This has] been an evolving relationship….The fact that both countries are honoring the 30th anniversary of the relationship shows that – it’s a statement about good relations.  If we had bad relations we wouldn’t be honoring the 30th.  It would be, okay, here comes the 30th anniversary, who cares?

 

I mean, we’ll let the historians evaluate the difference between what the relationship was like in the 80s, 90s, but I can tell you…my view.  One, I’ve had good relations with Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao.  Secondly, we have worked hard during my time to put strategic dialogues in place that broaden and enhance the relationship.

 

I’ve been committed to broadening our defense cooperation and exchanges.  I think it’s going to be very important for – I know it’s important for our generals and admirals to deal with their counterparts.  And I believe, more importantly, or as importantly, we ought to be getting younger Chinese officers involved with younger U.S. officers.  Why?  To create a feeling of trust.

 

You ask how has the relationship evolved.  The crisis of my administration, the first crisis, was the EP3. And it was like, oh, man, this is unbelievable.  And it – I will tell you – and frankly, it took a while to get phone calls returned and we were just trying to get information.  And I’m confident that if an incident like that happened now, there would be a much more immediate response because there’s more trust between the two administrations.

 

Q: A lot of people in Hong Kong talk about this.  Looking ahead, do you think it’s important for the American people to sort of view China mostly as a strategic competitor or more as a partner?

 

Bush:  I think as we look ahead I would view it as a management of a complex relationship, where sometimes our national interests are aligned and sometimes our national interests are not aligned.  They could – and let me just talk about the economy, for example.  And one reason I call it a complex relationship is that here in America, trade with China is not necessarily universally accepted as good.  It is universally accepted as good in this administration.  I mean, free and fair trade is good for the world, and I believe it’s good for this relationship.  But…some in America view the advent of Chinese manufacturing, particularly at the lower end of the economic scale, as direct competition with their own livelihood, thereby making the relationship complex.

 

Energy.  What’s very interesting is that if you view China as a market, you want them to become more robust and more prosperous.  But in order to do that, China is going to have to have more energy, and as China demands more energy, it creates more global demand relative to a slower growing supply which means higher prices for us all.

 

It is a very interesting and important relationship made complex by globalization, and their constantly changing internal situation, particularly when it comes to their economy…

 

I will tell you this: an American president is going to have to pay very close attention to relations with not only China but the region.  And I say “the region” because if it ever – if the perception is ever that the United States is fixated only on China, then you’re going to have issues with long-time allies, people that have been counting on the American support for a period of time.

 

And so never can the foreign policy be viewed as zero sum.  It’s always got to be viewed as additive. And my worry for America over time is that we’ve become isolationist and protectionist.  I’ve spoken about this quite frequently.  Protectionism will be bad for our own economy and our world economy, in my judgment.  Isolationism will create a lot of concern.

 

And so the U.S. has got a forward-leaning foreign policy in the Far East.  When people take an objective look at this administration, we have been very much engaged.  And I believe I’ll be leaving office with the Far East in as good a shape as it can be from a U.S. perspective.

 

Q: The Beijing Olympics is a very important event, not only for China but also for the whole world.  So your stance against politicizing the Olympic Games is highly appreciated by Chinese people.  So what would you like to convey, your messages and wishes to the Games?

 

Bush: Yes.  Well, our message is that I personally and America respects the Chinese people – respect your history, respect your tradition, and I’m honored to have been invited to the Games.  And I make the case to people that by going to the Games and respecting the people, it gives me credibility with the government so that we can deal with common opportunities and common problems.

 

Q: What has surprised you about your dealings over the last eight years with Chinese leadership?

 

Bush:  One thing that interests me is to watch China’s leaders deal with the benefits and challenges of a marketplace.  In other words, this is a country that has got a lot of mouths to feed and a lot of people to employ.

 

And they are committed to, in many ways, marketplace principles, particularly as they have invited in foreign capital. And it’s been interesting to watch them deal with a combination of the need for raw material versus the – from the foreign policy implications of dealing with a country that has a lot of raw material.  The classic case is Iran, where I have spent a lot time with the Chinese president talking about the dangers of Iran having a nuclear weapon, knowing full well that they need fuel in order to meet their own internal pressures.

 

And I’ll repeat to you, Hu Jintao has been very open in many ways about his concerns and the pressures he feels, as have I.  And I feel comfortable.  And by the way, that’s not easy when there is a language barrier.  And yet, I can report to you that we do have cordial, relaxed conversations – in spite of the fact that we both have interpreters.  It’s much easier when you are dealing with a person that speaks your own language.  Since the only one I speak is English, it’s important to have English speakers.

 

But here is a man who I have had some – I feel comfortable talking about his family, and he asks about mine. And that may sound trite to you, but nevertheless it’s a part of getting comfortable with each other.

 

It’s just been interesting to watch, and interesting to participate with people. The Taiwan issue was a very touchy issue for a while, causing me to say in the Oval Office – that which is now well-chronicled – that the United States does not support a unilateral declaration of independence.

 

---

 

Note: As described by Greg Torode of the South China Morning Post, the interview, which also included a reporter from the People’s Daily, ended “unprompted, with a reverie about the rise of South Korean female golfers.  While talking about his ninth trip to Asia, [Bush] suddenly asks: ‘You know the thing that amazes me?  The South Korean women golfers.’

 

“As his audience scratch their heads, he adds: ‘Look at the women’s…[pause]…have you ever looked at the scoreboard?  It is unbelievable.’”

 

Source: South China Morning Post / Greg Torode

 

Hot Spots returns next week with some thoughts on the passing of Alexander Solzhenitsyn.

 

Brian Trumbore



AddThis Feed Button

 

-08/07/2008-      
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Hot Spots

08/07/2008

Bush and Asia

Following are a few excerpts from an interview the South China Morning Post conducted with President George W. Bush on relations with the Far East.  I offer the following without comment.  You can check out “Week in Review” for my own take on issues of this kind.

 

Q: Mr. President, some would argue that during your presidency the U.S. was focused on the war on terror – Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq – and was less engaged in Asia, especially vis-à-vis countering the influence of China.  How would you describe your legacy under your presidency for Asia and U.S.-Asean relations?  And how do you see the U.S. role in that region?

 

Bush: Let me start with the second, then you can refresh my 62-year-old memory for the first.  There’s plenty of room for countries to work with other countries in the region in a constructive way.  In other words, I don’t view the diplomacy as zero sum.

 

I view the emergence of India and China as positives.  I think it’s going to be very important for the United States to stay engaged – not only with the two nations; if I were Thailand, I’d be asking, what about us, will you remember other nations?  And the answer is, absolutely.

 

In terms of foreign policy in the Far East, it is mistaken if someone were to say that my preoccupation was on the war on terror. You bet I wanted to make sure that we protected ourselves at home.  [But] our foreign policy has been robust in the Far East.

 

Our relations with your country, with South Korea, with Japan and with China have never been better.  And it took a lot of work to get relations, bilateral relations, as strong as they are.  Not many presidents could say, in the history of U.S. diplomacy, that relations with South Korea, Japan, China and Thailand are strong and robust…

 

My only point to you is, is that – or the Taiwan-Chinese relationship and that issue.  It’s a very sensitive issue for the Chinese government.  And people who study this very closely will see that the issue is in a better place.  And I made it abundantly clear that there was some red lines for the United States on this issue, that there would be no unilateral declaration of independence, that our policy was still the same.  It’s very important for the presidents to be very consistent.

 

Q: How do you evaluate the current [Sino-U.S.] relations, the welcome of the bilateral relations for the last part of 30 years, especially with the eight years under your presidency?  And which areas do you think the two countries could broaden and deepen cooperation?

 

Bush: [This has] been an evolving relationship….The fact that both countries are honoring the 30th anniversary of the relationship shows that – it’s a statement about good relations.  If we had bad relations we wouldn’t be honoring the 30th.  It would be, okay, here comes the 30th anniversary, who cares?

 

I mean, we’ll let the historians evaluate the difference between what the relationship was like in the 80s, 90s, but I can tell you…my view.  One, I’ve had good relations with Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao.  Secondly, we have worked hard during my time to put strategic dialogues in place that broaden and enhance the relationship.

 

I’ve been committed to broadening our defense cooperation and exchanges.  I think it’s going to be very important for – I know it’s important for our generals and admirals to deal with their counterparts.  And I believe, more importantly, or as importantly, we ought to be getting younger Chinese officers involved with younger U.S. officers.  Why?  To create a feeling of trust.

 

You ask how has the relationship evolved.  The crisis of my administration, the first crisis, was the EP3. And it was like, oh, man, this is unbelievable.  And it – I will tell you – and frankly, it took a while to get phone calls returned and we were just trying to get information.  And I’m confident that if an incident like that happened now, there would be a much more immediate response because there’s more trust between the two administrations.

 

Q: A lot of people in Hong Kong talk about this.  Looking ahead, do you think it’s important for the American people to sort of view China mostly as a strategic competitor or more as a partner?

 

Bush:  I think as we look ahead I would view it as a management of a complex relationship, where sometimes our national interests are aligned and sometimes our national interests are not aligned.  They could – and let me just talk about the economy, for example.  And one reason I call it a complex relationship is that here in America, trade with China is not necessarily universally accepted as good.  It is universally accepted as good in this administration.  I mean, free and fair trade is good for the world, and I believe it’s good for this relationship.  But…some in America view the advent of Chinese manufacturing, particularly at the lower end of the economic scale, as direct competition with their own livelihood, thereby making the relationship complex.

 

Energy.  What’s very interesting is that if you view China as a market, you want them to become more robust and more prosperous.  But in order to do that, China is going to have to have more energy, and as China demands more energy, it creates more global demand relative to a slower growing supply which means higher prices for us all.

 

It is a very interesting and important relationship made complex by globalization, and their constantly changing internal situation, particularly when it comes to their economy…

 

I will tell you this: an American president is going to have to pay very close attention to relations with not only China but the region.  And I say “the region” because if it ever – if the perception is ever that the United States is fixated only on China, then you’re going to have issues with long-time allies, people that have been counting on the American support for a period of time.

 

And so never can the foreign policy be viewed as zero sum.  It’s always got to be viewed as additive. And my worry for America over time is that we’ve become isolationist and protectionist.  I’ve spoken about this quite frequently.  Protectionism will be bad for our own economy and our world economy, in my judgment.  Isolationism will create a lot of concern.

 

And so the U.S. has got a forward-leaning foreign policy in the Far East.  When people take an objective look at this administration, we have been very much engaged.  And I believe I’ll be leaving office with the Far East in as good a shape as it can be from a U.S. perspective.

 

Q: The Beijing Olympics is a very important event, not only for China but also for the whole world.  So your stance against politicizing the Olympic Games is highly appreciated by Chinese people.  So what would you like to convey, your messages and wishes to the Games?

 

Bush: Yes.  Well, our message is that I personally and America respects the Chinese people – respect your history, respect your tradition, and I’m honored to have been invited to the Games.  And I make the case to people that by going to the Games and respecting the people, it gives me credibility with the government so that we can deal with common opportunities and common problems.

 

Q: What has surprised you about your dealings over the last eight years with Chinese leadership?

 

Bush:  One thing that interests me is to watch China’s leaders deal with the benefits and challenges of a marketplace.  In other words, this is a country that has got a lot of mouths to feed and a lot of people to employ.

 

And they are committed to, in many ways, marketplace principles, particularly as they have invited in foreign capital. And it’s been interesting to watch them deal with a combination of the need for raw material versus the – from the foreign policy implications of dealing with a country that has a lot of raw material.  The classic case is Iran, where I have spent a lot time with the Chinese president talking about the dangers of Iran having a nuclear weapon, knowing full well that they need fuel in order to meet their own internal pressures.

 

And I’ll repeat to you, Hu Jintao has been very open in many ways about his concerns and the pressures he feels, as have I.  And I feel comfortable.  And by the way, that’s not easy when there is a language barrier.  And yet, I can report to you that we do have cordial, relaxed conversations – in spite of the fact that we both have interpreters.  It’s much easier when you are dealing with a person that speaks your own language.  Since the only one I speak is English, it’s important to have English speakers.

 

But here is a man who I have had some – I feel comfortable talking about his family, and he asks about mine. And that may sound trite to you, but nevertheless it’s a part of getting comfortable with each other.

 

It’s just been interesting to watch, and interesting to participate with people. The Taiwan issue was a very touchy issue for a while, causing me to say in the Oval Office – that which is now well-chronicled – that the United States does not support a unilateral declaration of independence.

 

---

 

Note: As described by Greg Torode of the South China Morning Post, the interview, which also included a reporter from the People’s Daily, ended “unprompted, with a reverie about the rise of South Korean female golfers.  While talking about his ninth trip to Asia, [Bush] suddenly asks: ‘You know the thing that amazes me?  The South Korean women golfers.’

 

“As his audience scratch their heads, he adds: ‘Look at the women’s…[pause]…have you ever looked at the scoreboard?  It is unbelievable.’”

 

Source: South China Morning Post / Greg Torode

 

Hot Spots returns next week with some thoughts on the passing of Alexander Solzhenitsyn.

 

Brian Trumbore