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U.S. Department of State: Daily Briefing
Excerpt on China

March 10: Secretary Christopher Interview on "Meet The Press"

An excerpt from Secretary Christopher's interview on "Meet The Press," Sunday, March 10, 1996. Interviewer: Mr. Tim Russert.

MR. RUSSERT:...Let me turn to China.  China, as you
know, has now expanded its war games against
Taiwan, firing missiles 20 miles off its shore. 
They are now going to close the Straits of Taiwan
-- the body of water between Taiwan and Mainland
China.  What is the United States going to do?

SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER:  Tim, a question about China
deserves a little longer than one sentence answer.
 First, we have enormous stakes in peace and
stability in the western Pacific.  We always have
had, at least for the last 50 years.  Elements of
the Seventh Fleet are there.  We have very
important allies, particularly Japan and South

We have been following a one-China policy with
China.  That is, that we say that there is a
single China.  But part of that has been a
commitment on the part of the Chinese to deal
peacefully with the issue of Taiwan -- not to
solve that issue by force.

What they've done in the last several weeks, I
think, has caused some question about whether or
not they intend to do that.  The actions they've
taken have been reckless.  I think they've been
risky.  And the actions they've taken, I believe,
smack of intimidation and coercion.

So that is a situation of great concern to us. 
We've made it quite clear to the Chinese that if
they try to resolve this problem through force
rather than through peace, that will be a grave
matter with us.  We've made that as clear as we
possibly can to them, because we don't want any
miscalculation on their part.  

There's a high-level Chinese official in town this
week.  We spent hours talking with him, and we
made it clear to him.  We've told them in Beijing.
 We've told them here in Washington.  We must, I
think, make it clear to them that there will be
really grave consequences if they try to resolve
that problem through force.

MR. RUSSERT:  You say "grave."  If in fact China
attacked Taiwan, the United States of America
would come and help Taiwan militarily.

SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER:  Tim, I don't want to get
into operational details.  What the Taiwan
Relations Act has said and does say -- and that is
really the law of the land -- is 
that there will be grave consequences if they try
to resolve this by force, we'd consult very
promptly with the Congress.  We have real
interests in Taiwan, and I don't want the Chinese
to misunderstand about that.

MR. RUSSERT:  The carrier Independence is in the
area.  If the Chinese try to block the straits,
will the United States Navy challenge that and
sail through that?

SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER:  Tim, it certainly is not my
place here on this program to get into operational
details.  I will say that carrier task forces have
gone through that strait before.  I will also say
that we're concerned to make sure that those
forces -- that carrier battle group -- are in a
position to be helpful if they need to be. 
They'll be moved somewhat closer to Taiwan in
future days.  But as far as the operational
details, I think it's better for me not to try to
talk about them here today.

MR. RUSSERT:  But the Independence and others will
be moved closer to Taiwan.

SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER:  Yes, that's right.

MR. RUSSERT:  You have engaged in a policy called
"constructive engagement" towards China, saying we
shouldn't necessarily link trade and human rights,
and yet your own Department has now come forward
last week with a report scathing -- about China's
lack of human rights.

Mickey Kantor, the U.S. Trade Rep, has said that
China continues to steal American intellectual
property, copying CDs and videos and not paying
any royalties.  When is it time to say, "Listen,"
to China, "you're threatening Taiwan.  You're
abusing people with human rights violations. 
You're not honoring American intellectual
property.  No more Most-Favored-Nation status with
you."?  Our policy in effect has failed.

SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER:  Tim, our policy has not
failed.  It may take longer to be effective.  I've
never said that trade alone would solve the human
rights problems.  I said it was an important
element to that.  But we have to keep in mind
what's happening in China.  It's a massive
country, and it's in the process of a massive
transition to a free-market economy.  They're also
undergoing a leadership transition.

I'm not making excuses for China.  I'm saying why
China is important.  It's a strategic weight of
enormous size, and we have to treat it that way. 
There will be areas of disagreement, and we've had
long conversations with the 
Chinese just this week, pointing out those areas of

But China is so important, we must find some way to
manage those areas of disagreement.  There are a
number of areas where we have things in common. 
We can't forget that.  They cooperated with us in
dealing with the Korean nuclear threat.  We need
their cooperation on a comprehensive test ban.  We
need their cooperation at the United Nations
Security Council where they're a permanent member
with a veto.

So we just can't make a list of things where we
disagree and walk away.  We have to stay engaged. 
Now, engagement doesn't mean that we make
concessions or conciliate with them, but we've got
to stay engaged.

MR. RUSSERT:  Well, we're not going to let them
keep stealing our CDs and videos and not pay our
actors and entertainers royalties.

SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER:  Absolutely not.  We've got
a pretty good record on that.  Mickey Kantor's
done a fine job, and we will follow the law there.

MR. RUSSERT:  When Saddam Hussein went into Kuwait,
George Bush said, "This will not stand."  If China
went into Taiwan, would we let it stand?

SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER:  I'm not going to go beyond
where I've been, Tim.  If they made any kind of an
effort to try to resolve that problem by force, it
would have very grave consequences.

[end of document]


Prepared for the National Federation of State High School Associations 1996 Showcase Debate on China

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Last Updated: March 12, 1996