|Stanley O. Roth
Assistant Secretary for East Asian and Pacific Affairs
Testimony before Senate Foreign Relations Committee
May 14, 1998, Washington, DC
Mr. Chairman, thank you for the opportunity to give the members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee an update on the state of U.S.-China relations. Secretary Albright has received your letter dated April 27 in which you raise specific concerns about U.S.-China policy. The Secretary deeply regrets that she is unable to appear before you herself today, and hopes that she will have the opportunity to continue her dialogue on U.S.-China relations with this committee in the near future. In the meantime, Secretary Albright has asked that I represent her this morning to address your concerns and outline where we are in our relationship with the P.R.C.
Mr. Chairman, since I last testified before this committee in September of 1997, we have made encouraging progress in many aspects of our relationship with China. From Jiang Zemin's state visit last October through Secretary Albright's recent trip to Beijing, we have worked hard with our Chinese counterparts to identify areas of common interest, and to achieve progress on issues of concern.
Given the priority that you have attached to a number of human rights issues, Mr. Chairman, let me turn to this set of issues first. Progress on human rights has been a vital component of our engagement with China. Just six months ago members of this committee, as well as the international community at large, had grave concerns regarding the health and status of two of China's most prominent political dissidents, Wei Jingsheng and Wang Dan. Against a backdrop of intensive dialogue with the United States, and continued public U.S. criticism of China's human rights record, the Chinese authorities have released both Mr. Wei and Mr. Wang on medical parole, and have permitted some other dissidents to depart China. China has also signed the UN Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights, and has pledged to sign the UN Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. President Jiang Zemin also recently hosted a delegation of U.S. religious leaders, and the Chinese Government has agreed to follow up this visit with further dialogue and exchanges. These exchanges can and do produce results, as the release from prison just this week of Bishop Zeng Jingmu has demonstrated.
None of this is to suggest that human rights abuses in China are a thing of the past. On the contrary, we have reported to Congress that China continues to deny or curtail many fundamental freedoms. But the steps the Chinese have taken within the space of just a few months are, nonetheless, significant, and we will continue to push our human rights dialogue forward in the expectation of greater progress on these issues in the future.
As with our dialogue on human rights, we similarly pressed the Chinese for progress on non-proliferation. They have responded by taking concrete steps toward strengthening their export control regimes, and in so doing have contributed to regional and global stability. The Chinese have: committed to phase out nuclear cooperation with Iran, and to refrain from assisting unsafeguarded nuclear facilities anywhere; implemented strict, nation-wide nuclear export controls; issued a State Council directive controlling the export of dual-use items with potential nuclear use; joined the Zangger NPT exporters' committee; signed and ratified the chemical weapons convention; and adopted chemical export controls. These steps build upon the progress that this and previous administrations have made in integrating China into international control regimes, and signify the P.R.C.'s growing acceptance that the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction is not in its own interests.
China's emergence on the world economic stage is of major significance to the United States, and as our widening trade deficit with the P.R.C. demonstrates, we have a significant interest in working toward an open Chinese economy that is integrated into a rules-based trade regime. WTO accession is intended to do just that, ensuring meaningful access for U.S. companies in the growing China market. But WTO accession for any applicant is a complex and lengthy process, and Chinese accession can only come on a fully commercial basis. We believe that the reforms and openings that China must undertake to gain membership are fundamentally in China's interest as well as our own, and, thus, are committed to working with China to advance this common goal.
In this context, we are encouraged by recent indications from Premier Zhu that China remains committed to working toward a WTO agreement, and by the momentum that appears to have been established in USTR Barshefsky's latest round of negotiations in Beijing. We also welcome the responsible measures China has taken in the wake of the Asian financial crisis, particularly its commitment not to devalue in the face of regional depreciations. In light of your strong feelings regarding the future of Hong Kong, Mr. Chairman, it is worth noting that Hong Kong was a primary beneficiary of this policy.
As in other areas, there is still a long road ahead in addressing all of our bilateral economic concerns. While we are working with the Chinese on the challenge of WTO accession, we are pressing them to take steps to address our growing trade deficit. The key is increasing U.S. exports to China. We are encouraged by steps, such as the $3 billion Boeing contract signed at the October summit, and hope that we will be able to make further progress in the months ahead.
Movement forward on the areas I just indicated--human rights, non-proliferation and economic cooperation--has been made within the broader framework of a deepening strategic dialogue between the United States and China. Over the course of the past year, we have expanded the breadth and scope of our strategic dialogue with China, and our Korea policy is one area where this expanded dialogue has yielded results. Peace on the peninsula is as fundamental a strategic interest for China as it is for the United States. The heightened risk of instability in the north due to its prolonged food crisis, moreover, poses as much a security threat to the P.R.C. as it does to our own troops and allies, and,thus, we share a common interest in working together to defuse tensions and deter aggression.
Still, despite such common cause, many observers speculated that historical ties to the north might prompt Beijing to play spoiler, and, thus, complicate our efforts to deal with the D.P.R.K. Thanks to the strategic dialogue we have been cultivating with the Chinese, however, the P.R.C. has defied such expectations and emerged as a partner in the promotion of peace and stability on the peninsula. China worked closely with the United States to bring North Korea to the negotiating table last fall, and now sits with us at the Four Party talks in the common pursuit of a permanent peace. China chaired the most recent North-South negotiation, which we wholeheartedly support, and is proactively addressing the humanitarian crisis in North Korea through substantial, ongoing food and fuel donations. These efforts have been complementary to our own and have contributed to the security and stability of the entire region.
Mr. Chairman, the above are not exhaustive examples of the fruits of engagement, but rather highlights of the progress we have made in just the past 8 months. We are moving forward with China in other areas as well, on issues as diverse as rule of law, energy and the environment, and law enforcement. I want to make clear that we are neither satisfied with nor complacent about this progress; there are issues on which we have admittedly made less headway, as well as significant areas of contention on each of the fronts in which I noted progress.
On that note, Mr. Chairman, let me turn now to the specific concerns you raised in your letter to Secretary Albright. First, in regard to suspicion that China violated its promise not to proliferate nuclear material by arranging to ship chemicals necessary for the conversion of uranium to Iran, let me assure you that we share your concerns about such troubling reports. China is a major producer of nuclear, chemical, and missile-related equipment and technology, and we must be vigilant in our monitoring to ensure China's adherence to its commitments.
Although I am limited as to what I can say on this in open testimony, let me explain to the committee in broad terms how this case was resolved. After receiving reports of the alleged transaction, we immediately approached the authorities in Beijing. The Chinese responded by conducting an investigation into the allegations, after which they assured us that although contacts had been made, no transfer of such chemicals had taken place or would be permitted to take place. Should you wish to discuss this issue in greater detail, Mr. Chairman, I would be happy to arrange a time to do so at your convenience in closed session.
I would like to make the point, however, that this case is illustrative of how engagement with China enables us to deal with new challenges. Regular contacts and dialogue between the United States and China provide a mechanism for dealing with problems as they arise.
As for your concerns regarding the Administration's attitude toward Taiwan, let me take this opportunity to categorically deny that progress at the summit will be achieved at Taiwan's expense. Despite widespread rumors to the contrary, there will be no "fourth communiqu" regarding Taiwan arms sales. The reason for this is quite simple, Mr. Chairman: our position regarding Taiwan is clear and unchanged. We remain committed to our unofficial relationship with Taiwan in accordance with the three U.S.-P.R.C. joint communiqus and the Taiwan Relations Act, and continue to support the peaceful resolution of the Taiwan issue. Our efforts to improve relations with the P.R.C. are intended to strengthen peace and stability in East Asia and in that sense will benefit the region as a whole, including Taiwan.
Furthermore, the record shows that tensions across the Taiwan Strait are lowest when U.S.-China relations are strong. In that regard, we are encouraged by signs of a renewed willingness on both sides of the Strait to resume their dialogue. Last month representatives from the P.R.C.'s ARATS and Taiwan's SEF, the two "unofficial" organizations which carry out direct contacts between Beijing and Taipei, met in Beijing for 2 days of talks, marking the first real step toward the resumption of formal cross-Strait dialogue since Beijing suspended the talks in June 1995. We welcome this new development, and firmly believe that improvement in cross-Strait relations is in both parties' best interests, as well as that of the entire region.
The third issue you raised in your letter, Mr. Chairman, is that of the state of democratic freedoms in Hong Kong. As we noted in our April 1, 1998 update of the Hong Kong Policy Act report, many aspects of the transfer of autonomy to the people of Hong Kong have gone well.
Still, while the overall transition from a colony under the British crown to a special autonomous region under Chinese sovereignty has been smooth, we recognize, as you have in your letter, Mr. Chairman, that serious areas of contention remain. A new election law has been passed that will lead to a legislature that is less representative than the 1995-97 Legislative Council, and other colonial era laws have been adapted to grant immunities to certain Chinese Government agencies.
We are troubled by these developments, and have not hesitated to share our concerns with officials at the highest levels in Hong Kong. President Clinton himself candidly conveyed to Tung Chee Hwa his disappointment with changes in the election laws late last year, and Secretary Albright and other senior U.S. officials have repeatedly advocated free, fair, and fully representative elections, as well as the maintenance of Hong Kong's judicial and legal autonomy.
The last issue raised in your letter, Mr. Chairman, is the lack of tangible progress toward resolution of the Tibet issue. Tibet continues to be a priority for Secretary Albright. She discussed a number of Tibet-related issues in Beijing last month, and pushed hard for the resumption of dialogue with His Holiness the Dalai Lama. It is worth noting that the Dalai Lama himself has publicly stated support for U.S. engagement with China, expressing his firm belief that such engagement keeps the pressure on while keeping channels of communication open.
We share your concerns about the degradation of Tibet's unique cultural, linguistic and religious heritage, and will continue to press the P.R.C. for progress on the ground. Secretary Albright made it very clear during her recent trip to Beijing that President Clinton intends to discuss Tibet during his upcoming visit.
As a final note, Mr. Chairman, I'd like to address the problem of organ trafficking. We have shared a personal dialogue on this issue before, and as I stated in recent correspondence with you on this issue, we are working to ensure that the Chinese Government understands in no uncertain terms that the allegations of organ trafficking are a key human rights issue for us. At the same time, we are continuing to press authorities in Beijing in an effort to ensure compliance with their own regulations. These regulations, as you know, require prior consent for the use of an executed prisoner's organs, and prohibit the sale of organs for profit. We will continue to push for greater transparency in these areas, and for improvements in China's legal system that would better safeguard individual rights and due process. Per your request, Mr. Chairman, I met with Harry Wu to discuss this issue, at which time I made a standing offer to meet with him again at any time. In the meantime, should any additional information regarding organ trafficking come to your attention, Mr. Chairman, I hope that you will share it with me so that I may continue to pursue this matter.
As the Secretary indicated in her remarks in Beijing, and as I have tried to give the members of this committee a sense of in my testimony, engagement with China is producing results. Our broad goal has been to work toward the emergence of a China that is stable and non-aggressive, that tolerates differing views and adheres to international rules of conduct, and that cooperates with us to build a secure regional and international order. We have made significant, if uneven, progress with the Chinese on all of these fronts, and in so doing have contributed to an ongoing process of change within China. Our candid dialogue on every aspect of the relationship will continue as we prepare for the June summit in Beijing, and I expect that we will continue to make progress, however modest, on various fronts. More importantly, we will continue to engage the Chinese long after the summit, expanding areas of cooperation, dealing forthrightly with our differences, and advancing American interests and values.
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