Stanley O. Roth
Assistant Secretary for East Asian and Pacific Affairs
U.S. Department of State
Testimony Before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee,
Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific
Washington, DC, June 18, 1998
Pending China Legislation
Mr. Chairman, thank you for the invitation to address the Subcommittee on the important issue of pending China legislation in the Senate. This is, of course, a timely hearing, with the President's historic trip to China only a week away. I therefore welcome this opportunity to lay out the Administration's position on the bills before the Senate and look forward to engaging Committee members in a productive dialogue on this matter.
My testimony will be divided into three parts. First, I will review the reasons why a stronger, more constructive relationship with China is in the U.S. interest. Second, I will outline the Clinton Administration's strategy of engagement, highlighting what we have accomplished while noting the obstacles we still face. Finally I will explain the Administration's position on each of the five China-related bills currently before the Senate, examining the impact such legislation would have on our ability to engage the Chinese.
China Affects U.S. Interests
Mr. Chairman, peace and stability in East Asia and the Pacific is a fundamental prerequisite for U.S. security and prosperity. Nearly one-half the world's people live in countries bordering the Asia-Pacific region and over half of all economic activity in the world is conducted there. Four of the world's major powers rub shoulders in Northeast Asia while some of the most strategically important waterways on the globe flow through Southeast Asia. The U.S. itself is as much a Pacific nation as an Atlantic one, with the states of Alaska, California, Oregon and Washington bordering on the Pacific Ocean and Hawaii surrounded by it. American citizens in Guam, American Samoa, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas live closer to Asian capitals than to our own, vast numbers of Americans work in the Asia-Pacific region, and an increasingly large number of Americans trace their ancestry back to the Pacific Rim.
For these and many other reasons, the U.S. has remained committed to the Asia-Pacific region and has spent its resources and blood defending and strengthening our stake in the region. Since coming to office, President Clinton has repeatedly made clear that America will remain an Asia-Pacific power. We maintain a sizable military presence in Asia; enjoy a vibrant network of mutual security alliances with Australia, Japan, the Philippines, the Republic of Korea and Thailand; and have significant economic ties with most countries in the region.
China's sheer size means we must deal with China in our capacity as an Asia-Pacific power. China is home to one-quarter of humankind and occupies vast territory that borders on 14 nations. But China's remarkable economic achievements, increasing diplomatic prominence and growing military strength make it a nation that affects not only our interests in Asia but our vital national interests across the board.
In terms of security, China is already a global player. China holds a permanent seat on the UN Security Council. It possesses nuclear weapons, the world's largest standing army, and a rapidly advancing industrial and technological capacity. It borders some of the globe's most troubled regions: the Indian subcontinent to the west, the Korean Peninsula to the east, and the opium-producing region known as the Golden Triangle to the south.
Its economic importance is no less profound. The Chinese economy is already one of the largest in the world, and many observers predict that if current growth rates can be sustained, it will be the largest within several decades.
With 1.3 billion people rapidly modernizing, moreover, China is having and will continue to have a global impact on the environment. Early in the next century China will displace the United States as the world's largest producer of greenhouse gases. China will thus be key to finding a solution to the pressing problem of climate change.
China, therefore, cannot be ignored. In recognition of this reality, the Clinton Administration is working to encourage 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. The development of this kind of China is profoundly in our national interest. On this point I think we all agree. The question, then, has become, how best to encourage the emergence of such a China?
Our strategy has been to engage China by working to identify areas on which we agree while continuing to forthrightly confront issues on which we do not. We have made significant progress in many aspects of our relationship with China by using this approach, and I would like to take this opportunity to note some of the most recent achievements.
First, the Chinese have played a constructive role in working to defuse tensions on the Korean Peninsula. China encouraged North Korea to come to the negotiating table and now joins us in Geneva at the four-party talks. China hosted recent North-South negotiations and is actively addressing the humanitarian crisis in North Korea as its largest donor of food and fuel.
Second, China is playing a similarly important role in working to diminish escalating tensions on the Indian subcontinent. China chaired a recent meeting of the permanent members of the U.N. Security Council. It has condemned both India and Pakistan for conducting nuclear tests and has joined us in urging them to refrain from further testing; sign and ratify the CTBT; avoid deploying or testing missiles; tone down their rhetoric; and work to resolve their differences -- including over Kashmir -- through dialogue. These efforts have been complementary to our own. By contrast, if China were on the sidelines or actively opposing us, this message would be both less effective and the prospects of a solution more distant.
On the non-proliferation front, we have built upon the successful efforts of this and previous administrations to help bring about Chinese adherence to international norms. Within the past year the Chinese have: committed to phase out nuclear cooperation with Iran; reaffirmed their commitment to refrain from assisting unsafeguarded nuclear facilities anywhere; implemented strict, nationwide nuclear export controls; passed in principle and are prepared to publish regulations 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 -- which they have just expanded.
There is, of course, still much work to be done. We continue to be concerned about reports of missile equipment and technology transfers to Iran and Pakistan and reports that Chinese commercial entities have done business with Iran's chemical weapons program. Still, we have come a long way and there is good reason to believe that continued engagement will lead to a further positive evolution of China's attitudes and actions vis-a-vis non-proliferation norms.
Even in the contentious area of human rights, engagement with China is yielding tangible results. Just six months ago members of this Congress 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 and submitted for ratification 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 recent release from prison of Bishop Zeng Jingmu demonstrated.
Perhaps the most significant human rights development is the least tangible. When Secretary Albright and I traveled to Beijing two months ago, we both came away with the sense that China is truly changing. There was, compared to past visits, a more vibrant political discourse; surprisingly open discussion even in government-controlled media about economic and political reform; and considerable focus on improving the rule of law. The Secretary participated in events that wouldn't have been possible even just a year ago, including a roundtable with intellectuals and local officials on legal and political reform, and visited a law class on intellectual property rights and a newly established training center for judges.
This is not in any way to suggest that human rights abuses in China are a thing of the past. On the contrary, we have reported to Congress that serious and widespread human rights abuses continue in violation of internationally accepted standards and norms. But the steps the Chinese have taken within the space of just a few months are nonetheless noteworthy, even if systemic change to protect fundamental rights remains inadequate.
These are not meant to be exhaustive examples of the fruits of engagement; nor are they meant to mask the persistence of serious differences between our two countries. They are intended simply to show that engagement is working and that we have made progress in encouraging China's development as a full and responsible member of the international community.
The sponsors of the China-related legislation before the Senate clearly share our goal of positively influencing China's development. The bills in question seek to bring an end to human rights violations, religious persecution, forced prison labor and coercive family planning policies in China and thus are very much in line with the Administration's own objectives.
The question, once again, is one of approach. How do we best effect those changes in the PRC?
HR 967 and HR 2570 both mandate a denial of visas to Chinese officials alleged to be involved in religious persecution (in the case of the former) or forced abortions (in the case of the latter). While the Administration opposes such repugnant practices and wholeheartedly agrees they must be addressed, these bills would restrict our ability to engage influential individuals in the very dialogue that has begun to produce tangible results.
For example, the heads of the Religious Affairs and Family Planning Bureaus are people we want to invite to the United States again and again. The more Chinese leaders see of the U.S., the more they are exposed to our point of view and our way of life. We would be doing a disservice to the very people we endeavor to help if we cut off dialogue with those officials who shape the very policies we want to change. Such unilateral action on our part, moreover, could prompt Beijing to impose its own visa restrictions, further limiting the ability of U.S. officials and religious figures to advocate their views in China.
In addition, these bills impinge upon the President's constitutional prerogatives regarding the conduct of foreign relations of the United States. Decisions whether and when to issue visas to foreign government officials necessarily implicate the most sensitive foreign policy considerations, concerning which the Executive requires maximum flexibility.
HR 2605, which requires U.S. directors at international financial institutions to oppose the provision of concessional loans to China, would have the effect of punishing the Chinese people most in need of international assistance. The United States, as a matter of policy, has not since the Tiananmen Square crackdown supported development bank lending to China except for projects designed to help meet basic human needs. Concessional loans to China from the World Bank, for example, are only granted for the purposes of poverty alleviation. These loans support agricultural, rural health, educational and rural water supply programs in some of the poorest areas of the country. A vote against such lending would thus be a vote against the Chinese people.
Moreover, World Bank member donors agreed in 1996 that China, owing to its improved creditworthiness, would cease concessional borrowing. The Bank's concessional loans to China are thus to be terminated at the end of FY 1999.
HR 2358 is fundamentally different than the first three bills in that it seeks to expand rather than limit U.S. engagement in China. The bill allocates new monies for additional human rights monitors at U.S. Embassies/Consulates in China; authorizes funds to the NED for democracy, civil society, and rule of law programming; and requires the Secretary of State to use funds from the East Asia/Pacific Regional democracy fund to provide grants to NGOs for similar programs. Human rights reporting and the promotion of democracy, civil society and rule of law have long been among this Administration's highest priorities in China, and thus we do not oppose, in principle, any of the above provisions. We would note, however, that the East Asia/Pacific democracy fund is a limited fund with competing demands. There is much work to be done to promote democracy at this time of great change in the Asia-Pacific, and thus we ask that Congress give Secretary Albright maximum flexibility in allocating these scarce resources.
The bill further requires the Secretary of State to establish a Prisoner Information Registry for China. We are sympathetic to the idea of establishing a prisoner registry and recognize the importance of such a registry to our human rights work. We caution, however, that the U.S. Government is not the right institution for the task. Aside from the logistical difficulties of gaining access to the families and friends of Chinese dissidents, U.S. Government contact with such individuals could actually place them in further jeopardy. We believe that NGOs are far better equipped to carry out these kinds of contacts. Several groups and individual activists, including Human Rights Watch, Human Rights in Asia, and John Kamm, already maintain such lists. Thus rather than undertake to compile and maintain an accurate registry, the State Department might play a more useful role in coordinating those groups already actively engaged in this issue.
Finally, HR 2358 requires the Secretary of State to submit a separate, annual human rights in China report to the HIRC and the SFRC. Documenting and making public the human rights situation in China is indeed of critical importance. We have accordingly given a great deal of attention to China in our annual Country Reports on Human Rights Practices. The Department and our missions abroad expend enormous energy and resources preparing this report, and the final product routinely receives high marks for its thoroughness and integrity.
An additional study on China would be redundant and thus wasteful of taxpayer dollars. We already make extensive efforts to cover those topics earmarked for attention in HR 2358: religious persecution, development of democratic institutions and the rule of law. That said, we welcome suggestions on how to improve the reports and would gladly open a dialogue with the Congress on this important issue.
The last bill I want to address today, HR 2386, requires the Secretary of Defense to produce a study of the architecture requirements for the establishment and operation of a theater ballistic missile defense system for Taiwan. Let me state up front and emphatically that the Clinton Administration remains firmly committed to fulfilling the security and arms transfer provisions of the Taiwan Relations Act. We have demonstrated this commitment through the transfer of F-16s, Knox class frigates, helicopters and tanks as well as a variety of air-to-air, surface-to-air, and anti-ship defensive missiles and will continue to assist Taiwan in meeting its defense needs.
Consistent with our obligations under the TRA, we regularly consult with Taiwan as to how it can best address a broad range of security threats, including the threat posed by ballistic missiles. We have briefed Taiwan, as we have many other friends, on the concept of theater missile defense (TMD). Officials in Taiwan are currently assessing their own capabilities and needs, and have not, to date, indicated interest in acquiring TMD. Requiring a study of this kind thus gets ahead of the situation on the ground in Taiwan and may not even be consistent with the approach Taiwan officials will ultimately want to take. We are accordingly opposed to the legislation.
Again, let me restate that we are steadfast in our commitment to meet Taiwan's defense needs. But while making it possible for Taiwan to acquire the wherewithal to defend itself, we must recognize that security over the long term depends upon more than military factors. In the end, stability in the Strait will be contingent upon the ability of the two sides to come to terms with each other. For this reason the Administration has encouraged Taipei and Beijing to reopen dialogue, making it clear to both sides that dialogue is the most promising way to defuse tensions and build confidence. In that regard, we are encouraged by recent signs of a willingness on both sides of the Strait to resume talks.
Mr. Chairman, as Secretary Albright has often said, there is no greater opportunity -- or challenge -- in U.S. foreign policy today than to encourage China's integration into the world community. While the Administration shares fully the concerns which inform the bills before the Senate today, we do not believe that proscribing engagement with broad categories of Chinese people and mandating U.S. rejection of aid intended to meet basic human needs will help to change those policies and practices with which we disagree.
These concerns can be best addressed by continuing to engage Chinese leaders on the full range of security, economic and political issues. President Clinton's upcoming trip to China is intended to do just that, and thus is an opportunity to make progress on the very human rights issues addressed in today's legislation. Our strategy of engagement has met with considerable success thus far, and I am confident that with the support of the Congress we will continue to make progress in the lead-up to the summit and beyond.
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