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U.S. Department of State

Great Seal Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright
Interview on NBC-TV's "Today Show" with Geraldo Rivera
Shanghai, China, June 30, 1998
As released by the Office of the Spokesman
U.S. Department of State

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MR. RIVERA: I was taken up to the President’s suite on the top floor of the Ritz-Carlton Hotel. Erskine Bowles was there, Sandy Berger, John Podesta, Mike McCurry, all the key staffers. They were on their way to the Shanghai Museum. The President came out and, in a big surprise to me, he broke a little news on the issue of Tibet. Now, these are, Matt, the President’s words. I’m quoting: "I just got a message from the Dalai Lama, and he is ecstatic by the progress that we have made here in China on the issue of Tibet." Now this is the President quoting the Dalai Lama: "President Jiang is using language he has never used before, and just as importantly, he is refraining from using certain language; so progress is being made."

The President was clearly ecstatic himself on the fact that the Dalai Lama is responding so positively. And evidently, some progress has been made. I then asked the President if this progress on the issue of Tibet and the other issues that he’s been making here in China is related to what appears to be the warm, personal relationship that the President has with President Jiang of China. Again, this is the President’s words: "Part of it." Then he went on to say: "We’ve been looking for a way to move forward on this and other issues."

The President was very excited about his visit to the world-famous Shanghai Museum this evening -- that’s where he is right now – because "it’s one of the great institutions of the world." I then said to the President -- because I had been tipped to this by McCurry and some of the other people on the staff -- I said to the President that your staff is always complaining that every time you go to one of these so-called "great institutions," you spend twice as long as you have time scheduled. He laughed at that. Then as the President and the entourage were leaving, the First Lady caught up with her husband. I actually told her a joke, but I told the same joke to the Secretary of State; and that’s on tape, so I’d rather that we played the interview I had with the Secretary of State. You’ll see it, and then I’ll talk a little bit more about what Madeleine Albright had to say. So here are excerpts. I began by asking the Secretary of State:

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: (In progress) – and more like a debate in front of hundreds of millions of Chinese. Nobody expected it. Then when he gave his speech at Beijing University and (had) the questions and answers with the students, that was on open air waves. He had a radio talk show today. So he has had an awful lot of access.

There are a lot of people, Geraldo, who said he shouldn’t make the trip; and other people who said he wouldn’t have the guts to say what he needed to on human rights. They both were wrong. I think that this trip – we’ll have to see the effects of it in the long run, but as you yourself said, I think the access to the airwaves is really remarkable.

MR. RIVERA: I was thinking if they give him any more air time, he’s going to have to register as a pro-democracy dissident.

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, what he’s doing is really making very clear the importance of basic universal values of human rights, which really involve the ability to have freedom of religion, association, to be able to generally express yourself, and respect for the individual. He has made quite clear that these aren’t just American values, they’re universal values.

MR. RIVERA: Wouldn’t it be very easy for the Chinese just to slip back to the pre-Clintonian days, where repression was the rule, and the airwaves were once again ruled by the state?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I think it’s always easy in any society to slip back. But the momentum here is definitely quite intense in terms of access commercially, access to the Internet, having all the television people here. It’s very hard to roll that kind of thing back. Once people have information, that is the way that they can make decisions and then be a part of the evolution of their societies.

MR. RIVERA: The President has not merely raised the issue of human rights; he has trumpeted it from virtually every rooftop in the country. And yet, he’s not getting cut any slack back home by the critics, Right or Left.

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, I think they’re wrong. I think that they made up their minds ahead of time that they thought this was not a good idea. I think they’re going to be shown that they are wrong.

MR. RIVERA: That joke, Matt, about the President having to register as a pro-democracy dissident got a much bigger laugh from the First Lady. She howled and told her husband that he had to use that line. Back to you.

[End of Document]

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