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HOW CHINESE PEOPLE VIEW AMERICA (08/30/2000 )

ZHAO QIZHENG, MINISTER OF THE STATE COUNCIL INFORMATION OFFICE, PEOPLE'S REPUBLIC OF CHINA,DELIVERS REMARKS AT NATIONAL PRESS CLUB IN WASHINGTON D.C.






ZHAO (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): Thank you, Mr. Hickman, for your introduction.
I am very honored to be here to make some comments. It's been two years now since I've started my current post, and it was at that point that I started paying attention to how the American media covered China, and how Americans feel and think about China and Chinese. And I've come away with a very strong feeling that these two large countries, China and the United States, need to communicate better with each other on political issues, economic issues, but also cultural issues and other areas.


First and foremost, the media has to communicate better with each other, because very often it's the media that shapes people's ideas and affects people's sentiments. And to try to set up some contacts and exchanges in this area, I am starting off in the United States with a talk on how Americans and America are perceived through Chinese eyes. But this is not a scholarly paper, and it's not a diplomatic speech. What I'm trying to do is to very frankly to tell you what Chinese -- or at least most Chinese -- see America and Americans. So I want to give you a little briefing on that. And I hope that by doing so, I can help both peoples to understand each other better. This understanding is the infrastructure of U.S.-China relations. It's going to be a vital relationship and a long-lasting relationship.


China and the United States have started contacts maybe 230 years ago. But Chinese people give each foreign country a Chinese name. But, you know, Chinese is not an alphabetic language, so the names actually often are very poetic. Now, for America, the Chinese started off with 100-odd different Chinese names. But after some choice, they came down to one name and it means -- it's two syllables. To someone who's just starting off studying Chinese, you'll discover it means "beautiful country." A grade-school student in China, when they're studying about America in a geography class, will very naturally have a positive feeling about a country with a name like that, because they'll assume this must be the most beautiful country if it has a name like that.


But formal contacts between our two countries started as early as 1784, which was shortly after the U.S. war of independence. And that year the Empress of China ship started its journey in New York, crossed the Atlantic Ocean, sailed around the Cape of Good Hope, and arrived in Quangzho (ph) in China on August 28th. And that was the beginning of U.S.-China exchanges.

By the middle of the 19th century, there was a sharp increase in
commercial ties between the two countries. And that started a very long voyage of understanding that developed over the course of time. But at the time, there were very few books that described the United States. The most famous anti-opium minister in China, Lin Tse Tsu (ph), he organized the translation of the first book that included a description of America, and this was the first fairly specific description in Chinese of the United States. But on the whole, even by the end of the 19th century, most Chinese knew very little about the United States.

In 1872, the Chinese government for the first time sent a group of
young people and children to study in the United States. And after coming to the U.S., they were quite astonished and very excited, because in addition to seeing very modern highways and buildings, they said, the native dress -- the dress of American Indians -- resembled costumes of Peking opera. And that's what they wrote home. I don't know what caused them to think that. But beginning in the 19th century, traditional Chinese culture, and particularly Confucianism started being introduced to the United States. And it exerted an amazing influence on American literature, especially on the works of transcendentalists like Ralph Waldo Emerson and Thoreau. Even Walt Whitman, who is the founding father of modern American literature, mentioned Confucius twice in "Notes and Fragments."

At the same time, many American literary works were being translated into Chinese. And these help us hear the depth and voice of the American voice. I could quote Walt Whitman to say: In China we hear America singing. The various carols I hear singing with open mouth, strong, melodious songs. So it was truly through translation that Chinese readers were able to hear various voices. They heard Jack London's "Call of the Wild." They heard Faulkner's "Sound and Fury." They heard Hemingway's "Bell," although nobody knew for whom the bell tolled. But Chinese people also heard the leadsman's call on the Mississippi River, "two fathoms," and that, of course, became Samuel
Langhorne Clemens' pen name, and the book, "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn," are extremely well-known in China. There's a very wide audience there. So because of these American writers, Chinese came to understand the spirit of the American people. And Chinese readers in translation felt that Americans were optimistic people, individualistic people, pragmatic people. These were the strong features of the American character. And perhaps that's why this name was chosen for the United States -- Mai Be Chen (ph) -- three syllables. They mean -- each of these words has a very good meaning.

Now, a Chinese visited -- Americans visiting China all spoke English just like the British. So at first, the Chinese thought, well, how do we know who's British and who's American. But the Chinese realized that the British drove a hard bargain, whereas the Americans weren't so calculating.


But in 1900,the allied forces invaded Beijing and for the first time they destroyed -- burned down the Summer Palace and many priceless relics were ransacked. China was forced to sign a humiliating treaty. But to these eight nations, the Chinese remember most and negatively, the Japanese, the British -- because they had already started prior wars with China. By the final days of the Ching (ph) Dynasty, many outstanding Chinese were trying to find ways to save their nation. And it was at that time that they drew on the experience of the United States. Dr. Sun Yat Sen, who was the father of modern day Chinese revolution, proposed his three people's principles.And these to a large extent were based on Lincoln's concepts of government of the people, by the people and for the people.


In 1904,he formally appealed to the government and the people of the United States to support China's Revolutionary Party in overthrowing the Ching (ph) Dynasty. But unfortunately, he did not get any response from them. Mr. Mao Zedong, the leader of the Chinese Communist Party, when he was young, read stories about George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. And he was very moved by what he read.


From the beginning,after hearing about George Washington, hinese people have considered him to be the father of the country and also a personification of his nation. Regardless of what changes there have been in U.S.-China relations, he has always been respected by the Chinese people. And the other American who enjoys such prestige in China is Abraham Lincoln.


During World War II, China was turned into a huge battleground. And huge armies fought in China. The Chinese people were engaged in a tortuous and punishing war against the Japanese army. And President Roosevelt led the American people in giving generous support to the people of China. In 1943, the Japanese army cut the supply line between China and Myanmar.

At the time, the U.S. Air Force opened the famous "Hump" route, flying over the Himalayas. At great cost, the Air Force supplied important arms, vital for sustaining the Chinese war effort against Japan. But because of the high altitudes and the bad weather and because the planes had to fly at very low altitudes for technical reasons, many airplanes were lost. By latest count, the American Air Force lost almost 500 C-46s. As recently as a few years ago, in places like Tibet and Quangzhi (ph) Province in China, we were still finding remnants of these crashed airplanes. In the last few days, in Meiling (ph) county in Tibet, we just again found two wrecks of World War II planes. The Chinese have determined that these planes were also flying over the Hump and in fact this news was just presented to the American ambassador in China just a couple of days ago. Almost 1,500 American pilots died for China's fight against the Japanese. During that time, the two people were fighting shoulder to shoulder against fascists. And that was the beginning of a close and durable friendship.


To this day, this history has not been forgotten by the Chinese people. In the city of Nanjing, there are cemeteries of the American pilots which are very well kept up. And everywhere plane wrecks have been found, we have also set up monuments.

I would guess that among those of you who are here today -- among you, ladies and gentlemen -- it's possible that some of you have uncles or fathers who may have participated in the flights over the Hump, or who may have been gunners or who may have been pilots or who may have been in logistics. And if any of you indeed have that connection, I would love to meet you afterwards, because I would like to offer to you our profound thanks and respect.


Right now, China is undertaking a mammoth task of developing its
western and northwestern regions. And of course this reminds us of how the United States opened up its West. By coincidence, both China and the United States started in the East and started growing toward the West. Now we all know that the construction of a railroad was a major launching pad for America's economic takeoff. But what many people know is that this great transcontinental railroad used Chinese workers in a very important part. During the 1840s, during these freezing winters they stopped work by other teams in the Rocky Mountains. Chinese working teams continued to work and they were able to complete the railway in these huge western regions. Estimates are that 310,000 Chinese workers died during that process. And in
recognition of their contribution, the state government of Illinois
built a monument in Shanghai in 1991. And this monument is made of 3,000 rail spikes. At the base of the monument is the following message: "Chinese railway builders were instrumental in bridging America's east and west coasts and in the ultimate unification of the United States."


From the beginning of the war in the Pacific in 1941 until the final
victory was issued in 1945, the Chinese feelings of appreciation and respect for and camaraderie with the American people rose to a crescendo. But after World War II, the U.S. government very clearly tilted toward and supported the Nationalist Party in China's civil war. And then this turned into direct confrontation on the battlefields of Korea. China and the United States turned from being the allies of World War II into implacable foes. This year marks the 50th anniversary of the outbreak of the Korean War. In the United States, a series of commemorative activities is taking place. During this war, many Chinese and Americans were killed. Many died on frozen battlefields and in hand-to-hand combat. Most Americans feel that they fought the Korean War for the cause of freedom. In Washington, I know that there is a monument to the Korean War. But in China, people see it differently. To them, Chinese soldiers were the ones who were fighting to protect their motherland. At that time, it was to protect China that they crossed the Yalu River. Because for 100 years and more, China had been the subject of foreign invasion and foreign domination. And now it appeared that new national humiliation was imminent. American warships were patrolling the Taiwan Straits and American armies were approaching the Chinese border at the Yalu River and American bombs were falling on Chinese soil.

So during the Korean War, China sent its troops into Korea and fought directly with the Americans. It's been decades since that happened. And China paid a very high price for this war because it affected China's development. But now I don't think it's fair to expect either side to see eye to eye on this war. Each side will continue to have its own views of this war. But I know that not long ago, a group of Americans from an American company were helping Chinese central TV in producing a TV series on the Korean War called "The 38th Parallel." And this series is being filmed in both countries. A very famous Chinese director who is the director of the series said that China and the United States certainly should be partners in peace in the 21st century.


So maybe we should be looking back and thinking how 50 years ago, we were enemies of each other. This series, I think, will present very vivid portrayals of many types of protagonists, ordinary people and leaders alike. But 50 years ago, who could have imagined such a turn in the course of history? Who could have imagined that former adversaries would work together now to film a TV series about the war? And that alone tells us that there's been a big change in the situation.

Now, 50 years later, we are in a new era. Because after the Korean War, both sides entered two decades of confrontation. In China, the slogan you saw everywhere was, "Down with American Imperialism." And American passports were stamped with a seal that said "Invalid for China entry." This prolonged isolation and hostility made it very hard for either side to acquire accurate information about the other.

But I believe in international relations there are no such things as
permanent enemies. There's no reason for our countries to be eternal antagonists -- absolutely no reason.


Nobody in the world could have thought that during the late '60s and early '70s, when China was in the middle of a cultural revolution, that there would be a sudden change in U.S.-China relations. The leaders of our countries both felt at that time a compelling need to approach each other to improve our relationship.

In February of 1972, President Nixon made his formal visit to China and braving the chilly spring winds of Beijing, Premier Chou En-lai shook President Nixon's hand. Chairman Mao received Nixon in his book-strewn study, and there they discussed international relations and philosophical issues. That was the end of one era and it was the beginning of a new era.

Even American songs began to be broadcast in Chinese radios, and American movies began to be screened in China. Now, Chinese people love to drink tea and they're very picky about their teacups. And at this time, people even were producing teacups printed with the Chinese and American flags. And they were saying, "Long live U.S.-China friendship." And you could buy these in stores. So it was in 1979 that the two countries formally re-established diplomatic relations. That is, it was only three years after the end of the
cultural revolution. During that cultural revolution, Chinese universities were closed and did not admit students, intellectuals were sent to the countryside to work, and progress generally stopped.

But in January and February of 1979, just as Mr. Deng Xiaoping was starting his far-reaching reforms, at the advanced age of 75, he visited the United States.

And the Chinese media then started extensively reporting about that very far away place called America. And in the Chinese papers, you could see this famous picture of Deng putting on a cowboy hat.

Chinese media then began to cover American politics, economics,
culture, sports, society. And so this began to bring a much more vivid picture of Americans to the Chinese people.


Chinese people also hold in very high regard the pragmatic side of Americans and American science and technology, things like Silicon Valley and the Apollo project.
But also McDonalds and KFC started coming to China. And these two chains can now be found in competition with each other in cities large and small all over China. If you can find a McDonalds, there will be a KFC nearby. And may Chinese college students aspire to study in America. The Chinese ministry of education has estimated that since 1978, about 120,000 Chinese have come to study in the United States. Although the real number may be higher, because some people did not fall under the official statistics, they may have immigrated and then come to school.


On the other hand, the number of Americans coming to China to study has been somewhere in the neighborhood of 10,000. I would certainly like to see more American students coming to study in universities in China, because they could play a very important role in helping to facilitate understanding and communications between the two nations.

Now development of relations between us has been a bumpy one. And there have been many differences of opinion, some serious stumbling blocks: the trade imbalance, the Dalai Lama, Taiwan, human rights.

Now occasionally the Chinese media do carry stories that are critical of American-China policy. But on the whole, they try to be balanced in reporting political, economic, social and cultural news in the United States, including reporting on progress and achievements.

But Chinese feel that America media does not treat China that way, that American coverage of China tends to be inadequate and often inadequate, sometimes downright prejudicial. And this causes many Americans who haven't had a chance to go to China to have some misconceptions about China. This year, not long ago, there was a chief executive of a radio station in Washington, D.C., who visited China, he went to visit China Radio International, and in his baggage he brought a large quantity of convenience food. Perhaps he was very worried whether or not China's food supply was a big problem.Now you can see that many people in America are misinformed about what's going on in China.

But there's another extreme. Some American media will grossly
overestimate China's strength, inflate China's military capabilities, and thereby they provide a justification for the China-threat theory. This is a very typical illustration.

And as a matter of fact, I am mentioned in this article, they said the reporter visited the vice mayor of Shanghai, who was in charge of Phudong (ph). He said that we have an ambitious development program which may be realized during his lifetime. At that time, China will not only become a political superpower, it will also be an economic superpower, and the whole world should be fearful of China. And that's why you show these Chinese chop sticks picking up American flags to gobble them down. Now the truth is that China has neither the ability nor the intention to gobble up any other country. Quite the contrary, for the past hundred years, it's China that's been nibbled on by others.So I wrote a letter to the Boston Globe. I said: "Dear Mr. Editor, I do not agree with what you said about us. China does not have those intentions. The Chinese people have friendly feelings for the United States and would like to be friends." So he also printed my letter in the newspaper, and, for that, I thank him.


But there are some people in the United States who want to find reason to contain China. And these attempts have changed public opinion and it's created an unfriendly atmosphere of China in the United States. Over time, this will distort how American people see China, so that during an American presidential election candidates will feel that they have to say something negative about China.
And that reminds me that I have a responsibility to explain to Americans and people of other countries, to tell them what China is really all about. Because over time, Chinese people, especially young people, who may have relatively positive feelings toward Americans, whose values may closely approximate those of Americans, will now start to ask themselves many perplexing questions. They wonder: Why is the U.S. mainstream media so biased against China, and why do they mislead the American public?

They wonder why the U.S. government wants to put out a report every year criticizing a series of developing countries, including China about human rights. They ask why the U.S. offers an anti-China resolution every year at a U.S. -- at a UN human rights conference. They wonder why the U.S. likes to tell China how to run its own affairs. They wonder why the U.S. expands arms sales to Taiwan every year. And they wonder if this goes on, can the U.S. and China ever really become friends?


And that's why in 1996, some young Chinese intellectuals wrote a famous book, "The China That Can Say No." This book did not represent the stance of the Chinese government, but did reflect the thinking of many Chinese young intellectuals. And this book caught the attention of many China-watchers in the United States. Last year, the NATO alliance led by the U.S. bombed the Chinese embassy in Yugoslavia. And this evoked tremendous anger and indignation among people in China, especially of young people who went demonstrating.

These are the young -- we have two pictures to show you. There was the father who was crying for the loss of his daughter and for the loss of his son-in-law.


And another very famous picture, which is the former American
ambassador to China standing in front of a bombed-out U.S. embassy. But if you look at these two pictures, you could perhaps see both of these pictures, or perhaps just this one, and that tells you that U.S.-China relations have now entered another very complicated period. The demonstrating Chinese students were considered by some people as being orchestrated by the Chinese government, but I want to take this opportunity today to tell you, the fact is that the Chinese government at that time took a decision to keep classes going at universities, to keep exams on schedule, to ask the students to control themselves and not get over emotional. The government offered a lot of well-intentioned guidance, but those demonstrations did express Chinese people's patriotism and their anger that their embassy in Yugoslavia was bombed. I see Ambassador Sasser here in the audience today. And I'm sure seeing that picture must bring back many very mixed feelings to him.

But if we look back at history, we can see that although U.S.-China
relations have gone through many twists and turns and although there are many serious disagreements, but I honestly feel that this relationship will become more friendly and not less friendly. I think we cannot think of any reasons not to cooperate, unless they be artificial ones, very forced arguments, arguments that will not hold water. Because the relations between us should become sturdy and they should become long-lasting, like Redwood trees. I recently found a local cigarette in China that was marketed under the brand name Sequoia. The Chinese know this is an American tree. Now personally, I'm not pro-smoking, but I do like the name of the cigarette.


The Chinese side, both the government and the people, are committed to promoting friendship between us. Right now, there are several Chinese film and TV studios that are producing movies and TV series on this theme. There's one called, "Grief Over the Yellow River," which has been very successful in the box office in China. And the story is about American pilots fighting the Japanese on Chinese soil during World War II. It was very popular in China. But I think it's very unfortunate it's not easy to see in the United States, even though we have a dubbed-English version.


By the way, Chinese are very fond of American movies. The movie
"Titanic," love story, have attracted a very large audience in China, with its theme that love is more important than money. Also the movie, "The Patriot," talked about brave American patriots
during the War of Independence, and this also made a big impression among Chinese audiences.

Also, the cartoon "Mulan," which was a Disney production, was very popular among Chinese children, although I have to say that Chinese children felt that it looks like an overseas Chinese, he didn't look like a native Chinese. (LAUGHTER)

But Chinese are a rational people and a mature people, and they
understand fully, as global politics becomes multipolar and as there is economic globalization, all countries will become increasingly independent, politically, economically, socially and culturally.

Now it's an undisputed fact that the United States is the most powerful industrialized country. I used to be in Phudong (ph), and GM built a new factory in Phudong (ph). The first batch of cars is already being sold in China. And the Chinese made components in these cars, it's 50 percent. And that shows you how China and the United States can work together.


I was the first person to drive one of these Buicks in Beijing. And all the people in Beijing were saying, "Where did you get that car from?" And I told them, "I got it in Shanghai. It's a co-production of Chinese and Americans."

Now nobody can argue the fact that the U.S. is the most powerful
industrialized country and China is the most populous developing country. But although we may have differences, ideologically and strategically and culturally, but our nations can still establish a constructive and wide-ranging partnership, and indeed, this is already underway.


And there are many areas where we can make joint efforts. In global politics, we should propose sovereignty and tolerance for differences. In global economics, we can fight for growth and joint development. Between our nations and societies, we can advocate equality and respect. And in science and technology, we can try to increase knowledge and benefits to all people. In culture, we can try to appreciate each others' excellence and each others' diversity.It's clear that good relations between us will benefit both sides and conflict will hurt both sides. So both sides should try to understand each other better and work better with each other. Because this will be important, not just for ourselves, but also to promote world peace and development. And I believe that this is something that both peoples would want to see happen. Sino-American cooperation has already produced many results, and I think it will continue to produce more results.


When I was working in Phudong (ph), we built a skyscraper, which was the cooperative effort by Chinese and Americans. It's 400 -- it's the third tallest building in the world. But this generally acknowledges one of the most beautiful skyscrapers in the U.S. It was designed by Skidmore Owings Merrill (ph), which also designed the Sears Tower in Chicago. The exterior of this building actually has hints of a Chinese pagoda, but it's also built with American technology. And it requires over 1,400 steel beams put 85 meters long, each, in the foundation. And each one is 900 millimeters in radius, and they're very thick, over 20 millimeters thick. And if you look at it, it's a very impressive building. And yet it still smacks of a Chinese pagoda.

Now last year, Fortune magazine convened its Global 500 Forum in Shanghai, and over 600 guests attended. I think events like this, and other areas like communications and the Internet, are areas where China and the U.S. can be working together.

But we stand now at the threshold of a new millennium and we have to answer to future generations. We only have a responsibility to improve these relations, but we have no right, whatsoever, to undermine them. The vast majority of Chinese people support President Jiang Zemin's stance, that China and the U.S. should be enhancing mutual understanding, broadening consensus, developing cooperation and building a common future.
And they also agree with President Clinton, who said that the 21st
century will be the best period ever for China and for the United States. I certainly hope that this prediction will come true.
Now you probably can sense from my remarks that among foreigners, Chinese tend to like Americans, but Chinese are not quite as positive about the American government as they are about American people in general.

I know this is a very tough topic I'm talking about, and I'm trying in a very short period of time to tell you how Chinese see America and Americans. And I'm not trying to give you a historical lecture; that's for scholars, I don't also want to talk about contemporary diplomatic relations, because that's for the foreign service. But I just want to let you know what ordinary Chinese are thinking about America and Americans, because their perceptions are rich but
complex. They're contradictory and they're are constantly changing.

We shouldn't try to avoid history and we can't transcend reality,but
we can keep our eyes on the future. I'm an optimist. I hope that my little talk here has to some extent helped you understand Chinese people's fond hopes for the U.S. Chinese people want to see America truly as a beautiful country but not as a beautiful perialist.
I hope in the future we can see a similar American cultural week. I
would love to hear an American come to China to talk about how Americans see China and Chinese. I hope to see all of you in China.
(APPLAUSE)

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