Letters & Op-Eds 2005

Talking Points: China and the US

What should George W. Bush and Hu Jintao focus on in the all-important U.S.-China relationship? TIME asks the experts

Father Paul
A priest in China’s underground, non-approved Catholic Church
I hope President Bush will use his influence to encourage Hu to establish diplomatic relations with the Vatican. That would be a way to promote genuine human rights, not just the empty kind.

Frances Kissling
President of Catholics for a Free Choice
Choice in family planning in China is as low on the Bush China policy agenda as it is in Bush’s agenda for American women. We have heard much from this administration the women of Afghanistan and Iraq—how about a helping hand for the women of China?

David Shambaugh
Director of the China Policy Program at George Washington University
The most important thing for the two presidents to discuss is how to avoid an unnecessary and dangerous slide into an adversarial or quasi-adversarial relationship, and how to invigorate mechanisms for the two governments to increase tangible and meaningful cooperation—particularly in the security realm.

Xiao Qiang
Director of the Berkeley China Internet Project at the University of California (Berkeley) Graduate School of Journalism
The most important thing for Bush and Hu to discuss is the importance of leading a global power in this information age by listening and being more accountable to their own people. They could start by discussing how to launch a presidential blog that is also open to public comments.

Richard D’Amato
Chairperson of the Congressional U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission
Hu needs to act on the dangerously growing imbalance in our economic relations. Second, Bush should offer help for major alternative energy programs if Hu would end China’s disruptive hoarding approach to energy supplies. Lastly China’s growing military means close quarters with US Pacific forces. Hu should agree to create bilaterally mechanisms to prevent military incidents from escalating into crisis.

Clyde Prestowitz
Founder and President of the Washington think-tank Economic Strategy Institute
The greatest short term problem facing the United States, China, and the global community is the huge distortion of the international economy arising from the U.S. trade deficit and the Asian surpluses that are its mirror image. The most difficult long term problem is that of global climate change and its implications. As leaders of the countries at the heart of the trade picture and with the highest greenhouse gas emissions, Presidents Bush and Hu would do well to make establishing cooperation on dealing effectively with these two issues the major part of their upcoming agenda.

Elizabeth Economy
Director of Asia Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations and author of The River Runs Black: The Environmental Challenge to China’s Future
After years of talking about cooperation on trade, regional security, and Taiwan with limited success, President Bush and President Hu should seek tangible results on critical issues such as energy, public health and the environment, where cooperation is more likely and where China and the United States each exert an enormous influence on the global system. Of course, the elephant in the room is the dismal state of political reform in China under President Hu. Until transparency, official accountability and rule of law are fostered in China, real stability in U.S.- China relations will remain elusive.

Jonathan Mirsky
Former East Asia editor for the Times of London
Bush should reiterate to Hu what he said to Jiang Zemin several years ago when asked to join in the condemnation of ‘terrorists’ in Xinjiang: namely, that he (Bush) would never support an anti-religious campaign masquerading as anti-terrorist. In that light Bush should give asylum to the Guantanamo Uighurs, now declared not to be terrorists.

Paik Hak-Soon
Director of North Korean studies at the Sejong Institute, a Seoul-based think tank
Hu and Bush should discuss the North Korean nuclear problem. However, Bush must understand that North Korea has returned to the negotiating table in order to normalize relations with the U.S. and as a result enable itself to focus on economic development. The U.S. neo-cons (he includes Bush in this group) are totally misunderstanding the problem. Returning North Korea to the NPT (Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty) is the best way to lock them into an obligation to give up or dismantle their nuclear weapons. The U.S. must not deny North Korea the right to the peaceful use of nuclear energy. (So) Bush and Hu should work to allowing North Korea to use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.

Yan Xuetong
Director, Institute of International Studies, Tsinghua University, Beijing
First, President Hu should tell President Bush that both sides need to manage the relationship better, and that America’s containment policy won’t work. Second, China hopes the U.S. will stop arms sale to Taiwan because it is encouraging Taiwan secessionists. Third, Chinese have the same right as Americans to enjoy a rich lifestyle and do not appreciate the double standard on China’s oil policy. The issue should not become politicized, as when CNOOC made its bid to buy Unocal.

John Kamm
Executive Director, Dui Hua Foundation, San Francisco
President Bush should surprise President Hu by putting human rights at the top of the agenda. When China releases political and religious prisoners—labor organizers, peaceful protesters, journalists, scholars dealing in “state secrets,” Catholic priests and Tibetan nuns—its image for the American people and their representatives in Washington improves more than when it buys a fleet of airplanes or announces another round of six-party talks on North Korea.

Hou Wenzhuo
Director, Empowerment and Rights Institute, Beijing
I have been in trouble lately because of my work promoting the rights of individuals. Police have searched the offices of my institute and confined me to my home for 10 days during the recent trip to Beijing of the U.N. Human Rights Commissioner. But my problems are minor compared to those of many Chinese, and I think Presidents Bush and Hu should strengthen their dialogue on human rights—especially to highlight the persecution of people who come to Beijing seeking the redress of wrongs committed by local officials.

David D. Ho
Director & CEO, Aaron Diamond AIDS Research Center, New York
It is time for China to place greater importance on one of the hidden costs of its economic rise: the lack of adequate health care for much of its population. Another influenza pandemic capable of killing tens of millions of people is inevitable, especially as the deadly H5N1 avian influenza virus is plaguing many parts of Asia today.

Peter Mandelson
E.U. Trade Commissioner
We should not begrudge China the fruits of its development and the benefits of its wto membership. But if China does not understand the need to temper its impact on the rest of the world, it risks provoking a dangerous backlash from those who should be its friends and partners.

Paul Gewirtz
Director, China Law Center, Yale Law School
Legal reform in China is crucial to many aspects of China’s development—advancing a market economy, protecting human rights, fighting corruption, encouraging foreign investment, and fully integrating China into the world community. People outside of China, as well as inside of China, have a stake in these things. So it would be valuable for President Bush to emphasize the importance of the rule of law when he meets President Hu.

Bob Carr
Premier of New South Wales, 1995-2005
As the two Presidents meet, the polar caps are melting. China and America must talk global warming. Specifically they must discuss a strategy to curb the rising carbon emissions that, over the next 40 years, will deliver a rise in average global temperatures of a full two degrees. Every scientist knows how dangerous that is.

Wang Xiaodong
Researcher, China Youth Research Center, Beijing
The Taiwan issue is the most urgent short-term problem in Sino-U.S. relations, but I believe two other issues are more important in the long term. One is relations between China and Japan. Second, as China grows stronger, the country will be obligated to play a larger role in maintaining world order. The U.S. needs to decide how to accept China.

Mark Kirk
Member, U.S. House of Representatives
The number one issue right now is North Korea and U.S. joint diplomacy. North Korea utterly depends on China for fuel and food. If China were to interrupt those supplies, a Chinese initiative to North Korea would be listened to.

Kang Chul Hwan
North Korean defector, met President Bush in June
First, they should fine-tune their positions on the North Korean nuclear issue in order to resolve it. Second, I hope President Bush will discuss the issue of North Korean refugees in China. China has been so hard on these refugees that I hope the U.S. will work to protect these people somehow.

Fred Hu
Managing Director, Goldman Sachs (Asia), Hong Kong
Despite stunning economic and social progress in the past quarter of a century, the average American still paints China in red: a nation seized by radical communist ideologies. In reality, today’s China is a freewheeling and prosperous capitalist economy, rapidly converging on an American-style economic and social system based on entrepreneurship and free trade. President Hu should be China’s super-salesman to convince Americans to accept China as an equal partner, not as a threatening enemy.

Ma Ying-jeou
Chairman, Kuomintang, Taiwan
The central theme of their conversation will probably focus on security and stability in the west Pacific in view of the joint military exercise by Russia and China. But as the leader of the opposition party in Taiwan, I certainly would like to see more stability across the Taiwan Strait.

Orville Schell
Dean, Graduate School of Journalism, University of California, Berkeley
If the two presidents could agree that an ever increasing quotient of true democracy was actually China’s declared long-range goal—even though its progress in that direction might be piecemeal—the two countries might then be able to establish a more synergistic and stable basis of expectation for future collaboration on other important issues.

Richard Gere
Actor and activist
A most important issue facing President Bush and President Hu is to resolve the status of Tibet and the Tibetan people—and it is resolvable. Instead of addressing this issue in the usual rigid political framework, they should focus their discussion on human development and cultural survival as a way of achieving peace and stability in the region. By acknowledging the link between conflict and inequality, China could lead the international community in a far more constructive direction. Since economic development and cultural continuity are basic human rights, a discussion based on this framework would also allow President Bush to congratulate President Hu on China’s current efforts to respect and protect human rights in China and Tibet—efforts that could greatly improve the Tibetan people’s situation and enhance China’s reputation internationally.

Hu Shuli
Editor, Caijing magazine, Beijing
President Hu should take the opportunity to demonstrate that China is committed to further integration with the world economic system, that this process is comprehensively irreversible, that this policy is in China’s own fundamental interest, and finally, that this process will not go smoothly without help from the West, especially from the U.S.

Clyde Prestowitz
Author, Three Billion New Capitalists
As leaders of the countries at the heart of the trade picture and with the highest greenhouse gas emissions, Presidents Bush and Hu would do well to make establishing cooperation on dealing effectively with these two issues the major part of their upcoming agenda.

“Long Hair” Leung Kwok-hung
Member of the Legislative Council, Hong Kong
I think President Hu should tell Bush to respect human rights. And President Bush should tell Hu to make dramatic political reform.

This article originally appeared in the 3 October 2005 issue of TIME Magazine Asian Edition.

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