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Bush Speaks to China of 'The America I Know'

Friday, 22 February 2002 12:00 AM

The 55-year-old president presented one of the most thoughtful views of his country he has ever sketched as he tried to assuage the anxiety of Chinese leaders, who worry that chaos will follow if they relax their hold on this country of 1.2 billion people.

Speaking before an audience of 240 Tsinghua University students in the school's main auditorium, the president said, "Life in America shows that liberty, paired with law, is not to be feared.

"In a free society, diversity is not disorder. Debate is not strife. And dissent is not revolution. A free society trusts its citizens to seek greatness in themselves and their country."

At the end his remarks, the president fielded questions for 20 minutes with the young audience, clearly enjoying the exchange. He ducked questions on why he will not plainly say he backs reunification of Taiwan with mainland China, told the audience that the most significant change since his last visit in 1975 was that people could choose colorful clothes and then gave a lecture on capitalism and the free market.

When one young woman asked wouldn't he like his daughters, Jenna and Barbara, to come to China and attend this historic university, Bush told them: "I'm afraid they don't listen to me anymore, if you know what I mean." He said the youngsters certainly had an amazing country and he thought his daughters should visit it.

The president told the students that "America is a nation guided by faith. Someone once called us 'a nation with the soul of a church.'"

"Ninety-five percent of Americans say they believe in God, and I'm one of them," Bush said and stressed that "Freedom of religion is not something to be feared, it's to be welcomed, because faith gives us a moral core."

Bush's lecture on religion goes against some of the basic tenets of Mao Tse-tung's communist revolution, which attacked Christian missionaries as part of a western culture that subjugated the Chinese.

The president told the students he was speaking on the 30th anniversary of President Richard Nixon's trip to China that changed the two countries' relationship. Nixon's visit was a trip designed to "end decades of estrangement and confront centuries of suspicion." During the years since, "America and China have exchanged many handshakes of friendship and commerce."

Nevertheless, Bush said, "As America learns more about China, I am concerned that the Chinese people do not always see a clear picture of my country."

Some of the reasons for this, Bush said, are "of our own making. Our movies and television shows often do not portray the values of the real America I know. Our successful businesses show the strength of American commerce, but the community spirit and contributions of those business are not always as visible as their monetary success."

Bush said U.S. Ambassador Clark T. Randt Jr. "tells me that some Chinese textbooks talk of Americans 'bullying the weak and repressing the poor.' Another Chinese textbook, published just last year, teaches that special agents of the FBI are used to repress the working people.'" Neither of these is true, he said.

"In fact, Americans feel a special responsibility for the poor and the weak. Our government spends billions of dollars to provide health care and food and housing for those who cannot help themselves ... Many of our citizens contribute their own money and time to help those in need. American compassion stretches way beyond our borders.

"We are the number one provider of humanitarian aid to people in need throughout the world. As for the men and women of our FBI and law enforcement, they are themselves working people who devote their lives to fighting crime and corruption," Bush said.

Bush said his "country certainly has its share of problems and faults. Like most nations, we're on a long journey toward achieving our own ideals of equality and justice. Yet there is a reason our nation shines as a beacon of hope and opportunity, a reason many throughout the world dream of coming to America.

"We are a free nation, where men and women have the opportunity to achieve their dreams. No matter your background or circumstance of birth, in America you can get a good education, start a business, raise a family, worship freely and help elect the leaders of your community and country. You can support the policies of our government, or you are free to openly disagree with them. Those who fear freedom sometimes argue it could lead to chaos, but it does not, because freedom means more than every man for himself."

Bush told the students: "We are a nation of laws. Our courts are honest and independent. The president can't tell the courts how to rule and neither can any other member of the executive or legislative branch. Under our law, everyone stands equal. No one is above the law, and no one is beneath it.

"All political power in America is limited and temporary, and only given by a free vote of the people. We have a Constitution, now two centuries old, which limits and balances the powers of the three branches of our government: judicial, legislative and executive."

Bush said, "All of these qualities of America were vividly displayed on a single day," recalling the heroism of thousands of Americans after the terrorist attacks.

"None of this was ordered by the government. It happened spontaneously, by the initiative of a free people," the president said.

President Bush made his remarks at Tsinghua University, sometimes called China's MIT because it is a science of engineering school of the same prominence as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Tsinghua has more than 20,000 students, including 12,000 undergraduates, 6,200 master's degree candidates and 2,800 doctoral degree students.

The students seemed eager to ask him questions, several posing the question first in Chinese and then asking it in English.

He never answered why he would not back reunification of Taiwan and the mainland, but said the United States was for the peaceful settlement of the issue.

When asked what was the most different since his visit 27 years ago, Bush answered that "everybody wore the same clothes. Now people picks their own clothes. Just look at the front row, everybody's dressed differently."

One girl, he said, was wearing a beautiful red sweater and by choosing that, created the need for someone to produce a sweater which is the essence and element of a free market.

The address comes on Bush's last day in Beijing. He and Mrs. Bush are expected to visit the Great Wall and shortly after 3 a.m. EST, the president boards Air Force One for Washington.

Chinese President Jiang Zemin said Thursday that China will work with the United States to "achieve peace and stability" on the Korean Peninsula.

During their meetings Thursday, Bush said he asked Jiang to encourage the North Koreans to open a dialogue with South Korea and the U.S.

In an extraordinarily lively joint news conference with President Bush in the Great Hall, the 76-year-old Chinese leader said it had always been the Chinese position that differences between North and South Korea should be settled peacefully.

"All in all, in handling state-to-state relations, it is important to resolve the problems through peaceful means, in a spirit of equality and through consultation. And that's why I've explained our consistent and clear-cut position on the question of the Korean Peninsula. It's quite near."

Despite the agreement on Korea, the two leaders did not appear to make any progress on weapons non-proliferation. In the past, the United States has accused China of supplying missile technology and support to Pakistan, Libya, Iran and North Korea. China has denied selling any weapons that violate international law.

National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice said the sticking point is over China's unwillingness to pass effective export controls and reluctance to punish some Chinese companies that have violated weapons export agreements. The U.S. is refusing to lift sanctions against Chinese companies.

In a January report to Congress, the CIA said as of the middle of 2001, China provided missile technology and support to Pakistan, Libya, Iran and North Korea, including computers and other support. China also has sold advanced conventional weapons to Pakistan, including F-7 fighter aircraft.

Meanwhile, Bush said that Jiang has agreed to visit the United States next October in conjunction with his attendance at the Asian Pacific Economic Conference and that Vice President Hu Jintao would be visiting the United States shortly.

The president's visit to Beijing is the shortest of any of the three capitals he has traveled to on his Asian venture.

Copyright 2002 by United Press International. All rights reserved.

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The 55-year-old president presented one of the most thoughtful views of his country he has ever sketched as he tried to assuage the anxiety of Chinese leaders, who worry that chaos will follow if they relax their hold on this country of 1.2 billion people. Speaking before...
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Friday, 22 February 2002 12:00 AM
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