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Program 0218
April 30, 2002

This text has been professionally transcribed. However, for timely distribution, it has not been edited or proofread against the tape.

visit was eerie in a way because it was the first time that any American had
publicly stepped onto Chinese soil.

KEITH PORTER: This week on Common Ground, a visit that changed the
world. Plus, complicated US-Asian relationships.

DR. MICAHEL ARMACOST: I think the policy toward North Korea is to signal
a readiness to talk but on a set of conditions that the North Koreans won’t

Common Ground is a program on world
affairs and the people who shape events. It’s produced by the Stanley
Foundation. I’m Kristin McHugh.

PORTER: And I’m Keith Porter. This year marks the 30th
anniversary of President Richard Nixon’s visit to China. It was a historic
trip; the first by an American president to the communist country. Experts say
the event marked the beginning of incredible change for China and its relations
with the rest of the world. Common Ground’s
Brockman recently spoke with two members of Nixon’s diplomatic team about the
famous trip.

[sound of Chinese music, followed by an announcer’s

China is one of the largest countries in the world. Yet no American
president had ever been there.


1971 and ‘72 was a time of considerable tension in the United States. The
Vietnam War was still raging and there was real concern that the United States
and China might get pulled into another direct conflict as we had during the
Korean War period.

BROCKMAN: Dr. Richard Solomon worked
in the State Department with Henry Kissinger and assisted Presidents Nixon and
Ford in trying to normalize relations with China.

SOLOMON: There were heightened
concerns about the Soviet Union, what it was up to. We were in a period of real
Cold War tension apart from the Vietnam conflict. And I happened to have been
teaching at the University of Michigan in, at that time, in the summer of 1971,
and was shocked along with everyone else when it, when President Nixon
announced on July 15 of 1971 that he had sent Henry Kissinger on a secret trip
to China. I had spent 10 years studying Chinese, doing the language. I had been
doing research on the politics of the country. And frankly I never thought I
would ever be using that language directly dealing with, with the Chinese,
because of the Cold War divide.

[sound of Chinese music, followed by an announcer’s

[with stirring band music beginning to play in the background] China
is one of the most populous countries in the world. Yet no American leader had
even talked with them in 23 years—until President Richard Nixon.

BROCKMAN: This 1972 reelection ad
highlights Nixon’s policy change.

visit was eerie in a way because it was the first time that any American had
publicly, in front of the television cameras and with the press present,
stepped onto Chinese soil.

BROCKMAN: This is Chas Freeman, Jr.,
who was the principal interpreter for the Nixon visit to China.

FREEMAN, JR.: Of course it began with
Nixon repairing the infamous gaffe of John Foster Dulles, when Dulles had
refused to shake hands with Chou En-Lai at Geneva. Nixon advanced with hand
held out and the handshake that ensued was the beginning of a very different
relationship between the United States and China. And indeed a very different

BROCKMAN: Tell us just a little bit
about how things have gone since then—some of the high points in the past 30
years of US-China relations.

FREEMAN, JR.: Well, the relationship
itself has been a roller coaster. That is to say it’s alternated between
exhilarating periods of ascent and sickening periods of descent. And it really
has been a very unsteady relationship in many ways. But that obscures one
fundamental fact. And that is that the US opening to China, the US decision to
engage China rather than to seek to isolate it as we had for 23 years before,
fundamentally changed China. The leavening effect of contact with the outside
world and especially the United States has turned China from the angry,
isolated totalitarian society that it was in 1972 when the Cultural Revolution
was still going on, into a much more open, vibrant, colorful, and prosperous
society. One that grew at an average of 9.6 percent economically from 1980 to
the year 2000. So I think the effects of this 1972 opening to China really have
to be weighed as historic. We’ve brought between a fifth and a fourth of the
human race back into close association with the rest of the world and helped
them lift hundreds of millions of people out of poverty and to develop a world
in which China is once again a respected participant in world affairs.

BROCKMAN: Dr. Richard Solomon?

SOLOMON: Today we have an
administration in Washington that is, I guess, the fair phrase would be to say
that they’re skeptical about where China is headed and what the intentions are
and they’re, I think, trying to figure out whether we can have a constructive relationship
with the Chinese. But again, how history is often full of big surprises, one
would have to say that the events of September 11 have made both the Chinese
and American leaderships aware that the problems they face are not based on
their mutual differences so much on threats to security as those posed by

BROCKMAN: As we said this is the 30th
anniversary of the Shanghai Communiqué. For our listeners, if you could explain
what a communiqué is and what that communiqué 30 years ago was about.

FREEMAN, JR.: Well, a communiqué is a,
the term is a diplomatic one, French in origin. And it simply means a, a joint
statement by the parties to a negotiation recording what they have agreed. And
in this case what they disagreed about. A great part of the Shanghai Communiqué
consists of very honest and straightforward statements of US differences with
China and Chinese differences with the US on matters like Vietnam, Cambodia,
the war in Laos, and other, other events of the time. But it also recorded some
key agreements. It’s in effect a joint policy statement.

BROCKMAN: Former UN Ambassador
Richard Holbrooke has proposed a fourth communiqué. What do you think about
that, Dr. Solomon?

SOLOMON: I think at this point in
time it doesn’t make a lot of sense to initiate the negotiation of a communiqué
that is likely to bring out divisive issues that would likely make more
difficult cooperation on a range of issues, just because political support,
particularly in the United States, for normal relations with China is so shaky.
I think a better strategy is to spend several years trying to advance
cooperation on issues like terrorism, like weapons proliferation; issues
related to China’s entry in the WTO and economic growth matters. And once we
see a base of reality around which both governments can express their common
interest in further improving relations then it might make sense. Then it might
be a constructive process. But today I would say it probably would not be

BROCKMAN: Mr. Freeman?

FREEMAN, JR.: I think that Dick Holbrooke
is right that the US and China need to sit down and work through and restate
the broad range of common interests that we have and to focus on those. And if
that’s what he has in mind I think it’s a sensible notion. If he has in mind
something that would replace the, the Shanghai Communiqué or actually its
successor the Normalization Communiqué, which was dated January 1, 1979, then I
think that’s a bridge too far.

BROCKMAN: China recently achieved
status in the World Trade Organization. How has that impacted their role in the
region. Dr. Solomon?

SOLOMON: Well, the region is very
worried about China. China is becoming a major economic force. They have an
export-led growth strategy in many ways at this point. They’re absorbing much
of the foreign investment that has in the past gone into other areas of the
Asian region. And they are in short order gonna be major competitors of most of
the export-oriented countries in the region. So China with its huge and
low-paid labor force may end up hurting the economies of Thailand, Indonesia,
the Philippines, Korea. I was recently in Singapore and the Sinaporeans are
worried about the Chinese becoming a major exporter of computer chips, due to
investment in chip manufacturing from Taiwan. So the region is nervous about
the rise of an economic juggernaut. I don’t think they see China militarily as
rampant. They look to the United States to maintain a kind of strategic balance
in the region. So interestingly enough their primary concern is the economic
range of issues.

That said, China is obligated now to abide by the
WTO rules and I would say the big question for the next five to ten years is
whether China, in fact, will meet its WTO obligations.

BROCKMAN: What lessons are there from
that Nixon visit 30 years ago? Mr. Freeman?

FREEMAN, JR.: With China, I think, the
lesson is that the relationship advances and improves when we focus on
strengthening the elements of cooperation in it. And it weakens and becomes
more hostile when politicians focus on elements of rivalry or competition. And
that’s sort of an obvious point. We all know that in life you, you develop a
good relationship with someone else by looking for some common ground. And that
is the case internationally as well. And I think that is probably the major
lesson to be learned from this relationship.

Final point, maybe the third lesson, is we should
not underestimate our own ability to catalyze extraordinary change in foreign
societies, simply through exposure to our own ideas and the dynamism of our
society. There’s hardly an element of China that has not been changed under the
influence of Americans over the past 30 years.

BROCKMAN: Finally, Mr. Freeman,
you’ve said your career as a diplomat almost ended before it started because of
a toast you were supposed to interpret for President Nixon. Please tell us
about that.

FREEMAN, JR.: The Nixon White House was
famously secretive. I could not get anybody on the way into China to tell me
what I was supposed to do as interpreter—whether I was to interpret for the
President or just for the Secretary of State, and what was to happen to the
banquet speeches and this sort of thing. And Dwight Chapin, who was then the
Appointments Secretary for the President, said to me, “The President has
decided he would like you to interpret his banquet toast this evening.” And I
said “Fine. May I have a look at the text.” And he said, “I don’t think there
is a text.” And I knew something was wrong at that point. So he went back in
and came out very annoyed and said, “There is no text and the President orders
you to do it.” And I said, “Well, Mr. Chapin it might interest you to know that
I did the first draft of tonight’s text. And I know that some of Chairman Mao’s
poetry has been inserted into it but I don’t know what. And if you think I’m
gonna get up in front of all of China and recite Chairman Mao’s poetry ad
libbing it from English back into Chinese, you’re out of your mind.” So I said,
“Either you give me the text or I won’t do it.”

Three days later, after a lot of conversations over
the head table, where I was seated with the President, who was glowering at me
all during the banquet that evening, he called me over and personally
apologized to me with tears in his eyes. And said, “I should not have done
that. And I apologize. And I misjudged you.” And then he said some very
flattering things. And in retrospect, trying to figure out why this happened,
it was very simple—Nixon was a man with considerable vanity about his ability
to memorize texts. And to deliver apparently extemporaneous remarks that, in
fact, had been carefully scripted. And he had memorized the text. He didn’t
want to take the risk that someone would be standing up there with him with a
text, making it obvious that it was not extemporaneous. And so it was all
appearance that he was concerned about. And nobody ever thought to ask me
whether—I have a photographic memory. I could have read the text once and that
would have been all I needed. I didn’t need to have the text in front of me.
But that was his concern. And it led him basically to lie and it led me,
wisely, I think, as a 28-year-old junior officer, to refuse an order from the
Commander-in-Chief, as improper.

BROCKMAN: Chas Freeman is currently
chairman for an international business consulting firm. He’s also President of
the Middle East Policy Council. Dr. Richard is the current President of the
United States Institute of Peace. For Common
, I’m Cliff Brockman.

PORTER: US relations with Japan and
Korea, next on Common Ground.

dr. michael armacost: Some of the other
difficulties that used to plague our relationship in the economic sphere,
threatening to spill over and adversely effect our security relations, have
been less problematic, less troublesome in the last decade than many expected
them to be.

PORTER: Fifty years ago Japan and
the United States were arch enemies. Since then security and trade alliances
have developed in a way no one at that time thought possible. Meanwhile, the US
struggles with its policy toward another Asian country—North Korea. Common Ground’s Cliff Brockman recently spoke with an
expert on both Japan and Korea about US policy in the region.

DR. MICHAEL ARMACOST: Oh, I think China has
emerged as a powerful force in Asia. The United States has, to Japan’s
satisfaction I think, conducted itself in a way that inspires their belief
we’ll continue to be reliable allies and it’s helpful to have us around as a
counterweight to a big neighbor.

BROCKMAN: Dr. Michael Armacost is
President of the Brookings Institution. He says the United States-Japan
security alliance has gotten stronger since the end of the Cold War.

ARMACOST: Some of the other
difficulties that used to plague our relationship in the economic sphere,
threatening to spill over and adversely effect our security relations, have
been less problematic, less troublesome in the last decade than many expected
them to be. At least since 1995. We had major struggles over auto parts and
over an effort to negotiate quantitative measures of our trade imbalance in the
early 1990s. That didn’t work out very well. But since 1995 the trade issues
have been largely in abeyance—at least they haven’t been so politically
troubling. And some combination of those factors I think accounts for the
rather robust state of our security ties.

More recently, of course, it’s the perception of
common ground against terrorists. Tokyo was very swift off the mark in
asserting a political sharing of our counter terrorist objective. And they
moved with startling swiftness in altering their law permitting them to
dispatch noncombat forces to support the counter terrorist coalition. The law
is limited in time, so it doesn’t automatically create a precedent for a
struggle other than in Afghanistan. But I think the precedent is there.

They’ve also changed the rules of engagement on
their peacekeeping forces. Before if they sent units in an international
peacekeeping force authorized by the UN their units couldn’t carry anything
except the smallest of arms and they couldn’t use them except when they were in
extremis themselves for their
personal security. Now, and that made them something of a burden because they
had to be protected by someone. And now they’ve changed the rules in such a way
that it would permit them to defend themselves and others in their protective
care. So if they were doing noncombat work, for example, in providing security
for a refugee camp, let’s say, then they would be able to defend the camp. That
wasn’t true six months ago.

It may be it accounts for the fact that when
President Bush was recently there he praised them to the skies for their
contribution to the coalition and sort of soft-pedaled criticism of their
economic performance.

BROCKMAN: Speaking of the economic
performance, you say that while our security ties are strengthened, Japan’s
economy has gone the other way. What’s happened there?

ARMACOST: In a nutshell, the economy
is stagnant because the individuals aren’t spending on consumption. The
companies aren’t investing in new plant and equipment. And the banks aren’t
lending. And on top of that they’ve tried to compensate for all those trends
over the last decade by spending public money for public works. That has, to be
sure, supplied some demand but it’ s not socially effective demand. They’ve
paved a lot of the rural countryside. But they’ve also created a fiscal
condition that’s one of the worst in the world. They’ve got, 140 percent of
their GDP is debt. So there are limits on which they can rely on government
spending to offset the failure of consumers to spend and banks to lend and
companies to invest, which is what you usually have to see before you have
self-sustaining growth.

BROCKMAN: The Prime Minister of Japan
came in on a campaign of reform; very popular when he was chosen. But has had
difficulties. Why is that?

ARMACOST: He’s had difficulty
translating his reform reputation into specific reform. I think he’s done something
that’s admirable. In my experience in government, at least, you can’t solve a
problem until you acknowledge it. And he’s at least acknowledged the problem.
And he said that Japan can’t grow without reform and can’t reform without pain.
And that’s a reality that nobody can escape. So, hat’s off to him for saying
the truth. But there’s a lot more involved in getting reform—I mean, just
acknowledging the problem doesn’t get you there, either. And it’s easier for
people to acknowledge a problem in principle than it is put in the place the
details, which get you over the hump. And every time he’s tried to put the
vision into specific proposals he’s run up against fierce resistance either
from within the bureaucracy—which has much more power in Japan than it does in
our country—or elements of his party which are wedded to the old ways of doing
things, because it protects their own specific interests through sweetheart
deals or some form of government protection—or just the general sense in Japan
that, well, things aren’t great but they’re not so bad that people are willing
to take on the dislocations that the kind of reforms he’s talking about
inevitably bring.

We are a country which lives with the idea that
there are winners and losers. That’s easy for us to accept culturally. In Japan
there’s been a general tendency to socialize risk and to protect the losers.
And there will be a lot of losers in a reform which opens their economy to
market forces to a much greater degree. So it’s gonna require a cultural change
and Japan’s a conservative country that relies on a broad consensus and
building that consensus takes time. It’s gradually taking place but it, it
takes a lot more time because of the depths of the problem. And each time you
delay an answer to some of these problems, the problems themselves may get

On the other hand, the strength of their system is
that once they have a consensus it is so broad that they can move with great
swiftness in implementing it. It’s well for Americans, who tend to forget our
own difficulties, that in the ‘70s we had more than a decade of stagnant
growth. We had slow growth; we had low productivity; we had high inflation; we
had large amounts of unemployment; we had a market that languished for more
than a decade at levels that it was at or higher in 1969. So we didn’t come up
with a single solution to the problem. And we picked away at it piecemeal and
got inflation under control through the Fed.

BROCKMAN: Let me turn to Korea. Of
course President Bush labeled North Korea as part of his axis of evil. And
there was a recent New York Times
article, columnist Nicholas Kristoff agreed that North Korea is evil, but he
says the real problem is that the United States doesn’t have a North Korean
policy. Do we have a North Korean policy?

ARMACOST: I think the policy toward
North Korea is to signal a readiness to talk, but on a set of conditions that
the North Koreans won’t like. The new agenda item they want to put on there is
conventional force adjustments. The North Koreans won’t like that for the
simple reason it’s their main card. They, the one element of intimidation they
retain vis-à-vis South Korea is the fact they’ve got a million troops, most of
them deployed right along the DMZ. Many of them deployed within 40 miles of the
South Korean capital. And that we would want to talk about that is natural;
that they would like to keep it off the table is natural. And so we’re kind of
skirmishing over the terms of negotiation when they commence. We’ve said we’re
willing to talk any time any place without condition; the condition really is
that we want that on the agenda. We’d have the right to address that issue and
that’s normal in negotiations with other countries. Each retains the right to
put things on the agenda that [it] wishes to talk about.

I think the real problem, however, is not the terms
of our policy; the problem is the North Korean conundrum. On the one hand
they’ve demonstrated to a fare-thee-well that a country that isolates itself
from a global economy is going nowhere. They’re one of the very few
economies—Burma is perhaps the other—it’s going backwards and it has for
perhaps a decade. And Japan has grown by about a percent and they call it
stagnation. North Korea has declined by about 10 percent a year for a decade. It
isn’t a functioning economy. They can’t feed their own people. And they, they
divert 25 percent of their resources to the military and yet they allow several
million people to starve. That’s what it seems to me it means to describe them
as evil.

But in the end the question for them is whether or
not they’re prepared to risk the opening to the world. Their regime has
maintained their authority on a tissue of lies. And they’re fearful, I think,
of opening themselves up to the world because that will demonstrate to their
people that most of the communications from the government over 50 years have
just been based on hot air. And their regime doesn’t appear to be ready to take
those risks. The Chinese, you recall, in the 1970s when they opened up, they
built a constituency for economic reform by starting in the countryside. And
they got a lot of the peasantry on board by simply relying on market prices.
The peasants could see that they could make money. And because their army was a
peasant army once they opened up the possibility for reform to the countryside
the army was kind of on board and they broadened the reforms over time.

The North Koreans—people that know a lot more about
it than I do—say they’re considering these kind of Chinese-style reform. It’s
pretty hard to see the evidence. Maybe they will. Maybe they won’t. What is
clear is the current course is a loser. So we’re kind of taking a tough-minded
attitude figuring time is probably on our side. So if it means you wait a
little longer that’s probably the strategy. The problem with the strategy, I
think, is that we’ve been aligned with South Korea for more than 50 years now.
And South Korea, as they see their future, they wish to engage with the North
in a more active way. And in a sense you don’t have much of a policy toward
Korea if it’s not aligned with your ally in Korea. So the, the difficulties
that have emerged in recent months have been a result of a slightly different
approach, a strategic approach on the part of the government of Kim Dae-Jung, on
the one hand, and the Bush administration.

In the long haul all Koreans wish to engage with the
North. It’s just a matter of the terms. And their opposition now is insisting
on greater reciprocity in their dealings with the North. That’s kind of where
the Bush administration is. Kim Dae-Jung faces an election in December. And so
maybe this is the waiting period [that] happens to come at a politically active
time. So it’s potentially volatile. But it’s not, the problem isn’t the lack of
a policy. The question is whether or not we’re properly aligned with South
Korea and whether or not we can afford to wait through this period, ‘cause
we’re, we have much greater experience.

BROCKMAN: This same columnist laid
out a scenario where he says there would be an exceptionally bloody war that
could break out by this fall between North Korea and South Korea and some of
its other neighbors and possibly even the United States. Do you think there’s
any possibility of war developing soon?

ARMACOST: I would never say never but
this doesn’t seem to me terribly likely. North Korea is extremely weak relative
to its neighbor, particularly when you add in American strength which is
deployed on the peninsula. And they are not isolated in the sense they have no
connection with the rest of the world as was the case practically a decade or
so ago. But none of their friends abroad has any interest in seeing a
resumption of fighting on the Korean peninsula, including the Chinese, who if
anybody qualifies as best friends it’s probably Beijing. But certainly China
doesn’t want any hostilities on its border that include the United States. And
they’re nervous about conflict on their border even if it didn’t include us. So
that seemed to me remote. But nonetheless it’s worth remembering that North
Korea can be unpredictable and accounting for that in one’s policy.

BROCKMAN: Michael Armacost is
President of the Brookings Institution. For Common
, I’m Cliff Brockman.

Our theme music was created by B.J. Leiderman. Common Ground was produced and funded by the Stanley Foundation.

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