10 Jun 1994
This article originally appeared in the Los Angeles Times, June 10, 1994.
CHINA: FLEXIBILITY IS NOT A WEAKNESS IN OUR NATIONAL LEADERS. PRESIDENT CLINTON MADE THE RIGHT DECISION.
Many of us shared President Clinton's dilemma regarding trade with and human rights in the People's Republic of China; he was in a no-win position. His campaign promises were in direct conflict with a responsible reaction to important strategic factors. In my opinion, he made a correct and courageous choice to continue China's most-favored-nation status. I first visited China as a young sub-marine officer, operating with Allied ships along the coast in the springtime of 1949, during the last few months that forces of Chiang Kai-shek controlled the major seaports.
From the deck of our ship moored in the harbors of Shanghai and Tsingtao (now Qingdao), we could see the campfires of Mao Zedong's forces in the hills. I developed a lifetime interest in China.
As President, I inherited a dormant and timid U.S. policy based on the Shanghai communique of 1972 that acknowledged there was only one China but, because of the influence of Republican conservatives and the Taiwan lobby, failed to say which one. I initiated secret talks designed to normalize relations with China, which culminated in the announcement of mutual diplomatic recognition, effective on the first day of 1979. With China's tremendous influence in Asia and its immeasurable potential as a trade partner, I saw this decision as beneficial to our country and its policies.
Since leaving office, I have visited various parts of China, including Tibet, and have observed the remarkable opening of the society as far as free enterprise is concerned, with increased freedom for people to move from one place to another and to make economic decisions. I have had numerous discussions, mostly fruitless, with Deng Xiaoping and other Chinese leaders about extending similar political righ